Aquaponics – What Are The Benefits

If you have been following some of my earlier posts then you will probably have realised that I’m a bit of a fan of aquaponics. That’s because this amazing system for growing vegetables and cultivating fish offers a whole host of benefits.

As well as the obvious environmental benefits there are many others that might not be as obvious but are just as important such as:

  • A well constructed Aquaponics system uses only 10% of the water needed to grow crops in the ground.
  • Compared to normal gardening methods, Aquaponics is very space efficient.
  • You can produce crops all year round in far less space than with traditional methods of growing fruits and vegetables and because they mature faster, yields are bigger.
  • No harmful materials are pumped or leeched into the surrounding eco-system.
  • It doesn’t use any chemicals or potentially harmful pesticides.
  • Aquaponics systems are very low maintenance after the initial build.
  • The grow beds can be built at a comfortable working height which allows disabled or wheelchair bound people the same opportunities to grow their own healthy vegetables.
  • Compared to traditional methods of soil preparation, an Aquaponics system is very simple and quick to set up.
  • It does not suffer from any soil borne diseases..
  • Kids love building and running Aquaponics systems.
  • They are very cheap to run compared to alternative systems.
  • Suitable for hobbyists and professional market gardeners alike.
  • Scales up very well for commercial operations.
  • Multiple income streams from vegetables, fruit and fish.

Home based Aquaponics systems are actually very cheap to set up and simple to operate. They are suitable for urban environments as well as rural ones so they make an ideal addition to a city centre apartment where it may be impossible to grow organic vegetables any other way. When you add in the fact that the produce that they generate is tasty, health and , of course organically grown, you have a system that can not only save you money but can also be good for your health.

There are four basic components to every aquaponics system:

1. The tank. This can be as big, or as small, as space dictates but should be sized according to the breed of fish that you will be stocking.

2. A filter. This is a very important part of the system because it keeps the water clean which helps the fish and it prevents solid waste reaching the grow beds.

3. Plastic piping. This transports the water to the grow beds and must be set up correctly in conjunction with the filtration system to ensure that the waste products are transported away from the plants and the tank is kept clean.

4. The grow beds themselves. These are normally located above the tank to allow the water to drain back under the influence of gravity into the system. Again, its important to make sure they are at a safe working height and of an appropriate size to handle the plants your are growing.

So, there you have it – Aquaponics really does offer a huge range of benefits. If you would like more information on how to build your own working Aquaponics system, then check out this great Aquaponics guide and get started right away.

Learn how to Care for Betta Fish

One half of any effective aquaponics system are the fish. Pick the right breed and your life will be made much simpler. Now, I wouldn’t recommend goldfish for example because although some people would say that goldfish are beautiful and delicate looking things, they are relatively difficult to care for, and aren’t any good for turning into food. For ease of care, there’s a kind of fish that’s even lower maintenance than the goldfish – it’s the Betta, and the good news is that learning to care for Betta fish is a snap – in fact , they don’t need any care at all.

And then the way they look! Look up images of Betta fish on the Internet right now. You’ll be surprised if you ever want to own a goldfish ever again, so delightful are the startlingly bright colors these fish wear.

But surely, you’re telling yourself, there must at least be a few instructions to do with how to care for Betta fish. Surely they can’t be completely maintenance free, can they?

Well, of course they need some care, so lets press on and discuss the matter in hand – how to care for Betta fish, even if there isn’t much to learn.

Let’s start with the most basic topic – how much water they need. At the pet store or the aquarium store, they’ll try to hype how little they need to live on, They’ll say that they will happily live in a glass of water but, of course, there could be a bit of an ulterior motive perhaps to this kind of irresponsible advice. Lets just say that its in the shops interest to see your fish give up the ghost so that they can sell you another one as soon as possible.

So, don’t listen to them; these beautiful fish need to be treated with more dignity. Put them in a tank that holds at least 2 gallons of water. Give them a little room to stretch their legs. And being selfish about it for a minute, this does make a lot of sense for you too. A large tank that holds a lot of water will need to be cleaned out less often.

There’s another reason why a large bowl makes a lot of sense. When there’s a lot of water in a tank, it tends to be heat up and cool down a lot more slowly. Your fish will be more comfortable this way. Temperature regulation is how you care for Betta fish.

Betta fish certainly are not better than goldfish in at least one way – they are very unfriendly fish. Put more than one fish in a bowl, and they’ll be at each other until one of them is dead.
You probably understood from the water temperature discussion above that Betta fish can be sensitive to the temperature in their environment. And so they are. They need the water at 80 degrees all the time. If you live in a cool climate, you’ll need a fish heater. Thankfully, they don’t cost much – perhaps $10 or so.

