All About Aquaponic Gardening: The Essentials You Need to Know

There is truly so much fun and pleasure in growing lush plants and hardy fish via aquaponics gardening system.

Aquaponic Gardening, in a Nutshell

Aquaponic Gardening, in a NutshellHow the name aquaponics has come about. The term aquaponics is coined from the words “aquaculture,” the method of cultivation and nurturing of water organisms under structured and measured conditions, and “hydroponics,” the technique of growth and development of plant life in liquid solutions with other media while containing dissolved organic nutrients instead of the conventional gardening and landscaping which entirely uses ground soil.

Aquaponics makes use of grow beds with different media where you can grow your choice of fish and other aquatic animals, and floral plants and green herbs. It does not require special or synthetic fertilizing in that there is an all-natural and organic production cycle of nutrients between the fish and the plants mutually benefitting both species. Neither does aquaponics need taking out of bad weeding or bending.

The aquaponic gardening system: the grow bed and the media. The grow bed is filled with media. The media refers to the significant supporting structure underneath the grow bed. The media, which can be used in a grow bed, can be expanded clay rocks and other clay pellets, gravel, lava rock or pumice stone, or sand, among several other types of terrain minerals.

The aquatic gardening system: how it works. Basically, the plants being grown by way of an aquaponic gardening system draw their needed nourishment from the nutrients in the grow bed waters.

These nutrients are derived from the conversion of ammonia which comes with the waste products of the fish into nitrates that serve as a natural source of fertilizer for the plants. The conversion of ammonia into nitrates is also referred to as the nitrogen cycle which is performed by the bacteria inhabiting the surface of the grow bed media.

This process, in turn, cleanses and purifies the grow bed waters for the fish so they are nurtured as much as the plants which they sustain.

There are a couple of types of aquaponic gardening systems. However, in this article, we shall focus on the most commonly utilized aquaponic gardening system, that is the media filled beds.

Later on, we shall discuss the basics of other aquaponic system types. For now, let us delve more deeply into the media filled beds and the basic components necessary in its setup and maintenance.

Media Filled Beds: The Most Commonly Utilized Aquaponic Gardening System

Starting out with the Media Filled Bed Aquaponics Gardening System

Starting out with the Media Filled Bed Aquaponics Gardening SystemThe reason behind the popularity and preference of media filled beds in aquaponics is their simplicity in term of setup and maintenance.

The cycling system: The cycling system refers to the setup and establishment of good and beneficial bacteria populations in the media which you picked to use underneath the grow bed.

Before starting out with any long term plans involving the actual growth of plants and steady placement of fish, it is important for you to make sure there is enough reproduction of the beneficial bacteria in your aquaponics system.

The cycling system: seeding technique. You may ensure sufficient growth of these needed bacteria by utilizing an aquarium filtration unit to collect and transmit them into the aquaponics system. This technique is called seeding.

However, if you do not have an aquarium filter to use or you simply choose not to use any and allow for the beneficial bacteria to establish themselves and produce naturally, you may certainly do so. Although you need to understand the process of settling of bacteria can take a little more time if you choose the method of natural cycling.

The cycling system: natural method. If you choose the method of natural cycling for your aquaponics system, you should have a test kit which is a device especially fashioned to measure the levels of pH, ammonia, and nitrates in the grow bed waters.

As well, it is recommended you leave your aquaponics system running empty for a day or two in order to guarantee the system is to work out correctly without leaking or showing any signs of impending issues which may surface in the future.

The Operation of the Media Filled Bed Aquaponic Gardening SystemProperly preparing your aquaponics system: Once you have made certain your aquaponics system is working well, you can then begin to introduce fish into the grow bed. You need this guarantee because you will not want to perform repairs or modifications in your system after you have totally started using it.

Stopping during the operation of the media filled bed aquaponic gardening system can damage it, interfere with the exponential growth of bacteria population in the media, and even harm the fish. So you must avoid this at all costs.

The Operation of the Media Filled Bed Aquaponic Gardening System

The operation of the media filled bed aquaponic gardening system may be run through three different ways, namely, the CHIFT-PIST or the “constant height in fish tank, pump in sump tank”, the simple flood and drain, and the constant flood methods.

The CHIFT-PIST or the “Constant Height in Fish Tank, Pump in Sump Tank” Method

The CHIFT-PIST or the Constant Height in Fish Tank, Pump in Sump Tank MethodThe CHIFT-PIST method may be considered the most popular amongst the operation of the media filled bed aquaponic gardening system, particularly in the sector of do-it-yourself aquaponics practitioners, although it may not be the easiest or simplest due to the additional equipment required. Presented here is the explanation.

In the CHIFT-PIST method, the extra equipment which you need are the water pump and the sump tank.

The water pump is used to transmit waters from the sump tank into the fish tank resulting in the elevation of the water level in the fish tank. This causes the waters to stream into the grow bed, which in turn, drains into the sump tank and then pumps the waters back into the fish’s tank again. A siphon (or the overflow pipe) is usually integrated into this aquaponics gardening system.

