Aquaponics - Why Aquaponics?
There are several different types of aquaponic systems that have developed over the past 30 years or so, and each can be used in different ways depending on your situation. A commercial system will be very different from a home or backyard system - but nevertheless, there are several common components and 3 widely accepted and used systems.
Media Filled Growbeds are the simplest form of aquaponics. They use containers filled with a suitable growing media such as expanded clay balls, pumice stone, gravel or something similar. Water from a fish tank is pumped over the media filled beds and plants grow in the rock media. Click here for our DIY - Growbed Media guide.
This style of system can be run two different ways, with a continuous flow of water over the rocks, or by flooding and draining the grow bed in a 'flood and drain' or 'ebb and flow' cycle.
The growbeds should be about 12" in depth as this has been proven to be the most effective depth for plant growth and the cultivation of a beneficial ecosystem in the beds. Click here for our DIY - Growbed Guide.
Once the water reaches the appropriate level then it will be drained from the growbed (usually quickly) which will draw oxygen back down into the growbed for the benefit of the plants and microbes. This cycle then continues regularly and provides the plants with all of the nutrients that they need to grow extremely abundantly and naturally without any added pesticides, herbicides or fertilisers.
Nutrient Film Technique is a commonly used hydroponic method, but is not as common in aquaponic systems. In NFT systems, nutrient rich water is pumped down small enclosed gutters, the water flowing down the gutter is only a very thin film. Plants sit in small plastic cups allowing their roots to access the water and absorb the nutrients.
NFT is only really suitable for certain types of plants such as leafy greens and herbs because larger plants will have root systems that are too big and invasive, or they become too heavy for the lightweight growing gutters.
NFT is more commonly used in commercial aquaponic systems but can be successfully used in a hobby system provided that the water is filtered before it is used in the NFT channels.
Unfiltered water from the fish tanks will contain many particulates which will attach to the plant roots and will ultimately stop their ability to take up nutrients and oxygen.
Deep Water Culture works on the idea of floating plants on top of the water allowing the roots to hang down into the nutrient-rich water. This can be done in a number of ways and this method is one of the more commonly practised commercial methods.
DWC can be done by floating a foam raft on top of the fish tank, however a more common method is to grow the fish in a fish tank and pump the water through a filtration system and then into long channels where floating rafts filled with plants float on the water surface and extract the nutrients.
The water must be filtered before it reaches the channels as particulates and solids in the water will clog up the root systems of the plants and will inhibit their ability to take up oxygen and nutrients.
DWC is the most commonly used method in commercial aquaponic systems as it provides the versatility to grow a relatively wide variety of leafy plants and herbs and can be set up relatively inexpensively.
What is Aquaponics?
Who can use Aquaponics?
Fish Tank Guide
Growbed Media Guide
Plumbing Guide - Part 1
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