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Both aquaculture and hydroponics have some down sides, hydroponics requires expensive nutrients to feed the plants, and also requires periodic flushing of the systems which can lead to waste disposal issues. Re-circulating aquaculture needs to have excess nutrients removed from the system, normally this means that a percentage of the water is removed, generally on a daily basis. This nutrient rich water then needs to be disposed of and replaced with clean fresh water. While re-circulating aquaculture and hydroponics are both very efficient methods of producing fish and vegetables, when we look at combining the two, these negative aspects are turned into positives. The positive aspects of both aquaculture and hydroponics are retained and the negative aspects no longer exist. Aquaponics can be as simple or as complex as you’d like to make it, the simple system pictured above is made from one IBC (Intermediate Bulk Container). The top was cut off and turned upside down to become a growbed for the plants. Water is pumped up from the fish tank into the growbed. The water trickles down through the media, past the roots of the plants before draining back into the fish tank. The plants extract the water and nutrients they need to grow, cleaning the water for the fish. There are bacteria that live on the surface of the growbed media. These bacteria convert ammonia wastes from the fish into nitrates that can be used by the plants. The conversion of ammonia into nitrates is often termed “the nitrogen cycle”. This will be dealt with in more detail elsewhere on this website. Growbeds filled with a media such as gravel or expanded clay pebbles are a common method of growing plants in an aquaponic system, but there are many different methods that can be used. In fact any method of hydroponic growing can be adapted to aquaponics. Plants can be grown in floating foam rafts that sit on the water surface. Vegetables can also be grown using NFT (Nutrient Film Technique), or through various other methods using a “run to waste” style of growing. This is done by removing a percentage of the fish water each day and watering vegetables planted in different media such as coir peat, vermiculite, perlite etc. Many different species of fish can be grown in an aquaponic system, and your species selection will depend on a number of factors including your local government regulations. Quite high stocking densities of fish can be grown in an aquaponic system, and because of the recirculating nature of the systems very little water is used. Research has shown that an
aquaponic system uses about 1/10th of the water used to grow vegetables in the ground. An aquaponic system can be incredibly productive. I’ve produced 50kg of fish, and hundreds of kilograms of vegetables within 6 months in an area about the size of your average carport, 8m x 4m.
This is a system that requires no bending, no weeding, no fertilizers, and only uses about the same power it takes to run a couple of light globes.
Type of Systems
These are the most commonly used type of aquaponic systems.
Media Filled Beds
Media filled beds are the simplest form of aquaponics, they use containers filled with rock medium of expanded clay or similar. Water from a fish tank is pumped over the media filled beds, and plants grow in the rock media. This style of system can be run two different ways, with a continuous flow of water over the rocks, or by flooding and draining the grow bed, in a flood and drain or ebb and flow cycle.
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
Nutrient Film Technique is a commonly used hydroponic method, but is not as common in aquaponic systems. In NFT systems, nutrient rich water is pumped down small enclosed gutters, the water flowing down the gutter is only a very thin film. Plants sit in small plastic cups allowing their roots to access the water and absorb the nutrients. NFT is only really suitable for certain types of plants, generally leafy green vegetables, larger plants will have root systems that are too big and invasive, or they become too heavy for the lightweight growing gutters.
Deep Water Culture (DWC)
Deep Water Culture, works on the idea of floating plants on top of the water allowing the roots to hang down into the water. This can be done in a number of ways. This method is one of the more commonly practiced commercial methods. DWC can be done by floating a foam raft on top of the fish tank, however a more common method is to grow the fish in a fish tank and pump the water through a filtration system, and then into long channels where floating rafts filled with plants float on the water surface and extract the nutrients.
Which Style is Best Suited to Me?
So there are the basics of aquaponics, it really can be as simple or as complicated as you like, if you want to start off small and simple take a piece of polystyrene, cut some holes in it, stick some mint cuttings or water cress cuttings through the holes, and float it on the surface of an aquarium or pond, within no time you’ll end up with a mass of floating herbs, and you’ll have cleaner water for your fish. Through lots of experimenting over the years, and through the trials of members on the online discussion forum, the flood and drain media based system, has been found to be the most reliable and the simplest method of aquaponics, especially for beginners. It can be done very simply using a wide range of different containers. The flood and drain media bed system, also requires minimal maintenance. We are going to concentrate on the media bed style of system, you can mix different styles of system but for the moment just straight media filled beds will do. Even with just straight media beds there are a number of different ways you can run the system.
