What if I told you that you could catch fish for dinner in your very own backyard? What if I told you that right up until you caught those fish, they were growing the veggies for the rest of your dinner? Would you believe me? Well you should as this can all be done now by using a new style of gardening called Aquaponics.What is Aquaponics? Aquaponics is the growing of fish, or other water-based animals, along with land plants in a controlled environment. It is used to maximize the use of energy and nutrients in the system so that it can harvest the maximum amount of vegetables and fish protein. The word aquaponics comes from words aquaculture, which is the cultivation of fish or other water- based animals and the word hydroponics, where plants are grown in a sterile medium or completely in water. Basically the plants extract the water and nutrients they need to grow, cleaning the water for the fish. There are bacteria that live on the surface of the growbed. These bacteria convert ammonia wastes from the fish into nitrates that can be used by the plants. The nitrates are relatively harmless to the fish but more importantly they make terrific plant food.
What Types of Fish Can You Use in Aquaponics?
Any type of fresh water fish works well in an aquaponic system. Tilapia is properly the most widely grown aquaponics fish, but you can also grow catfish, bluegill, trout, and even red-claw crayfish. Its not just for edible fish! You can also grow any decorative fresh-water fish such as Koi or goldfish. When choosing your fish you will need to take into consideration to the temperature at which they can thrive and survive in. For example Tilapia can survive down to temperatures in the low 60s, but will won’t thrive until they reach the mid 70’s. Whereas trout will survive up to a maximum temperature of 65, but they will not thrive until their water is in the high 40s to low 50’s.
What Types of Plants Can You Grow in an Aquaponic Garden?
To many to name, it is actually easier to list the categories of plants that DO NOT thrive in an aquaponics system, they are plants like blueberries and azaleas that require an acidic environment to thrive.
With some protection all of this will work in any climate. A backyard greenhouse is ideal as you can create an ideal environment for your fish and plants and the bonus is sunlight is free! Also all the water in the fish tank, sump tank and grow beds will create a thermal mass in your greenhouse which helps moderate temperature extremes. Don’t worry if you don’t have a backyard greenhouse, you can also grow inside. Many have dedicated their garages and basements to their aquaponics systems!
Benefits of Aquaponic Gardening
I’m sure you have worked out many of the benefits, is there anything you hadn’t thought of…
Aquaponic Gardening enables home fish farming. Fresh fish for you and your family.
Aquaponic Gardening uses 90% less water than soil-based gardening because the water is re-circulated and only that which the plants take up or evaporates is ever replaced.
Aquaponic Gardening results in two crops for one input (fish feed).
Aquaponic Gardening is four to six times as productive on a square foot basis as soil-based gardening. This is because with aquaponic gardening, you can pack plants about twice as densely and the plants grow two to three times as fast as they do in soil.
Aquaponic systems only requires a small amount of energy, this is to run a pump and aeration for the fish.
Aquaponics does not rely on the availability of good soil, you can literally set up anywhere such as inner city parking lots, abandoned warehouses, schools, restaurants, home basements and garages.
Aquaponic Gardening is free from weeds, watering and fertilizing. It is done at a waist-high level so prevents back strain.
Aquaponic Gardening has to be organic. Natural fish waste provides all the food the plants need. Pesticides would be harmful to the fish so they are never used. Hormones, antibiotics, and other fish additives would be harmful to the plants so they are never used. The result is every bit as flavorful as soil-based organic produce, with the added benefit of fresh fish for a safe, healthy source of protein.
Aquaponics is completely scalable. Its up to you how big or small you want to go, it makes no difference. The same basic principles apply to a system based on a 10 gallon aquarium and to a commercial operation.
Aquaponic gardens are straight forward to set up and operate in your own backyard or home all you need to do is follow some basic guidelines.
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