Aquaponics as A Way of Conceiving a Controlled Growing Environment
Aquaponics gardening is a great way to grow your vegetables. The theory is very simple and very basic. It starts out by taking a plot of soil and eliminating the natural habitat and the natural cycles that exist there.
The soil is tuned upside down and most of the life forms are killed in an attempt to eliminate the pests like weeds and the other plants that lived there. Then we plant plants there that usually don’t belong there, and try to nourish them while preventing nature from taking the land back.
Without natural systems to nourish the plants, we have to do it ourselves. We add large amounts of water and fertilizer into the ground so the plants can absorb a small fraction of it. Most of it is wasted by leaching into the soil and through evaporation. Then next year we turn the soil upside down and start over again.
This method works just fine. In fact, we have been growing food this way for a long time. But it is a lot of work that has to be repeated over and over with a great amount of labor and expense.
No-till methods and other permaculture methods have been developed as a way to work more with nature, but they are still working against what nature would naturally do with the land, and they too can be labor-intensive and often more difficult on a large scale.
Aquaponics is a way to create a controlled environment where a natural system is created and maintained. It eliminates the fight with soil and soil pests and the natural habitat, and allows focus to be put on actually growing fish and plants.
When you set up an aquaponics system you start with a blank slate and create an environment that will best serve your crops. Using the technology and knowledge we have, we create a simple but effective biological system.
A system that takes care of itself in a lot of ways, the way nature does in the wild. This allows the ability to create an intensive growing environment where many times more plants can be grown in a smaller space.
With aquaponics, when plants are done producing, you don’t have to till everything under and start all over. Instead this is a system where life is continually in balance and new plants are replanted to replace the old ones that have completed their cycle, without disturbing the habitat. Instead of having problems with depleting soil, a well-run aquaponics system will become more productive over time as it matures.
The aquaponics plants utilize the waste materials from the fish, which makes for healthy plants and which grow faster than by any other way. As the plants use the waste they filter the water and provide a healthy environment for the fish.
There is very little waste in this system as even if you should over feed your fish, the plants will make use of the nutrients to help them grow. Although over-feeding your fish is not really a good idea and you will learn soon enough, just how much food they will eat.
Should you want to raise and breed a freshwater variety of fish the aquaculture way in an enclosed environment; you will be wasting quite a lot of water in order to keep the water in the condition that creates a healthy environment for the fish.
For example if you had a 2000 liter tank you would have to remove about 200 liters every day or the ammonia and nitrate levels would build up to a dangerous level for the fish. This amounts to about 6000 liters of water over each and every month.
With the aquaponics system there is very little water use. In fact, it even uses a lot less than normal gardening or even with a hydroponic system.
Fish and Vegetables
With aquaponics, you need to grow both fish and plants and you need to balance your system, so that both the fish and the plants stay healthy. Don’t worry when your water turns an amber color, just the opposite. When your water turns an amber color, it shows that you are doing things right.
Start off small to gain experience. It is very easy to add to an existing setup. A setup does not need to cost much. You can buy an expensive start-up kit, but to build your own can be done quite cheaply.
Just a hole in the ground, which you can then line with a vinyl material, is quite suitable for a fish tank. Or just a strong timber frame lined with the same material.
Fish Need Oxygen
Fish need oxygen and so you need a small air pump. Preferable one with two outlets, but these are pretty cheap. You will also need a pump to get the water to the grow bed. Again this is not an expensive item.
Examples on how to master aquaponics and to build your own tank is shown in the manual described in this blog post, with photos and videos showing you some tanks made from recycled materials.