Many gardeners are simply tired of how much work needs to be done in order to get just a small amount of produce out of their gardens. The planting, watering, weeding, weeding again, watering etc. get them down.
Now, you may have heard of hydroponics before. You know, the method that produces watery tasting vegetables. Aquaponics is similar to hydroponics, in the fact that plants grow without soil, but it differs in one very important way.
Instead of you providing the fertilizer for your plants to grow you put some fish in a tank and make them do the work for you! It’s a perfect symbiotic setup. The fish produce excrement which contains essential nutrients for your plants. This ‘dirty’ water is pumped up to the plants where they extract the nutrients from the water to grow. The ‘clean’ water is then pumped back down the fish tank where the process begins all over again.
I personally prefer the DIY approach because not only does it cost a lot less than some pre-packaged system, but you can set it up according to your own special circumstances. Only have a very small place available indoors? No problem, buy a smaller tank and set it up there. Have a big backyard? No problem, set up a huge aquaponics system to grow all the food you need!
The DIY approach is relatively simple. To start you’re going to need some place to put the fish (aquarium if it’s indoors, or a watering trough if it’s outdoors). On top of that you’re going to need a grow bed (watering trough again… they look pretty good and you know they’re waterproof!).
Once you have the tank and the grow bed it’s simply a matter of hooking up some plumbing to pump the water from the tank into the grow bed.
Now all you need to do is add some water and let it ‘cycle’. You can’t start growing plants or fish right away because the nitrogen cycle isn’t working yet. This is the all important process that converts the ammonia from the fish excrement first into nitrites and than into nitrates which are the nutrients that your plants crave.
After your tank has cycled at least once you can start adding in the fish and plants. There are several types of fish you can use although trout and tilapia are the two species most often used. As for plants it’s whatever your heart desires.
Hopefully you decide to go the DIY aquaponics route. It’s extremely rewarding and you won’t ever taste better fruits and vegetables than the ones that you grow yourself.