Aquaponics 101

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Aquaponics 101

Post by Admin on Sat Mar 10, 2012 11:07 pm

Aquaponics 101

What is aquaponics? Perhaps the most useful explanation is a good definition.

Aquaponics is a sustainable food production
system that combines aquaculture with hydroponics
Aquaculture is raising aquatic animals such as fish,
crayfish or prawns in tanks. Hydroponics is cultivating
plants in water without soil using mineral nutrient solutions
Therefore Aquaponics is raising aquatic animals and cultivating plants in water

Aquaponics is a way to combine two food production systems into one system.
By doing this we get the advantages of both without the disadvantages,
and create a self sustaining, ecologically sound system that mirrors what
is found in nature. It is a complete cycle of symbiotic relationships.
The added mineral nutrients and the frequent water changes of Hydroponics
is eliminated.

The system, when in balance tends to stay in balance unless overloaded
or abused. Some minor adjustments are needed over time to keep the pH
balance and temperature extremes can affect plants and fish. After the
system is running 30-60 days it requires little attention or maintenance.

You need only a few fish to allow the system to produce lots of plants and
produce. For example, 250 gallons of water, with 10-15 pounds of fish, will
nourish 128 large normal garden plants or more.

An Aquaponic system consists of:
• Water
• Fish
• Plants
• Water circulation
• Aeration of the water
• Fish wastes
• Two key beneficial bacteria found everywhere
• Biology that converts Ammonia from fish into Nitrites and then Nitrates
• Mechanical filtration of the water
• Only minor additions of key ingredients, usually minerals to stabilize the pH
• No outside influences, fertilizers, or chemicals

The only ingredient you add regularly is fish food. The fish eat and
gain weight and reproduce. Their waste converts into fertilizer for the
plants and the plants clean the water for the fish. You can eat
the fish and the plants and even feed the plants not used back to the fish.
It is safe, natural, and very healthy. It is totally organic

Aquaponics dates back 1000s of years. The Aztec cultivated agriculture in
lake shallows and in China and Thailand fish were raised in rice fields that were flooded.

Chemicals cannot be sprayed onto the vegetables, because the fish will suffer.
Garden pests are kept to a minimum because the plants are off of the ground and
often kept in a green house. Because the plants have much nutrients, water, air,
and are kept at a more constant temperature, they tend to grow very healthy and
much faster. This makes them more bug and disease resistant.

To start up an Aquaponics system you need to remove harmful chemicals from the
water like chlorine or chloramine, avoid any elements like limestone or marble,
that changes the pH, and get the biology going. Getting the biology balanced
requires time for the good bacteria to start growing and for the system to get
in balance regarding pH, Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrates. This process is call “startup”
or “The Nitrogen Cycle” It takes from 30 to 60 days typically. During that time
you can be growing plants and if you are careful, even have your fish in the tank.
Many people do a “fishless startup” so there are less variables to watch and control,
then add the fish when the biology is balanced.

There is a lot of information to learn but none of it is hard to understand.
The hardest part of Aquaponics is changing your gardening paradigms and learning
to leave it alone, after it is biologically balanced.

The benefits of Aquaponics:
• Faster growing, higher density, healthier plants
• Ease of maintenance
• Little costs once established, just fish food and a mineral or two a few times a year
• Lots of beneficial birds, bugs, and bees
• Great home grown taste in produce
• Fresh fish
• Fragrant spices, herbs, and plants
• Amazing displays of mother nature

Bob Jordan


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