The Aquaponics Guide
Information on Hydroponics and detailed reviews and buyers guides for home hydroponics systems. We make it easy for you to find the right aquaponics system for your home.
Welcome to The Aquaponics Guide!
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You have found the ultimate guide to Aquaponics! This is the perfect place to find the best aquaponics systems, the best aquaponics fish and the best aquaponics plants.
Ever heard of aquaponics but not sure what it was? Well you have come to the right place.
Aquaponics is a type of gardening that combines both aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil). It is a sustainable and efficient form of gardening. Aquaponics is essentially a natural ecosystem. Fish waste is the perfect fertilizer for plants!
For more information on aquaponics, read our What is Aquaponics? guide.
You will also find the best reviews on aquaponics systems as well as aquaponics equipment.
About the Johnsons
Hello! We are the Johnsons and the faces of The Aquaponics Guide. We have been avid gardeners for many years and growing our own food is one of our key priorities. We have found sustainable Aquaponics farming to be a life changer, which is the reason we have created The Aquaponics Guide.
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Expert knowledge to help you buy smart
The Hydroponics Guru is here to help you find the perfect hydroponics setup. We have reviews, ratings, and data on all of the best systems available today. Whether you’re looking for something small or large, we can help you make an informed decision about what will work best for your needs.
We know what it’s like to be confused about which of the many options available are right for you. With our expert knowledge and unbiased reviews, we’ll help take some of that confusion away! You can see exactly how each system is different from its competitors or if they’re comparable in price so you never have a problem with choosing one.
Our Buyer's Guide To Aquaponics Systems
An aquaponics system is an indispensable method to grow your own food in an eco-friendly manner. With less work, more efficient results are achieved in less time. Eventually providing you access to fresh and chemical-free fruits, vegetables and fish.
Why use Aquaponics Systems?
Imagine growing your food in your backyard naturally and sustainably. Realize your dream with our best in class aquaponics systems. Our designs are innovative and science-based, available in all sizes and options. Shall you need any customization, we’ve got you covered!
What is an Aquaponics System?
The Aquaponics system combines two main parts working in synergy to produce food. The first part is aquaculture, which raises aquatic animals and plants together in water and requires water as input for the system.
The second part of the process is hydroponics, where plants are grown without soil using a specialized nutrient solution rather than ingesting natural soil nutrients from the ground.
Aquaponics System - The Background & Use
An Aquaponics system is the use of aquaculture and hydroponics to create an ecosystem. It is a symbiotic system in which fish waste provides nutrients for the plants while, at the same time, water from the fish tank cleanses the water for use by these plants.
Aquaponics is a simple yet very effective method of re-purposing the nutrients from the fish waste that would otherwise be disposed of in wastewater. This recycling of nutrients saves most of the money spent on water, chemicals and fish feed.
When systems like these work together, they create mutual benefits and help one another to grow to optimize output and production. There are many items that you need to purchase when getting into aquaponics. The fish and the plants are the most important of all.
You end up saving the environment, helping fish populations and reducing the cost of fish feed with the best aquaponics system.
Types of Aquaponics Systems
The easiest to set up, media beds are filled with porous rocks such as clay pellets to grow plants in an indoor garden. Also known as Flood and Drain, it is perfect for beginners in aquaponics systems on a small budget.
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
A hydroponic technique adapted well for aquaponic farming. More useful in commercial settings, it is a promising method to produce food in urban settings low on space availability. Again a cost-effective aqua gardening method.
Deep Water Culture (DWC)
Also called as Raft System, DWC is one of the most efficient of all the aquaponics systems. It can provide a larger yield, making it more apt for commercial production without using any kind of media.
What type of aquaponics system are you eyeing? Is it a greenhouse or rooftop?
Greenhouse: Suitable for larger aquaponics systems, it allows the sunlight to penetrate through, and this heat is then captured and used even after the sunsets. It also protects the system from harsh weather, rain, theft, and animals.
Rooftop aquaponics: These kinds of aquaponics are even-levelled, stable, and have access to sunlight. But one must consider the weight to see if the roof can support the system sufficiently. You may like to consult an architect or a civil engineer.
How to Choose an Aquaponics System?
