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Aquaponic Ideas and Systems Designs: The Ultimate Guide

Jelena Maric
Agricultural Engineer

There are many benefits to aquaponic systems. The first and most prevalent benefit is higher yields. Aquaponic systems produce three to ten times more crops than traditional soil-based farming methods. The fish provide nutrients for the plants, while the plants help filter harmful toxins from the water. It results in a much healthier ecosystem that will produce better crops and healthier animals.

Another benefit of aquaponics is that it takes up less space than other types of farming. Due to this, aquaponic systems are suitable for setting up on a small scale. That makes them perfect for developing countries or places where land and water are scarce resources.

And lastly, because there are no pesticides used in an aquaponic system, you have a drastically reduced environmental impact compared with other agricultural methods.

How Does Aquaponics System Work?

Aquaponic systems are an effective way to grow fish and plants together in a sustainable system. The fish create a nutrient-rich environment for the plants, which filter the water for the fish. The resulting crops are high in nutrients and low in toxins, making them healthier and more nutritious than conventional crops grown using chemical fertilizers.

Aquaponic systems work through a symbiotic relationship. Water containing fish droppings and uneaten food from the fish tanks is pumped back to the gravel beds. The bacteria within the beds break down the waste and convert it into nitrates and nitrites, which are then converted into nitrogen gas by bacteria living on the roots of plants. This nitrogen is then taken up in the form of proteins by the plants, which yield high-quality crops in a low-maintenance environment.

Basic Design Considerations

When designing your aquaponics, there are a few things you should consider:

  • The most common design is a recirculating design. This includes two tanks, one for fish and one for plants. The water in the tank for fish is pumped up to the tank on top of the plants and then back down again. It will provide a constant flow of nutrient-rich water which will feed both the fish and plants.
  • You need an overflow drain to prevent too much pressure from building up in the system when it rains or if too many fish are in the lower tank.
  • Consider how you will control the temperature- an aquarium heater may be necessary for colder climates or larger systems.
  • You will want to decide what type of growing media you will use. It can be a fabric material such as coconut coir, perlite, or sand or artificial media such as expanded clay pebbles or styrofoam packing.
  • You need to consider how many square feet of surface area you have available. It determines how many baskets (or other growing containers) can fit within your system and how big they need to be.
  • You should also take space into account. Make sure that there is enough room to approach all parts of your system with ease.

Types of Aquaponic Systems

There are two main types of aquaponic systems: recirculating and non-recirculating. In recirculating systems, water from the fish tank is pumped to a grow bed, to irrigate the plants.The water then returns to the fish tank.

recirculating aquaponics system

Image Source: iStockPhoto.com

The water in a non-recirculated system flows from the fish tank, through filter media and back into the fish tank without being used for plant irrigation. Non-recirculating systems use more energy than recirculating systems.

Recirculating aquaponics is a more sustainable farming system because of its lower water supply costs, less need to connect it to a municipal water source, or expensive truck shipments. Recirculating systems are also much more stable after being set up as they use the same water; this allows gradual changes in pH and other qualities.

Open-loop designs may be better financially than recirculation but they’re still uncommon due to their environmental impact- fish waste can cause algae blooms near waterways or overwhelm the soil in nearby fields.

Tips on Building Your First Aquaponic System

The size of your system will depend on the number of fish you want to keep and how much product you want to grow. There are many different ways to design an aquaponics system, but most people build their first aquaponics systems using PVC pipes arranged in a rectangular shape with holes drilled into each pipe. The pipes usually have one hole on the top for drainage, and one near the bottom for the water level to be maintained. Several holes along each side are for planting seeds or seedlings.

For the most part, you should be able to purchase aquaponics pipes for less than $10 per foot.

Aquaponics systems are very simple to construct, and you can purchase them for as little as $200. If you decide to build one yourself, you can consider attaching a timer so that the pump turns on and off at specific times of the day. In addition, you can add an electric pump since most people don't have access to a water source that is suitable for aquarium pumps.

The only other upgrade recommended is adding a filter to the system. Aquaponics systems are very easy to keep clean, and it is important to remove large debris that can clog up the pipe. However, small debris washed down into the pipes is difficult to remove and can cause problems over time.

It is important to research how best to build your system if you plan on doing everything yourself. You will want to make sure that you purchase enough pipe, tubing, and fittings so that you know exactly what pieces you will need. You also need plenty of hoses so that you have enough material for connecting everything up in your system.

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