A Rudimentary Guide to the Aquaponics System
Explained simply, indoor aquaponics is the integrated system produced from combining hydroponics and aquaculture. Aquaculture is the science of raising fish for food and hydroponics, the science of growing plants and food produce without soil.
The system works in a simple cycle. The fish provide the valuable minerals the plants will need to survive and the plants filter the nutrients from the water that is returned to the fish in their tank. The other important players in this symbiotic circle are the microorganisms that feed fish waste and the composting of red worms.
Each player has an important role; the bacteria will work to transform the ammonia in the fish wastes into nitrites and nitrates. This not only protects the fish from high levels of ammonia which can kill them but also provides the plants with an important food source. The red worms then consume all the solid wastes and in your aquaponic system into another important source of plant nutrition: vermicomposting.
Best Fish for Aquaponics
Just about any freshwater fish can be raised in your aquaponic system, but specific breeds will better suited to the climate and needs of the aquapon (aquapon: an aquaponic gardener). Tilapia is one of the most popular options for most aquapons, but many others are also growing catfish, trout, bluegill and even red claw crayfish.
But you don’t have to eat your fish either, goldfish and koi are very popular options as well and survive a wide range of temperatures. Precise temperatures will provide optimal productivity and some research should be done be done on the best fish type for specific locations.
Trout is a popular choice too because it is delicious and a large freshwater fish. Nevertheless, it will only begin to thrive when the temperatures of their waterfall between 45° – 55° F. Tilapia prefers warmer waters and temperatures higher than 70°F.
Fruits and Veggies from an Aquaponic System
Just about any fruit or veggie can thrive in an aquaponic system including coconuts, bananas, cucumbers, potatoes and every leafy veggie imaginable. Just about the only types of plants that will not go well in the system are plants that have special soil needs such as azaleas and blueberries that thrive in acidic soils. The water in your aquaponic system is generally kept just below a balanced pH level at 4.0 -5.0.
Ideal Climates for Aquaponics Systems
Aquaponics can be successful and prolific in all type of climates so long as the fish and plants are well adapted to the ambient temperatures. Some protection for the fairly delicate balance is always a little better and many people have placed their systems in a backyard greenhouse. This has the added benefit that the various components of the system including grow beds, fish tanks and sump tank all create a large thermal mass that keeps the temperatures fairly constant. The nice thing about the backyard is the free sunshine.
Many other people have set up successful aquaponics systems in their basements and garages, using artificial lighting. The best thing about aquaponics is that the design of the system is pretty straightforward and can be assembled from the most rudimentary materials. The task of balancing the water till the fish are thriving and keeping the sump tank filled with nutrient rich water. If you are not so DIY inclined, there are many kits available online that make the job even easier check out our aquaponics buyers guide.