Running the System
Media Bed System
There are a few common methods of running a media bed aquaponic system. You can flood and drain it by using a timer on the pump to switch the pump off and on, while a standpipe in the grow bed controls the flooding level. You can flood and drain it using an auto siphon within the growbed and running your pump continuously. You can also run the system with a continuously flooded grow bed using a standpipe in the bed. We have been running some trials of these three different methods here at Backyard Aquaponics and you can follow the results on our forum if you’d like to compare the different systems.
Not the simplest method of setting up a system because you have to incorporate a sump tank in your design. flowing out into the growbed. If you’d like to read more about the Trials we ran with the different systems. but: Advantages Pump is in sump tank away from fish and wastes Water level in fish tank remains constant Great if you have a tall fish tank Larger water volume because of sump Disadvantages Extra equipment required (sump tank) Must have tall fish tank or stand can take up larger footprint limited running methods (no timer possible) . There were some differences in the early period but after 12 months there really is very little difference between them. The growbed then drains into the sump tank before being pumped back to the fish again. we gave reports over 3 editions of the Backyard Aquaponics Magazine. This means that the overflow pipe in the fish tank goes right down to the base of the fish tank where it will draw solids upfrom the bottom of the tank and deposit them into the growbed. This being the case I would recommend running your IBC system continuously flooded as we have set up our IBC system on this website. with the final results summed up in the thirteenth edition. this causes the water level in the fish tank to rise. Uses either an autosiphon within the growbed to flood and drain the growbed or run with the growbed constantly flooded. Chift Pist Chift Pist systems are popular amongst the aquaponics DIY sector with many people.At the time of writing this our trials have been running for over 12 months and in reality there’s been little difference at the end of the day between the three different systems. Not often set up with timers on the pump unless you have a very large sump as it requires a large capacity to top the fish tank and fill the growbed in a pumping cycle. Water is pumped from the sump tank into the fish tank. A SLO (Solids Lift Overflow) is normally incorporated into these systems.
Personally after playing with siphons on a few different systems I decided a long time ago that I didn’t want to use them. Constant Flood . Advantages Simple design Only two major system components Great if you have a tall fish tank Disadvantages Pump in fish tank Water level in tank fluctuates a little What are standpipes you might ask? This is a standpipe. that each has advantages and disadvantages. use standpipes. so all systems I make. then slipping a slightly longer piece of pipe over the end. A stand pipe next to a drain fitting. If you want to flood the growbed to make caterpillars or slugs come up out of your media. If your media level in the bed drops over time then you can cut a little off the stand pipe. causing all the pests to come up out of the media. or just a coupling fitting you can enable the bed to flood.Simple Flood and Drain Simple flood and drain can be done a couple of ways. this allows the water to slowly drain out of the bed when the pumps off. By changing the length of the standpipe you can adjust the flooding level in the bed. lowering the flood level in your bed There are two small holes in the bottom of the stand pipe. The debate over which method is better is a hotly debated topic and I think the answer is fairly simple. you can either have a standpipe in the growbed and timer on the pump. or you can use a siphon in the growbed. then sitting in the drain fitting. hence the flooding and draining action.
it will just take a little longer. If you can’t find any. especially when using fishless methods requiring addition of different sources of ammonia. . or don’t know anyone you can source some bacteria from. It’s always good if you can ‘seed’ your system from an existing system or from someone who has an aquarium or pond. so will pond filters or even just the pond or aquarium water. it will help your system to establish even quicker. with each person insisting that their method is best. The idea is that you need to get a system ‘cycled’ which means establishing your beneficial bacteria populations within the system so that they can they can convert the ammonia wastes into nitrates so the plants can use them. they will establish themselves naturally. If you’d like to learn more about the different methods of setting up and running your aquaponics system. Aquarium filters will be filled with the beneficial bacteria you want growing in your aquaponics system. Most importantly if this is getting a little confusing for you don’t worry about it. So if you can collect some of this. there are a number of different ways you can get your system started. You may want to get yourself a test kit so that you can follow the cycling of your system. if you follow through our simple building and installation steps you’ll be able to build yourself an IBC aquaponic system in no time.Looks a bit similar to the one above? Yes that’s because it is basically the same as the flood and drain system above. it can be difficult to conceptualize exactly how these things work. Anyway. Starting A System If you ask 10 people how to start an aquaponic system you’ll get about 9 or perhaps 10 different answers. except that when you remove the timer from the system the grow bed remains constantly flooded.don’t worry. you’ll find lots of information on the forum. then join the forum.
