With an aquaponics system, you can cultivate both freshwater fish and a variety of vegetables and herbs. An aquaponics system works by circulating water from a fish cultivating tank to vegetable grow beds. The water then flows back to the fish tank. It is a self-contained system that continually recycles water. Aquaponics are beneficial both for fish and plants. The wastewater from the fish tank is pumped to the grow bed and filtered, where it adds a high level of nitrogen to the plants. Nitrogen feeds the roots of the plants which dangle in the filtered water. The plants themselves are lodged in a clay or gravel bed. From there, the water pours back into the fish tank, completing the cycle. This process produces lush, leafy greens, herbs and other vegetables in as little as half the time it takes for them to grow in the ground. It also uses less water than conventional growing methods. You can purchase a ready-made aquaponics system kit or build your own.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Susan Patterson adds, "Many communities offer aquaponic classes for beginners."
Aquaponics System Kit
While commercial-scale aquaponics systems are very pricey, everything you need to get started is there. This includes the fish tank, grow bed, an electric pump, tubing for water transport, a water heater, material to hold the plants and pH test strips. The advantage to a complete kit is that everything you need is included. Aside from the labor involved in installing it, there is no running around for this and that part. A system kit will also include step-by-step instructions on the proper setup of the aquaponic cultivation system.
TIP: Susan suggests, "Check regularly to be sure that your fish and your plants are thriving."
Homemade Aquaponics System
A homemade system gives you the same result, except you build it yourself by piecing together the component parts. The advantage here is that you are able to adjust the size and scope of the system according to the available space. The principles involved in putting together a homemade aquaponics system are flexible enough to allow for many different sizes and methods. In terms of instruction, online you will find easy directions for building your own system. Another advantage of doing it yourself is that you can modify the system in any way you wish, increasing filtration, grow bed size or fish tank capacity. Depending on the type of fish you cultivate, the temperature and nutritional content of the system will fluctuate.
TIP: Susan recommends, "It is always best to start with a small aquaponic system."
Aquaponics System Kit vs doing it Yourself
If you do it yourself and use as many recycled materials as possible, you will undoubtedly spend less than you will for a complete system kit. On the other hand, if you want an aquaponic system that is larger than a kit provides, you may end up spending more. Both systems requires a certain amount of energy for the pump and heater. You can modify the heater to run on solar power, but the pump will require electricity. A system kit provides you with clear directions and all you need to get started, but considering the adjustability of the technology, a homemade system lets you create your own unique biosystem.