Aquaponics may sound like a foreign word for many people because it is the mixture of two words, aquaculture and hydroponics. It takes conventional aquaculture ideas of raising snails, fish, prawns, and other like creatures in tanks and combines it with hydroponics, which is cultivating plants in water. This symbiotic works perfectly together because the hydroponic system cleans the water from the aquaculture system and cycles it back.
Aquaponics are excellent for growing food in your home. It takes the downsides of each system and utilizes it to work together to create the perfect combination. Aquaculture requires excess nutrients removed from the system while hydroponics needs nutrients to feed the plants. The two systems offer what the other lacks. It is an incredibly productive system, as an aquaponic system only uses about 1/10th of the water compared to growing plants from the ground. You need not worry about weeding or fertilizing your plants. It is also extremely environmental, as it only uses the same electricity as running a few light bulbs.
The two main components of aquaponics are the aquaculture system and the hydroponic system. The aquaculture system lets off effluents that sit in the water. Effluents can include uneaten feed and other wastes from the animals. The excess product slowly becomes toxic within the system, and the aquatic animals cannot handle such high effluents of the nutrients. The hydroponic system plays an important part here because the plants need nutrients to grow. They filter out the ammonia that would be toxic to the animals. This continuous cycle of cleaning the water and oxygenating it enables both the plants and the animals to grow.
Most all green vegetables can grow in a hydroponic system. However, the best plants include Chinese cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, bell peppers, and okra. The most profitable way is to stagger the plant harvesting as most plants have a different growth stage and will use various minerals and nutrients. Animals that produce well in an aquaponics system include freshwater fish, and also freshwater crayfish and prawns. First check with your local government regulations before purchasing any fish.
Setting up your aquaponics system is not difficult. The aquaponics system depends a lot on your personal preferences, and there is no one right way to do it. The general idea you need is a system that will work as a cycle. The easiest way to do this is to borrow an existing system from a pond or someone with an aquarium. Of course, it is not necessary to have an existing system, but it will take a little longer for your system to establish itself. Make sure you first run the system for 24 to 48 hour before you add in any fish or plants. You must fill the grow beds with either gravel or expanded clay pebbles, and the plants can be grown on floating foam rafts. You can also use the Nutrient Film Technique for smaller plants. Once you are sure the water system is recycling itself, you can begin to bring in whatever produce you are planning to introduce.
Simple DIY Aquaponics Systems
1. Cheap $99 Beginner Setup
I came across this simple setup about a year ago and it’s perfect if you want to try your hand at aqua-gardening. Using a plastic garbage bin as your fish tank cuts down on cost dramatically. There’s no need to invest in an IBC tote or aquariums.
2. Awesome IBC & Tower Setup
These guys have it down pat! I particularly love the different sections of grow beds and towers. If you visit their site, they have a nice little animation that explains the fill and flood method. The actually have their own method that only requires one pump. This is a nice setup for a greenhouse since it doesn’t take up much room.
3. PVC Home Aquaponics System
This is pretty cool and cheap to build. Their site has several small systems to get you started as well as some nice videos explaining the whole process.
4. Small Aquaponics System Video
5. Complete Aquaponics Plans & Tutorial
If you are really serious about getting started. I highly recommend this complete course on building a complete system. You can purchase the whole course for faily cheap and have the videos forever!
This course will teach you everything you need to know from system design to maintaining your system. This is the video series I used to build my aquaponics system. Take 2 minutes and watch the video.
6. For Even More Information
My friends over at SurviveTheWild.net have put together a great resource that explains even more about indoor aquaponics.
My Aquaponics Plans
If you read my article on Free Greenhouse Plans, you will see that I added plans that I created for my own use. I am also adding the plans I designed for my aquaponics system also. You will need to download Google Sketchup to view and modify them. Download the files: Aquaponics Plans.
If you have built a system of your own, we would love to see it. Comment below with your images. Once again I wish you good luck on all your homesteading & prepper projects.