Many of our homeowners at HousesitMatch.com have gardens and love gardening. Increasingly we hear about the growing trend in aquaponics as a means to grow produce in a larger scale. Does aquaponics, or hydroponics as it is also known, interest you? Then read on. While it may not suit your post lockdown home garden, aquaponics certainly offers a refreshing approach to cultivating produce even in a small holding.
All You Need to Know About Aquaponics
Aquaponics have seen a surge of popularity in the last few years. However, this form of gardening is not a new concept by any means. The evidence of aquaponics used as a farming method can be traced back to 1000 AD. In this time, farming was closely tied to the ecosystem of animals and fish. While academics debate the exact date when aquaponics was used as an agriculture vehicle, most scholars agree that it was established by the ancient Aztecs in Mexico.
What made aquaponics a solution back then was its ability to localize and save space, which was essential to settlements that revolved around a lake’s freshwater. Later on, it became a way to grow both plants and fish in the same environment; fish and plants created a synergic cycle that created a healthy ecosystem for them both. If you are interested in aquaponics, read on to learn all you need to know about it.
Advantages of Aquaponics
The system known as aquaponics was initially developed as a way to make farming easier and more efficient, which is why it has lasted all this time. Even though organic farming is great, many people are transitioning to aquaponics due to its added benefits.
- There is no need to weed plants to keep them healthy in an aquaponics environment. It’s one of the most sought-after benefits. Since weeds grow in soil, the water-submerged environment of aquaponics makes it impossible for weed to grow.
- Obviously, you won’t need to water your plants when they are already submerged in water.
- There are barely any pests that you need to worry about, unlike the situation with soil farming
- Since plants have a source of nutrients 24/7, they grow much faster than usual, halving waiting periods.
- Organic farming requires the use of high-quality and expensive nutrients, which isn’t the case with aquaponics.
- Even though the aquaponics environment constitutes mainly water, it still saves more water usage compared to soil cultivation.
- You won’t need to source antibiotics for your fish because their environment will be filtered by the plants grown.
- It doesn’t require much physical labor.
- Once built, you can scale an aquaponics system quite easily.
Grow Beds and Floating Rafts
Plants in the aquaponics system grow beds or floating rafts in which they are planted. If you choose to go with growing beds, the container has to be durable enough to handle the pressure of the plants as they grow. this keeps them in place. Floating rafts of foam are lightweight. Their materials float easily in the water. However, you must make sure that they are buoyant enough to keep the plants held upright. When you’re choosing the right tools for gardening in aquaponics, make sure that you think ahead of your initial needs. The base that you use with either type of planting medium should be strong and sturdy. For added security and increased efficiency, you can use net pots to amplify nutrient intake and keep the plants secured.
The Plants in an Aquaponics System
Growing plants is one of the most popular reasons that people set up their aquaponics system for. It’s plants’ responsibility to keep the environment and the integrity of the aquaponics system healthily intact. They oxygenate and cycle the water inside, keeping it fresh and clean. The nitrates, which are produced by the fish, are absorbed by the plants, cleaning the fish’s environment. Keep in mind that not all aquaponics systems are the same, which means that the plants you use can vary, depending on your needs.
It’s important to select plants that are relatively easy to grow and can handle the climate of your geographic location. You should avoid plants that have a high rate of nutrient consumption until your aquaponics is completely established and solid, such as tomatoes. The best early plants that should get you up and running are leafy greens like lettuce and herbs.
Fish in Aquaponics Systems
Fish are introduced to aquaponics systems either for farming or for ornamental purposes. If the aquaponics systems that you have are small and initial, the fish’s purpose will mostly be for ornamental purposes. As you begin to scale up the system and create a bigger setup, you can take advantage of fish cultivation. Once your aquaponics system is able to provide you with full-grown plants and fish as a food source, you’ll be reaping the best benefits this system has to offer.
Fish are there to provide nutrients to the aquaponics systems. In a system like the hydroponics setup, nutrients are provided through artificial means. This is costly and non-sustainable on a small scale. The best thing about fish in the aquaponics system is that their waste is all the nutrients your plants need to properly grow. Depending on your setup and needs, make sure to research the type of fish you’re going to grow in the aquaponics system.
One of the most common pitfalls that early aquaponics enthusiasts fall into is overlooking the role of bacteria. Without bacteria, your plants won’t be able to survive more than a few days, not to mention that your fish won’t be taken care of and die eventually. The toxicity of the water increases due to the pooling ammonia, if it’s not broken down. This renders the environment deadly to living organisms like plants and fish. Ensuring a high percentage of bacteria in your aquaponics system means that the ammonia is broken down, managing the pH levels of the water.
The best way to circumvent this problem in an early setup is by adding water that was already in an established aquaponics system. This way, you’ll speed up the process and ensure your tank is filled with good bacteria. If you are out of options, a dead fish can provide the bacteria needed as long as it doesn’t rot inside. Once bacteria has found its way inside, it will continue to break down the ammonia efficiently.
Aquaponics grows in popularity for very good reasons. Since you won’t need a big budget or bust your back doing gardening labor, you’re much better off with aquaponics. Make sure to take the time to research the plants and fish that you’ll be including in your setup, as they can make or break any aquaponics setup.
OTHER USEFUL GARDENING AND HOME MAINTENANCE BLOGS
At Housesitmatch.com we often share practical ideas and information for our members. Here are some useful links for some of our earlier gardening blogs. We hope you enjoy them and find them of use.