Careful planning of an aquaponics system will pay big dividends. Before investing in the labor and materials needed to build your own system it is essential to learn exactly what is needed beforehand. A How-To Guide is an irreplacable tool for your aquaponics system.
Aquaponics is the marraige of traditional aquaculture and the relatively modern technology of farming with hydroponics. By combining these proven technologies you are leveraging the best of both. Ask any experienced practioner and they will tell you that combining aquacultaure with hydroponics will also eliminate disadvantages of the two existing technologies because the combined systems are cleaner and easier to maintain.
mirrors the processes found in nature. Balance and harmony is maintained. This is a hallmark of any natural system.
Balance within the aquaponics system is maintained through the symbiotic relationship of the fish, the plants, and the bacteria.
Bacteria is overlooked since the microorganisms are invisible to the naked eye but play a key role in breaking down waste products and converting them into useful components for other organisms to use. Without the presence of bacteria, an aquaponics system would not work without constantly removing the waste byproducts from the holding tanks and replacing essential nutrients by hand.
How It Works:
The following is a brief description of an aquaponics system:
- In the holding tank system, freshwater fish (tilapia are typical) live in about two hundred fifty to five hundred gallons of water. As you feed the fish daily, they consume the food and produce a continuous waste stream. Any unused fish feed becomes part of the waste as well. Ammonia is produced by the fish as a waste product.
- As waste in the water builds up in the holding tank, the water in the holding tank portion of the system becomes polluted with waste matter and ammonia.
- Bacteria begin to multiply and flourish since there is a continous, readily available food source from the combined waste stream. The microbes are actually naturally occurring microbes which live in the water. Certain types of bacteria break down the ammonia as it is produced by the fish.
- When bacteria break down the ammonia, the ammonia byproducts are nitrates and water. Nitrates are common byproducts that also occur in aquatic systems where fish live such as ponds and even aquariums. Nitrates are also one of the main ingredients in commercial fertilizer. Too many nitrates cause problems with the growth of unwanted vegetation in the water such as algae which consume oxygen in the water and choke the fish.
This is where plants come to the rescue. Plants thrive on nitrates since they are a source of nutrients needed for growth. Nitrates are natural fertilizer for plants.
- You have the fish in their holding tank producing ammonia which are broken down into nitrates. In a separate part of the system, the plants consume the nitrates and other waste products as food.
- What could be toxic waste, if allowed to accumulate, coming from the fish section of the system is used by the plants as fertilizer.
- The nutrient rich water from the fish section is circulated through the plant section and the plants filter and clean the water several times per day by absorbing the nutrients while producing lush vegatative growth.
The aquaponic system is an all-natural biological system that operates 24/7. Your fish exist in a healthy enviroment where you control how much food is added and since you always have plants to help process the waste byproducts the water is cleaned of toxic levels of nutrients. The system will operate in a state of biological balance. Your role is to monitor water levels, feed the fish and harvest fish so the fish holding tank is not overpopulated.