Urine contains urea and urea breaks down to ammonia. nitrite and nitrate is best. it is as it sounds. some people get their system started and cycled by adding urine to the system.A test kit which tests pH. ammonia. Keep in mind that the most important thing is to get your system up and running. it’s a good idea to leave your system running for a minimum of a day or two before introducing fish or begining any long term plans. Methods of Cycling Peeponics Yes. Sort out any little niggling problems you may have with the system before your fish arrive because once they are in. mainly because you need to be sure that the system is working well and there are no leaks or other potential problems. It’s a goo d idea to age your urine for a few days to a week in an open well ventilated area before adding it to the . once you have ammonia this can be a useful source of food for beneficial bacteria populations. you don’t want to then stop your system for running repairs or changes if you can help it.
You can also stock the system with fingerling of whatever type of fish you plan on growing in the system and this is the way we start our systems and the method we recommend people start theirs. If you are taking any type of medication it’s not recommended that you try this method. Ammonia Household ammonia can be sourced from many different places. you can just add straight from the source if you wish. per day. stop feeding until the algae clears. as the feed starts to break down on the bottom of the fish tank and in the growbeds it will release ammonia for the bacteria to feed on. usually cheap bronze comets or goldfish to start the system before adding your final fish species. but not totally necessary. You can easily monitor this with a basic freshwater master test kit. This is a fairly straightforward method of cycling a system. there are plenty of cleaning and industrial ammonia sources but they often have perfumes and other additives. generally available from agricultural suppliers. regular water testing is recommended. however you must be careful of your dosing. The dead prawn or fish Yep a method of cycling practiced a fair bit within some aquarium circles over the years. Locating your system . Also when sourcing your ammonia make sure that you only use food grade ammonia. But feeding the fish must be kept to a strict minimum for the first 2 months. After 2 months you can start increasing feed levels slowly because your bacteria would have been established. By placing some rotting fish or crustacean in the system you are inducing a source of ammonia for the bacteria to feed on. care is required to ensure you don’t overdose the system. Urea Fertilizers Another method to add an ammonia source to help establish the beneficial bacteria is to use Urea fertilizer. Your system can be cycled by adding feeder fish. per 500L of media. No more than one tablespoon of feed.system. As with urea. Feeder fish and/or fingerling Possibly the simplest method of starting a system and the method we recommend so long as you follow a few simple golden rules. hardware stores and nurseries. Fish feed You can start cycling a system by introducing the fish feed you will be using to feed the fish into the system. If you get an algal bloom.
If you are building your system in summer. Surrounding vegetation. getting to that back corner of the growbed might not be as easy as it was when everything was new and empty. Also plants hang out over the edge of the growbeds. harvesting and maintenance. one of the first things to consider is sunlight. You need at least 4-6 hours of good sunlight a day for your plants to grow well. Keep in mind that although you may think you can get to most of it. For some this may not be an issue. Growing Media . that your system is child friendly and pet friendly. Floating plants in your fish tank offer shelter and hiding places for your fish and fish are far happier when they feel protected. Access to the fish tank is also important. Seasonal differences. The water’s surface can be a food production area as well as a good place to grow invasive plants like mint and water cress which will take over your media filled growbeds if you plant them in there. but keeping the tank and growbeds clean can be difficult with large quantities of leaves or flowers dropping from above. I’ve seen many system built from IBC’s where there is only a very small access point into the fish tank. I’ve known of plants contamination from some shrubs and trees which has caused fish deaths.There are a few things you may want to keep in mind when it comes to locating your system. What may have been good sunshine during the summer could perhaps be no sunlight at all during winter. Even this isn’t enough sometimes when plants are growing really well. Sun on your fish tank leads to algae growing. once your growbeds are full of plants. You will need to pump water and possibly have an air pump as well. But. Fish deaths from this is not a regular problem we hear of. If you can’t help but have your fish tank in the direct sun. if you have some choices as to location. and vice versa. you might like to think about having some floating plants on the surface of your fish tank. Pets and Children. and in fact you’re better off not having any sun on your fish tank at all if possible. It’s not great to have a system directly under a deciduous plant of any type. however. there’s a good chance the sun will actually track a different course in the sky come winter time. not really big enough for a fish net to catch your fish. or any plant with heavy blossom drop. these need power to run so you need to be able to run your power lead to a power point. we normally allow at least 70cm between growbeds. Access for planting. your fish do not need sunlight. I’ve seen many systems that people have set up where there’s been little to no allowance for access to the whole system. you need to be sure when planning and constructing your system. you might only have one place it can go. You may have one or you may have both. This can sometimes be one of the harder fish death causes to pin point as it may only take a few leaves or flower of a plant to affect fish if the plant happens to be highly toxic. Access to power.
