Aquaponics… What an original word.
But contrary to appearances, the term “aquaponics” does not designate a derivative of the word “aquaponics”.
According to the FAO website, aquaponics is “a smart fish-based solution for producing food using limited resources and little water”.
Concretely, what does this mean?
Aquaponics actually includes two types of culture: aquaculture and hydroponics. :
Aquaponics, therefore, makes it possible to raise fish and cultivate plants at the same time, all with the fewest possible resources.
Bacteria transform the ammonia contained in fish waste into nitrate. This element makes it possible to nourish the plants which are then responsible for cleaning the water received, which returns to the fish basin.
But then, how to start in aquaponics when you know nothing about it?
Let’s do a little overview to understand why this system is useful and how to use it for your food autonomy
On Amazon, you can find tons of aquaponics equipment if you are interested in getting started with this.
Understand the importance of aquaponics in food self-sufficiency
Significant water savings
As we have seen several times on this blog, being able to feed yourself is one of the major pillars of autonomy.
The first way we think of producing food is obviously the vegetable garden.
The thing is that a vegetable garden is quite energy-intensive in water, and in autonomy, water is a precious and essential commodity that should not be neglected.
Aquaponics saves 95% of water compared to growing in soil. It is enormous!
Indeed, an aquaponic system does not need to be watered every day, because it replenishes itself.
It works cyclically. The water used is that contained in the fish basin.
It does not need to be changed because the plants purify it.
The only water losses are those caused by evaporation and plant transpiration.
Other resource savings
In the beginning, you may need to supply yourself with materials to set up your aquaponics system.
But once it’s set up, the only resources you’ll have to spend will be fish food and electricity.
And again, when you know that such a system requires spending only €1 per month on average, the price becomes ridiculous.
You also don’t need to buy fertilizer because the fish droppings are enough to feed the plants.
Basically, you buy food for your fish who take care of producing food for plants thanks to these same foods!
Better quality food
You see that all these advantages are a good reason to have an aquaponics system at home.
What’s more, you produce twice as much food as with a simple vegetable garden because you can very well eat the fish you raise.
It has also been proven that plants grown in aquaponics have a 15% higher yield than plants growing in hydroponics. They also grow faster, and it turns out they also taste better.
This is however due to the fact that the aquaponics system is completely natural. Your vegetables will also taste better in the garden if you use natural fertilizer.
Determine where to place your aquaponics system
Place your aquaponic system according to the lighting
The place of its aquaponic system must be carefully considered. You need to place your system in a strategic location.
Often when we talk about growing plants, we think of light. This is why your pools should preferably be in a place with sufficient light during the day.
If you have a garden, this is the best. Place your system away from shadows and away from trees.
On the other hand, if you live in an apartment, it is best to have a balcony. Otherwise, you can always invest in artificial lighting, which is more expensive but just as effective.
However, there are exceptions with plants that need more shade, endives for example.
Place your aquaponic system according to the climate
Another criterion to take into account for the location of its aquaponics system is the climate.
Indeed, some vegetables do not grow in winter. This is the case with tomatoes, for example. You will need to be able to bring your system indoors in the cold season, in your garage or veranda if you have one.
It may be a good idea to invest in a removable system on wheels to do this.
But the best investment to make is undoubtedly the construction of an aquaponic greenhouse.
Your plants and fish are thus protected from bad weather and harsh climatic conditions in winter while benefiting from sunlight at the same time.
Choose plants to grow and fish to raise
For smaller aquaponic systems, there are aquarium-bred goldfish. In general, they are used to grow aromatic herbs due to their small size. This system has its place in apartments or small spaces.
For a more substantial system, prefer other fish such as tilapia, perch, carp, trout, or even zander. These specimens will allow you to grow many vegetables.
Tilapia is a fish that can produce high-quality plants. It is also recommended for vegetables that are difficult to grow such as carrots or potatoes. In addition, it reproduces very quickly, which is useful for a good meat yield.
On the other hand, avoid the black bass, which is a very aggressive fish according to some.
You can grow a wide variety of plants through aquaponics.
This can range from aromatic herbs as mentioned above:
- the Basilic ;
- chives ;
- coriander ;
With leafy green vegetables:
- the salad ;
- leeks ;
- spinach ;
Tender vegetables are the easiest to grow. Among them we can have:
- tomatoes ;
- zucchini ;
- the eggplants.
But also hard-fleshed vegetables like:
- carrots ;
- turnips ;
Do you see? The choice is huge. You will inevitably find what you are looking for in this non-exhaustive list.
Build a simple system to get started in aquaponics
There are three types of aquaponic systems:
- substrate culture systems
- nutrient film techniques (NFT) (the substrate is replaced by pipes as in hydroponics)
- floating cultures (DWC)
For our system, we will focus on the first type: the substrate culture system also called culture bed with tide tables.
The principle is simple.
Simply place your plants in a basin and cover the roots with the substrate. This will filter the water that enters the pool.
To build your aquaponics system you will need materials. You can find the required parts on the Internet, but the cheapest will be to hunt in flea markets, from individuals or even from your neighbours.
Building something with recycled material is still the best for an accomplished autonomist!
Here are the materials needed for a simple aquaponic system:
- a basin for your fish: the base of the base. It can be an aquarium for smaller spaces, a barrel, a barrel or a tank for larger ones. The 1000 litre EPDM tanks are known for their perfect sealing and great consistency.
- a culture bed: it must have a minimum depth of 30 cm. It can be made with recovery ponds there too that you will prune depending on the amount of plants you will be growing.
- supports for the culture bed: concrete or wooden blocks will do.
- a water pump: must be able to renew the water every hour
- an air pump: brings oxygen to the water and therefore to the fish
- substrate: clay balls are the best choice in terms of substrate because they have a neutral pH and promote good development of bacteria
- a siphon-bell: it controls the water level for an optimal tidal system (the roots are in the air than in the water by rolling).
- pipes: the choice is yours. Pipes must connect each component to the other. Take different sizes to try and see what fits best.
- pass-throughs: they allow a pipe to be connected to a tank and reinforce the sealing of the system.
And There you go. You now have everything you need to build your aquaponics system.
Remember on Amazon, you can find everything you need.
It should be noted that this system is suitable for the most resourceful, DIY enthusiasts or those who are motivated to do everything themselves.
There are aquaponic kits on the market designed for beginners with a user manual.
It can be a good start to practice.
Maintaining your aquaponics system
Now that your system is built, you now need to maintain it daily.
Feed your fish
Already, you need to feed your animals with quality food adapted to each species.
Avoid buying food made from industrial flour.
It is very bad for the fish.
Always take natural food.
If you have a pond or a small pond, you can take advantage of it to grow duckweed, which has the particularity of being very nutritious.
And how can we talk about fish food without talking about worms, often used as bait by fishermen?
Namely that you can recover the worms from your compost or your garden for a 100% ecological approach.
Maintain good water quality
Finally, you need to monitor the water quality to ensure the longevity of your aquaponics system.
Several parameters must be taken into account:
- the pH of the water: must be between 6 and 7
- temperature: between 18 and 30 degrees
- nitrogen content
- oxygen level
This may scare you, but test kits exist to perform these measurements.
Finally, monitor your plants, and in case of suspicion of disease, act accordingly.