DIY Aquaponics

Like any Do It Yourself industry, DIY Aquaponics is no different; it is a steadily growing industry on a home-based level. Even small to medium-sized businesses are benefitting from the many good things it has to offer. As a home industry, when well-programmed, a basic system can provide a family with fresh produce on a daily basis.
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DIY Aquaponics

A slightly larger DIY Aquaponics system can provide fresh produce for a whole neighbourhood. Scaling up is accomplished by simply copying a productive DIY Aquaponics system. Such practices can provide a sizeable income.

What is DIY Aquaponics and how does it work?

Simply put, it is a means of producing your own high-quality chemical fertilizer and hormone-free food greens and edible fish if you want it.

It is a closed system with two basic components; one provides a place for plants to grow the other a place for fish to provide nutrients for the plants. Once the fish have been fed with natural feed, their faeces produce the necessary nutrients for the plants, and the plants filter the water sending it back to the fish. These components are connected with a series of plastic tubes to transfer the water from the one to the other component and back in a cycle.

What can you grow in a DIY Aquaponics system?

Just about any plant can grow in your DIY Aquaponics system, from leafy greens such as lettuce and spinach, fruiting plants such as tomatoes and strawberries, to root crops such as carrots. Some people are even experimenting with growing trees such as lemon trees and fruit trees. Flowers, herbs, ornamental plants such as ferns and palms can also be grown.

Do you start with plants or seedlings?

Plants can be grown from both seeds and seedlings depending on what you wish to do, and how the local market works best.

How can you start in DIY Aquaponics?

The simple answer is read, watch, and listen to as much information as you can possibly get your hands on. As in all DIY undertakings, careful thought and research is a vital first step.

Why get involved in DIY Aquaponics?

It is no secret that our foods, especially processed foods, have a whole lot of chemicals and hormones added to them. The problem is that the average person, especially the city dweller, has no way of producing their own greens for consumption. Thus, they have to rely on the supply chain that others control, forsaking any hope of being in control of what they eat. DIY Aquaponics, even on a small scale, can produce loads of food in a very small area without chemicals and hormones, in a totally controlled environment.

Not to mention that many people are fed up with “plastic” products. There is a decidedly growing trend towards healthy eating across the world. More people are making a conscious choice to stop consuming processed or mass-produced food products by seeking high quality produce. DIY Aquaponics has provided a solution to this especially for people who live in urban and suburban environments.

How can I get involved in DIY Aquaponics?

Two basic ways seem to be the answer. The first is to research on YouTube, and then attempt to build their DIY Aquaponics system. And the second is the purchase and assembly of all the necessary items from a DIY Aquaponics supplier.

Which is the better way to take with DIY Aquaponics?

The first offers the disappointments and joys of experimentation and success, as well as a fantastic means of growing and expanding your knowledge. The second offers the support and knowledge of the experienced people selling the self-assembly system. The question you have to ask is which of these two suit your needs?

Are there limits to how much you can scale up a DIY Aquaponics system?

Theoretically…? No!

It has been attempted on an industrial scale but no success has been seen so far, mainly due to human factors and limited or withdrawn funds. But, the scaled-up home industry DIY Aquaponics system has thrived in several parts of the world. People that have created such systems have also created a secondary, and in many cases, a primary income.

How did they do this?

They started off with a small home DIY Aquaponics system, and over time that usually involved a learning curve, decided to scale up their existing system by copying it. So what they created was a 1+ 1 system meaning that of their first system provided daily greens for x people, and then the second system basically doubled that a.s.o.

But where did the money come from?

Sales! It always comes from sales. All that extra food was sold to families in their neighborhood and to food businesses in their area.

Are aquaponics greens considered organic?

Laws differ from country to country, but in the European Union, they are not considered organic per se since they are not grown in the ground but in gravel grow-beds. To all intents and purposes though, they are organic in the sense that chemical fertilizers are not used to feed the plants, and hormones are not used to hasten the growth of the fish. The reason for this is that either taints the other. Another important factor is that they cannot be tainted by neighbouring producers since it is an enclosed system.

Are aquaponics greens considered inexpensive?

In reality, price wise they are somewhere in-between the prices of mass-produced and organic products.

Do such DIY Aquaponics systems provide inexpensive greens to make a profit from selling them?

Not necessarily inexpensive but of consistently high quality and most of all, steady supply! A well run DIY Aquaponics system runs like clockwork producing a full head of lettuce, for example, in as little as 25 days. So if the system is a rotational one, then it can produce a set amount of lettuce every day. That means sales every day and therefore income every day.

But why are they not cheap?

Any greens produced by an Aquaponics system are of high quality and consistent size with no chemicals fertilizers or hormones added at any point of the system. This makes them premium products and as such, a producer can demand premium prices!

What other advantages do DIY Aquaponics systems offer?

One of the components of Aquaponics is the fish that are necessary to provide nutrients to the plants. People often choose to have non-edible hardy fish such as goldfish in their fish tanks. Others choose catfish and tilapia which are edible but can survive slightly dirtier water than sensitive fish. It is a good way for a beginner to start since the learning curve is less steep and more forgiving. However, more knowledgeable and experienced DIY Aquaponics system owners often choose edible fish such as carp, and even trout if their system is larger and well filtered. This means that every once in a while, when well-programmed, plate size fish are available for consumption.

