Aquaponics Filtration Systems – Everything You Need to Know

aquaponics filtration systems

For a beginner, setting everything about your aquaponics system may take a while. Indeed, you need to find a perfect balance, consider expansion and learn how every part of the system works. While it could be time-consuming, it is also totally worth it. Getting everything right from the beginning will improve efficiency, but it will also prevent all kinds of problems. You will get healthy crops and fish with little to no maintenance required.

Now, aquaponics filtration systems are sometimes overlooked. While most people focus on the fish and plants, these extra parts require just as much attention. As a general rule of thumb, the necessity of a filtration system becomes obvious if the grow bed system has a density of one or higher. You will need a good system to break down all kinds of solids. There are a few other rules you should consider for aquaponics systems – the necessity of worms, the need to distribute water throughout the grow bed, and a depth of 12 inches or more.

So, how does the filtration system work then? There are a few variables you should take into consideration. If the growing area is 16 square feet, for instance, and you have a depth of 12 inches, you should have not more than 16 pounds of fish. Solids will break down, but they require a bit of help from worms. Bring in more fish, and the waste will not be properly handled by the grow bed, leading to clogging issues. Such general rules can obviously be adjusted as you gain experience.

Benefits of using the right aquaponics filtration system

Your water will inevitably have bacteria to help in the process. Its main responsibility is to turn fish waste into nutrients for your plants. This is a completely natural process that maintains the self-sustainable profile of your system. The process occurs naturally in nature as well and not only in your aquaponics system. The bacteria is not responsible for helping plants only. Instead, fish will also benefit from it. The toxic ammonia is turned into nitrates, creating a healthier environment for fish – no toxins at all.

Now, fish produce more types of waste, and solid waste is never to be overlooked. This is the part that lots of newbies forget about, leading to clogging problems in the long run. There are plenty of worms in a grow bed, and their responsibility is to break solid waste down. Of course, the system ratio should be relatively low – usually, just below one. Things could be a bit different if you rely on other growing methods, such as NFT, vertical towers or floating rafts. Extra solid filtration will be necessary then.

When it comes to grow beds, solids will build up. They will make small deposits and eventually clog up the whole system. They will also bring in aerobic zones. Such issues can be easily controlled if you keep an eye on the pH levels – if they go up, you better act quickly. As solids build-up, aerobic areas will naturally kick in as well. The bacteria responsible for the conversion will die, so the pH will get even higher. Monitor your system and keep in mind that if the ratio is too high in your grow bed system, chances are you will need to clean it on a regular basis.

Floating rafts

How about floating rafts then? A so-called DWC system comes with different requirements and rules. For example, the density should be under 0.3 if you want less maintenance. Such a density does not imply cleaning up solids. But then, aquaponics filtration systems become mandatory if the density is higher. Again, this issue is sometimes overlooked by newbies. As a direct consequence, the bottom side of your troughs will end up covered in sludge. Not only do you end up with aerobic areas, but gases will also be released. All these issues will slowly kill the good bacteria in the system.

Furthermore, solids will end up stuck to the roots of your plants. With time, the nutrient intake will be fully blocked. Plants will die, and your fish will soon follow up. It is pretty obvious that failing to maintain the system will ruin everything.

If you think the NFT system is easier to look after, you are wrong. In fact, there are even more requirements in such a system. If you use this option, the water must be exceptionally clean. This is by far the most significant part in the process – as well as the most challenging one for NFT users. From this point of view, NFT systems are not really recommended to complete beginners. Fail to remove all the solids, and problems will kick in straight away – plus, you need to target both suspending and settable solids. Solids will slowly kill your plants by attaching to their roots, meaning they will no longer be able to get the nutrients they require.

With time, they will also block channels. Hard work and dedication will pay off though. Just like any other system, the NFT system can be well looked after if you filter the water as it leaves the tank. It should be filtered before it reaches channels.

Becoming familiar with solids

Choosing the right aquaponics filtration systems is more difficult than it may seem at first. Different types of solids can cause different problems, but they also require different levels of maintenance and removal. Generally speaking, there are three different types of solids in the aquaponics industry – settable, suspended, and floating solids.

Settable solids

Settable solids are some of the most problematic ones because they end up clogging things. They will settle on various parts of the system – such as the roots of your plants. The good news is you can use a solids separator and remove them in no time. This device allows solids to settle on the bottom, so removing them is fairly simple. Then, there are more systems out there – radial filters, swirl filters, and so on. They are all pretty efficient.

Suspended solids

Suspended solids are more challenging and require more work from your side. They are much lighter than settable solids, meaning they will simply float around. They will not really settle on the bottom, so the solids separator becomes useless against them. There are other solutions though. For example, some users rely on bird netting. They drag it around and capture all the solids. Others rely on more technical ideas, such as drums or screens. All in all, if you use a classic grow bed, these solids will not cause too much hassle. But then, if you are a DWC or NFT system, you have to get rid of them straight away.

Floating solids

Finally, floating solids are self-explanatory – they float. They are less likely to go to deep, and they mostly settle on the top. The good news is they will not affect the growing area because they do not go so low. While less likely to cause too much trouble to your plants, you still need to get rid of them as you spot them. There is a different technique here, and it implies relying on the return line of the pump. Water will constantly splash into them and can break them down without too much hassle. They will not disappear completely, but they will turn into suspended solids.

At this point, you should already have a system for solids, so your aquaponics filtration system will kick in straight away.


As a short final conclusion, solid waste particles represent the main reason wherefore you will need to consider aquaponics filtration systems, learn about them and find out how they work. These solid waste particles are quite heavy and will travel through water to reach the bottom. The best part about it? They are common, but they are fairly simple to remove – lots of different systems out there. Ideally, you should not wait until a problem arises. Therefore, stick to a few basic prevention rules to keep problems away.

Make sure you never overfeed fish. As a direct result, your fish will not clog the pipes by producing too much waste. Then, go for quality food. Indeed, cheap food will not cost you a fortune, but it will not help your system either. Instead, you will end up with more waste. Finally, avoid overstocking. Too many fish will cause trouble. Always do the math and calculate the amount of fish required based on their size and weight when grown up. More fish will bring in more waste. If your system cannot handle everything, it will simply fail.

Suggested articles:
Aquaponics Fish Food Explained – What Options Do You Have?
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If unsure about one thing or another – such as the quality of the fish food or perhaps your filters, simply double check your plants. Look at their roots. If they seem to have dark colors like brown or gray, chances are there are too many solids in your system, so filtration is mandatory. Change the food and observe potential improvements. At the end of the day, aquaponics is all about trial and error.

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