your surface area is markedly reduced. You want to be a little careful with the rock you choose as some can have high levels of limestone and other high pH minerals within them which can lead to nutrient lock out. Your choices are to go for a hydroponic expanded clay or alternatively you can use a local crushed rock media. Some people have found that their local crushed rock or gravel media can have a high pH level. drop it into a jug or cup of normal household vinegar. scoria and many others. then chances are it has a high pH and best if you can look at an alternative. a classic example of this is limestone. releasing bubbles from the rock. we prefer to use a media that is between 8mm and 16mm. . though there are a couple of things to watch out for. Get a handful of the media you want to use.There are many different types of growing media you can use in your aquaponic system. Rock media or gravel is also very heavy so you need to plan to have enough support for it when building your growbeds and their stands and supports. If the media is a lot larger. High pH can be a bit of a problem in an aquaponic system so if you are unsure. plus planting becomes a lot harder. Firstly there’s the rock or particle size. The advantages of rock media is that it’s readily available and usually very cheap. If the media is a lot smaller then there’s not a much air space between the media when it’s in your bed. if the rocks appear to be visibly bubbling. Four Readily Available Types Other types of rock media are probably available locally for you. a quick way to check any rock you are thinking of using is to do the vinegar test. there are some disadvantages if you go very far out of this range. which can cause you’re pH to go very high. things like river-stone. shale .
However it’s downside. however you shouldn’t be discouraged. it’s easy to plant in. also cuts the weight. they provide the nutrients for the plants and if your growing edible fish. to ready to eat fish can be extremely simple. Keeping fish may be a little daunting to some. easy to clean and sterile. Importance of Fish Fish are the power house of an aquaponics system. pH neutral. Our local climate in Perth. Western Australia. Some people like to take the middle road. then they also provide protein for yourself. usually very expensive. Edition 3 of the Backyard Aquaponics Magazine has the results of our trial testing the 4 different growbed media mentioned above. depending on your local climates and available supplies. Choosing a fish species There are many different species of fish that can be used in an aquaponic system. this cuts the costs significantly. there’s also lots more general information about what to look for with growbed media you may have in your local area. so long as you follow simple guidelines then growing fish from fingerling size. then go for the rock. if you want quick and money is not the most limiting factor. then expanded clay is the go. . Keeping fish in an aquaponic system is more simple than keeping aquarium fish. You will need to weigh up the pros and cons yourself. if you are more concerned about cost and you’re willing to spend a lot more time on constructing stronger supports and moving and cleaning your media.Expanded clay is extremely light. and makes sure that you have a nice media for planting and harvesting in. comes in handy bags. you can fill the bottom of your bed with gravel/rock then fill the top half with expanded clay. especially those without any prior experience.