To make an apt choice, know the following characteristics associated with each aquaponics system.
|Type||Set Up Cost||Media||Plants||Plant Growth Rate||Maintenance||Skill|
Expensive initial cost
Almost all plants
Beginners and students
Plants with shallow roots
Coconut or clay media in net pots
Factors In Choosing Your Hydroponics System
Consider several factors before you go for an aquaponics system.
- The Objective – Do you want to grow plants in an aquaponics system for experimentation? Or are you looking to grow food for your family? Knowing answers to these decide the kind of aquaponics system you end up building.
- A Stable Space – The size and the surrounding space are vital to moving the fish tank and the grow beds easily. As most parts of an aquaponics system are heavy, invest in an even and stable floor. The best floor system for a larger space is a ground level with a concrete pad to support the weight.
You may like to scale it in the future; ensure you have space for it.
- The Water Source – Plants lose water due to evaporation. You need to replenish the loss. It is best to have a water source, even better if it is de-chlorinated. A washbasin closer by is helpful to wash all your produce and equipment efficiently.
- Water Quality – Good water quality is crucial for healthy aquatic life as it transports essential nutrients to the plants. Have some test kits handy. A few parameters to maintain water condition include pH (6–7), dissolved oxygen (5 mg/litre), water alkalinity, temperature (18–30 °C), and total nitrogen.
- Location – If a location faces harsh weather such as heavy torrential rains or snow, your aquaponics system would need a shield. A place that prevents rough winds is naturally the most suitable.
- Light – Plants need sunlight to thrive in aqua gardening. Aquaponics systems are placed in a sunny area; it stimulates faster plant growth. But intense heat is harmful. Covering your grow beds with shades, especially the sensitive plants, is helpful.
Keep fish tanks in a shaded area. A shading platform discourages algal growth and safeguards it from wild animals.
- Size and Crop Type – The size of the aquaponics system establishes the size of the plants. As it is, smaller aquaponics systems support smaller plants such as leafy greens and herbs. Larger aquaponics is useful for growing larger plants and fruiting trees.
- Time – The Aquaponics system needs regular monitoring. So, the amount of time you are willing to spend is directly related to the health of your system. A far-off location is also not far off.
- Budget – How much are you willing to expend in building an aquaponics system? This will decide the type of equipment, labour, and plants for your system.
- Management – Each aquaponics system comes with its share of complexities. Are you skilled enough to handle it? Or you require external help? Of course, your budget is also a deciding factor here.
Aquaponics For Beginners
We believe anyone can become an aqua farmer. Your skill level is secondary when a new farming technique takes over other passions. As a beginner in aquaponics, start with the basic equipment that is easy to use and demands the least maintenance. You may begin with the media bed aquaponic system. It is the easiest of all the aqua systems, ideal for small-scale farming.
Components of aquaponics for beginners
Plants: Plants consume the waste produced by the fish and return clean and oxygenated water to the fish tank to help aquatic life thrive. You can Grow readily available plants suitable for the location.
Fish: Fish waste provides nourishment to the plants. Easy to grow and disease-resistant fish provides optimal output and growth. Raise edible fish such as catfish and Tilapia bridges ornamental fish such as koi and goldfish.
Bacteria: Bacteria act as biodegraders; they convert fish waste into essential nutrients. Water returning for the plants contains a sufficient amount of ammonia. The nitrifying bacteria convert nitrites into nitrates. These bacteria are usually present in biofilter, fish tanks, and grow beds.
Depending on your budget, you may either buy one of the three aquaponic systems or build one yourself.
Aquaponics for Beginners: How to grow plants
Plant your herbs or vegetables in grow beds, rafts or pipes. When using a grow bed, make sure it is strong, and the medium is deep. If using a planting foam, take a lightweight one to hold plants upright.
Plants you can grow in aquaponics for beginners
Green leafy plants grow best in an aquaponics system, including,
- Feed your fish with quality food.
- Test the water quality of the tank every two to three weeks. Check the pH, nitrites and nitrates levels, and ammonia.
- Analyze plants regularly
Aquaponics For Kids
Leverage the benefits of aquaponics for kids.
Why is aquaponics for kids a rewarding experience?
Aquaponics is not only a farming method but an educational tool that helps parents teach their kids science, technology, engineering and mathematics and also instill responsibility and self-sufficiency.
It is a proven enjoyable method that helps impart knowledge about environmental science, sustainable development, and the food system. You can build an aquaponic system for kids indoors or outdoors and let them witness the food cycle in full measure.
