Our Buyer's Guide To Aquaponics Systems

Are you planning to buy or build an aquaponics system? Why not? With it, you can grow your own food even with little space or time. If you are looking for a sustainable way to grow food for your family instead of purchasing produce at the grocery store, you would be wise to invest in an aquaponics system. 

Aquaponics is an efficient and highly sustainable form of gardening for anyone to raise their own fish and veggies anywhere. This amazing gardening method takes care of itself with minimal intervention required from humans whilst providing fresh food for your family! Aquaponics production is expected to grow to 870.6 million U.S. dollars by 2022.

This post will talk about all the aquaponics systems, different types of systems available, what can be grown, what benefits they offer and more.

Are you ready? Let’s get started!

aquaponics

What Is An Aquaponics System?

Aquaponics is a system of crop production whereby the fish and plants are raised in an integrated recirculating aquaculture ecosystem. In such systems, instead of the water from the fish tank being flushed down a drain as it is in conventional aquaculture, part of this water is taken to the hydroponic growing beds. Here the plant roots soak up nutrients from the water, which they convert into useful products like fruits, vegetables and herbs.

What Can Be Grown With Aquaponics?

Aquaponics is a water-farming technique that combines hydroponics (water with nutrients) and fish farming. With aquaponics you can produce plants such as lettuce, chillies, spinach, celery, strawberries, and more.  You can also rear edible fish such as catfish, tilapia, carp, crappie, koi pacu, and fancy goldfish. However, what you can grow will depend on the aquaponics setup and your purpose.

What Are The Benefits Of An Aquaponics System?

An aquaponics system entails several benefits over the traditional farming system. Here are some of them.

  • Compact
    This system requires less space than traditional farming methods and makes it possible to plant closer together without overcrowding.

  • No weeds
    In an aquaponics system, no soil is needed to grow fresh food. So you can enjoy your garden  without the pain of weeding that goes on in a conventional gardening process!

  • No soil pests
    You will not have a problem with pests or toxins when you grow your food in an aquaponics system.

  • Less water
    You can use up to 90% less water than you would with traditional gardening by using the aquaponics system.

  • Fast way to grow food
    Aquaponics is a sustainable food production system that produces foods faster and at three to four times the density compared to traditional soil based gardens.

  • Less work
    If you don’t have the time or energy to tend an elaborate garden, we recommend that you give modern farming a try. The aquaponics system is low maintenance and doesn’t require any bending or straining.

Types Of Aquaponics Systems

Aquaponics systems can be comprised of the following types:

Media-Based Aquaponics System

The media-based aquaponics system is simple and efficient with space and a popular choice among beginner home growers. Also known as flood and drain aquaponics, the media-based system consists of a grow bed filled with eco-friendly materials like gravel, lava rock and expanded clay pebbles. The water from the fish tank is moved by gravity into the grow beds, which harbour nitrifying bacteria colonies that are beneficial for aquaponics plants to access nutrients to thrive.

Nutrient Film Technique

The Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) is a technique that works well for urban areas because of its simplicity and effectiveness. This method uses horizontal pipes with shallow streams of nutrient-rich water flowing through them. At the same time, the NFT can also be used in commercial aquaponics setups where space or food production are an issue due to a simple design.

Deep Water Culture

The Deep Water Culture (DWC) system is one of the most popular types because it has mass production capability due to its efficiency at getting all those nutrients onto your crops quickly. In this type of raft system, there are long canals with about 20 cm depth where rafts float on top made with polystyrene or foam board, providing space for net pots that allow air circulation around planters’ root systems.

Vertical Aquaponics System

Aquaponics is a fairly new technique, but many farmers have adopted it because of the high yields and low input costs. The vertical aquaponic system uses an NFT system that grows plants using gravity to bring nutrients from one end of the growing channel to fertilise them at their roots. This way, there’s no need for soil or any hydroponic media like gravel to provide support for your vegetables so they can get all those benefits without sacrificing on yield!

aquaponics system

What Can Be Grown In An Aquaponics System?

The aquaponics plants and fish that you are able to grow will depend on a few factors:

Location

You can choose to station your aquaponics system inside or outside. The indoor location is ideal for fish and plants that are sensitive to temperature fluctuations. An aquaponics system set inside is dependent on artificial lighting and a temperature controlling system and is thus safe from weather variations.

Outdoor aquaponics is an excellent option for commercial growers. But the term “outdoor” is slightly a misnomer. No outdoor aquaponics is completely outdoors because many growers ensure some form of greenhouse environment or shading is present to protect it from atmospheric elements.

The Climate Of The Region

Taking the previous point a step ahead, you should choose plants and fish according to the place you are living. 

