Have you ever wondered about aquaponic gardening? If not, perhaps you should; it is fascinating. Explore the possibilities and learn more about aquaponics from our regular contributor, Megan Wild.
What Is Aquaponic Gardening
and How to Get Started
Living sustainably is a trend that has continued to gain popularity over time. Aquaponics is a method of gardening that combines fish farming and growing plants to create a system that is (hopefully) self-sustaining. Sounds pretty interesting, right? Check out the information below to learn more about this method and get started on your own aquaponic garden.
How Does It Work?
With an aquaponic system, waste from the fish become fertilizer for the plants, and the plants absorb it to keep the water clean and healthy for the fish. Fish waste creates ammonia and nitrate which can be harmful for the fish if it builds up. In an aquaponics system, however, the plants absorb the ammonia and nitrate and cycle the water to keep the fish safe. Once your system is established and self-sustaining, you’ll only need to add small amounts of water to replace what evaporates.
What Type of Fish Do I Need?
Tilapia is one of the most commonly used fish because they mature quickly, like warm water and do not require high levels of oxygen. In some places, however, tilapia is difficult to get or illegal to grow, so people will use catfish instead. If you don’t plan to eat the fish, goldfish can be another great option. Blue gill and koi have also successfully been used for aquaponics.
What Kind of Plants Can I Grow?
Aquaponic gardens can grow all kinds of things, but aquaponic systems function at a pH level that’s pretty neutral. Plants that require a very acidic pH won’t make it here, so if you had dreams of blueberries or azaleas, aquaponics isn’t for you. Here’s a partial list of some plants that will do well in your aquaponic garden:
- Swiss chard
Aquaponic systems are pretty customizable, but every system needs to have these components:
- A tank for fish. You can reuse containers you already have around the home, but always clean it thoroughly and don’t use anything that had harmful chemicals in it. You don’t want to put your fish or your food at risk.
- A grow bed. This is where all your plants will be. Your bed should contain a growing medium like lava rock, gravel or hydroton.
- Pumps and pipes. These will move water to and from your grow bed. Setting up the system for the pumps and pipes can be the trickiest part of creating your own aquaponics system.
- An aerator. Having an aerator helps to provide oxygen for your fish.
- Live red worms. Many people use live red worms in their growing medium. The worms help remove any solid fish waste, and worm castings are great for your plants. You can shine a flashlight on your worms to get them to dig themselves into your grow bed.
Once you have your supplies, you should establish your fish and your grow bed. The medium you choose will help clean the water even if there’s no plants in it.
There’s several reasons why more people are choosing to do less traditional forms of gardening, such as aquaponics. So, why should you start an aquaponic farm?
- Aquaponic systems use far less water than traditional gardens. The water you use gets cleansed and recycled by the plants so you only add a small amount of water over time to replace what evaporates.
- This method is perfect for people who have soil that isn’t good for growing. Rather than spending time and money trying to amend your soil, you can skip it altogether.
- Aquaponic systems are organic.
- Aquaponics reduce back strain from bending since most systems are built at waist level.
- Only a small amount of energy is required to run the pump and aeration for the fish. This means you could potentially supply this through a sustainable source, such as solar panels, which would reduce your overall energy bill.
Building an aquaponic system is a giant step toward living more sustainably. You get the satisfaction of fresh vegetables and fresh fish that come from your own home — what could be better than that?
Visit Megan at her blog, Your Wild Home!
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