How to Grow Organic Food Using Aquaponics in Five Steps
Aquaponics is a revolutionary way of growing food which combines hydroponics with aquaculture. Hydroponics is a way of growing good without the use of soil, so what is aquaponics?
Aquaponics is an ingenious way of growing food using the waste produced by fish. It is a self-sufficient system which doesn’t require much maintenance and yet produces amazing nutritious and organic food.
You don’t need to weed or water the plants, use artificial fertilizers, or clean the fish tank and plants usually grow a lot faster than other gardening techniques.
What does an aquaponics system look like?
It can be a small indoor system which sits on your countertop, or it can be a larger backyard version to grow a more substantial amount of vegetables and plant based foods.
The basic premise is that it is a fish tank or container which is suitable for holding the fish on the bottom, and some form of a wooden grow bed just above the tank.
How does it actually work?
The fish produce waste which provides and organic source of food for the plants which are growing above. The natural and good bacteria which forms in the water break down the fishes ammonia into nitrite, which in turn is converted to nitrates.
The plants then use these nitrates to grow. More solid fish waste also becomes a food source for the plants as it is turned into vermicompost.
Not only do the fish look after the plants, but the plants look after the fish too. They filter the water before it returns back to the fish.
Why is Aquaponics one of the best methods of gardening?
- It uses 1/10th of the water that other gardening techniques use
- Plants grow up to three times quicker than they do in traditional soil gardens
- No extra hard work, e.g. weeding, straining your back, cleaning fish tank etc.
- Natural and organic ecosystem
- They can be placed anywhere; indoors, outdoors, a greenhouse…
- They can be small or large, depending on your needs
- Not only do you harvest plants, but you can also harvest the fish
How can you build your very own Aquaponics System?
It’s not as complex as it looks to build your own system, and whilst it makes take a little bit of work and effort to build the system and get it started, it is worth in in the long run.Once the system is up and running and has gained equilibrium, it is pretty self-sustaining and doesn’t need much intervention.
The complexity of the system depends entirely on what you want to build. We’ll talk you through how to set up a simple aquaponics system in 5 simple steps.
Step One – Plan your System
This step includes deciding where you want to build you aquaponics system, whether you choose indoors or outdoors you’ll need to make sure that the ground is level and the setup is close to a power source.
This step also includes sourcing all the equipment you want to use, as a bare minimum you’ll need the following things:
- A tank
- Water pump
- Plastic tubing
- Grow bed
- Grow medium (usually perlite, clay pebbles or peat moss)
Step Two – Set up the Tank
To set up your fish tank, you can follow the same instructions that you would for a regular tank. Make sure the tank is free from any dust or debris before adding water.
You can either use a regular tank, or for larger systems you can use a large plastic container, or anything you’d use to build a pond.
Once your tank is clean, put a layer of gravel at the bottom and fill the tank with water.
Step Three – Add your Fish
There are plenty of different fish that you can use in the aquaponics system. You’ll need a hardy species such as guppies, goldfish and angelfish.
The species that you decide on depends on whether you want to use ornamental fish, or also grow fish which you can eat.
Koi carp and goldfish make great ornamental fish, whereas Tilapia are a great species if you want to grow something you can eventually eat.
Step Four – Build the Grow Bed
The grow bed can be built using a wooden pallet, or something similar to whatever you would grow your regular plants and vegetables in.
Ideally the ratio of your tank to your grow bed should be 1:1 for beginners. Allow the volume of your tank to be the same as the volume of your grow bed for a successful system.
Once you have more experience you can stretch this to a 2:1, grow bed to tank ratio.
The grow bed needs to be sturdy enough to hold all your media, water and plants, deep to allow for adequate filtration and watertight.
Step Five – Grow Organic Food
Once you’ve built your system, it’s time to add your grow bed media to the set up.
You have a choice of media, which is what your plants will grow in. The most common ones are clay pebbles or clay rocks, crushed stone and expanded shale.
Then it’s time to plant your plants!
Most plants grow well in aquaponics systems, some of the easiest ones to start off with are any green leafy ones, herbs, cucumbers and squashes.
We hope this quick insight into Aquaponics has inspired you to creating your own setup, and grow a full meal in your backyard.
Check out some other useful information – Organic Gardening and how to grow hydro in a fish tank!
Have you ever tried aquaponics organic gardening? Please share your experience or if you have any tips or suggestion with us in the comment section!