An aquaponic system is very simple and straightforward to make. Balance within the system can be achieved fairly easily once you learn theory behind aquaponics. In a nutshell, aquaponics utilizes waste from the fish tank to feed plants.
As water circulates within the system, plants are able to clean the water, and the movement of the water itself allows the water to become aerated or oxygenated.
Hardly anything is wasted in aquaponics systems because even unused fish feed from the fish tank can be used by plants as a vital source of nutrients and minerals, which are needed for continual growth.
If you want to grow and breed magnificent tilapia or some other freshwater beauty, why in the world would you turn to a hybrid method that combines traditional aquaculture and hydroponics? First, let’s look at what happens when you run a conventional aquaculture setup.
With a conventional aquaculture setup, you have to remove at least ten percent of the water in the system to prevent ammonia and nitrates from building up. The more fish you have, the higher the chances of accumulating toxic levels of these chemicals in the water.
So if you have a closed aquaculture system that has 2,000 liters of water, you’d have to remove and replace two hundred liters of water every single day.
In a week, that’s 1,400 liters. In just a month, you’d have to invest in 6,000 liters of water just to keep an aquaculture system running and to prevent unnecessary fish death.
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Of course, no one wants to recycle 200+ liters of water every day. Even if you have a large vegetable garden, that amount of water would probably cause more harm than good. And so we turn to aquaponics for a solution. With aquaponics, you’ll be rolling in organic produce in a few months’ time.
Remember you always have to place your individual needs into consideration first when designing your aquaponic system. Ask yourself what is your main goal? Do you want to produce more fish or more vegetables? Do you like the idea of having both, or are you more interested in fresh protein sources?
After evaluating what you want to achieve, you can begin planning out the aquaponics system. A small system that can be maintained easily by one or two individuals will have at least three thousand liters of water. The system will have two main parts: the fish tank and the grow beds.
In principle, the fish tanks should always be lower than the grow beds (where the plants are placed) so that water can easily drain from the grow beds toward the fish tank. A water pump regularly circulates a fixed amount of water so the plants in the grow beds can clean up the water before it is drained back into the fish tank.
Eventually, you have to take care of fingerlings if you are serious about your aquaponic system. The fingerlings can stay in a small drain tank until the critters are ready to be transferred to the larger fish holding tank. We emphasize that there should be regular water movement within the system so the water does not become polluted and toxic to both the plants and the fish.
How frequently should water be circulated? As a rule of thumb, the elevated grow beds should receive a fair amount of water every hour — or at least once every two hours. The water then naturally drains back to the holding tank through the help of gravity.