And finally, if at the pet store they try to sell you special water or water conditioner for your fish, don’t buy. Tap water is just as good.

Aquaponics Tips #1 – Choosing Your Fish

Getting The Breed Of Fish Right Is Half The Battle In Aquaponics

One of the most important decisions when setting up any aquaponics system is, obviously, which breed of fish to choose. The correct choice of fish can truly make or break a system and you need to be sure that one you opt for is suitable for the environmental conditions, the size of the tank and even your lifestyle -after all, some species require more husbandry than others.You should also ensure that the breed of fish you decide to use is allowed in your part of the world. For example, one of the most popular breeds of fish commonly used in aquaponics systems – the Tilapia – is actually banned in some parts of the world. If in doubt check with your local university or local authority – its better to be safe than sorry.

Another important consideration is whether to choose fingerlings or fry. Fingerlings are slightly more mature fish, usually about the length of your finger (hence the name) while fry are fish that are newly born. The most important thing to remember is never to mix the two because the larger fingerlings will eat the fry. My personal preference is to start with fingerlings because they are instantly more productive and fry can sometimes take a few months to develop.

Once you have determined the best size of fish to use, you need to choose a breed. The ambient temperature will play a large part in this decision and if you live in a cold climate you  may be forced to add some supplemental heat during the colder months if you opt to use warm water fish. Of course, this can dramatically add to the cost of running your aquaponics system, so its an important decision to get right at the outset. Cold climates, or exposed outdoor locations, for example, can make it difficult to raise Tilapia or Chinese catfish but there are plenty of breeds such as crappie, bluegill and even perch that do well in these kinds of conditions. Cold water species such as trout and even salmon – if space is not a problem – can do very well in colder climates and have the added advantage of tasting delicious!

Here are the 3 most popular species of fish used for aquaponics farming:

Tilapia – this fish is the fifth most popular species used in fish farming because it is very tasty and it can quickly grow to a decent size. The Tilapia is also one of the most commonly used fish for aquaponics. The fact that they grow quickly, that they are easy to look after and they also thrive in almost any kind of conditions also make them ideal if you are an aquaponics novice. In fact the only downside with Tilapia is that they are a warm water fish meaning that they aren’t suited to cold, harsh climates so if you live one you will need to incur the extra expense of heating the water when it gets cold outside.

Silver Perch – this Australian fish is very hardy, versatile and also tastes yummy! Unusually for fish, they are can also be fed greens which make them very cheap to look after. The only real downside with Perch is that they take much longer to mature than the other breeds so you do have to wait a bit longer to enjoy a nice bit of fish with your dinner.

Trout – This is my preferred species for building aquaponics systems that work. Trout grow very fast and they can withstand a range of temperatures making them the ideal choice for most conditions. They dont need much husbandry and best of all they taste delicious.

These are only 3 of the many varieties of fish that can be used in aquaponics systems but the are the most common ones, and with good reason. If, however, you don’t want to eat the fish then you can use almost any kind of fish that you like, but, in my opinion, this negates half of the advantages of owing and running such a setup.

Providing you stay within the law, and you take the environmental (and of course the cost) factors into consideration the sky really is the limit. Personally , I would never mix species in an aquaponics system because this opens up a new set of potential problems such as the spread of disease from one species to another as well as the risk of different species eating each other. Basically, the more species you see,the harder your job will be, and I’m all for simplicity.

If this article has been useful and you would like to know more about which species of fish to use in your aquaponics system, then check out Aquaponics4You from this page of my aquaponics blog.


Aquaponics In Depth

As I mentioned in my first post, the word Aquaponics is derived from a combination of two different terms – Hydroponics which is the process of growing plants without soil – usually in a solution of nutrient rich water and Aquaculture which is , basically fish farming. Aquaponics brings the best of these two processes together and the end result is nothing short of spectacular. Let me explain exactly how it works.

First Of All – Hydroponics

In Hydroponics plants are grown by supplying them with a nutrient rich solution which is added to water and then fed directly to the plant’s roots. In some cases the plants roots are not even placed into the water directly – they may be suspended without any growing medium and then the nutrified water sprayed on at pre-determined time intervals. In some hydroponics systems the plants are suspended in a growing medium which helps support them and keeps them moist and aerated. Which ever method is used, however, its important that the system is well balanced with the nutrient, water and external conditions such as exposure to sunlight, temperature and protection from the harsh elements such as cold and frost carefully controlled.

Lets Bring In Aquaculture

In Aquaculture, nutrient rich water is used to cultivate fish. A wide variety of fish, crustaceans and molluscs can be farmed using aquaculture and with careful management , yields can be significantly higher than in the wild. Its not without its problems though because the  waste water has to be filtered and/or disposed of in some manner in order to keep the tank water free of toxic buildups. Aquaculture has received some negative press in recent years, particularly in regions where fish farming is carried out on an industrial scale since it has been shown to cause damage to the surrounding eco systems.

