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Aquaponics Basics

Jelena Maric
Agricultural Engineer

Aquaponics is a revolutionary way to grow plants and fish together. It uses the process of aquaculture to clean and circulate water through the system, while hydroponics is the cultivation of plants in water that has been enriched with mineral nutrients. These two methods work in tandem to create an ecosystem that benefits all living creatures involved. You can also produce a lot more food with less space, energy, and time when you use aquaponics.

This article will help you get started with aquaponic gardening for beginners - from choosing the right kit for your needs to successful, rewarding harvesting.

Starting Your Aquaponic Garden

Once you've decided to start an aquaponic garden, the first thing to do is select a kit that matches your needs. A lot of people are interested in starting with a small-scale setup because it's low-cost and easy to get started. The two most popular types of small kits for beginners are a water bottle system or a pallet system.

Depending on how much space you have available, you may want to research larger-scale systems that can produce more food. You can find all sorts of different kits and plans online for every skill level since even those who are just starting will want to get their feet wet with this revolutionary way of gardening.

How to choose the right aquaponics kit?

Every aquaponics kit is different, and which one is best for you will depend on your needs. For example, some kits come with everything you need to start your aquaponic garden right away, while others will require additional purchases.

When comparing prices, consider any additional materials needed and whether you could expand it in the future. Some kits are designed to grow a certain amount of plants, so if you want to expand your system in the future, it is important to choose a kit with room for growth.

An excellent place to compare various kits is on the Internet. You should also ask questions about any products before you buy them - this helps protect you from scams and ensure that you get just what you need.

Planting and Growing in Aquaponics

The first step in aquaponics is planting your seeds. It can be done just like in traditional gardening, but the major difference is that you will need to watch out for pests such as fungus. These pests you can control with vinegar or insecticides, but make sure to keep an eye on their presence.

Don't forget about fertilizing either - once a week is a good guideline. You don't want to over-feed your plants because if you feed them more than they need, the water will become polluted and harm the fish.

Now that your plants have grown, it's time to harvest. The key thing to remember here is that harvesting lettuce can take up to 4 weeks while harvesting tomatoes takes 2-3 weeks. Once you've decided what you want to harvest, all you need to do is cut off the leaves or fruit with a sharp knife before removing them from the system.

The Importance of Soilless Growing Media

One of the most crucial requirements for successful aquaponic gardening is soilless growing media. This can be achieved through one of two main methods: Gravel or Expanded Clay.

Gravel provides good mechanical support and drainage and has a low risk of disease transmission, while expanded clay has excellent air-water exchange and high water-holding capacity.

There are many other benefits of using these types of plants for your hydroponics systems:

  • Increased crop yield due to higher water availability,
  • Lower media temperatures reduce nutrient leaching
  • Increased carbon dioxide (CO2) levels accelerate plant growth

Understanding pH levels

A crucial first step in successfully establishing your aquaponic garden is understanding the pH level of your water. The pH level measures how acidic or alkaline a solution is based on what number it falls under on the scale.

A pH of around 7.0 to 8.0 will be ideal for most plants and fish, while a higher or lower pH can cause more damage than good.

The easiest way to test your water's pH level is by using litmus paper - you might want to order some litmus paper before beginning, as it will likely come in handy later on. To measure the pH level of your water, take a small strip of litmus paper (or several) and dip it into the water; if the strip turns red, the pH level is low, and if it turns blue, the pH level is high.

Nitrogen Cycle Dynamics


Photo Credit: www.ecolifeconservation.org

The nitrogen cycle is the process of converting nitrogen to nitrates and nitrites, and plants then use them. In aquaponics, this process is accelerated because fish excrete nitrogen as they feed.

The nitrogen cycle happens naturally in lakes and ponds. Hydroponic systems have a constant supply of nitrogen from the fish excretions and do not need additional water from a separate pond or lake added to maintain the cycle.

The nitrogen cycle in aquaponics occurs in three stages.

Nitrogen is the most important nutrient for plants and is used by plants to grow and produce energy. It is vital to plants because it combines with other elements such as oxygen and phosphorus to form proteins, which are the building blocks of organic cells. Plants use these proteins for growth and also use them in photosynthesis. In aquaponics, this nitrogen is the excretion of fish and is the only source of nitrogen for plants. Nitrogen from fish can convert into nitrates (NO 3 ) or nitrites (NO 2 ).

Nitrates can be used by crops directly or can be converted into ammonium (NH 4 ). This ammonium can then be used by crops as a source of nitrogen.

Crops for Aquaponic Gardening

The most successful plants for aquaponic gardening are vegetables and leafy greens. You can also grow flowers, herbs, or even fruit trees in it.

The most popular vegetables for aquaponics are tomatoes, lettuce, kale, peppers, eggplant, Bok choy, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, etc.

When it comes to herbs, some of them you can successfully grow in aquaponics are basil, sage, mint, thyme, and lavender.

Adding flowers can bring many benefits to your home garden. Here are some of them:

  • Pest Control:
    Aquaponics doesn't use chemicals in pest control. Some flowers act as natural insect repellants because their scents deter bugs, so adding flowers will help you manage pest infestation on your vegetation without resorting to potentially harmful pesticides.
  • Culinary Use:
    Some other plants are edible for culinary purposes only- others might be used for garnishing dishes or adding flavor when cooking food.
  • Invites Pollinators:
    Having some blooming annuals around will attract beneficial insects such as butterflies and bees who pollinate different varieties.

The best flowers for aquaponics are Marigold, Pansies, Nasturtium, Sunflower, Roses, Water Lily, Petunia, and Zinnia.

Covering Your Plants with Netting or Mulch

If you have plants that are particularly susceptible to bugs, such as tomatoes or cucumbers, it is a good idea to cover them with netting or mulch. A simple solution is to purchase some sort of insect barrier. These barriers come in the form of plastic nets that cover the plants and prevent insects from getting onto them. You can also use organic materials like mulch, which keeps the soil moist and prevents weeds from growing.

Harvesting and Caring for Your Aquaponic Garden

One of the most rewarding aspects of aquaponic gardening is harvesting your produce. You can either pick your produce right off the vine or try to harvest it periodically throughout the season.

Caring for your garden is also important and will help ensure that you get a successful harvest in the future. You'll want to check for pests and diseases, water pH levels, and general cleanliness.

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