Aquaponics for kids can be installed in a classroom, backyard or living room. All you need are a few basic pieces of equipment:
- A container (tank for the fish): Use a plastic tub or container. Or buy an amphibian cage from a pet shop.
- Gravel: This is where ammonia converts to nitrites and finally to nitrates. It is readily available in pet stores.
- Water pump and Tubing: It transports water from the fish tank to the growing bed. Tubing connects the water tank with the grow bed.
- Grow bed. A porous inert material to hold your plant roots. Some examples include perlite, peat moss, coconut coir, pea gravel, and pebbles.
- Plants and Fish: Both are essential. Fish waste is nutrition for the plants, and plant waste is nutrition for the fish.
- Grow light. If you decide to place it in an area with low light, you may require artificial light.
- Plant growth in hydroponics system vs aquaponics system
- Effect of pH on fish and plants
- Impact of denser fish population on plant growth.
Aquaponics For Those With A Budget
Build an affordable aquaponics system with some basic equipment and tools.
How to Aquaponics For Those With A Budget: Step-by-Step
A Fish Tank and Some Fish
A standard acrylic aquarium or food-grade containers with opaque sides are perfect as a fish tank. Set it up. Add water. Allow it to stay for 4-5 weeks for dechlorination (happens in a day), and bacterial growth. Install a pump that takes water from the fish tank to the plant roots.
Create your media
Construct a media bed over the fish tank or at the sides of the tanks. The media bed is also a container. You may use a wooden pallet crate or a heavy-duty plastic tray. When installing on the sides, place it on a stand that can hold its weight.
Fill it with the media of choice. Clay pebbles are ideal as they have neutral pH. They do not affect the water and also hold moisture effectively.
Several fish tend to grow well in an aquaponics system. Some common Fish species include Koi, Pacu, Tilapia, Goldfish, and ornamental fish such as tetras, mollies, etc. Less Common fish species are Carp, Catfish, Silver Perch, and Barramundi.
All green leafy plants grow exceptionally well in an aquaponics system. If the fish population is higher, you may produce more plants. You may try growing some common plants such as kale, lettuce, spinach, and watercress. Or try beans, cauliflower, cabbage, cucumber, tomatoes, squash, pepper, strawberry and pea.
Maintenance and Upkeep
Feed the fish species every day. Add flaky food with occasional treats. Add food fish can consume within five minutes.
Test kits help check the water pH and nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia levels. pH should be neutral while the nitrites and the nitrates should be absent. Only nitrites in low volumes are permissible.
You may have to refill the fish tank with water every two to three weeks as some water is lost to evaporation as the plants transpire.
Remove weeds from the aquaponics, if any, just like you do in the traditional farming techniques.
Mostly when the initial cycle ends, the pH tends to go below 7. Buffer it with calcium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide.
Aquaponics For The Experienced Gardener
Follow a step by step process to set up an aquaponics system.
Consider space and the climate of the place. Those living in warmer climes can make use of the hydroponic garden all year round.
Select your type
An aquaponics system is mainly of three types – NFT, DWC, or Media bed. Select any based on your space, budget, time and skill level.
Select your layout
Your layout or water flow design can be a basic flood or drain design or flow aquaponics system. The flow aquaponics system is easy to maintain and can be customized.
A hydroponic garden needs to be watered regularly. So decide your source. Aquaponics cannot tolerate hardness, toxins, pH, chemicals, as these may harm the life in the system.
What plants you wish to grow decides the aquaponics system you will have. Nonetheless, media-based systems support a variety of plants.
Other Essential Components
Aquaponics systems comprise a variety of components available in different styles and sizes. In general, you would need the following to set up an aquaponics tank:
- Fish tank
- Grow bed
- Grow bed support
- Sump tank
- Plumbing pipes
- Water pump
- Bell Siphon
- Grow lights
- Grow media
- Timers and controllers
Things you need to ensure your system runs smoothly, including fish food, fish care products, water quality test kit, and gardening supplies.
Info, Tips & FAQ
How are Aquaponics Systems used?
The Aquaponics system is a system that can be used in home or business for raising fresh vegetables and fish. Commercial production has popularised this system because it is plentiful and inexpensive, requires only sunlight and small quantities of water, and produces fresh vegetables year-round without pesticides.