In deciding what is the best species for you to grow. Western Australia. you should take a few factors into account. then a warmer species like Barramundi during summer. most importantly is what you want from your system. There are also a few choices for year round fish that we could grow. or Jade Perch year round. In warmer areas of Australia people generally grow Barramundi. but they often take a longer time to mature. In deciding what is the best species for you to grow. in most warm areas throughout the world Tilapia is the fish of choice. or perhaps another locally produced fish species. you need to get your broodstock in the first place. or perhaps another locally produced fish species. so that you’re not having to harvest fish out seasonally. If you live in a cooler climate you might be looking at growing Trout all year round. you need to get your broodstock in the first place.allows us to keep Rainbow Trout through winter. allows us to keep Rainbow Trout through winter. depending on your local climates and available supplies. The second most important factor is ‘What’s available?’ You need to be able to buy fish to stock your system. so that you’re not having to harvest fish out seasonally. Here’s a list of useful aquaponic species with a few details about each . If you live in a cooler climate you might be looking at growing Trout all year round. even with species such as Tilapia that breed readily. If you don’t want to eat your fish then you probably won’t want to grow edible fish. in most warm areas throughout the world Tilapia is the fish of choice. but they often take a longer time to mature. Choosing a fish species There are many different species of fish that can be used in an aquaponic system. you should take a few factors into account. or Jade Perch year round. most importantly is what you want from your system. or you may want to grow an edible fish that can live year-round in your area. In warmer areas of Australia people generally grow Barramundi. If you don’t want to eat your fish then you probably won’t want to grow edible fish. Our local climate in Perth. or you may want to grow an edible fish that can live year-round in your area. There are also a few choices for year round fish that we could grow. even with species such as Tilapia that breed readily. then a warmer species like Barramundi during summer. The second most important factor is ‘What’s available?’ You need to be able to buy fish to stock your system.
unfortunately because of their reproductive capabilities. and they are available in many areas of Australia. they are quick growing and have a good food conversion ratio. Channel catfish are the most widely farmed aquaculture species in the United States. In most western cultures carp also have a fairly poor reputation.Barramundi Barramundi are often grown in aquaponic systems through the warmer months of the year. Barramundi that is grown in an aquaponic system has an exceptionally clean. at the end of the growing season. Most growers will buy fairly mature stock so that they can harvest larger fish. Carp There are many species of carp that could be very well suited to aquaponics. Catfish don’t have scales so they need to be skinned. carp is still the most widely cultured fish in the world as it’s . their tough nature and ability to readily adapt in many areas of the world. and often there are high fines and fees for keeping them. as an eating fish. however. crisp taste. They provide a decent harvest at the end of the season and are one of the more majestic species of edible fish. and as such they are not easily obtainable. Growing your own Barramundi excites guests and is the envy of neighbours. carp have become noxious pests to native waterways and the environment. Catfish There are many different species of catfish around the world that are well suited to aquaponics.
Goldfish are generally pretty tough and make a great addition to an aquaponic system. at local pet shops or fish suppliers. Goldfish Although some people may group these with the carp. They require warm water and consume an omnivorous diet. Jade Perch This native Australian fish i’s worth a special mention here. they grow quickly and fingerlings are readily available in warmer areas. In many areas they will breed in a tank.grown throughout most of Asia. although they generally need plant cover within the tank to breed. . and this is what they will be sold as. as it has the highest levels of omega three oils of any fish species in the world. they are trying to breed a less oily fish because they’ve found people don’t like the high oil content. I’ve decided to cover these seperately as most people refer to them as goldfish. In fact it’s so high in omega three oils that growers are trying to breed the oil out of them. Very well suited to an aquaponic system.
One of the downfalls is that they must be kept at high stocking densities. their tank culture is still in reasonably early days. and kept well fed otherwise they cannibalise each other. though they’re not as fast growing as many other fish. They grow within a wide temperature range. hopefully this fish will be utilised more over time because they are quick growing. Perch are omnivorous and will happily eat green scraps as well as Duckweed and Azolla. and can also been grown in aquaponic systems. For those who love Koi. Murray cod Murray cod are a magnificent native Australian fish. . taking 12-18 months for fingerlings to grow to plate size. and a great eating fish. but better known as “Koi” rather than carp. Silver perch Silver perch are a good allround native Australian fish that grow well under a variety of conditions. another species of carp. an aquaponic system is a great proposition for stocking the fish. known to grow to enormous sizes in their native habitats.Koi Once again. Murray cod are grown in recirculating aquaculture systems. Koi are very common within many Asian communities and they are often found in large ornamental ponds.
rather than trying to heat the water. that might be available in your local area. Trout prefer water temperatures between 10°C and 20°C. If you live in a cool area you are far better off growing a fish species that will grow well in your temperature range. within the United States such species as Bluegill are often available. Other Species There are other fish species which are quite suitable for aquaponics. while in Australia we also have a number of other native species like Sleepy cod which would be suitable. In Europe many different species of carp are grown.Tilapia The second most cultured fish in the world. Tilapia are also a declared pest in many areas. They are easy to breed. They have extremely fast growth rates and excellent food conversion ratios. fast growing. . consume an omnivorous diet and are good eating. withstand very poor water conditions. They are an ideal species for aquaponics for many reasons. Trout Trout are a great fish for aquaponic systems where water temperatures are a little cooler. The only downfall for some people will be that Tilapia require warm water. and extremely popular in Aquaponics systems.
