What is Aquaponics?
Aquaponics takes aquaculture — the raising of fish for the purpose of eating, and hydroponics — soil-free vegetable farming for the purpose of eating, and marries them together in one system. It provides you with fish and vegetables, grown in your own backyard.
How does it work?
Aquaponics recreates a natural ecosystem or cycle on a small scale.
- Fish live in a tank, and you feed the fish, the fish grow and produce waste. The waste is in the form of Ammonia.
- The ‘waste’ water is pumped to a ‘grow bed’ — a container filled with rocks or other medium. Plants and vegetables are planted into the rocks in the grow beds.
- Microscopic bacteria live on the rocks and convert ammonia in the waste water to Nitrites, which in turn is converted to Nitrates. Nitrate is a key nutrient required for plant growth.
- Water and nutrients are regularly delivered to the roots so plants grow big, strong and healthy.
- Water drains back to the fish tank, stripped of nutrients.
- At this point it is clean and fresh.
Essentially you create a mini natural ecosystem where the fish, bacteria and plants help each other out and thrive together. There are plenty of detailed explanations floating around on the internet, the one over at BackyardAquaponics (based in Perth) is a good place to begin.
Image provided by BackyardAquaponics
Advantages of aquaponics
- Phenomenal plant growth with no need for chemical fertilizers!
- Not only do you grow vegetables, but edible or ornamental fish also.
- Water and fertiliser is provided directly to plant root systems.
- It is organic by nature. Chemicals and pesticides upset the natural balance and can not be used, even some common organic remedies are unsuitable e.g. soap sprays.
- It uses less water than conventional vegetable gardening (as little as 10% of the water when compared to conventional farming methods). Any water not drawn up by the plants roots drains into the fish tank and is recycled. In a conventional vegetable garden, water not drawn up by plant roots passes through the soil outside of the root zone and evaporates or drains away.
- The system is automatic – you can go away for a weekend and your veg will receive regular watering and survive!
- There is no soil, so the system is clean to work with.
- Grow beds are raised to a comfortable working height. For this reason it suits older gardeners perfectly.
Is Aquaponics difficult?
You’ll find Aquaponics easy once your system has been established. All you have to do is:
- feed your fish regularly (and don't over feed!)
- measure the pH level of the water monthly.
Your vegetables are watered and fed automatically. Nutrient-rich water is pumped directly to the roots of your plants, so it is better than an automatic irrigation system. Plants are strong, healthy and are therefore quite resistant to disease. You can leave your system for a weekend without fear of losing plants because of dry conditions. Your fish can survive without food for a few days. Or you can setup a system that feeds your fish for you. Designing a good system is the difficult part. Capital Aquaponics specialises in the design of efficient, balanced and reliable systems.
How much does aquaponics cost?
An Aquaponics system can be scaled to any size. The same process works in a small system — consisting of an aquarium and a pot, as in a large system — consisting of a 3000L fish tank and several grow-beds. Off-the-shelf kits cost from $1000 to $10,000, depending on the requirements. We can help you to reduce costs by using recycled goods. Unwanted bathtubs and containers can have a productive ’second life’ in your sustainable garden. Or we can help you convert your existing pond into a clean and productive area of your backyard. Capital Aquaponics can build systems to suit any budget!