Backyard Aquaponics: Expectations vs. Reality
You may be contemplating setting up a backyard aquaponics system for this summer to grow your own fresh produce. You may have seen pictures on the internet of lush green backyards with tilapia swimming in large tanks while vegetables grow abundantly in nearby beds. You may be expecting to be able to do the same thing in your backyard. However, there are a few things you must know to set up your backyard aquaponics system.
Let us help you in the process.
How Do I Start An Aquaponics System In My Backyard?
Even if you do not have gardening experience, setting up a backyard aquaponics system is easy.
You can buy or build a container to add a soilless medium to grow your plants. There are several alternatives in the market. You can also follow the DIY approach. The easiest of all is making raised beds. These can be made from any material that doesn’t rot.
For instance, 7-9 inches deep wooden boxes lined with pond liners. Next, add an adequate amount of inert material, such as perlite or gravel. Coco coir is an excellent growing medium (most professionals use it) because it locks air and moisture like no other.
There is no limit on the amount of fish you can have in an aquaponics system. Generally, you can have one pound of fish per gallon or more if you follow the correct configuration. At the same time, you need to have balance in the system. To ensure no imbalances within its parameters (water temperature or dissolved oxygen levels), try stocking one fish per 10 gallons.
You can start backyard aquaponics with a square bin or a barrel. You can recycle these food-grade tanks from the industry, making them easy for DIY backyard aquaponics enthusiasts. Or you may use a vinyl pool (above-ground is preferred) for holding larger tanks. They are easy to install, affordable, and minimize the danger of toxic residues.
What’s more sustainable than using what you produce to feed your plants? In aquaponics, the fish produce fertilizer for plant life. They require a pump to move this nutrient-rich water to the plants.
A solar-powered pump (if you choose to have it) will make sure that everything stays oxygenated and waterlogged. However, electrical and plumbing skills are necessary for pumping water throughout the system. Find someone who has these qualifications to do it with you.
Station the submersible pump either below or elevated above tanks, making it always accessible for all types of hydroponic setups. Build a network of PVC pipes over the fish tank and drill holes. Then, plant seeds or roots in these tiny holes. Finally, install an aerator to provide enough oxygen to keep fish healthy and happy.
Cultivating your fruits, flowers, and vegetables is an excellent way to get fresh produce without the added cost. You can grow tomatoes, cucumbers, or zucchini on hydroponic farms. You can buy these fertilizers from online or offline hydroponic suppliers. These growth elements ensure that many leafy greens thrive with no extra nutritional supplements, like lettuce or kale.
One of the best fish for backyard aquaponics system is catfish. Beginners can consider them as these can be raised in high-density recirculating systems. Another useful fish is yellow perch; they are a fascinating species that can grow in cooler waters, perfect for colder regions. Tilapia is another. However, tilapia is a tropical species that needs stable water temperature between 70-90 degrees. There are many more. Pick them as per your necessity.
Setting a Backyard Aquaponics System
The correct time to establish an aquaponics system is early spring; the soil has just been warmed by sunlight and is ready to welcome the new seeds. Now look for a leveled surface with ample sunshine and room for your equipment. You may need to build a greenhouse if you plan to grow plants year-round.
Next, stock your fish. This ensures that your grow beds have waste to support plant life. Then plant seedlings in the potting mix. By the time the seedlings become mature (and are ready for transplantation), your fish would have produced ample fertilizer for the plants. Last, fish need constant water circulation in the grow beds for healthy growth. This is irrespective of the presence of plants in them.
The more success you have, the easier it will be to expand your backyard aquaponics system. As soon as a new idea pops into the mind or an improvement surfaces, stop what you’re doing and consider these changes.
Can Aquaponics Be Done Outdoors?
Yes, aquaponics can be done outdoors, and we have already discussed how to set it up. However, you need to be vigilant about certain things. These include:
Take care of your tanks
Many fish species are sensitive, so make sure you shade structures outdoors. Pest management is also essential. Use techniques that will help reduce the risk while promoting healthy growth.
Do not let the fish freeze
The backyard aquaponics system provides ample sunlight and natural warmth. However, this typically happens when there are warmer climate conditions. But if you live somewhere colder, then your options may differ slightly. Remember, too cold temperatures can kill your fish. Plan accordingly.
Risk of water evaporation
Monitor the water level more frequently. If it becomes too low or goes off, pumps will burn out and stop working, leading to serious problems with your backyard aquaponics system. You get tools to monitor water levels along with a backyard aquaponics kit.
Aquaponics is a hydroponics system that combines aquaculture (raising aquatic animals) and hydroponics (raising plants in water), to build a self-sustaining ecosystem. The expectation from a backyard aquaponics is to provide an affordable, sustainable way to produce edibles for your kitchen. However, there are many factors to consider before embarking on this project.
The reality of outdoor aquaponics is that several variables can affect the success or failure of the system. Therefore, to have a thriving aquaponics garden, you must understand how the system works and prepare yourself to troubleshoot problems as they arise. You also need to be ready for a significant time commitment towards the backyard aquaponics system.