a fast growing native Australian species. Numbers of Fish This can be quite a hot topic of debate amongst people who practice aquaponics. and fresh water crayfish. Yabbies breed readily. but they can be prone to fighting and cannibalism when stocked very densely. and for those in cooler areas there’s Yabbies or Marron. Crustaceans make a nice addition to an aquaponic system and there are a few different species available depending on your location and water temperatures. as well as long daylight hours. Stocking levels of fish within a system can be as high as many intensive recirculating aquaculture . They also grow fairly quickly. given the right environment and the correct water temperature.Other aquatic animals that can be incorporated into an aquaponic system are fresh water mussles. or can be incorporated into fish tanks. they will happily grow in flooded grow beds. The Yabby is also a attractive crustacean as seen from this picture to the left. Mussles are a filter-feeder. fresh water prawns. For those in tropical areas there’s Redclaw. and do a great job of helping to clean the water.
We recommend stocking around 20-25 fish for every 500L of growbed media in your system.systems. If you lower the stocking levels of fish then you lower your levels of risk and stress. however the higher the stocking density the higher the likelihood of things going wrong. In very heavy stocking densities you need to keep a constant eye on all water parameters to be sure that conditions are kept at the optimum. but there has to be some form guideline as to what will work well for the majority of people. thats less than 9 fish per growbed. The plant growth in the eight beds was fantastic. Fish Stocking Every system is different and peoples environmental conditions can vary quite a lot. this eight bed system was stocked with only 70 fish. .The fish tank is 5000L and there’s a 1000L sump on the system. A wide mixture of plants were grown in the beds. The fish in the system at the time of taking this photo were trout and they were around 300 – 400g. this is assuming you have growbeds that are around 25-30cm deep. Growth rates of plants in lightly stocked systems can still be very impressive.
however you must have external input into the system if you are removing nutrient from the system in the form of food to eat. If you double the growbed by adding another one the same. This growbed has 250L of media in it. however it’s always good to have the basis of a pellet feed there as an essential component of the fish diet. Getting my fish home. That’s less than 9 fish per 500L of growbed media. made from the one IBC cut into two pieces to make the growbed and fish tank. You should speak to your fish supplier first. So. I Want More Fish in my System . was running on only 70 fish when this picture was taken. People often ask about keeping a system completely closed loop. oxygen levels. If your system is mature then we recommend that you feed your fish as much as they want to eat within a few minutes. pumping rates. black soldier fly larvae and plenty of other different types of alternative feed. you can supplement this with alternate feeds like worms. water flows. to name a few of the major factors. this is good so long as you take along a battery aerator with you to supply them with air for the trip. This works to a minor extent. perfect for around 10-12 fish. Often suppliers will bag small fingerlings in clear plastic bags with oxygen added to the bag. Feeding Your Fish We recommend that you use a quality aquaculture pellet to feed your fish. let’s say perhaps that you are looking at making a very simple system like the example system we have built in this manual. number of plants. maggots. fish transporting can often depend on the size of the fish and the distance you are travelling with them. as much as they want. This is allowing for them to grow from fingerling up to a plate size of around 400-500g. this can allow them to be transported for long periods of time with only a slight chance of losses.[/caption] We’ve found with experimenting that you can grow a lot of plants with only a fairly lightly stocked system. and a lightly stocked system is more resilient if things happen to go wrong. feed rates. Any uneaten food should be removed from the system before it sinks and rots consuming oxygen from the water while increasing ammonia levels. producing all the feed you need within the system and from system rubbish and scraps. fish species and water temperature. This 8 bed aquaponic system with about 4000L of media and a 5000L fish tank. then you can pretty much double the amount of fish you have to 20-25 fish in the system.Ultimately the amount of fish you can safely keep in your system depends on many factors. or the amount of time they will be spending in transport. Sometimes you may be required to take an esky or similar to the fish supplier. So how much do you feed your fish? Basically.
