5 steps to grow vegetables+fish with aquaponics system during Covid-19 lockdown

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DIY Aquaponics in Five Easy Steps - Here’s how to set up an aquaponics system that will allow you to grow your own food at home using the media bed system.

1. Step One: Put Your Fish Tank Together

Just like keeping fish, you’ll need to take into account all the safe practices of fishkeeping. Your fish will require a certain amount of space depending on the species you decide to keep, which will determine the size of your tank.

Depending on the size of the tank you choose, you might be able to get away with using or repurposing a standard acrylic aquarium. However, most people choose to use large barrels or food-grade containers with opaque sides.

You’ll need to set the tank up as you would a normal fish tank—dechlorinating the water and allowing it to cycle for between 4-6 weeks before you add any fish. This gives the bacteria time to build up, ensuring there is enough present to break down the ammonia and nitrites into the nitrates needed to feed your plants.

Be sure to include a pump, which allows the water to be drawn from the tank, to the grow bed, and back again.

2. Step Two: Build Your Media Bed

The media bed can either be built above the fish tank or to the side of the tank.

Your media bed will be the container in which the plants grow. This is also known as a flood table. You can use a large heavy duty plastic tray or a wooden pallet crate. This will need to be built on top of a stand that is able to withstand its weight.

Once you’ve placed the media bed, you’ll need to fill it with your chosen media. Clay pebbles are pH neutral and won’t affect your water. They also hold moisture well. For these reasons, they are one of the most popular types of media to use in home aquaponics.

When you first begin, stick to a ratio of 1:1 between the size of the fish tank and the size of the grow bed, so that the volumes are the same.

3. Step Three: Add the Fish

Once your tank has cycled properly, you can add the fish. There are a number of different fish that work well in an aquaponics set up.

Common choices include:
  • Tilapia – the easiest fish to grow, simple to care for, and hardy to disease
  • Goldfish – produce a lot of waste, so ideal for this set up
  • Koi – They grow large and have a high resale value
  • Pacu – for those looking for a fancier fish
  • Any ornamental fish (guppies, tetras, mollies etc.)
A few less common choices include:
  • Carp – reproduce well and are easy to grow
  • Silver perch – a fast growing school fish that likes high densities
  • Catfish – Don’t have scales so handling needs to be kept to a minimum
  • Barramundi – the prince of fish in the aquaponics world

4. Step Four: Add the Plants

Leafy plants tend to grow best in aquaponics setups. However, if you have enough fish, you might also be able to grow fruiting plants such as peppers and tomatoes.

Here’s a list of some easy-to-grow plants for your system:
  • Basil
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Mint
  • Watercress
You might also be able to grow these plants if you have a heavily stocked tank and well established set up:
  1. Beans
  2. Cabbage
  3. Cauliflower
  4. Cucumbers
  5. Squash
  6. Tomatoes
  7. Peas
  8. Peppers
  9. Strawberries
It’s best to plant seedlings to give your plants a head start. Place their roots gently into the pebbles, ensuring they reach far enough down to draw nutrients from the water that will pass through.

5. Step Five: Maintain Your System

Maintaining this set up is pretty simple!

You’ll need to feed your fish a quality diet. You can use a simple flake food and give them the occasional treat. Just be careful that you don’t introduce any diseases to the tank. For this reason, we advise against adding any live food for the fish.

Only feed your fish as much as they can eat in around five minutes, two to three times per day.

You’ll need to test the tank water every week or two to check the pH, ammonia, nitrites and nitrate levels. Ammonia and nitrite levels should always be non-detectable, and the nitrites should be low if the plants are doing their job properly!

The pH should be neutral, between 6.8 – 7.0, which is ideal for the fish, the plants, and the bacteria.

Aquaponics systems typically need to be buffered up (raised) because they’ll drop below 7.0 once the initial cycle has finished. To raise the pH, you can alternate between calcium hydroxide and potassium carbonate, added to the tank in powdered form.

Tend the plants as you would with your normal gardening techniques, but you should find that not as many weeds grow.

We hope this has given you some insight into what exactly an aquaponics system is, and how you can set up your own to start growing food for your whole family, either in your kitchen or in the back yard.

Good luck growing your own food!

1. How to DIY Aquaponics
DIY Aquaponics 4U


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