Aquaponics Systems is a popular urban gardening option. Plant roots draw nutrients from the water. The roots spread throughout the system, making them more efficient for nutrient uptake. The nutrients for the plants is the fish waste, then mixed with oxygen and returned to the aquarium by the plants
Benefits of different models/styles of Aquaponics system
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
- Space efficient and uses lesser materials
- Uninterrupted supply of oxygen, water and nutrients.
- Partially immersed roots have access to enough oxygen
- Simple and affordable
- Suits all types of plants (from small leafy vegetables to bigger fruiting trees)
- Low on maintenance
Deep Water Culture (DWC)
- Yields are higher
- Easier to harvest
- Best aquaponics system for commercial scalability
How is Aquaponics different from Hydroponics?
Both aquaponics and hydroponics are soilless methods of farming using a nutrient-rich medium. While aquaponics incorporates fish and plants in the same sustainable environment. Hydroponics uses sand, gravel and water to allow the vegetation to thrive.
Which form of farming is more eco-friendly – Aquaponics or Hydroponics?
In a hydroponics system, chemical compounds are added to provide nourishment to the plants. In contrast, in the aquaponics system, the fish waste is converted into nutrients. Nothing is added or wasted, making aquaponics an eco-friendly option.
What can I grow in an aquaponics system?
The type of plants you can grow depends on the size of the aquaponics system. Smaller aquaponic systems are more suitable for plants that need less nutrition, such as small leafy greens (such as lettuce, spinach and kale) and herbs (such as basil and mint).
In larger aquaponics systems, you can grow plants such as tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, beans, squash, cucumbers and radish in addition to herbs and small leafy vegetables.
Do aquaponics systems save more water?
In traditional farming techniques, water is lost to the environment through evaporation or runoff. The drip irrigation method is helpful but is capable of saving only one-fourth of water. But the aquaponics system uses a small amount of water. Even the runoff water is recovered, sent to the tank to mix with the fish waste and sent to the plants for detoxification.
More Aquaponics Tips
- Do not overfeed as any leftover food can rot and reduce the dissolved oxygen.
- Adjust pH if required. Add lime or potash if pH slides below 6.5
- Check plants for any deficiencies
- Harvest vegetables and start a new crop if need be.
- When deciding which plant combinations to grow, pick the ones with the same water requirements
- Remove the excess fish waste immediately.
- Arrange a different power source for backup.
What Makes A Great Aquaponics System?
Happy fish swimming on the top, expecting more food and healthy plants with bright and shiny leaves indicate an excellent aquaponics system.
The Right Tank
A fish tank with round tanks with conical or flat bottoms is ideal. These demand less maintenance and are much easier to clean than other tanks. Fibreglass tanks or inert plastic are the best materials as they are durable and have a longer shelf life.
Sufficient Water Circulation and Aeration
A great aquaponics system has water, and air pumps to ensure a higher level of dissolved oxygen. A sufficient movement allows fish, plants and bacteria to stay healthy at all times.
Just Enough Water
Remember, a higher water level implies blockage. Fish waste, usually present at the bottom too, may increase the water level. In an ideal aquaponics system, the water level in the tank is always constant. Neither more nor less.
Happy and Healthy Aquatic Life
A well-fed fish feeds your plants well. They are usually fed at least twice a day, once in the morning and the evening. A health check is conducted when they are having their meals. Their length and weight are often analyzed.
Whether they have eaten all the meal or not is checked after 15 minutes of feeding. Any unusual behaviour is noted and acted upon as it indicates a problem.
No Overcrowding In the Tank
The stocking density in an aquaponics system is low; the tank is insulated better and easier to maintain. A stocking density of 20 kg/1 000 litres is sufficient.
Space the Plants
Short grow period plants are planted in between long grow period plants in a hydroponic garden. This provided shaded conditions naturally.
Balance Plants and Animals
A batch cropping system is adopted to maintain a balance between animals and plants. This ensures a constant production level. Often young plants and young fish in the planning stage are planned.
The temperature of the aquaponics system is within the designated range. It is checked regularly to sustain a perfect growing environment for the plants and the fish in your indoor gardening.
The colour of the leaf is as it should be on each plant. There are no disease or pests. Most insects under the leaves or the stems of the plant. The roots are clean and white. It is seen by lifting the raft.
Clean Pumps and Pipes
Ensuring that there are no clogs due to bio slime, fish solids, or bacteria. These are removed frequently with rifle barrel cleaner or drier cleaning brush.
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