Plants The following video clip will give you an idea of plant growth in an aquaponic system. Personally we prefer to leave the solids within the system. . Installing some form of solids removal like a swirl separator or settling tank allows you to remove the majority of large particulates (uneaten food and fish manure) before they go into the growbed. growing the plants in your system. Personally I like to use a combination of seedlings and seeds. This is a fairly hotly debated area of aquaponics and really it’s up to the individual and what they want from their system. You will however have to regularly empty these solids and dispose of them in some way.If you want to produce more fish in your system but can’t increase the size of your growbed area then finding a way of removing solids from the system will help lower the nutrient levels. but these are 100% real images taken daily of my system at home just outside my back door. Please excuse the poor quality of the images. In any and all of the previously mentioned methods of cycling a system we recommend that people plant out their beds as quickly as possible. preferable into a worm farm or into your garden. and ensuring that your often expensive fish feed is put to good use. it simplifies the system while still allowing reasonable levels of fish production.
When planting seedlings we strongly recommend washing the soil or potting mix off the roots of the seedling before planting. You can very simply get a bucket and put a couple of inches of water in the bottom of it. . Now simply remove the seedling from the punnet. you may also like to add some seaweed extract to this or worm juice. but it’s adding unnecessary contaminants to your system in the form of organic matter. You don’t have to be too careful to get it all off. As you are digging in the seedlings to plant them. swish it in the water and the soil should easily wash off the roots. the various seeds will get buried in the media and before long they will germinate and fill your growbed. I know some people don’t do this. sand and slow release fertilizers. these will aid the new seedlings in establishing well. just the majority of the soil.Seeds germinating under the more advanced plants You can sprinkle seeds over the top of your growbed media then plant seedlings throughout the bed.
here’s one members trees. yet collects sunshine from where ever its long tendrils grow. erect something for the plants to grow up. Vacant unproductive land with poor or no soil is fine because the pumpkin plant gets all of its nutrient and water from the system. tomatoes. . plant everything very densely. and plant climbers like beans peas.When planting in your growbeds. then let it spill over the side and ramble over things. Try and make use of areas where plant growth can expand and extend. if your system is located near a shed or wall or fence. You can pretty much grow anything. Other plants you may want to let ramble. Quite a few people are growing dwarf fruit trees in half barrels as part of their system. What Plants Can I Grow I know people who have grown just about everything. though a few things to keep in mind when deciding what you will plant. cucumbers etc so that they can grow up things. from trees through to potatoes. you can plant things a lot closer together than you would in the soil because these plants with have as much water as they can want. you can plant a pumpkin in one corner of your growbed.
IBC’s and Blue Barrels for part of Ivans System .
there’s not much sense in growing lots of cabbages if you don’t really like them or eat them.Dwarf Peach Tree Firstly. half grown plants and seedlings all at once. It’s always best if you can have a broad mix in the system at any one time. Say perhaps you only have a simple system made from the one IBC like our sample system on this website. removing the mature ones and planting new ones to replace them. . these have all been grown in different aquaponic systems. You never want to pull out all of the plants at once. To give you an idea of how plants can grow in an aquaponics system. otherwise there is nothing left to extract the nutrients from the system. mature plants. You also want to be sure that you always have things growing in your system. that way you are able to cycle through plants. while leaving many plants in there using up the nutrient. one growbed above the IBC fish tank. you want to grow things that you will eat. check out some of the following pictures from members of the forum.
Nice broccoli grown at the BYAP shop .
Silverbeet leaf of a plant Simo grew Lovely Cauli grown by Welshdragon .
a weighing over 1kg beetroot Armenian cucumber weighing over 2kg .
vegetable.Ok. a beautiful trout grown in Ivan’s system not a A tomatoes Charlie grew couple of .
bordering on essential.Backup Having a backup system is very handy. There are a few ways you can go about this. If and when the power goes out. it will be when you are not home. . so you need a way to get oxygen into the water that doesn’t rely on mains power. you can keep battery operated aerators or a generator handy for when the power goes out so that you can implement your contingency plan when things go wrong. generally as Murphy’s law would have it. A well stocked system filled with fish will not last long as they consume the available dissolved oxygen within the water. so you will be unable to react to the power failure. But. you want to be sure that your fish are not going to die. if the power is going to go out.
