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How to Build an Aquaponics System – a Beginners Guide

How to Build an Aquaponics System

Once somebody told me if you want to be focused, free from anxiety bring a fish to your home because they have a psychological effect on our brain and it’s proven, moreover you become a pet owner with almost no investment and they are such quiet creatures.

I believe the brain behind Aquaponics must be a die heart pet fish lover!!!

A step by step guide for how to build an Aquaponics system

Aquaponics is one of the most sustainable ways to produce your own food. It simply involves an amalgamation of aquaculture and hydroponics in one integrated system. When you hear the word aquaponic gardening, you may confuse it with hydroponics gardening. The cause being, aquaponics not only sound related, but it is actually the combination of hydroponics and aquaculture, together they offer the perfect partnership for aquaponics plants optimal growth. But my friend there is some points of difference between hydroponics and aquaponics.

So let’s discuss aquaponics vs hydroponics

Aquaponics is slightly different from hydroponics.

Aquaponics is the arrangement of growing plants hydroponically and the practice of aquaculture (which means raising fish).

In place of adding nutrient solutions to the water to supply nutrients, like what is done in hydroponics, here fishes are grown at the same time in the aquatic environment to generate a symbiotic relationship that results in an amazingly efficient system.

Working Principle of Aquaponics

In aquaponics, the fish supply a natural source of organic nutrients all the way through their excreted waste; beneficial microbes present in water convert the waste into functional nutrient sources for plants; the plants in turn naturally clean the water, providing a clean and healthy living environment for the fish and microbes to survive. In aquaponics, the microbes convert the ammonia coming from the aquaponics fish waste into nitrites and then into nitrates which is in the form of nitrogen taken up by the plants. A pump then brings this water, which is high in nitrates, reaches to grow bed where plants are growing. Plants then take in the nitrates with the help of their roots using them as a source for plant essential nitrogen that is otherwise supplemented externally in the case of hydroponics gardening system. This sequence repeats over and over, with the fish supplying nutrition for the bacteria, the bacteria breaking down the fish waste and making feeding material for the plants, and the plants cleaning the water to return back to the fish. Easy!

This brilliant combination of hydroponics and aquaculture permits aquaponics to get the benefits of both systems while compensating for the individual downsides of each.

Why Aquaponics garden?

It is balanced systems that sustain all its living components, including the microscopic life that facilitates the natural conversion of fish-produced waste into usable, beneficial nutrients for plants.

Aquaponics, no matter the scale be it backyard aquaponics system or even it makes for a dramatically more-efficient indoor aquaponics garden

If done accurately, it can yield both fish and vegetables at impressive quantities, giving tough competition to the most intensive, stand-alone hydroponic and aquaculture operations.

The aquaponics system solves most problems faced in hydroponic and fish-raising systems, providing a stable, balanced amount of plant nutrients devoid of additional fertilizer while disposing of the wastes that build up from fish and food in aquaculture tanks.

Aquaponics makes use of less water than any other gardening technique about one-tenth of the amount otherwise used in conventional soil-based gardening.

It’s environmentally friendly since it generates less waste and runoff. Instead, it is a self-contained system that effectively recycles its water.

You may also check this: Growing Organic Vegetables in Greenhouse.

Aquaponics garden.
Aquaponics garden.

You don’t have to keep uprooting the weeds it is simple No weeding required

Gardening beds even in a small aquaponics system are most commonly placed above fish-raising tanks, bringing them up to an easy-to-work level. Hence no bending or stooping required this will simply reduce the strain on your back while you tend to nourish your plants.

In an aquaponics system, it becomes easy to produce organically by eliminating the use of pesticides or herbicides that would harm the fish in the system and also keeps your plants’ toxin-free

No extra fertilizes are required. Simply with the help of beneficial bacteria present in the system nutrients are produced organically right from the fish waste, cutting down the fertilizer expenses and dilemma of choosing the best hydroponic fertilizers.

Effortlessly adapted for home and small-scale efficiency it is meant for aquaponics for beginners and also can be sized for continuous, economically sound, and for commercial production.

Types of Aquaponics system to build

Prior to choosing a system, think about where it will be positioned. Indoors (garage, basement, other)? Outdoors?  In a greenhouse?

Consider the accessibility of water and electricity. Will you require to light and heat your aquaponic garden?

Almost all setups have need of circulation between the grow beds and fish tanks. Plans like these will assist you to design your own system to fit your particular space and requirements.

Systems are chiefly defined by the kind of hydroponic growing beds they include. Grow medium systems, using clay pebbles, coco coir fiber, or rock wool are often preferred by beginners. These growing mediums offer good drainage as well as room for beneficial bacteria to develop.

There are a few diverse ways of how to build an aquaponic garden. The three most common aquaponic system designs defined by the way they supply water, either with the constant flow or with periodic flooding.

In case if you miss this: Hydroponic Expert Tips, Plans, Secrets.

  1. Deep Water Culture Set Up

The deepwater culture system, which is also recognized as raft-based growing, includes a floating foam raft usually used in large commercial setups. It permits the roots of the plants to drop into the water and get nutrients directly from the channel in which the water is running. This aquaponic design and construction may have need of drainage or additional steps to convert fish waste, water will have to been drawn from the tank where the fish are living and filtered to remove any solid waste. The deepwater culture method floats plants on the water, letting their roots dip in. Water with nutrients from the fish tank is continuously cycled through the grow beds.

