Types of Aquaponics Design
If you are thinking of setting up your own aquaponics system, one of the first decisions you need to make is the aquaponics design that you are adopting.
Whether you are planning to purchase a ready-made aquaponics system or a DIY guide to build it yourself, it is important that you understand the types of aquaponics setup available and which aquaponics system design suits you best. You can then determine if what you are getting from the manufacturer is what you really want.
Do not make the mistake of not knowing what you are paying for!
The design of aquaponics can be as simple or as complicated as you make it out to be. You can personalize the aquaponics setup based on your goals and constraints. However, the basics are simple.
Essentially, there are 3 main types of aquaponics system design – media-filled bed, deep water culture (or raft) and the nutrient film technique.
Media-filled bed can be considered to be the most common and simplest aquaponics design. This is typically the design adopted by most backyard aquaponics gardeners. In this design, plants are grown directly in a media-filled grow bed. The growth media used can be expanded clay or gravel. Water rich in nutrients (ammonia-rich waste and nitrates) are pumped from the fish tank to the media-filled grow bed. The media-filled bed aquaponics setup can be further subdivided into 2 configurations – continuous flow system and the flood and drain system (also known as ebb and flow system), based on the way the water is being re-circulated.
Deep water culture or raft is predominately used for commercial system as it is relatively inexpensive to set up and a wide variety of leafy vegetables and herbs can be grown. Holes are drilled on floating boards or foam rafts for the pots. The plants are then grown in these pots with their roots immersed in the water.
The raft can be simply floated directly on top of the fish tank. The more common approach, however, is to rear the fish in a separate tank, pump the nutrient-rich water through a filter and into long channels where rafts filled with plants are floated on the water surface to absorb the nutrients. Unfiltered water contains fish solids that may adhere to the plants roots, hence affecting their ability to absorb water and oxygen.
Nutrient film technique (also known as NFT aquaponics) is the least commonly practiced aquaponics system design. However, it is widely practiced for hydroponics.
Nutrient-rich water from the fish tank is pumped down small enclosed channels. In most NFT aquaponics setup, holes are being drilled along the length of medium-sized PVC pipes. Alternatively, second-hand gutters can be used. The amount of water trickling through the base of the channels is so small that it only forms a very thin film.
Smaller plants are grown in little pots or small plastic cups filled with grow medium, such as pebbles. The grow medium is then connected to the water with a piece of cloth so that the water will flow up. Larger plants such as lettuce can be suspended directly in the holes with their long roots directly in contact with the water.
The advantange of the NFT aquaponics design is that it is lightweight, durable and easily scalable.
It’s downside is that it is not suitable for growing all types of plants. It is generally suitable for green leafy vegetables but not for larger plants that have invasive root system or become too heavy for the light-weight channels. Moreover, the water from the aquaponics fish tanks needs to be filtered first before pumping into the channels as the solids may clog the plants’ roots and affect their ability to absorb water.
Which aquaponics design suits you?
Now that you have a better understanding of the basics of aquaponics design, do you have a better idea of which design suits you best?
Tip: If you have done some research or taken a look at some online forum, you might have realised that the simplest and most reliable aquaponics design has been proven to be the flood and drain configuration of the media-filled bed design. It requires minimal care and can be set up very easily using containers of a wide range of materials and sizes. Hence if you are a beginner to aquaponics, you might want to give it a shot!
Hopefully the information and tips on this page to be useful. However, this is still not enough for you to design and build your own backyard aquaponics system.
After deciding on the aquaponics design to adopt, you will still need to understand the various components of the selected aquaponics system and size your system. Sounds tough?
Find out more…
I highly recommend you to check out Aquaponics4you to find out more about the step-by-step guide to help you personalize, design, plan and build your own aquaponics system.
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