these are air pumps with internal rechargeable batteries in them. something like a car battery. but it’s larger and in an individual components form. and it will need to be automatic. pumping air through air lines and air stones in the fish tank. the internal battery is recharged. . There’s a lot more information about backup systems on the Backyard Aquaponics forum. There are a couple of simple ways you can do this. When the power goes out they switch automatically over to their internal batteries and continue to pump air into the water keeping the fish alive for the life of the battery within the unit. This type of system can be chopped and changed. you can leave out the inverter and use 12/24V DC components if they are readily available. We like to use AC/DC aerators. Another method used by some is to make their own back up using either water pumps or air pumps. Essentially this does the same thing as the AC/DC air pump above. often up to 10 hours.An AC/DC Air pump with internal battery This means you will need to have your backup system already thought out before hand. using batteries. Normally they run while plugged into the power. an inverter. a trickle battery charger and a power fail switch. When the power comes back on.
Potassium bicarbonate is available under a number of different brand names around the world. as excess and overspray is never good. It also can help a system by adding potassium. of course most of these require no petrochemical based sprays as these are generally very toxic to fish and also possibly the beneficial bacteria within the system. Often organically certified the spray is safe for aquaponic systems. something often lacking in a system and the bicarbonate helps to keep the pH up. Caterpillars are easily controlled by applications of Bacillus thuringiensis. these are often available commercially now a days. however they should always be used in moderation. this is a natural soil borne bacteria which is available around the world under a number of different brand names. . For moulds and fungus on plants you can use potassium bicarbonate sprayed onto the effected plants. as most of the time pH goes down in mature systems. For sap sucking insects you can use chilli and garlic sprays.Pests And Deficiencies There are a few different methods of dealing with any pests and/or diseases in your system.
If slugs are a problem. making disposal simple and effective. a small saucer filled with beer will attract them and they easily drown. aphids and whiteflies and are a good way to monitor visitors to your aquaponic system. Dealing with deficiencies We have found that generally supplementing for plant deficiencies is not necessary when using good quality aquaculture feed. the systems here at our display centre rarely receive . Coloured sticky traps work well for thrips.
then forgetting about it. Deficiencies can be difficult to diagnose. Seaweed has very high levels of most micronutrients and minerals. thankfully there are a number of sites online which can help you diagnose particular deficiencies with images. General Safety Power supplies Ensure that power safety is a priority at all times. Potassium bicarbonate for potassium deficiencies. Some other things you may want to add if the relevant deficiencies are showing in your plant growth. Whenever dipping hands into the water that contains the pump. but often considered better if you can get liquid extracted by crushing rather than boiling as you have the advantage of getting added elements like humic acid. perhaps once or twice a year we might dose our systems with seaweed extract if we see some deficiencies. Top Up Water Supply It’s a great idea to have a timer on the tap where you fill your system. Often this can lead to fish deaths because of the extremely low oxygen levels in the water from the tap.any supplements. readily available in powdered and liquid form. you should turn the pump o ff at the power supply first. Keep all leads well protected and out of the way of general access. very large amounts of chlorinated tap water can also lead to killing off the bacteria populations which have built up in your growbeds. so long as your pH is not high already. never have an air pump sitting above your fish tank where it may get knocked into the water. Generally IBC’s are easy to protect because the IBC tank is square so it can be as simple as some heavy mesh covering your fish tank. Keep Things Safe . it can also come in a powdered form or as a liquid. Be sure your pH is not high before you try and add elements to fix a micronutrient problem. sometimes extracted by boiling. Tap timers are cheap and readily available and they can save a lot of heart ache. Keep any electrical items like air pumps out of rain and away from water. Any pond pump you are using must have its power supply protected by an RCD for safety. Chelated Iron. Water Risk Be sure to have any open water protected in some way so that small children and pets cannot get into the water. One of the simplest ways to deal with any deficiencies is by the addition of seaweed extract. Seaweed extract is available under a number of different brand names around the world. there have been many stories on the forum of people putting the hose in the tank and turning on the tap to top up the system.
If you have a test kit. but if you don’t spot it straight away it can lead to trouble. I’ve heard of some people that have lost their fish though small children tipping all the fish feed into the system. Not just because of the safety of the children. . keep it up out of the way. vermin and child safe. keep it locked up. Just helping of course. this also goes for any other associated things including fish feed.
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