  1. Nutrient Film Set Up

This is how to build an aquaponic system with PVC this method includes channelling of the water from the fish tank all the way through a narrow, cylindrical tube such as PVC, which bear holes drilled on the top. The roots are then suspended through the holes where they get nutrients from the water. This set up works for those who do not have much ground space, for the reason that it can easily be operated across walls or hung from ceilings. A complete aquaponics system can be set up horizontally or vertically and is the best aquaponics system for plants that don’t have need of any support to grow such as many kinds of garden vegetables (lettuce) but not others.

  1. Media Bed Set Up

In this system, plants are developed in a particular type of media for example clay pebbles, and the media bed usually is placed on top of or next to the fish tank. A pump collects the water from the tank, and it then passes through the media bed, permitting the plants to get nutrients from the water earlier than it is returned back to the fish fully filtered. This is possibly the easiest and common aquaponics system for sale because it is most preferred for home growers and the one that we’ll be focusing on in this article to guide how to build an aquaponics system step by step

Build an Aquaponics system

Step 1:  Build Your Media Bed

The media bed can either be constructed either above the fish tank or to the side of the tank. Ensure that the media is uniformly distributed, leveled, and does not envelop the channel that brings water to the grow bed. The media bed will be the storage place in which the plants will grow also known as a flood table. For grow beds, you can use a large heavy-duty plastic tray or a wooden pallet crate. This will have to be made on top of a stand that is able to hold up its weight. Start adding grow media into the bed.  Once you’ve placed the grow media bed it is needed to fill it with media .make sure you do not fill higher than 12″ since this will increase chances for anaerobic bacteria to build up which will harm plants, microbes as well as fish.  Make sure the media is evenly distributed, level, and does not cover the water pump that brings water to the grow bed. Clay pebbles are pH neutral and won’t affect your water and also hold moisture well. For these reasons, they are one of the most liked types of media to use in-home aquaponics. When you first commence, start to keep a ratio of 1:1 among the size of the fish tank and the size of the grow bed so that the volumes are the equivalent.

Step 2:  Add Water

Fill up your fish tank with clean water.  When using tap water, you will have to turn on the pump and aerator to bubble off chemicals that are commonly found in tap waters.  It typically takes 3 days (for small aquaponic systems) to 1 week (for large systems) to totally get these chemicals away from the water. Keep in mind that you will require to aerate the water when you want to add more water to the system to plant uptake or evaporation.  Chlorine hurts fish and plants so it is not allowed not even in traces.

Step 3: Add Plants

Now after ensuring the quality of water and calibrating pH, the next step is to introduce plants into the grow beds. If you are adding plants earlier grown in soil, it is very important that you have washed off the soil from the roots as possible.  As a best practice, we suggest using vermiculite as a growing medium to start plants in. This growing media without difficulty rinses off and eradicate the potential of cross-contamination of harmful bacteria or pathogens into the aquaponic system. To grow plants, basically, dig down into the grow media about 2-3 inches and then gently place the plant and roots into the grow media make sure to not injure the roots or cover up the leaves of the plant.  Ensure that the plant is supported and standing upright.  As you add plants, make sure to make available enough space between them so that they have sufficient space to grow. Leafy plants are likely to produce best in aquaponics setups. However, if you have adequate fish, you might also be able to produce fruiting plants such as peppers and tomatoes.

It is natural for plants to go into shock after undergoing transplanting due to which typically the outer leaves may wilt or die.  Keep monitoring the plant health for the next week after transplantation.  You should ensure the commencement of new growth starts which will indicate that they have established themselves in the system.  If the plants are not responding, check to make sure that the plant’s roots have been planted well deep enough to receive the nutrient-rich water.  If the roots are not going deep enough, reposition the plant and carry on to monitor for improvements.

Step 4: pH Test

Test the pH again by using a pH test kit if the range is between 6.5 to 7.5, it is the right time to add fish into the system

Step 5: Add Ammonia

At this point, you have to add ammonia to the water since you don’t have the fish in the tank yet to form waste to start the cycle. By adding ammonia, it will begin the nitrogen cycle of the system. How much ammonia you add will depend upon the size of the system you own. Be sure to verify your set-up instructions to make out how many tablespoons you should add every day for an initial couple of weeks.

Step 6:  Add the Fish

Once your tank has cycled properly, you can add the fish. Now that your aquaponic system has a clean water reservoir with the right pH and has healthy microbes to break down ammonia and fish waste, the next step is to add fish. There are many various types of freshwater fish that will work in such systems. Once you have decided and have purchased healthy fishes, add them into your fish tank.

Common choices of aquaponic fish include or fishes to consider before you build an Aquaponics system

  • Tilapia – the easiest fish to grow, simple to care for, and resistant to disease
  • Goldfish – produces a lot of waste, so perfect for this setup
  • Koi – They grow large and have a high resale price
  • Pacu – for those who are looking for a fancier fish

In case, if you are interested in this: Aquaponics Training Centers in India.


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