So, Lets Bring Them Together – Aquaponics

Whereas Hydroponics and Aquaponics have their pros and cons, when you combine them together you end up with a system that gains all of the benefits but  doesn’t suffer from any of the down-sides. In aquaponics,  hydroponics and aquaculture are combined to grow plants and fish together in one completely integrated system. This enables the  nutrient rich water from the fish to be pumped to a hydroponic system to provide a food source for the growing plants and the plants in turn provide a natural filter that removes harmful properties from the water which is then returned to the fish in the aquaculture system. Aquaponics is actually a completely self-contained micro-ecosystem  where both plants and fish thrive with no waste being thrown off to pollute the surrounding environment.

Aquaponics is the ideal answer to aquaculturist’s problem of disposing of nutrient rich water and the hydroponic growers’ whose need for nutrient rich water to raise their plants is made available.

Guide to Fish in Aquaponics Systems

Who doesn’t love fish? If you’ve bееn lооkіng fоr information аbоut hоw tо integrate nеw fish іn а newly established aquaponics system, chances are, уоu аrе а full-blooded fish eater.You hаvе а good appetite fоr healthy, fresh fish аnd that s рrоbаblу оnе оf thе reasons whу уоu wаnt аn aquaponics system іn уоur backyard іn thе fіrѕt place.As уоu mау know, а successful aquaponics system іѕ dependent оn thrее main components: fish, bacteria, аnd plants. Wіthоut thе fish, уоur organic vegetables wіll nоt survive. And wіthоut thе plants, thе fish wіll die оff quickly bесаuѕе thе water wіll bесоmе toxic wіth nitrates, ammonia, аnd оthеr waste products.Without bacteria, thе plants wоuld nоt bе аblе tо absorb vital nitrates frоm thе water. Sо еасh component іѕ important tо thе system. Remove оnе component, аnd thе system wіll fall apart.

Focusing оn thе fish

Tilapia іѕ easily thе bеѕt choice fоr aquaponics systems, rеgаrdlеѕѕ оf thе size оf thе setup. If уоu live іn а rеlаtіvеlу warm place іn thе United States, уоu саn consult wіth уоur local agriculture bureau tо find оut іf уоu саn raise tilapia іn уоur backyard aquaponics system.If tilapia іѕ nоt а good choice, уоu hаvе саn аlѕо raise а variety оf оthеr freshwater fish ѕuсh аѕ koi fish аnd crappie fish. Mоѕt common edible freshwater fish саn bе uѕеd іn aquaponics systems.Some people еvеn breed bass іn thеіr backyards. Wе recommend tilapia bесаuѕе thеѕе fish grow vеrу quickly аnd аrе оnе оf thе hardiest groups оf edible fish around. Tilapias аrе cichlids аnd аrе uѕuаllу fоund іn thе tropics.As fоr hоw mаnу fish tо raise іn уоur holding tank, іt rеаllу depends оn hоw muсh space уоu hаvе аnd thе type оf filtration system you ve installed іn уоur tank.

Small-scale commercial producers uѕuаllу add hаlf а pound оf fish fоr еvеrу оnе gallon оf water іn thеіr tank.The number оf fish аlѕо hаѕ а bearing оn hоw muсh vegetation уоur aquaponics system саn support. Thrее factors соmе іntо play whеn іt соmеѕ tо determining hоw muсh vegetation уоur fish саn support (indirectly):-

  • The volume оf fish уоu hаvе іn thе tank
  • The maturation, weight, аnd size оf thе fish
  • How muсh food іѕ bеіng added tо thе holding tank оn а daily basis

If уоu аrе utilizing а simple raft setup (elevated growing beds), оnе square meter оf growing vegetation wіll require аt lеаѕt sixty grams оf fish food оn а daily basis.If уоu аrе tаkіng care оf mоrе demanding vegetables ѕuсh аѕ squash, уоu nееd аt lеаѕt оnе hundrеd grams оf fish food еvеrу day. Remember, уоur plants wіll bе completely dependent оn thе waste products оf thе fish аnd thе excess fish feed іn thе water.If thеrе іѕ insufficient fish waste, thе vegetables wіll hаvе nо wау tо grow bесаuѕе thе water wіll hаvе vеrу minimal levels оf organic matter аnd usable nitrates.Inversely, іf уоu add tоо muсh food tо thе holding tanks, уоu run thе risk оf poisoning thе fish bесаuѕе tоо muсh food dіrесtlу translates tо excess waste іn thе water. Yоu hаvе tо find thе balance thаt wіll sustain bоth thе fish аnd уоur aquaponic vegetables/fruits.