Anyone who has studied aquaponics would agree that this is the FUTURE.
It doesn’t need fertilizers, pesticides or even herbicides. You effectively eliminate most of the toxins that go into the food we grow in soil, solving the problem of organic and non-organic foods without increasing the costs associated with organic food growth.
Even leaving the quality of the food and its nutritional value aside, it helps us save many of the limited and precious resources we have such as water, land, energy and so on.
Just the fact that you use the same place and resources to farm both fish and vegetables at the same time, you effectively improve your efficiency and reduce costs.
All of these reasons and many more make aquaponics an amazing technology, and a great way to grow our food in a sustainable manner in a world that is deteriorating at an alarming rate.
Besides, just the fact that everything that is commercially being grown is killing us, should be enough to make us install a small aquaponics system and grow some of our own food to ensure that the food you and your family consume doesn’t have anything dangerous.
Here are three aquaponics instincts to master and two you should be able to ditch.
Instincts to Master
1) Fish Stocking
Since there is no particular standard for aquaponics, each system can be slightly different and the environmental conditions can also play a huge factor.
However, there is a guideline that can help most people properly learn about stocking fish. The most widely accepted standard suggests you stock 20 to 25 fish for every 500 liters of grow-bed media in your system for fish farming.
This is based on the assumption that your grow-beds are at least 25 to 30 cm deep.
Ultimately, the quantity of fish you can safely farm in your system depends mostly on the following factors: oxygen levels, water flows, number of plants, feed rates, pumping rates, water temperature and of course the type of fish you opt for.
For beginners, the standard should be as following and then slowly experiment with other suitable methods, which will help you better understand your system.
Similar to any garden, your aquaponics system also needs oxygen to function in a sustainable manner. Both your plants as well as your fish need optimum levels of oxygen to thrive. If you fail to master this instinct, you will most likely end up with dead fish and withered plants.
Oxygen is used in the process of breaking the toxic ammonia that is present in fish excrement. The ammonia is broken down in to less harmful nitrates and this is the substance that becomes nutrients for the plant.
The water is oxygenated using a process called aeration. Aeration involves a pump that continuously blows air into the water through a tube.
But the reason you need to master this instinct is because you need to regularly check for oxygenation and if the nitrates are at desirable levels. The better you get at this the better your aquaponics system will perform.
3) Aquaponics pH Management
Managing pH in an aquaponics system is slightly tricky. This is because we have three living things, fish, plants and bacteria, all of which need to be facilitated for the system to thrive.
While the plants tend to thrive in acidic conditions such as low sixes or upper five (pH levels), whereas the fish and bacterial are more inclined towards alkaline based conditions, high sevens to low eights.
Thus, the entire process is a battle, where you need to figure out the best possible compromise for all three of the constituents.
The mineral content found in our water supply is what pushes the pH levels higher. But this is not necessarily a problem because when a new system is created, we have to grow through the process of cycling, which encourages beneficial nitrates to fully establish inside the system, effectively benefiting the plants.
Mastering this will help you understand when you have to push the pH levels down and when to let them increase.
Instincts to Ditch
1) Stop Feeding Your Fish Only Pellets
Yes, it is recommended to use quality aquaculture pellets as feed for your fish but make sure that’s not the only things you’re feeding them.
A lot of people believe that pellets are enough to keep the fish healthy, but you also have to take into account their excrement, which is crucial for the survival of the ecosystem of fish, plant and bacteria.
You will also want to include alternate feeds such as maggots, worms, black soldier fly larvae and any other nutritional bugs you can find.
There are also people who prefer to have a completely closed system, producing all of the feed within the system.
But it is recommended to have external food input as nutrients are constantly removed in the form of food.
Also, remember to remove all uneaten food, as they start to rot and waste oxygen, all the while increasing the ammonia levels.
2) Avoid Growing the Same Vegetables
It only makes sense to grow the things you would like to eat. A lot of people consider that focusing on a few plants will help ensure their quality.
But the fact is you can grow a number of different vegetables together and not hamper their growth. Another extremely important thing to avoid is taking all of the plants out of the system.
You need some plants consuming the nitrates and converting them into nutrients. If you do take all of them out, you risk affecting your fish’s health and eventually causing their death.
The best possible thing you can do is have a broad mix of plants within a single system. Meaning, also have half grown plants, seeds and completely mature plants.
They naturally complement each other but more importantly, you will be able to remove and replace them as the need arises, without worrying about leaving your system empty.