DIY Aquaponics Home links
Aquaponics is the exciting combination of hydroponics and aquaculture that permits economical production of both fish and vegetables for the dining table from one system. Rapidly gaining popularity aquaponics is the organic gardening solution of tommorrow. The objective of DIY Aquaponics is to provide an insight into how aquaponics works and how an aquaponics system can be constructed relatively cheaply so that you can do it yourself.
What is Aquaponics?
As previously mentioned aquaponics is a combination of hydroponics and aquaculture. In hydroponics nutrient solution mostly in the form of nitrates is delivered to the vegetables or plants by some method of irrigation. In active hydroponic systems such as flood and drain, top feed or NFT the nutrient and water solution is usually delivered to the plants with some sort of a pump that delivers the mixture to the roots of the plants. Excess nutrient solution is usually drained back into a reservoir which is periodically emptied, the old nutrient solution discarded and a fresh nutrient solution mixed. So we can see that both water and nutrients are wasted in hydroponics. If you would like to learn more about hydroponics please consider a visit to DIY Hydroponics
In aquaculture fish are raised in ponds, dams or tanks from an age when they are very small until they grow to a size that is suitable for consumption. They are generally fed pelletised rations or more natural foods during their growth and when this food is passed as waste it contains a high concentration of ammonia, which is toxic to fish. To combat the build up of ammonia the water in the tank is passed through a biological filter that contains two different strains of beneficial bacteria. One strain converts the ammonia to nitrites which are much less harmfull to fish but still toxic above a certain concentration. The other strain of bacteria converts the nitrites into nitrates which, once again are much less harmfull to the fish than ammonia but still toxic above a certain level. In aquaculture the most common way to remove the built up nitrates is to change the water. Depending on the size of the tank and the fish this can result in a substantial waste of water.
When you combine aquaculture and hydroponics the end result is a completely organic mini ecosystem of sorts. The vegetables are grown in a growbed in a hydroponic medium such as gravel just like in hydroponics. The reservoir in an aquaponics system contains fish and water rather than nutrient solution and the water from the reservoir is pumped through the hydroponic medium in the growbed. The beneficial bacteria colonise the growbed and it performs the role of the biofilter in aquaculture, converting ammonia to nitrite and nitrite to nitrate. Because the vegetables are growing in the growbed they consume the nitrates that are produced by the beneficial bacteria and complete the cycle of cleaning the water. An aquaponics system that is working effectively will have less than 0.25 parts per million of ammonia, nitrite or nitrate in the water, well under levels that are dangerous to fish. The only water losses will be from evaporation or the transpiration of the plants and no chemicals are used.
Is Aquaponics hard to learn?
Aquaponics sounds a lot more complicated than it really is. If you have experimented with hydroponics or even gardening in soil you will not find the growbed in the least bit challenging. If you have ever had a pet goldfish then caring for the fish will not be much of a challenge either. If you have no experience with either of these things, dont be discouraged, the learning curve will be perhaps just a little steeper but you will be surprised at how pleasurable it can be to recreate your own little piece of nature and the peace and tranquility that tending your aquaponics system can provide.