The Simple Flood and Drain Method, and the Constant Flood Method

In the simple flood and drain operation of the media filled bed aquaponic gardening system, you need a standpipe in the grow bed and a timer on the water pump.

The standpipe in the grow bed. The standpipe in the grow bed, which has two holes on its bottom end allowing for the flood and drain movement, is a key instrument in the simple flood and drain method.

The adjustment of the flooding level in the grow bed depends on the length of the standpipe. For instance, if you want to completely fill in the grow bed in order to pump out caterpillars and slugs, among other species of pests, you have to slip in a standpipe that is longer than usual.

The CHIFT-PIST or the Constant Height in Fish Tank, Pump in Sump Tank MethodOn the other hand, if the height of the media at the bottom of your grow bed lowers over time, you can then shorten the length of the standpipe to trim down on the flood level in the bed.

The timer on the water pump. The timer on the water pump, in the simple flood and drain method, guarantees the cycling system or pattern of your aquaponic gardening system runs adequately. Otherwise, you may run the risk of stressing the fish in the grow bed and overly saturating the plant roots due to excessive inflow of waters.

The constant flood method. The constant flood operation of the media filled bed aquaponic gardening system is basically the same with the simple flood and drain method. The only difference lies in the absence of a timer in the constant flood technique. The method is named so because the flooding and draining action is continuous from the fish tank to the grow bed.

The constant flood method requires less maintenance owing to its self-reliant properties. Although it is necessary the air flow aeration system in this method of aquaponic gardening is absolutely suitable and reliable so the plant roots and the fish are sufficiently supplied with oxygen.

Fish Stocking: The Right Number of Fish in a Given Aquaponic Gardening System, and the Best Species of Fish and Their Importance in Aquaponics

ish in a given aquaponic gardening system.No aquaponic gardening system is equal and neither are the environmental conditions surrounding it the same.

The right number of fish in a given aquaponic gardening system: Ultimately, the number of fish to be placed in an aquaponics system depends on the many factors. These considerations include the size and height of the grow bed, the number of plants which you want to grow, the species of fish which you choose, the water temperature and its rate of pumping and inflow, and the nitrogen cycle, among numerous other circumstances.

However, for the purpose of setting forth a guideline which can serve as your yardstick, let us take a 500-liter media of 15-inch deep grow bed as an example. In this particular case, a fish stocking of around 15 to 20 fish is recommended. You may refer to this benchmark as you set about experimenting with your own aquaponics gardening system.

The important role of fish in aquaponics: In general though, smaller fish stocking makes the aquaponics system more resilient whenever some aspects of the system go wrong. As well, a lighter fish stocking cuts down on the risks of system mistakes and leaks and on the level of stress for the fish.

This leads to more lush and healthier plant development. This is the reason why carefully considering your fish stocking and meticulously nurturing them are crucial. Your fish stocking is basically the heart and source of power of your aquaponics system.

Some of the best species of marine animals for aquaponics. When it comes to the selection of species of fish for aquaponics, you certainly have a lot. Some of the most commonly utilized and popular fish for aquaponics include catfish, tilapia, koi, barramundi, goldfish, and trout, among the nearly endless variety of choices available out there.

The other aquatic animals which can be used in an aquaponic system are the fresh water prawns and the freshwater mussels. These two are great filter-feeders and therefore do an excellent job of contributing to clearing and cleansing the grow bed waters.

The Other Aquaponic Gardening Systems

The Nutrient Film Technique or NFT

The Nutrient Film Technique or NFT

In the Nutrient Film Technique or NFT system, tiny enclosed gutters are used to pump down a very small amount of water rich in minerals and nutrients into the grow bed wherein the plants are placed in small plastic containers. Due to this feature of the system, the NFT is the best fitting for smaller species of plants and not larger plants with roots that may tend to be too invasive or too heavy for the rather lightweight gutters supporting them.

The Deep Water Culture or DWC

The deep water culture or DWC system is done by floating the plants directly atop the grow bed waters suspending their roots down the liquid. There is also the need for a foam panel to float atop the fish tank. As well, a filtration unit is mandatory in the DWC system through which the waters are pumped into the grow bed letting the plants on the surface of the grow bed waters absorb their needed nutrients.

Protecting Your Aquaponic Gardening System

Power safety comes first at all times and should be ensured at all costs. Any parts of the aquaponics system that utilizes electric power must be protected with a residual current device. You should make sure these electrical components in the aquaponics system will not be knocked down into the grow bed waters or the fish tank.

Also, keep your aquaponic gardening system away from small kids who might play with the fish pellets and feed them into the system harming your fish and plants.

Then, There Is Your Own Safety, Too

Protecting Your Aquaponic Gardening SystemFor the most part, it is also about the electrically powered items in the aquaponics system. Whenever you immerse your hands into the fish tank or grow bed waters, say, for the purpose of cleaning or just performing your regular yard work, be sure that these electrical items such as the pumps and filters are turned off.

With all this information, you can now enjoy aquaponics and care for your own aquaponics system with confidence, and you can practically grow any species of foliage and succulents – from florets to shrubs to trees even, through aquaponics.