With the advent of technology and all the modern techniques coming in, agriculture and pisciculture have come together in the form of Aquaponics. It has evolved as a modern way of cultivation and rearing which focuses on sustainability. But before we jump into how to build an aquaponics system, let’s find out what exactly is Aquaponics!
What is Aquaponics?
Aquaponics is an amalgamation of aquaculture and hydroponics; in simple terms, a system of aquaculture in which farmed fish and other aquatic animals supply nutrients through their waste products for plants grown hydroponically. The hydroponics used in this method also purifies water in return.
Aquaponics establishes a system for farming fish and plants together in a symbiotic setting. In this type of setting, one member or species benefits from the other. The fish produce waste that converts nitrates to ammonia. This waste acts as a great fertilizer for the aquatic plants being grown in the system. Unlike the plants, the fishes are harmed because of the ammonia produced by them. In return for the fertilizer, the plants keep a check on the waste products by cleaning and filtering the water that goes back to the fish. This is exactly how an aquaponic system (virtual ecosystem) works in a complex manner, maintaining harmony and symbiosis.
How to build an Aquaponics system?
An Aquaponics system is in itself self-sustaining. This system keeps reviving the soil on which the plants grow and at the same time cleans and filters the system.
Now let’s take a look at the step-by-step method to build an aquaponics system.
Aquaponics System Parts.
- Fish Tank: You can either use a glass fish tank or for stricter budget, use a large barrel or a stock tank.
- Flood Table: This is used as a bed for growing plants. The number of plants you wish to grow on it depends on its size. But, the proportion of the fish tank to the flood table should be optimum. Do not use a large fish tank for a small flood table or vice versa.
- Support: A strong foundation is required to support the flood table. You can use a set of concrete blocks and wood.
- Water Pump: Magnetic pumps are best because the motor has its separate compartment which is sealed as no oil should leak into the fish tank through it. When buying a motor, make sure to use a good quality and reliable water pump.
- Air Pump: This is used similarly to a normal fish tank pump, i.e., to pump oxygen into the fish tank.
- Grow Bed Media: Gravel affects the pH levels of the soil, hence, it shouldn’t be used despite being cheaper. Instead, clay pellets should be used as they are pH neutral and hold the soil moisture quite well.
- Bell Siphon: It is easily available in the market at a cheap price. A DIY bell siphon can also be created at home using some PVC Pipes, slip caps and tubing.
- Plumbing: This is the connecting pipes that build up the water feed line and drain line. Parts required to assemble these are – pipes, tubes, threads, and valves.
The setting up technique:
Step 1: Put the Fish Tank and pipes together.
De-chlorinate the water every 4-6 weeks. Include a pump, which allows the water to be drawn from the tank to the grow bed or flood table, and back again.
Step 2: Build Media Bed with gravel or clay pellets. Add the support to hold it together.
The media bed can be built above the fish tank or to the side of the tank. On this bed, the plants grow. Once the bed is ready, the chosen media (gravel/clay pellets) is added to it.
Step 3: Introduce fishes.
Some preferred varieties of fishes include- Tilapia, goldfish, koi, pacu, koi, catfish, carp, barramundi, etc.
Step 4: Add the plants.
Some of the plant varieties that grow in the aquaponics are – Basil, kale, lettuce, mint, Beans, cabbage, cauliflower, squash, peppers, peas, strawberries, watercress, etc. Leafy vegetables grow best in aquaponics.
Step 5: Take care of the system.
Taking care is simple. Just feed the fish, de-chlorinate the tank every 4-6 weeks, Control the introduction of any disease in the tank, maintain the pH balance, tend the plants so that weeds don’t grow. In shorts, maintain the hygiene inside the tank.