Aquaponics

Aquaponics is the combination of two food raising methods that both use fresh water.


When combined in harmony, the methods of aquaculture (the raising of fish in tanks) and hydroponics (growing plants in solution/without soil) form a single balanced growing system.


The main energy input into an aquaponics system is fish food which is excreted as ammonia by the fish. Naturally occurring bacteria convert ammonia to nitrite and then to plant available nutrient in the form of nitrate by way of the nitrification process.

Plants in turn take up the level of converted nitrate and effectively clean the water for the fish at a steady rate, this is the aim of a healthy balanced aquaponics system.

It is this co-existence and environmental balance of fish, bacteria and plants that is critical to every aquaponics system.

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Aquaponics benefits:
A balanced aquaponics system has several benefits over each method when employed by itself. The immediate benefits being:
  • A low water requirement, less than hydroponics and up to one tenth relative to aquaculture and soil grown crops.
  • It’s environmentally friendly. A fully contained zero waste system with no solution waste dumping or runoff common to both AC and HP
  • Zero use of inorganic herbicides and pesticides sprays harmful to your fish
  • The benefit of growing two crops from the one system – protein and veges!

Aquaponics lends itself perfectly to small scale systems, this has led to a growing number of people buying or building an aquaponics garden to feed themselves and their families. The satisfaction of growing your own food coupled with the 100% knowledge that what you’re eating is healthy has certainly led to aquaponics popularity.
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The importance of aquaponics system balance

Healthy fish and plants and the fun of growing them are certainly the goal of an aquaponics garden. To achieve this, the grower needs to understand many aspects of the system from the fish food used to pests trying to eat your crop before you can. While these factors and many others are important, the vital life blood of every aquaponics system is the water and more importantly the consistency of the water quality. Achieving and maintaining a balanced system is the key to consistently raising healthy fish and plants.

To maintain the correct environment for your fish, bacteria and plants to stay healthy and thrive, the grower needs to be constantly aware of certain parameter levels.

Three critical indicators of aquaponics water quality are pH (acid or alkaline level), temperature and electrical conductivity or EC (level of nutrient).

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Temperature

Prolonged water temperatures outside of the system’s acceptable range will cause the following issues:

  • Fish - Poor food consumption and/or stress leading to disease vulnerability
  • Plant - Root disease
  • Plant - Slow growth leading to foliage disease and pest vulnerability
  • Bacteria – slow or cease ammonia conversion leading to system water quality collapse, fish and plant loss.


pH

pH fluctuation and prolonged levels outside of the system’s acceptable range will cause the following issues:

  • Fish - Stress leading to disease vulnerability
  • Plant - Inability to take up available nutrient (nutrient lockout)
  • Plant - Slow growth leading to foliage disease and pest vulnerability
  • Bacteria - cease ammonia - nitrate conversion leading to system water quality collapse, fish and plant loss.


EC (electrical conductivity)

EC fluctuation and prolonged levels outside of the system’s acceptable range will cause the following issues:

  • Plants - slow growth due to the lack of available nutrients
  • Plants - over vigorous growth leading to bolting and poor crop quality.



How to maintain system balance
Bluelab’s role in helping the grower is to provide equipment to measure and monitor water quality (temperature, pH and EC) in aquaponics.

By checking these three parameters regularly, system knowledge and understanding of the inputs and reactions will be gained resulting in balanced consistent water quality. This is the major step in operating a healthy strong aquaponics system.

There are many factors effecting successful aquaponics operation, system design, plant and fish variety, location and environment, fish food etc. All aquaponics systems however have one factor in common and that is the need for the water chemistry to be known and kept within certain ranges or in other words kept in balance.
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Accurately test your system:
See how other people have used Bluelab meters to measure critical parameters and been able to improve the balance in their aquaponics systems.
 
“…in the beginning I didn’t think EC was so important because the values were always low, now I’ve raised my EC my plants just rocket away so I know they’ve got the nutrient levels required.”