Factors in Choosing Your Aquaponics System
Nowadays, the number of people becoming interested in an aquaponics system is rapidly increasing. However, one of the biggest problems they face is not knowing how to start setting it up on their own.
If this is your case, then you have come to the right page. This article will discuss the top factors to consider when choosing your aquaponic system in this article.
What is an Aquaponics System?
Before jumping into the main topic of this article, it is important that you first have a deep understanding of what exactly an aquaponics system is.
The Aquaponics system is a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics in one production system. It heavily relies on food introduced for fish that serves as the system’s input. It has three main components, fishes, plants, and nitrifying bacteria.
The process of aquaponics goes like this; when fish eat their food and process it, their urine and fecal matter transforms into ammonia. In high quantities, ammonia can be poisonous to fishes and plants. After that, ammonia-rich water flows together with decaying plant matter and uneaten food from the fish in the tank into biofilters. Then, within the biofilter, the bacteria breaks down everything and transforms it into an organic, nitrogen-rich solution for vegetable growing.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Your Aquaponic System
Here are the top 7 factors to consider when choosing your aquaponic system:
Aquaponic System Type
There are several types of aquaponics systems. These are the common options for people who choose the DIY route:
Media-Based Aquaponics System
This system is composed of a grow bed filled with expanded lava rock, clay pebbles, and gravel where the vegetables are planted into. The fish tank water is pumped by gravity into the grow bed to allow plants to access the nutrients.
This type of system is straightforward and affordable. It’s also compatible with many different types of plants, and it’s easy to maintain.
However, the disadvantage of this system is that top-quality mediums can be quite expensive. It’s also not ideal for commercial purposes because of large-scale implementation incompatibility.
Nutrient Film Technique
Nutrient Film Technique is also known as NFT. It is commonly used for cultivating green plants with a small root system. In this type of system, the water is pumped using gravity through a mechanical filter that passes into the sump tank or biofilter. This is then pumped directly into the fish tank while the rest of the water is equally distributed to the NFT pipes.
With this technique, the plant’s roots receive plenty of oxygen because part of its root is exposed. It also offers constant water flow, which lessens the risk of fungal growth.
However, it also has several downsides. For example, the roots can cause the channels to clog and prevent continuous water flow. When this happens, the yield can be significantly affected.
This type of system is also called a floating system or Deep Water Culture (DWC). It works by allowing nutrient-rich water to circulate in long canals, which are usually 20 cm deep while rafts float on top. The plants grow on the raft boards, which are supported with net potholes. The plant roots that are hanging down can then absorb the oxygenated, nutrient-rich water, allowing it to grow faster.
The nice thing about this setup is that it allows the high production of crops at an affordable price. The raft beds are also easy to maintain and clean.
However, it’s not an ideal setup to use for growing small leafy greens like basil and lettuce. Plus, it can be a breeding ground for insects like mosquitoes when it’s not designed properly.
When selecting the type of system to follow, make sure also to consider your personal knowledge and skills and pick the one you are most comfortable with. Although challenging yourself is a great idea, it’s also not bad to start with something simple, especially if you are a beginner.
The location of your aquaponic system is an important consideration because its success can be highly dependent on this. Where you put it will significantly affect the entire system’s well-being all year round, which is why you must pick a location that is suitable for growing fish and plants.
Lighting and temperature are not a big deal when it comes to choosing a location for your aquaponic fish tank because these can be artificially controlled. However, your outdoor system must have access to adequate sunlight, and it must be protected against extreme weather conditions.
The water source of the aquaponics system is another essential factor to consider. You have to look at the quality and the quantity of the water source and whether these fit the type of system you want to build.
For the quality of the water, make sure that it is free from contaminants to avoid killing your fish. The pH and hardness levels must also be just right to get the best results. Meanwhile, remember that water can be naturally lost due to evaporation, transpiration, and other similar things. This is why, if your system requires flowing water, then make sure that there is adequate supply.
Before you start building your aquaponics system, you first need to ask yourself what kind of plants do you want to grow in the first place? This will help you identify which type of system is best suited for your needs. For example, plants such as carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, and kale can thrive in Media-based aquaponics. Meanwhile, these would not be ideal for raft systems.
Like plants, it’s also important to choose the best type of aquaponic fish for your system to become successful. When choosing the fishes for your system, you have to consider the following things:
Some types of fish are readily available in local pet stores in your area, while others may not be. This is why you first need to figure out the logistics of how to acquire the fish that you want to avoid headaches later on. Also, you have to consider your local laws whether it’s legal to own these species.
Fishes are cold-blooded species, and they are not good at adjusting to various ranges of temperature. This is why when you decide on a fish type; you first need to ask yourself whether it can live with the temperature range of your area.
If you are a beginner, it’s best to first invest in fishes that are easy to maintain. These are those that have high immunity to parasites and diseases such as koi and tilapia. You may also choose fishes such as trout because they can be quite sensitive to water quality, so that is something that you have to constantly adjust and monitor to ensure that it is just right.
Size and Space Requirements
Lastly, you must have a good idea of how big the fish will grow so that you can get the right tank size. This is very important because some types of fish need a lot of space for them to thrive.
Before you buy materials to start building your aquaponic system, you first need to have a good understanding of the components needed. To identify what these components are, you have to take into consideration the location, design, and setup of your system.
These components may vary in size and style but each of them has a crucial role. To avoid committing any mistakes, try and make a drawing board first and visualize how the components will work together. Once you have a good plan, then it would be easier to identify what you will need.
These are some of the components that you will need for your aquaponics system:
- Grow Bed
- Grow Bed Support
- Fish Tank
- Sump Tank
- Water Pump
- Plumbing Pipes and Fittings
- Bell Siphon
- Grow Lights
- Grow Media
- Timers and Controllers
- Monitoring system
In some cases, you might need more than what’s listed here.
Make sure that the supplies that you need to build and maintain your aquaponics system are readily available in your area. But, it’s better to stockpile them since buying in bulk will give you more savings.
The following are some of the supplies you will be needing to build and maintain your system:
- Fish Food- You need a steady supply of fish food so that they will thrive well.
- Fish Care Product- these include automatic feeders, thermometer, fishnet, and other similar items.
- Water Quality Test Kit- These are essential for monitoring the water quality of the entire system.
- Cycling Kit- These are sources of ammonia or nitrifying bacteria needed for the system cycling.
- Seeds Supplies- These include germination trays, net pots, and seed starter kits.
Indoor gardening using aquaponics might sound complicated but the challenge will definitely be worthwhile due to its long list of benefits. Although it requires a lot of effort and planning to do, hopefully the factors mentioned above on how to choose your aquaponics system will help increase your chances of succeeding.