A backyard or indoor aquaponics system is a fantastic way to grow food and become self-sufficient. Why deal with the high prices of organics at the market? It’s simple and requires a little brainpower, and creating ecological balance can be achieved really easily if you understand the simple fundamentals of backyard aquaponics. In a statement, it simply utilizes waste water from the fish tanks to help nourish and grow plants.
In a world where technology is changing the way we live, having an aquaponic backyard setup has become one of the best self-sustaining ways to grow food. The aquaponics garden system is based on achieving a natural biological balance, which is not very difficult to create if you understand the fundamentals of how it works. The easiest way to understand aquaponics is to realize that the waste by-products of the fish are converted into food for the fruits and vegetables by the bacteria.
The circulation of the water in the system continually brings these nutrients to the plants and mixes with oxygen. The plants take up the nutrients and waste by-products, which further cleans the water which is again re-circulated to the fish, providing them with a healthy environment to live in.
A backyard system is highly efficient, since there is very little waste if any at all. Heck, even the uneaten fish food is used as food for the plants and provides them with a constant source of nutrients and vitamins for growth.
Why Try Aquaponics anyway?
It provides the benefits of the two older systems of aquaculture and hydroponics – without the problems associated with each. This potent hybrid of the two systems solves the problem of constantly cleaning the water for the aquaponics fish to live in, and the problem of constantly having to provide nutrients to plants to enable them to thrive and grow. To better understand why this is better than traditional methods, we will first take a look at what happens when you have an aquaculture fish farming system.
With a typical closed aquaculture system, continual maintenance is required. This is because fish produce solid waste and ammonia, and there is no way to prevent them from building up without removing at least 10 percent of the water each and every day. If you do not replace this water, the ammonia and nitrates levels will quickly become toxic to the fish. With more fish, it may be necessary to remove more than 10 percent daily.
If you think about it, 10 percent of the water in a closed system is a heck of a lot. If the system has 500 gallons of water, 10 percent or 50 gallons will have to be replaced daily. In the course of a week that amounts to 350 gallons, and in a month that is 1,400 gallons that need to be replaced. As you can see, this is not very economical, and the daily maintenance requirement for a conventional aquaculture system is high. Keep in mind that this is just to keep the fish from dying and to keep the system running.
Why Aquaponics is Efficient and Economical
For most people, the idea of recycling 50 gallons or more each day is a crazy notion. You wouldn’t even be able to use that much water with a huge vegetable garden, and then you would probably end up killing a lot of the vegetation. This is precisely why aquaponics provides an excellent solution to this dilemma.
By creating a system, this recycled water is put to good use by making the crops you decide to plant abundant and rich in less than a year’s time. Plus, there is no additional expense to continually add water to the system, as it is recirculated back to the fish after it is cleaned and filtered by the plants.
The Steps to Design Your Aquaponics System
Once you have decided that building a system is better than your other options, you should take a closer look at your goals in creating this self-sustaining system in the first place. Are you more interested in having a lot of fish or a lot of fruits and vegetables? Do you really want to have both fish and vegetables, or are you mainly just interested in having the fresh fish?
After you have sorted out what your goals in building a system are, you are ready to start thinking about aquaponics designs. No matter how large of a system you choose to design, the aquaponic system will have two main parts. The fish tank is part one, and the grow beds with the fruit and vegetable plants make up part two. Typically, a small aquaponics system will have at least 600 gallons of water in it. This size system will be easy for one or two people to build and maintain.
One of the fundamentals in building a self-sustaining aquaponics system is to make sure that the aquaponics tank is lower than the grow beds. This way, the water that is cleaned by the vegetation can drain back to where the fish tanks are. Also, most of the time it is a good idea to have a water pump that constantly circulates the water from the fish tanks to the grow beds.
By having a water pump, you can be sure that the water is continually cleaned by the grow beds, and that the waste buildup and nitrates are removed before the water drains back into the fish tanks. This is absolutely essential to creating a successful aquaponics system.
If you have gotten this far, you might be wondering how often the water should be circulated in a closed aquaponics system. The truth is, that depends. How much regular water movement is there in the system without a pump? A general rule of thumb is to make sure that the elevated grow beds receive a decent amount of water every hour. You could get away with the grow beds receiving water every two hours, but the fruit and vegetables might not grow to their potential.
Once you get your backyard system up and running without much daily maintenance, you will know that the ecosystem is in balance. When you are sure that the fish and vegetables are properly sustaining the system, you will want to start directing your attention to the fingerlings. It is important to keep the fingerlings away from the larger fish and in a smaller drain tank so they will be safe.