For cold regions
Plants to grow: Brussel sprouts, cabbage, beets, carrots, herbs, cauliflower, onion, horseradish, radicchio, potato, winter squash and sweet potatoes.
Fish to rear: Trout family (brown, brook, rainbow), salmon varieties, and carp family (koi, goldfish, common carp). 

For hot regions
Plants to grow: artichoke, chives, cardoon, garlic, parsnip, parsley, sludge, and shallot. 
Fish to rear: Tilapia, catfish, bass, barramundi, and perch.

Size

Some plants and fish require more space than others to grow and thrive. So, the size of the system is also a determining factor in the type of plants and fish you pick to add. 

Small and less nutrient-dense aquaponics system
Plants to grow: kale, spinach, lettuce, arugula, Swiss chard, mint, basil, chives, watercress, wheatgrass, pak choi, and radish sprouts. 
Fish to rear: cardinal tetras, neon tetras, diamond tetras, glowlight tetras, and serape tetras

Larger aquaponics systems
Plants to grow: peppers, tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, peas, squash, cabbage, and cauliflower. 
Fish to rear: tilapia, trout, catfish, largemouth bass, salmon, koi, and goldfish. 

Purpose

What are you installing aquaponics for? Is it for self-use or any commercial purpose?

For Home aquaponics:
Plants to grow: pak choi, any leafy lettuce, swiss chard, radishes, microgreens, beets, carrots, watercress, herbs such as mint, basil, chives, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower.
Fish to rear: tilapia, catfish, bluegill/brim/sunfish/crappie, carp, koi, Pacu, fancy goldfish, and various ornamental fish such as angelfish, guppies, tetras, swordfish, mollies

Commercial aquaponics system
Plants to grow: any leafy lettuce, kale, pak choi, herbs like basil and chives, microgreens, swiss chard, and hemp.
Fish to rear: Tilapia and Bluegill.

Other Aquatic Animals

Other than fish, you can grow some aquatic animals such as yabbies, aquatic turtles, mussels, and freshwater shrimp, and prawns.

aquaponics plants

How Much Does A Typical Aquaponics System Cost?

The answer to this question lies in the size and intended scale of your aquaponics system. Though every new aquaponics enthusiast or practitioner should keep some initial cost aside, the cost of an aquaponics system varies for backyard and commercial aquaponics systems. The truth be told, the investment in aquaponics systems is way more than traditional soil farming; but the experts state that they are more beneficial in the long term. 

Type of Aquaponics System Estimated Cost
Commercial aquaponics system
Approx $2000 and above
Outdoors aquaponics system
Approx. $2,500 for courtyard aquaponics system to approx. $13,000 for a deluxe aquaponics system.
Home aquaponics system
Starting from just $80 and up depending on the brand and size.

Common Mistakes Made When Choosing A System

People tend to choose the wrong components or livestock and realise their mistake only after starting their aquaponics system. We wouldn’t want you to make the same mistakes. So, here is a list of all the things you should avoid. Check them out:

Fish to water ratio
This happens when there are more fish than your system can handle. When starting out, load your tank with a low amount of fish and build from there.

Wrong grow media
You need to find out what type of growing media will work best for the plants that you want to grow. There are many factors to consider when choosing a particular growing medium: pH, temperature to name a few. 

Wrong plants
To make sure the plants grow well, pick seasonal and native plants.  

Wrong aquaponics fish tank
Using a transparent aquaponics fish tank will allow algal growth, which may clog the tubes. Use opaque tanks instead, such as PVC. 

Adequate light
Plants need light for photosynthesis at least 30,000 Lux. So if your aquaponics system will be indoors, make sure that there are LED lights placed to fulfill your plant’s requirements.

Where To Look For Fish To Grow In Your Aquaponics System?

One way to get fish is by purchasing fingerlings from local hatcheries or contacting other aquaponics farmers. One of the many benefits of buying fish from your local farmers is that you know they are already well adapted to our climate. Secondly, their knowledge can give you valuable insight into their behavior. If you want to buy a goldfish or koi fish for your tank, pet stores in your area should have these available.

To buy local fish, you can find a live supplier in your country or search for suppliers abroad. You can take your fish almost anywhere in the world, and they will arrive safely as a whistle. You can also buy live fish online and have them shipped right to your door! But make sure you use a reputable vendor with other customers in order to ensure their arrival. 

Wrapping Up

We are hopeful that this guide has given you some valuable insight into the world of aquaponics and helped you better understand which system is best for your needs. If not, please feel free to reach out with any questions or thoughts- we’re always happy to help!

aquaponics experts

Welcome to The Aquaponics Guide

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.