Are you thinking of setting up an aquaponic system? You don’t have to buy one, as you can learn how to make an aquaponic system easily.
It’s not really all that difficult to learn how to make an aquaponic system. While most systems are customized with various options, the basics of the system remain pretty much the same. If you already have a greenhouse, then you already have an ideal place for your system where you can keep it going the whole year round. So let’s tackle the various common components.
The Fish Tank
If you’ve seen a well-developed aquaponic system run by an experienced hobbyist, you may notice that it can be efficient enough to support a pound of fish for every gallon of water. But since you’re a newbie, you need some leeway so you can get the balance right. So at first, you should plan on stocking a single fish for every 10 gallons of water in the fish tank.
You don’t buy your standard fish aquarium for an aquaponic system. For most people, the best options are the 225-gallon square tank or the 55-gallon barrel tank. These are food-grade tanks that you can easily find recycled from the food industry. Just make sure these were used for something benign like soy sauce, and not for something toxic.
The Grow Bed
For your veggies, you need a container that’s water-resistant. You can buy these, or just build shallow wooden boxes that are 6 to 10 inches deep. Then you can line them with pond liner. The grow bed should have a grow area that’s 10 times your fish tank surface area.
Fill the grow bed with an inert growing medium. This can be just fine gravel, which is affordable but heavy. Perlite is another option, as it is lighter so the grow bed can be raised. Coco coir is the most expensive option, as it can retain moisture and air at the same time. Or you can mix all three in equal parts.
The Pump and the Hardware
The system requires the water to cycle between the fish tank and the grow bed. That requires a pump as well as piping. The pump is usually at the bottom. If the tank is above the grow bed, it collects the water that drains from the grow bed back into the tank on top. If the grow bed is on top, the pump is in the bottom of the tank and it spreads the water over the grow bed surface.
You’ll need several PVC pipes to distribute the water over the grow beds. Drill a 0.25-inch hole every 6 inches of the pipe, and then you can plant a seedling at each hole. You can then organize the grow beds so you have several pipes running parallel about 12 inches apart.
Finally, you need an aerator so you can ensure that your fish has enough oxygen in the tank.
Fish and Plants
You can start with tilapia, since they can grow quickly and they’re tolerant of less than perfect water conditions. But you need to maintain the temperature to within 70 to 90 degrees, so you’ll need a thermostat-controlled heater. You may also want to try catfish and yellow perch, which can tolerate cooler waters.
For the plants, start with lettuce or spinach. If you can harvest it as a leaf, then it’s a good choice for beginners.