How to Grow Fish and Plants in Closed Loop Aquaponics
There are many advantages to growing your own food, particularly when it comes to saving money and eating healthy. However, for those who do not have a large amount of space for a traditional garden, a good substitute is using an aquaponic system. Aquaponics is a highly popular form of gardening that uses water instead of soil to provide nutrients for the roots.
Around the world, many households and even apartments have an aquaponic system of one type or another that grows a wide variety of food in a relatively small space. Of the different types of systems available, one of the most effective is the closed loop aquaponics that combines fish and plants to create a very beneficial environment.
What is Closed Loop Aquaponics?
Sometimes called recirculating aquaponics, this is a system that uses beads of gravel or clay to help hold the plants in place inside the container. The container is then flooded with water and fish are introduced to provide nutrients to the plants. This type of system is very popular because all it requires is providing nutrients for the fish that then pass it along to the plants in terms of the waste materials that they leave behind.
Basically, you have a fish tank where the fish inside are fed and the water is pumped into the clay or gravel beds of the garden area where the waste product of the fish provides the plants with nutrients and cleans the water which is they put back into the tank, thus the closed loop system.
Benefits of Having a Closed Loop Aquaponics System
There are several benefits to having such a system, particularly if you are new to using aquaponics and have a relatively small area to grow plants which is perfect for apartments and houses with small yards.
Space: This may be the best aspect of the system because you only need a limited amount of space which can be created vertically along the walls or inside a closet in your home. You can provide the light yourself with LEDs that take up very little energy and continue the growing process 24/7.
Self Cleaning: This may be the best reason for having a closed loop system is that the fish tank is constantly cleaned of the waste materials which goes to support the plants. This means for those who enjoy raising fish there is less maintenance to perform in the tank.
Easy to Maintain: While you will need to monitor and maintain the system more carefully than you would for plants that grow in soil, the entire process is self sustaining as long as the fish are fed in a regular manner.
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Aquaponics System: What You Need To Know
You probably want to know what’s exactly involved in an aquaponics system before purchasing the materials to set up the system. It is wise move to take time for your preparation and research on what aquaponics system can do and how it satisfies your needs.
Aquaponics is a mixture of two farming approaches, hydroponics and aquaculture. This new technique has been attracting passionate practitioners over recent years because it eliminates the troubles of older approaches. With aquaponics system fish farming and gardening becomes easier and cleaner to maintain.
Balance in the Backyard Ecosystem
Aquaponics is a biological system that you can keep in your backyard (backyard aquaponics). In order to make it thrive, the system must maintain its balance. To do so, there are three main key players to consider: the plants, the fish and the bacteria. All three must be present to create and maintain the system, otherwise the system cannot be completed.
When you raise fish in a tank, they naturally produce waste products. That will contaminate the water. Also, since you need to feed them daily, leftovers of fish feed will add to the dirt in the water. As you can imagine the water becomes quite dirty over time and it can be toxic for the fish to live in.
While that’s happening in the water, there is something else happening. The growth of bacteria. Naturally occurring bacteria like nitrobacter is another key player to the aquaponics system because they can break down the waste products from fish such as ammonia. Those bacteria can change the form of dirt in the water into something that plants can absorb as nutrition.
When the water gets pumped up to the garden beds, the plants soak up the nutrition. As the water moves through the plants, the water gets filtered and aerated. The cleaned, oxygenated water goes back to the fish tank after the filtration, and the whole cycle resumes again.
The process needs to be repeated at least once every two hours. Once you set up the system, you’ll have the biological filter operating at all times. You don’t have to replace or drain the fish water to keep the water quality. It’s automatically done by the plants while you can enjoy fresh harvests of organic vegetables.
Another advantage of aquaponics is that the plants are looked after automatically too. You don’t have to water them everyday, you don’t have to fertilize them either. With the advantage of no soil gardening, it eliminates soil related disease. So it is easier to grow your vegetables with NO herbicides, No pesticides and practically No chemicals.
All you have to do is monitor water levels and make sure the fish tank is not overcrowded, which can be easily done when you feed them.
When people think about the idea of gardening or growing any type of plants in the backyards, what they understand is a plot of soil dedicated to growing vegetables and other plants. Those with this idea are, unfortunately, in large number. The fact is, a lot of people are unaware of aquaponics gardening which is a good alternative to conventional soil based growing. With conventional garden, all that are needed for the plants to grow are the soil, the sun, and your continuous tending of the soil to rid it of weeds. This you do by watering and applying fertilizer to the plant if needed.
However, with aquaponics gardening system, three main components are integrated to help with the growth of plants in the garden. These 3 components are:
These 3 works hand in hand to make a success of the aquaponics garden. As the fishes release waste into the water, it is pumped into the plant growing bed. This provides feeds to the plants. That is not all. The water is recycled back into the tank, but it is first filtered before being released into the fish holding tank. This sounds fairly simple, not so? The aquaponics gardening system is simple to run and very good for backyard gardening. Some people practice it in a complex way for commercial purpose and it is simple to manage.
If you want to make success of aquaponics gardening, there are things you should bear in mind from the beginning, especially if you are thinking of commercial gardening. The need for organic fresh vegetables and other plant is great and you can take advantage of this with a well-layout plan.
Planning aquaponics gardening
Location: Deciding on appropriate location for your aquaponic gardening is very important, it is key to success. When selecting location, you must bear in mind the importance of sun – real or artificial sunlight. Your aquaponics system needs to be fully exposed to sunlight. Also, if outdoor gardening you decided upon, you must consider the temperatures of your climate. Anything over 70 degree will be destructive to the fish and plants in your system. Some people have used greenhouse for outdoor system and this may be good if the temperature is high.
Water Supply and Oxygen: This is very crucial. You must ensure that the water supply has plenty of oxygen to support the proper growth and health of the aquaculture and the plants. It should not be hard to provide needed oxygen into the tank. You can use an air pump. If the oxygen is at over 100% level, that is good.
Use Gravel or Rock: To achieve maximum result, use gravel or rock for proper growing instead of soil or clay based rocks that are not properly cleaned. Using anything different from gravel can clog the tubing system, causing ammonia to grow. However, caution is needed when selecting rocks to use because certain rocks contain chemicals that are not safe for aquaponics. Therefore, do proper research beforehand.
In addition to the above, it is important to keep improving your knowledge of aquaponics gardening by reading books about it or doing research online. In the end, you will reap bounteous benefits from it.