Aquaponics – The New Way of Growing Plants – Fast
This is one of the most common questions around people who first learn about aquaponics. If you do not change the water, nor clean it in any way, what happens with the excrements fish leave behind? Well in order to answer this question we must go back to the very basic principle on which aquaponics relay.
Aquaponics is a way of taking advantage of the interdependence which can be created between fish and plants. Fish are placed in a tank and left there for a while. The goal is to keep them alive so that they eat and poop in a normal way, as the fish poop will be used as food for the plants. This may sound quite strange at first as the fish excrements contain ammonia, which is toxic for the fish and may endanger their lives.
This problem is solved naturally, as the ammonia is decomposed, in the presence of oxygen, into nitrites and afterwards nitrates, which are beneficial for the plants. When the amount of nitrites reached the appropriate level, seeds are propagated in netting pots. From them plants grow and assimilate the nitrates, thus leaving the water fresh and clean for the fish.
A full cycle takes up to 3 months, this is why it is recommended that the seeds will be propagated after 3 months from the acquisition of the fish. Because this is a continuous cycle, there will not be periods in which the plant will not have enough supplies to grow, unless the fish are not in good condition. Thus, apart from the fact that you grow fish for your meals, you will also need the fish poop to set the aquaponic system as this is the starting point of the entire business.
Great things start indeed from simple things, as you can see! Thus if you hated cleaning your fish tank, this aquaponic system will solve your problem and will give you fresh, healthy and organic veggies for you and your family. With so many advantages, you should really give it a try! It will be easier than keeping only a fish tank in your home and will certainly be more convenient!
How would you like to have freshly, home-grown, organic Aquaponics plants available to you every day?
Aquaponics is the most sustainable form of food production, and it allows you to grow vegetables and fish easily, in a small space and for very little cost.
Many vegetables can be grown using aquaponics systems but perhaps the most popular ones are lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, and various herbs. You can grow a number of different vegetables in a single Aquaponics system and most people do so.
Lettuce matures in just 40 days and is extremely easy to grow. Its optimal air temperature range is between 60-80 degrees F, while its root (i.e. water) temperature should be between 70-74 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore lettuce combines well with tilapia, as these too prefer warmer waters. To grow lettuce, you can either plant the seeds directly into your hydroponic beds or else you can plant the seeds in a pot and then transfer them to the grow bed when they have grown a few inches. When the time comes for harvesting, you can either pick the whole plant or just take a few leaves at a time – exactly the number of leaves you need for that side salad! Other leafy greens grow just as well in Aquaponics farming, such as spinach, watercress, basil, parsley, and mint.
Tomatoes are another very popular Aquaponics plant; however, they do require a high level of nutrients. To achieve this, you will need to have a fairly crowded fish tank, and therefore you will need to choose fish that grow well at dense populations. Tomatoes grow best when they have about 8 to 12 hours of light per day (especially when fruiting) and at temperatures, around 68 to 88 degrees F. Tomatoes should not be seeded directly in the hydroponic bed; instead, seed them in a seedling tray and transplant them after about 2 to 6 weeks. For the best taste, allow the tomatoes to fully ripen before picking.
Cucumbers are another plant that is perfect for Aquaponics, especially the variety referred to as the English Cucumber. Cucumbers grow best at air temperatures of 75 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit and prefer a humidity level that is below 75%. English cucumbers mature in just 6 to 8 weeks and are ready to eat when they reach 6 inches in length. Squash, melons, buttercup, watermelon, and cantaloupe are very similar to cucumber in requirements and grow well using an Aquaponics set-up.
Aquaponics Plant Nutrients
In Aquaponics, the sole source of plant nutrients is fish waste. As unbelievable as this may seem, with a properly managed Aquaponics system, plants can thrive on this source of nitrogen. The key is to have a healthy bacterial colony growing in the system, which will convert the toxic fish waste into harmless nitrates which are an excellent fertilizer for the plants. The bulk of the bacterial colonies will be in the grow bed medium, often gravel.
In a newly set-up Aquaponics system, the bacteria will need some time to colonize the medium. This is why a process called ‘cycling’ is used. There are two methods of cycling your system – using fish right from the start or putting the fish in only when the bacteria have established themselves. The first method takes 4 to 6 weeks, while the latter is quicker and can be done in about 10 days. Cycling without fish (using ammonia) is also safer.
An important aspect of the system that is needed to ensure a steady supply of plant nutrients is pH. If this is not optimal, an accumulation of toxic materials will build up, and nutrient generation by the bacteria will be halted. In addition, pH outside the range will make it harder for the plant roots to take up nutrients and can harm the fish. Try to keep your pH at around 6.7 to 7. If your pH is outside the range, get commercial pH regulators to increase or decrease the pH. Alternatively, use vinegar to lower the pH and calcium carbonate or baking soda to increase the pH.
Although some Aquaponics farmers use nutrient supplements, in a properly managed system supplements are never required. In addition, if you use supplements you need to be very careful, as some can harm the fish. As long as you keep the pH at 6.7 to 7, and the water well oxygenated, the bacteria will provide more than enough nutrients for your plants.
The only substance that it may be beneficial to add is salt. Salt is often added to Aquaponics systems at 1 to 2 ppt (parts per thousand; meaning 1 kilo to 1000 liters of water). Adding salt increases the resistance of the fish to disease and infections because it has a positive effect on the mucous layer of the fish. If you decide to add salt, it is important to keep the concentration below 2ppt and to use pure sea salt – not table salt.