Aquaponics is the practice of raising fish and vegetables together in a symbiotic relationship by using the fish waste to fertilize the plants. In early April, I posted about my beginning adventures in making my own Aquaponics system. To learn more about Aquaponics and my plan for building a system, check out the article here.
If you’re curious about Aquaponics, you may be wondering what materials you’d need to set up your own system. As I build my own, I’ll keep you up to date on what you need to have and how to build your own.
Materials to grow vegetables:
- Fish Tank
- Grow Beds
- Growing Media
- Water Pump(s)
- Supply of piping, valves, & fittings
- An Aquarium Water Test Kit
- Proper type & number of fish
Most of the materials I am using have been salvaged for free or close to it. I am building my system inside a greenhouse that I am constructing to allow for four-season growing and to keep predators away from the fish.
The tank must be large enough to fill all of your grow beds and still have plenty of water for the fish. The water will return from the grow beds into this tank so make sure it has the capacity to not overflow. You can try using a repurposed, above ground, soft side swimming pool with a filter/pump to filter out the solid waste and supply water to the grow beds. Or, what I’m planning to do, use three Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBC) holding 300 gallons of water each.
I am using salvaged (free) plastic 55-gallon barrels that are cut in half lengthwise. Make sure you cut them so that each half will have a bung or filler hole at the bottom of the radius in the center. This will allow the water to drain out of the grow bed on the off cycle.
You can use commercial clay ball media (such as Hydrocorn or other clay pebbles), pea gravel (this is what I will use), or one of the many other types of grow media. There is a lot of information about the different types on the internet. Learn more about grow media from Backyard Aquaponics, Aquaponic Gardening, and Home Aquaponics System.
You will need a water pump, or pumps, depending on the design of your system. There are many inexpensive types out there in either 12-volt DC or 120-volt AC house current. You want enough water flow to be able to fill your grow beds in a short amount of time but not flood them out.
Plumbing fixtures and piping:
You will need enough PVC pipe and fittings to connect the grow beds together, carry the water to all of them and also drain it back to the fish tank. This amount is dependent on how your system is designed. I will list what it takes for mine as the construction progresses.
Aquarium Water Test Kit:
You will need this to determine the amount of ammonia and PH levels in the water to make sure it is at a tolerable level for both the fish and the plants.
This has to be a choice based on your climate conditions. For instance, Tilapia is a favorable choice as they are prolific breeders, but they are very intolerant of cool water temperatures. Catfish, on the other hand, tolerate almost any temperature and are able to survive in low-oxygen environments; however, they will not breed in a tank unless it is large and has some type of nesting box to use. I will be using both Bullhead Catfish and Hybrid Bluegill as stocked fish in my system. The thing to remember is that the ratio of fish to water is critical. The ratio I will be using is 1 pound of fish to 10 gallons of water. This means 1 pound of fish at MATURITY to 10 gallons of water. You may get away with 100 fingerling fish to begin with, but they will have to be thinned out as they grow or they will die of oxygen depletion.
I will stop here for now, and pick up next time with design and construction of an Aquaponics system.
See ya'll next time!
Check out the rest of our Aquaponics Series:
"Aquaponic Gardening: What is it? (Part One)"
Photo of Media Filled Beds Courtesy of Backyard Aquaponics