Which is better, a fish-based or plant-based system?

The real profit earner is the plant-based system unless the fish are bred for a specific purpose and are considered high-profit fish. The reason for building either DIY Aquaponics system is personal. The growth cycle of plants is much faster than that of fish, but no-one can discount the potential earnings from fish like koi, especially if they are rare species.

Do plants in DIY aquaponics grow faster?

Because aquaponics systems don’t harbour soil pests, no pesticides are necessary. Plants DO Grow Faster – Because they have access to nutrients around the clock and their roots are constantly aired. Aquaponics systems speed up the growth of lettuce by half the time it takes in soil plants to grow from two months to one month at most.

Are DIY aquaponics system vegetables healthy?

As a rule and especially in a mature, well-balanced system aquaponics grown vegetables are bigger, brighter and healthier than plants grown in soil. This is because their environment is well controlled and shielded from pests much like hydroponic systems. The main difference is that they taste much better since they are fed a constant diet of natural fertilizer as opposed to chemical fertilizers.

How necessary is water filtration in a DIY Aquaponics system?

It depends on the system and the fish it has. Some systems that have very sensitive to dirty water fish, need good filtration as do Deep Water Culture Aquaponics systems. Failure to provide this will result in stunted growth and ill or dead fish. Although the plants remove the less toxic to fish nitrates from the system, filtration in normal gravel grow bed aquaponics systems mostly serve the purpose of keeping the fish happy. It is very important to achieve good filtration in a system that uses DWC and sensitive fish.

Does water need to be changed in a DIY Aquaponics system?

As a rule no, not in a balanced system. However, water will need to be added to replace that lost to evaporation or water used by the plants as they grow (transpiration). Apart from that periodically added water the system once balanced takes care of itself. This is the opposite of hydroponic systems where the water eventually becomes so heavily polluted with the chemicals fertilizers or hormones added, that it is vented into streams by unscrupulous production units thereby polluting the environment and water table.

Which is the period necessary for an aquaponics system to cycle?

It depends really, but usually 4-6 weeks and about a full year before it is mature and stable. The time frame is dependent on the water temperature between 24° and 26°C. Cycling of the system starts with the first run at setup up, or when restarting an aquaponics system that has been interrupted for any reason.

Aquaponics or hydroponics which is cheaper?

Depending on the feed one provides the fish, aquaponics can be cheaper or close to equal to a hydroponics system to operate. Fish food is usually cheaper than expensive pharmaceutical company nutrient solutions, but because fish need to eat in order to grow, it is also used in greater amounts. Sometimes, depending on the quality of the feed, it may have to be paired with supplements for nutrients. This is usually taken care of by DIY Aquaponics system owners who breed soldier fly larvae and duckweed for this purpose. However, the most important factor to consider is that both plants and fish are free of chemicals fertilizers or hormones added in hydroponics systems.

How fast do fish grow in a DIY Aquaponics system?

Depending on the fish, how often they are fed, the quality of their feed and the temperature of the water they live in, they can be plate-sized within about nine months to a year. This constitutes a very steady and relatively fast growth rate from fingerling to harvest. Hardy fish such as tilapia and can adapt to their environment very quickly whereas other species cannot.

Is there a fish to plant ratio in a DIY Aquaponics system?

This depends largely on the fish species. Some like crowding others do not. Other factors are the aeration and speed of water cycling. Both have shown that they are important to the health of the fish and plants alike. also enable the commercial systems to stock fish as high as 1 fish per 8-10 liters of water. Research on an aquaponics system rearing Common carp and Mint suggests that the ratio 1:2 (fish: plant) showed optimum fish production, plant growth as well as nutrient removal.

Do DIY Aquaponics systems need sunlight?

All plants need sunlight. It remains the best and cheapest source of light for the plants but not so for the fish. Most fish prefer some shade and are best kept in a shielded from light environment. This means that although fish do not need direct sunlight to survive and grow, they require both light and dark.

Can DIY Aquaponics systems use other critters such as worms?

Strangely enough, worms occur naturally in the gravel beds of an aquaponics system. Water snails can be introduced, and they are just as useful to the water ecosystem as worms are to the soil or in this case, gravel. While the freshwater snails are in the water tanks where the fish are kept, they perform a number of beneficial functions. They tend to clean the tank of any extra fish feed that has not been consumed keeping the water clean. Some different aquaponics systems such as deep culture types use freshwater shrimp as a cleanup crew to keep parasites and dirt off the roots of plants that have their roots in water. Worms, snails and shrimps can be also be sold.

Does a DIY Aquaponics system require electricity?

In a word, YES! However home Aquaponics systems need a minimal amount of current for the water pump, about 12volts, and a backup 12volt deep-cycle car battery in case the grid fails. The purpose of this pump is to also raise the water level to the required height for the DIY Aquaponics system.

How much electricity does a DIY Aquaponics system use?

This depends largely on the climate and latitude of a country. Apart from the water pump that uses about 12volts, these factors decide how much energy will be used, if any, in heating the in-tank water heaters water the fish live in. In a cold climate, the average energy is between 19 – 20 kWh for electricity per year, and for propane a little less. Some owners experiment with other sources such as wood and pellet stoves.

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