Building an aquaponics system takes time and research. You can, indeed, get a readymade system, but it will still require a bit of education on how to look after it. All in all, whether it comes to saving some money or you simply want to learn everything about aquaponics through trial and error, here are the aquaponics supplies you will require for good results.
Consider the space first
While not necessarily a supply, the space is extremely important and represents the first step in the process. You need to choose the right place for your system to thrive, or everything will go down the drain. Just like in everything else in life, location is key. You need natural sunlight on a regular basis, the possibility to come up with a greenhouse if you need it, easy access to it, a source of water and electricity.
The fish tank is the house of your fish, so it requires proper consideration. You want your fish to be happy and healthy. Otherwise, they will not be able to handle your plants. This is the heart of your system and must be chosen with the type of fish you want in mind, as well as the amounts and potential expansion possibilities.
The grow bed is as important as the fish tank. If the fish tank houses your fish, the grow bed will house your plants. The unit should be about 15 inches high. You need around 12 inches submerged in the actual water and an inch or two on top to weigh everything down. Sure, small adjustments are permitted, but stick to general rules if you are a beginner. You can make changes later on, as you gain experience and become familiar with the necessities of your system.
Grow beds come in more sizes, shapes and materials. They should be able to hold water, but also strong enough to take the growing media. Some beds are made of plastic tubs, while others are based on IBC totes or barrels.
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Grow media must be carefully picked because it has direct effects over your plants. Its primary role is to keep plants in place. It is also the place where all the beneficial bacteria rests and works – this is where ammonia is turned into nitrates for the plants.
Just like for grow beds, the grow media provides access to numerous solutions, and each of them comes with its own benefits. For example, hydroton is also known as clay pebbles – a great and common choice. You can also use river rock, not to mention lava rock.
The water pump is next on your list. All pumps come with some specifications, which are often exaggerated. For example, a pump that is advertised to handle 400 gallons per hour will barely do 250 gallons if water must be pushed four feet for the grow beds. In other words, these numbers are given for a simple operation – no lifting or effort whatsoever. Since the water will usually go up, you will need more than what it says on the label. As a general rule of thumb, water must be fully cycled once or more per hour.
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The air pump is often ignored, especially by newbies. Its main role is to push oxygen into the water tank, so your fish never run out of it. The pump requires excellent ventilation, as well as close proximity to the fish tank. Therefore, you should take this aspect in consideration when choosing the location too. Keep it away from wind, snow or rain.
At the same time, the air stone is just as important. It goes into the actual tank. The deeper it is, the less volume the pump will handle.
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PVC pipes are required to transfer water from one environment to another. They will take water from the fish tank and move it to the grow bed. Pipes are also needed for the solids lifting overflow (SLO). Get a couple of inches for the SLO and slightly ore for other pipes.
These standards are quite common, and they mostly involve using PVC pipes. If you want to go commercial, opt for something bigger. You need more volume. Plus, a film will develop on the inside of the pipe, meaning the diameter will be slightly reduced overtime.
Bulkheads are among the common aquaponics supplies because they make the connection between containers and the system. You can also use uniseals or alternate – for instance, uniseals are great for the SLO, while bulkheads are ideal for siphons. The two different parts are often used interchangeably due to the numerous similarities. There are, however, a few differences between them. The uniseal is more flexible and can also be implemented into round containers. On the other hand, the bulkhead is a bit limited – it only works on flat areas. It does cost more though because it is solid and sturdy.
The siphon is the next thing on your aquaponics supplies list. Siphons are a bit diversified and can cause a little confusion at first. There are two different types on the market, and the bell siphon is the main one. It is popular, cost-efficient, and durable. The other alternative is the U siphon.
Siphons have a very specific purpose in your aquaponics system. They work on the grow beds and can create draining cycles. As the water reaches a particular level – usually the top, the siphon will start working and suck it up. The siphon will be faster than the entering rate, meaning the grow bed will not overflow.
Siphons also make good DIY projects, but they do require a bit of experience. You can also find them online or in most local stores.
Suggested article: U Siphon Aquaponics – A Brief Guide to the System
The solids filter is not needed if you have a small grow bed-based system. Stick to a pound of fish for a cubic food of media then. But then, fail to follow this basic rule, and you will require a filter. There are more options out there, and each of them comes with some particularities.
Other aquaponics supplies
Rockwool cubes are suitable for your seeds if you start from the bottom. They retain water and have lots of pockets for air. Small units are excellent for leafy greens, for example. Lettuce is easy to grow with rockwool cubes.
On the same note, you may also require a seed starting tray. It is useful during the germinating stage, as it keeps the humidity at high standards. You can buy one or simply use similar containers you may have around your home.
The water testing kit is essential for all systems, as you need to ensure the pH is safe for both plants and fish.
Last but not least, consider an EC meter. It measures the quantity of solids in the source water. Hard water is contraindicated. Plus, you can also see the amounts of nutrients in your water.
Bottom line, these are the main aquaponics supplies you will need for your system. Whether you start it from scratch, do it yourself, or you simply need some updates, this list covers everything you need to ensure consistency and excellent results overtime.
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