Can An Aquaponics Garden Be Grown Outside?
Over the past year, aquaponics has increased its popularity as more people are interested in new ways to raise crops. However, most aquaponic farming is done indoors because the fish involved can be susceptible to temperature changes. This is why many are wondering; can an aquaponic garden be grown outside?
If you are interested in answering this question, then you have come to the right page. In this article, you will learn more about aquaponics and whether it is possible for you to do aquaponics outdoors.
What is Aquaponics?
Before anything else, it’s important that you have a thorough understanding of what aquaponics is in the first place. It is the process of growing plants by mimicking the natural ecosystem with the help of fish. In aquaponics, plants, bacterias, aquatic life, and nutrient plays all come together for farming.
However, you shouldn’t be confused between hydroponics and aquaponics. Although their concepts are highly similar, they are not actually one and the same. Aquaponics is a type of farming that uses marine life to help crops grow quicker. Meanwhile, hydroponics is the method of growing crops without any soil. But, it is possible to combine these two techniques to increase crop yield.
If you are a beginner, many would recommend that you do it indoors if you want to start doing aquaponics. This is because it allows you to have full control of the resources to grow faster and steadily. But, it is also more than possible to do aquaponics gardening outdoors. It’s just that it could be a bit more challenging.
When Should You Consider Outdoor Aquaponics Gardening?
As mentioned, aquaponics gardening outdoors can be challenging, so you should only consider doing it if you are working with experts or confident with your skills. In fact, most people who do outdoor aquaponics gardening are those who do it for commercial purposes because the outdoors allows them to have more space and expand their operations.
If you have a big backyard and are open to challenges, it’s also okay for you to take on outdoor aquaponics gardening.
The Benefits of Outdoor Aquaponics
Here are the top benefits of outdoor aquaponics:
Aquaponics supply crops with high-quality nutrients, making them more nutrient-packed compared to other similar crops. The technique also allows the plants to grow faster because the nutrients produced by the fishes are potent and delivered directly to the roots of the plant.
Easy to Set Up and Maintain
You might feel disheartened about the price tag of aquaponics systems. Although they might indeed be very expensive, they are usually catered for more commercial applications. If you are into it as a hobby or for personal consumption, you can always go DIY, making the setup relatively easy.
Once you have successfully set up your system, the maintenance will not be hard. You just need to feed your fish and make sure that your water levels are accurate. From time to time, you need to do some cleaning. Other than that, everything else is standard gardening work that does not require any expertise.
By doing aquaponics gardening, you are helping increase the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere. Fishes and plants are also essential in maintaining a balanced ecosystem.
Furthermore, aquaponic gardening helps you save over 80% of water compared to when you do traditional gardening. This is because the water in aquaponics is reused while it seeps into the soil in traditional gardening.
Lastly, aquaponics gardening is environmentally friendly because it allows you to grow crops without needing chemical fertilizers, destroying the soil and potentially contaminating water sources.
Allows You to Be Productive
Another benefit of aquaponic farming is that it allows you to be productive. The process of taking care of fish and growing crops can be quite fun. But, at the end of the day, you get a tangible benefit that helps keep your body healthy and saves you money from buying fresh produce for higher prices.
How to Build an Outdoor Aquaponics Garden
Do you have a big backyard that you are planning to turn into an outdoor aquaponics garden? In that case, these steps might be helpful for you:
1. Assemble Your Fish Tank
Plan the size of your fish tank according to the requirements and quantity of crops that you are planning to grow. Ideally, the fish tank is made with glass, but you can use repurposed standard acrylic aquariums if you are tight on the budget. But, other people also use food-grade containers.
The fish tank must include a pump that will allow water to flow from the tank to the grow bed and back and forth. It should have adequate shade so that it is not prone to sudden temperature changes or evaporation, especially since it’s located outside.
2. Build Your Media Bed
The media can be built on the side of the tank or above it. It will be a good shade if you build it above the tank, but it would make your access to the fish tank a little challenging.
The media bed is where the plants will grow, and it’s also known as a food table. You can use materials for this can either be wooden pallet crates or heavy-duty plastic trays.
3. Add Your Fish
Once your tank has been set up properly, the next step is to add your fish. There are many types of fish that you can use for aquaponics. This includes the following:
4. Add Your Plants
Just like fish, there are also plenty of crops that you can choose to grow. However, the following are the most compatible with aquaponics systems:
- Pak Choi
5. Maintain It
The last step is to maintain the system, and doing so is very straightforward. You just have to ensure that the fishes get high-quality feeds. You can also give them treats once in a while. Other than that, you also have to test the water quality once a week to ensure that it creates the most suitable conditions for the crops to thrive.
Tips for Success in Outdoor Aquaponics Gardening
Suppose you are planning to set up an outdoor Aquaponics gardening system any time soon. In that case, then the following tips will be helpful for you:
Use Shade for Tanks
Direct sunlight can cause the tanks to overheat, which can harm or kill the fish. Furthermore, most of the fishes used for hydroponics are susceptible to temperature changes and sudden rises in temperature. This is why it is important to provide adequate shade for the tanks that you have outdoors.
Besides the threat of temperature change, providing shade for your tanks also mitigates the risk of pests causing harm to your fishes. This also prevents them from getting access to your crop and destroying them.
Monitor Water Level Constantly
Outdoor aquaponics systems are highly susceptible to evaporation because of the heat of the sun. This is why it is important to monitor the water level constantly. You also need to ensure that the pumps are running to prevent the water from running dry, destroying the crops, and killing fish.
If your main concern in your outdoor aquaponics garden is evaporation, one effective solution is to make sure that you run cold water. Since it is cold, it is less likely to evaporate, and you don’t have to worry that much about the water levels.
Adjust the Water Temperature
Another essential tip is for you to adjust the water temperature accordingly. As mentioned, if you live somewhere hot and have direct access to the sunlight, then run cold water to lessen the chances of evaporation.
Conversely, if you live in an area where the temperature drops, run water that is hotter. But, when doing this, make sure not to use water that is near boiling and slowly introduce the temperature change. Doing it all at once can harm your fish and crops.
Outdoor and Indoor Aquaponics
You might be thinking, is it possible to combine outdoor and indoor aquaponics? The answer is yes. In fact, this is the best of both worlds.
What most people do is that they have a small indoor set up for fingerlings breeding. Once these fingerlings have grown to adult size around wintertime, they can be released into the outdoor tank once the water temperature is adequate.
Over the years, many farmers have successfully combined outdoor and indoor aquaponics systems, especially if you live in an area where the climate does not change drastically as the seasons change.
Outdoor aquaponics gardening is a good idea if you want to produce more crops and you live somewhere with good weather conditions all year. However, if this is not your case, outdoor aquaponics gardening will be extremely challenging because you will be fighting against the harsh outdoor environment. Although it is not an impossible feat, it will not be an easy undertaking.