So then, what is the question?
“How does a person garden effortlessly for fruit, veggies, and fish?”
The simplest definition of aquaponics is that it is the joining of raising fish and the soil-less growing of plants in a shared environment.
The fish waste provides organic nutrition for the growing plantsThe microbes and composting red worms that thrive in the growing media do the job of converting the ammonia from the fish waste into nitrates and the solids that feed the plants.The plants provide natural filtration and aeration for the water the fish live in.
Issues with traditional gardening
Monitoring the individual needs of the garden plant is a quandary for most people. There are issues of
Where to put the garden to give the best sun/shade quotient
Knowing how to balance your soil to produce the most food and not just leaves.
Heavy digging and mixing of organic ingredients; accompanied by back strain and sore knees.
Which plant needs more/less water and the sun.Determining what a ‘plant’ is, and what a ‘weed’ is that needs evicting from this prime real estate.
Critters from insects to deer helping themselves to your bounty
Most gardening issues do not exist with hydroponics, though hydroponic gardening has other challenges.
Customary hydroponics depend on mixtures of costly, synthetic nutrients that are a chemical cocktail with added salts and trace elements.
(In aquaponics your fish are fed inexpensive fish feed, food scraps, and food from your garden.)
The strength of this chemical cocktail and pH is consistently controlled, with expensive equipment made solely for this purpose.
(In aquaponics, you watch your system carefully for the first month, to establish a foundation then you just check pH and ammonia levels once a week unless you notice a problem.)
The salts and chemicals build up in the hydroponic system, which becomes toxic to the plants and needs replacing. This creates the issue of the disposal location of this toxic wastewater and the cost of setting up gallons of fresh chemically balanced water for your plants.
(In aquaponics, you only add water as it evaporates.)
Plants in hydroponic systems are prone to root rot.
(Root rot is almost non-existent in aquaponics.)
Plants grown with hydroponics are not organic, which in my mind undermines one of the primary purposes of growing your food.
(Aquaponics is organic and relatively hands-free.)
Aquaculture (fish farming) has issues too.
10 to 20% of the water in your aquaculture tank will have to be replaced each day to keep down the ammonia caused by the fish waste, to prevent diseases that are often treated with medicines and antibiotics that we are avoiding with raising our fish.
Removing this water and replacing it uses a tremendous amount of water, which is not at all conservative of this resource. When this water is pumped into open streams, it pollutes and destroys the ecosystem.
(With an aquaponics, you don’t ever have to replace dirty water, just top off what evaporates. Fish illness is seldom seen in aquaponics.)
A few more benefits of aquaponics!
Aquaponic gardens are usually built up so that the gardener doesn’t have to worry about bending down or small animals getting into the garden. Another plus is this method is almost weed free leaving the occasional windblown seed as a variable.
By using the almost perpetual motion of the aquaponics to feed the plants and clean the water for the fish, there is no harmful runoff to the environment that there is with hydroponics or aquaculture.
Watering is central to an aquaponics system. While you can’t under-water or over-water an aquaponic garden, aquaponics uses only 1/10th of the water of soil-based gardening and much less water than hydroponics or aquaculture.
Fertilizing is also vital to an aquaponics system. Because the system takes care of fertilizing itself, you can sit back and know that Nature is taking care of it.
The aquaponics gardener can focus on the pleasing tasks of feeding the fish and tending and harvesting the plants. Gardening chores are mostly nonexistent with this method.
Instead of using dirt or toxic chemical solutions to grow plants, aquaponics uses the highly nutritious fish waste that has all the necessary nutrients for ideal plant growth to feed the plants. Instead of discharging and replacing water, aquaponics uses the plants and the media in which they grow to clean and purify the water. The aerated fresh water is then returned to the fish tank. This water is recycled indefinitely. The gardener will only need to replenish water is lost through transpiration and evaporation.
Aquaculture (fish farming) has issues too
The standard methods of aquaponics that are most widely in use today.
Raft Based Aquaponics
This system uses a foam raft that is floating in a container filled with fish wastewater that has been through filtration to remove solid particles. The raft has holes that the plants are set into allowing the roots to float in the water. This method works best for growing fast growing, relatively low-nutrient plants such as salad greens.
Media Based Aquaponics
In this way, plants are grown in passive planting media such as gravel, expanded clay pellets, or coir (a natural fiber extracted from the husk of the coconut ). The media naturally filters the ammonia and the solid fish waste fertilizing the plants and returning fresh water to the fish. This type of system produces large fruiting plants very successfully.
This hybrid is a combination of the two before mentioned methods. The media beds become the pre-filter for the solid waste before the water flows through the rafts. This hybrid system offers planting versatility, high yield, and low maintenance.
5 Sound Reasons You Need To Get Started With Aquaponics
Aquaponics has become greatly attractive worldwide both to backyard Do-It-Yourselfers, with just a small setup to grow food for the family; and huge commercial farms producing massive amounts of vegetables, fruits, and fish using aquaponics.
So why choose aquaponics over traditional gardening or hydroponics? This article will give you all that you need to make an informed decision.
Tastier and healthier produce The vegetables you grow with your aquaponics system are fresher, healthier and taste better than you can buy from the store. Most commercially grown produce has chemicals sprayed on it to ward off bugs, and fungus as well as artificial supplements to make the plants grow bigger. Your harvest grown with aquaponics, however, will be organic and naturally healthier. Not to mention, the pride that you will feel at having made such a significant contribution to your and your family’s well being.
The plants grow faster Aquaponics has been proven to make plants grow far more quickly than traditional soil based gardening or even hydroponics. It has been reported that plants grow as much as twice as fast and the yield can be 10 to 20 times more produce per plant than with traditional gardening.
It is cheaper than traditional gardening You save time, space, money and effort with aquaponics due to the perpetual nature of the system once in place. The cycling water only needs to be topped off periodically as it evaporates or splashes out of the container. Additionally, nutrients and fertilizers are not needed, due to the fish waste. You will also save money if you construct the system from scratch by yourself. There is an excellent video course here that will guide you in setting up an aquaponics system quickly, easily and cheaply.
Ease of operation This is the number one reason most people choose aquaponics. Unlike traditional gardening with daily watering, weeding, hoeing and mulching, aquaponics is a relatively hands off system. The raised beds are a gardener’s dream as well! The only part that is a little work is constructing the system and getting everything in place. Once set up, the rest is a piece of cake. Taking your time with the setup will prevent future problems. You will only need to keep an eye on your fish and keep up the pH level of the water stable at a range of 6.8 to 7.0.
Freshest fish ever Varieties of fish thrive in this type of environment; among them are bluegills, trout, catfish, and tilapia. Just from that list, you can see that there is an excellent assortment. As a rule of thumb, you can have three 1-pound fish per 10-gallons of water. By adding a few each week as you eat them, you will always have fresh, chemical-free fish on your plate with those lovely organic veggies.
Here is an example of a fish harvest to give you some idea of the scope of this type of project.
These reasons are enough to make most people decide to set up an aquaponics system in their backyard. Providing food for oneself can be a very rewarding experience in so many ways.