July 24, 2012

What Is Aquaponics?

Aquaponics is the use of hydroponics and aquaculture to grow vegetables through a fish production in containments.

This is a local food source of growing your own vegetables and that also supplies you with a clean source of locally grown fish.

It is used commercially in places such as Australia and Canada. But can be easily set up in a back yard, basement or greenhouse.

Aquaponics appears to be an easy step after learning about water gardening. You have your fish containment circulating through a filter system that just happens to be growing vegetables. Much of the knowledge needed for keeping fish and water quality are already embedded in your brain from keeping a water garden.

We know plants and bacteria keep the water garden balanced. Biological filtration keeps koi ponds healthy. Wetland systems are used extensively for cleaning up grey water (waste water) using plant material in filtration. WE have for a long time advocated the use of vegetable filters or bog filters for easily maintaining water quality in our water gardens. Many water gardens that use the bog filters are already employing them to grow their seasonal vegetables. And with great success!

One difference from the water gardener to the Aquaponic gardener is the type of fish cultivated. Most water gardeners use decorative fish in the gardens. And become quite attached to them. Although you could still use koi and goldfish in your system, most Aquaponics use a food fish. These fish will require planning for their growing season. Some food fish such as tilapia are tropical and will require water temperatures of 68 degrees. Smaller holding facilities can utilize an aquarium heater. Others may prefer to grow fish only during the summer months. Also these fish will have to be cultivated or harvested. Most people might be squeamish to harvest some fish they have been growing since they were fry. Selling the harvested fish to others would require adhering to local and state regulations.

So how easy is this? Setting up a fish tank that circulates water through a growing bed of vegetable plants.

I have used the rule of thumb from Sylvia Bernstein’s “Aquaponic Gardening.”

Bernstein started originally with hydroponics ,and was introduced to Aquaponics by her partner in the production of the hydroponic. AeroGarden. When she saw the logistics of Aquaponics she was hooked. There is no need for added nutrients like the ones used in hydroponics to grow plants. The fish waste from the holding tank is converted to the necessary nutrients for your vegetables by the bacteria growing on the growing media just like in the biological filter for the koi pond. Bernstein originally started to blog about her experience in Aquaponics . The forum lead to creating a book about the knowledge passed back and forth through the on line Aquaponic community. Although by her book it looks like she has made many of the mistakes we water gardeners have already come across. Such as flooding the fish tank with chlorinated water. Killing both fish and bacteria. Like I said this is easy for someone who have owned a water garden before.

For those of us who love to garden and grow our own vegetables but are not into digging holes, weeding, watering or mulching Aquaponics may be the answer.