When it comes to aquaponics, most people will mostly focus on the actual plants and fish they plan to use. However, there are a plethora of other things that could affect the final result and each of them has its own significance. The aquaponics grow bed is one of the most commonly overlooked factors in the process, yet it is probably the most important one. After all, choosing the right grow bed will ensure your plants will thrive. Fail to do so, and you will waste your money – not to mention getting little to no rewards.
The optimal grow bed will give your plants everything they require to grow and thrive. The size is among the main considerations when deciding on a grow bed. At the same time, the growing space will directly affect the amount of plants you can have, as well as the number of fish. The grow bed is very likely to become the largest and most important part in your system. It is also the part responsible for your hardly earned rewards.
Understanding the role of a grow bed
The grow bed must come in the optimal size for the actual system. It is directly proportional with the size of the tank as well. Why? Simple – the amount of fish you have will tell you how much waste you can get, but also how many plants you can grow in the system. Fish will release ammonia, which is responsible for turning waste into actual food for plants. Nitrates are rich in nutrients and can help your plants flourish.
Having too many fish will cause a serious imbalance, and the system will fail – the same rule applies to too few fish compared to the amount of plants. Without too much grow bed, the ammonia and nitrates can also become poisonous. They will slowly affect the water quality, as well as your fish. On the other hand, not having enough fish will not give you the right amount of nutrients, meaning your plants will starve and fail to produce anything.
If this is the first aquaponics system you deal with, you better get ready for a lot of trial and error. You will learn from small mistakes, yet constant education is mandatory. Newbies should have around 50 square feet of surface for every pound of grown fish. At the same time, each pound of grown fish will need about eight gallons of water. This is a general rule of thumb, yet you can obviously make adjustments as you gain experience.
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Buy an aquaponics grow bed or do it yourself
There are two options when looking for aquaponic grow beds, and each category can be split into multiple subcategories. You can purchase a readymade grow bed, which will save you some hassle and trouble – great if you are a complete newbie. But then, you can also do it yourself. Take it as an opportunity to make small adjustments, learn about his industry, and find out how the system actually works.
Buying a readymade grow bed will bring in some pleasant surprises. Unlike other industries, this one provides similar choices regardless of the price. In other words, an inexpensive grow bed is just as efficient as a pricey one, so you do not necessarily need to base this decision on the actual price. The cost is irrelevant then. Instead, what you truly have to focus on is compatibility with your actual system.
There are, of course, a few other considerations you have to pay attention to. For instance, what materials are more suitable for aquaponic grow beds? Different materials come with different efficiency standards, as well as quality. Keep in mind that water and the actual media will add to the weight. Therefore, the grow bed you choose must be quite strong and able to support this extra weight without too much hassle.
Other than that, opt for a waterproof system. The last thing you want is a grow bed that leaks. This aspect might be slightly related to the price, but overall, even an inexpensive system should be alright.
How do different types of grow beds work?
There are different rules for aquaponic grow beds, especially when it comes to the actual depth. Most professionals make slight adjustments, but normally, the grow bed should be able to have about 14 inches of media. Different plants have different requirements, but 14 inches should be enough for most plants out there. Even if you do not necessarily need that much in the beginning, you might bring in other plants later on, so it is better to be prepared for further changes.
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As for the actual location, lots of people add the grow bed above the actual tank. There are less requirements for piping too. Plus, this type of design will save you a bit of space too. Then, there is another consideration you should keep in mind – is your tank strong enough to support the grow bed? Keep in mind that you will need access to the actual tank every now and then.
It does not mean that such a design is a bad idea though. Instead, it means you need to think about other aspects in the long run too. Now, grow bed stands are extremely diversified, so you will find lots of shapes, designs, and sizes. The best part about them? Choose the right stand, and you will be able to save some space without any risks of having the grow bed collapse into the actual tank.
If you do decide to make your own grow bed stand, opt for solid and durable materials.
Sizing requirements for aquaponic grow beds
Size requirements vary widely from one system to another. There is one major requirement though, and that is the fish density. Plus, the size of the tank is also relevant to your final decision. Keep in mind that the ideal system allows cycling all the water from the tank into the actual grow bed, then back. The whole process should take less than an hour for maximum efficiency.
Obviously, you are not going to pump all the water in just one go. Such a procedure would kill all your fish. But then, this general principle is good enough to help you determine the optimal size for the grow bed.
Cleaning aquaponic grow beds
Aquaponic grow beds are often overlooked during the routine maintenance operation. Most newbies will pay attention to everything in the system, but they often fail to consider the grow bed. This part is just as important in the actual maintenance. Indeed, if you look after the aquaponics system, there will not be too much maintenance required. Moreover, solids filter will most likely clean by itself. But then, it does not mean that you will never need to clean the system.
If the system is well looked after, you can do with a single cleaning operation a year only. There might be further issues that could require flushing the system. Such problems occur if the water is sluggish when it moves. The same goes for waste buildups. Something is obviously not well balanced, so small adjustments might be required. But meanwhile, the system will need flushing.
Maintenance is also about prevention. No matter what the issue is about, there is definitely a cause there. You have to identify this cause and act accordingly. Sometimes, you might need a balance between your fish and plants. Having too many fish – overstocking – is a serious issue. In such cases, the bacteria in your grow bed will struggle to convert waste into food for your plants. Other times, you may not have enough worms in the grow bed. It may also be an issue with the filtration system, meaning solids cannot be thoroughly removed.
As a short final conclusion, everyone is paying attention to the actual plants or fish in such a system, but no one really looks at apparently less significant things. Aquaponic grow beds tend to go unnoticed, yet they play a significant role in the whole system. Just like any other part of the system, they could fail if you do not look after them. Plus, they can affect the balance in your whole system, leading to a series of problems in the long run. From choosing the right bed to actually maintaining it, it takes a bit of education and research, rather than doing everything by ear.
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