Are you wondering how you can create your own DIY backyard aquaponics setup? Are you interested in growing organic fruit and vegetables? You know you can produce ten times the plants in half amount the time it would typically take. All this in a “garden” that never needs weeding, has no soil pests, and requires no fertilizer or compost!
A Short History of Aquaponics
Historians believe the Aztecs grew crops on elevated beds in shallow lakes. They would then dredge the surrounding canals and use the collected natural bio-waste to irrigate their crops. These historians also think that South China and Thailand experimented with aquaponics. These civilizations raised fish in their rice paddies hundreds of years ago.
And this is the secret of aquaponics; the system uses the natural creation of biological waste from fish and their environment to fertilize plants. This method is 100% organic and contributes to healthier and more robust plants. Aquaponics can create harvests ten times greater than an ordinary soil garden.
Why Backyard Aquaponics Works.
We can adapt the same principles used by the Aztecs so long ago to our own backyard gardens. This means we can share in the abundant 100% organic harvests produced by aquaponic gardens.
We do have to make some minor modifications to our normal soil backyard garden to implement aquaponics.
How Backyard Aquaponics Works.
First, we remove soil from the equation. Along with the soil, we remove many soil-borne pests, thus eliminating toxic pesticides).
Next, we create a simple hydroponic system with elevated beds or tables like the Aztecs did, to contain our garden. You grow the plants in a medium that is common to hydroponics but different than soil. This medium includes zero nutrients on its own.
By introducing fish to our setup, we create a symbiotic relationship between the plants and the fish. Therefore, this produces a nearly self-sustaining environment.
Basically, what we do is this:
- Use a tank or small man-made pond to contain the fish.
- Use the water from the fish tank to irrigate the plant tables periodically.
The plants filter out and use the nutrients in the water that are produced by the fish. The water now cleansed of the bio-waste nutrients. While good for the plants, high doses of these nutrients are harmful to the fish. We then return the clean water to the fish tank.
Now we have a simple cyclical organic system which we can use to efficiently grow plants, fruits, and vegetables. This can produce 10x the normal soil garden harvest, in our very own backyard aquaponics garden.
What do you need to set up an aquaponics system?
The basic items that you require to set up an aquaponics system are:
- A fish tank – perhaps not in the traditional sense of the word
- Fish – tilapia and perch are the fish traditionally used in aquaponics
- Piping to allow the water to move through the Aquaponics system
- Growth medium to “plant” your fruit and vegetables
- A pump (optional) to pump the water through the Aquaponics system
Although it is possible to purchase an Aquaponics system kit, you may have most of the components required lying around at home, after all if you want to save money by growing your own fruits and vegetables you do not want to outlay a fortune on creating the system to grow them in!
Which fruits and vegetables can you grow using Aquaponics?
You can literally grow any fruit, vegetable or herb in your aquaponic system. Leafy green vegetables, in particular, grow well in the hydroponic subsystem. But you can also raise Chinese cabbage, lettuce, spinach, basil, tomatoes, okra, beans, peas, capsicum, kohlrabi, watercress, radishes, strawberries, melons, onions, turnips, parsnips, sweet potato and herbs such as mint, basil, parsley, and cilantro. Some people have even been able to grow large fruit trees – but this requires a deeper amount of growing medium than other produce.
Which fish should you use for your Aquaponics?
You can use fish, crayfish or prawns in your aquaponic system. You can use these solely to provide nutrients for the vegetables and /or to eat. The fish used by most aquaponic farmers are Silver Perch, Goldfish, Koi, Barramundi, Jade or Tilapia.
An aquaponics system consists of a tank, bath or another container which is where the fish live and another container in which the plants grow. Water from the fish tank is pumped through the plants feeding and hydrating them and then returns to the fish tank. The fish feed the plants and the plants clean the water creating a totally symbiotic relationship that requires little maintenance, little space and compared to “normal” gardening very little water.
The “growing medium” for the plants varies depending on which aquaponic system you choose to use:
- Deep-water raft aquaponics: uses styrofoam rafts which float in deep tanks
- Recirculating or closed loop aquaponics: uses gravel or clay beads which sit in a container and is flooded with water from the fish tank
- Reciprocating, flood and drain or ebb and flow aquaponics: the plants are grown in soil in pots that are flooded then drained
Now that you know more about aquaponics, you may be inspired to create a DIY backyard aquaponics systems! To learn more, look up aquaponic forums or aquaponic videos on Youtube. There are plenty to watch.
This could be a great way to change your life – grow your own fresh, organic vegetables – improve your diet, lose some weight and get healthy!