Growing your own crops, free of pesticide and chemicals, has never been easier than this.
With aquaponics gardening, you can do so easily in your backyard or even literally in the comfort of your own home if you decide to set up an indoor aquaponics garden!
As the symbiosis between the fish, plants and nitrifying bacteria is doing most of the work, your aquaponics system is practically self-regulating and requiring minimal maintenance.
Aquaponics gardening saves you heaps of time and effort compared to the traditional soil-based gardening.
With aquaponics gardening, you are now able to combine the joys of gardening and rearing fish, without compromising your social, working and family life!
After your system has been set up and running, all you need is just a few minutes a day to tend to the plants and fish! No more dirty hands, back pains from bending actions, tedious weeding or worries about pests!
It is perfect for a lazy gardener like me. In fact, I’m sure it will be so easy that even your kids will be eager to get involved.
Here Is A Preview of The Tasks To Be Expected In Aquaponics Gardening:
1. Visual inspection of your aquaponics garden
You will need to perform simple visual checks to ensure that the system is running smoothly, including the filters and water clarity, pumps and aerators.
Make sure that the water circulation between the grow beds and fish tanks is flowing normally.
Also, do pay attention to the water levels in the tanks and top up if necessary, especially during the summer.
2. Monitor water quality and temperature
Water quality is crucial to the success of aquaponics gardening. You will need to check on the pH of the water at least 3-4 times a week.
The pH levels should be maintained as close to neutral as possible, preferably in the range of pH 6.8-7. This pH range is in fact a compromise to the optimal range for the plants, fish and bacteria.
TIP: If pH falls below optimal, you can alternate between using calcium hydroxide and potassium carbonate or potassium hydroxide. Both calcium and potassium are important minerals for healthy plant growth. To bring down the pH levels, you can use pH regulators for hydroponics. Avoid using aquarium pH regulators as they may contain sodium, which are detrimental to plants.
The water you use should also be free of chlorine and chemicals. You wouldn’t want the bacteria colonies to be killed off by the chlorine, would you?
Therefore, if you are using municipal water, you will need to leave it in a separate tank for 2 to 3 days to let the chlorine vaporize off before adding the water to your fish tanks.
To speed things up, you can try aerating the chlorinated water.
You should also monitor the water temperature using a submersible thermometer to ensure that water in the fish tank is keep stable and within the optimal range of your fish.
Depending on where you stay, you might need additional heating and insulation to do so.
3. Ensuring sufficient oxygen supply
If you see your fish swimming close to the water surface to grasp for air, you can be pretty sure that there is a lack of dissolved oxygen in your system. But you wouldn’t want to wait till then to so something about it as it could be too late…
You will need either a simple aeration device or air pump to ensure that there is sufficient supply of dissolved oxygen in the tanks for the fish to thrive. This is due to the high density of fish in the aquaponics tank.
Moreover, the nitrifying bacteria converting the toxic ammonia waste into nitrites and nitrates also consume oxygen in the process.
Different species of fish have different requirements; hence you will need to choose the suitable device based on the fish you intend to rear.
IMPORTANT: Do have a backup battery-operated aerator or generator that is independent of the main power supply. This ensures that air can be continually pumped into the water to keep the fish alive, even in cases of contingency.
4. Feeding of fish
Feeding your fish is probably one of the most enjoyable daily tasks in aquaponics gardening. You will need to feed them 1-2 times a day but the good news is that you do not have to do so at regular timings.
If you want to automate the process, you can even do so with the use of relatively inexpensive auto-feeders.
You can feed the fish with commercial feeds, worms that you grow yourself or purchase, or even scraps of food.
If you notice that the fish are not eating, this is a sign that they are stressed. It could be that they are too cold, too hot or lacking in oxygen.
So you will need to check the various system parameters to identify the root cause.
5. Pruning, supporting and harvesting plants from your aquaponics garden
As a dedicated aquaponics gardener, you will still need to check on your plants daily as well as prune, provide support or harvest them when necessary.
But aquaponics gardening chores are now much simpler and confined to waist-level activities, compared to the often back-aching soil-based gardening chores.
6. Regular harvesting of fish and stocking of new fish if necessary
The good news about aquaponics gardening is that it allows you to regularly harvest the fish that has grown big enough.
You do not have to wait till the entire batch of fish grows big enough to harvest them all at the same time.
In fact, it is not advisable to do so as it is essential that you do not exceed the optimal stocking density.
Similarly, you might have to stock new fish when the fish population have gone below the optimal stocking density.
7. Net some fish for visual health check
You should regularly net some fish to check on their state of health. In order not to spread diseases among the fish population, you should consider having a separate tank to isolate the fish that have fallen sick.
Some aquaponics gardeners also add salt to their aquaponics system for disease control as salt acts as a natural anti-bacterial agent on the fish body.
You might want to do so too but note that you should be using only either pure sea salt or swimming pool salt… Never use table salt.
It is also important to add calculated amount of salt as different fish species have different level of tolerance and too much salt can also stunt plant growth.
So, if you are adding salt to your system, you will need a refractometer to monitor salt concentration in the tanks.
8. Clean all pipe works at least once a month
I must admit that this is not my favorite task in aquaponics gardening. But nevertheless, it is an important chore to ensure that your aquaponics system is able to run smoothly.
All pipe works should be cleaned at least once a month to avoid any blockage due to accumulation of algae, mosses or debris.
Hopefully the above tips and information on building your own backyard aquaponics has been useful. I’m sure that coupled with your daily attention and dedication as a gardener, your aquaponics garden will be flourishing.
However, to first get your aquaponics garden set up successfully, you will need a good set of aquaponics plans and DIY guide.
Find Out More…
I highly recommend you to check out Aquaponics 4 You by John Fay.
Not only does he provide step-by-step instructions, detailed diagrams and even videos to guide you through building and running your own DIY aquaponics garden successfully, he is also giving out bonus e-books on organic farming and healthy cooking!