What is an aquaponics system?
If you don’t have much space then aquaponics gardening could be the ideal solution for you.
An aquaponics system is a way of combining hydroponics (where you grow plants in water) with aquaculture (which is simply a way of growing fish, crayfish or prawns)
3 Ways to start:
- Try it / Test it small scale at home – using something like the kitchen aquaponics tank (shown right)
- Install a larger aquaponics tank in your back garden or allotment.
- Or install a aquaponics greenhouse for a commercial business
Is aquaponics new ?
The first examples were found around the Aztec cities, where they used ‘growing islands’ for vegetables. Similarly in China and Thailand (about 3000 BC) rice was farmed in paddy fields in combination with fish such as carp, eel and pond snails.
And in more recent times countries as diverse as Bangladesh and Barbados have started installing ‘larger’ scale aquaponics systems to boost locally products agricultural production. (because it’s simply such an environmentally friendly and productive way to produce agricultural products)
But what is new is the growth of ‘home based aquaponic systems’ – where individuals are using it as a very effective way to grow plants (& fish) at home.
How do you start / what do you need ?
The starting point is to decide
- How much you want to grow
- What you want to grow
- (and if you want your fish for ‘decoration’ or food)
An aquaponics system is very simple – in that you need a tank to keep the fish. The fish produce waste (effluent) which are broken down by bacteria into nitrates. On top of the tank you have a ‘shelf’ with your plants with the roots submerged into the water. The plants take up the nitrates (as a fertilizer) out of the water (keeping it safe for the fish) and use it to grow.
So that all you need to do is feed the fish and harvest your plants.
The issue is therefor ‘how big’ you want your aquaponics system to be – the easiest way is to test it first (see above) and then decide how much space you have available.
3 key elements to any aquaponics system.
Whatever size you want to use there are 3 items to the system.
Simply using a drill, saw and utility knife you can build one at home, using only basic materials.
1. The fish tank
For the fish tank use a standard stock tank (like the ones you will see in the fish section of most garden centres) which is tall and opaque to block out most sunlight. (otherwise you lose your algae)
2. The grow bed
On top of the tank you will need a grow bed for your plants.
3. Water circulation system
You also need to install a water pump and circulation system, to get the water with the nitrate to flow up to the roots and then back down again.
And then you need a bit of sunlight and space….
It’s as easy as that.
The next stage…
The beauty of an aquaponics system is that you can start it very small (for example by testing it with an kitchen aquaponics tank ) and/or build the whole system yourself at home, using easy to obtain materials.
The key issue is deciding how big you want your aquaponics system to be and then what you would like to grow.
We usually recommend starting with easy ‘leafy’ vegetables like salads and herbs – so you get to know the system. And then you can always expand and try other plants – follow the links below.
The fish is more complicated. Many people will start with goldfish (they are cheap to buy, look ‘pretty’ and are easy to keep). You can then move onto more interesting varieties – like carp – or even decide to grow edible types – for more details follow the links below.
Aquaponics is great fun, easy to start and setting up a system should be very cost effective.