How Does Aquaponics WORK?
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis
A balance of these four components is what makes a successful aquaponics system.
Aquaponics is finally becoming ‘main stream,’ and although it may still be in the early stages of widespread use, it IS gaining the reputation it deserves for growing chemical-free food and fish in an automated system with minimal use of power, water and labor.
We know stuff.
The fish in Portable Farms Aquaponics Systems are healthy. Our plants grow to maturation and ripeness because our systems work and we know how to operate them because, over time, we’ve learned our lessons from trial-and-error mistakes and we’ve learned our wisdom through experimentation, guidance from botanists, chemists, other aquaponists around the world (there are far fewer than you might imagine), and our customers.
One of the most important lessons we have learned is that the HUMAN FACTOR in aquaponics growing is as important as the technology that automates the aquaponics systems. It may not seem like a politically correct thing to say but, we’ve killed fish and we’ve killed vegetables’ over the many years that we have spent refining our systems. And, we have always grieved over those losses because we care deeply for all living things – especially those that are in our care.
We seldom, if ever, lose fish. We have lost a few, but very few over the years and it was due to unique reasons and not disease. Because of our technology and the ‘human factor,’ which we teach our customers, we are happy to report our fish are extremely healthy and here are some tips you can use in your own aquaponics systems to create a productive system:
- Always provide your fish with proper aeration, good food, insulation from cold or excessive heat (tilapia are happiest when the water is a warm 78 degrees F), and adequate sunlight.
- Keep your fish from being stressed. When fish become stressed, it lowers their immune system and they can become susceptible to disease.
- Tilapia are friendly (even clown like) and they enjoy human interaction. Talk to your fish when you feed them and treat them with respect and they will respond by being healthy and growing to maturation.
- Wear gloves when you feed the fish and also when you handle the plants and the gravel to avoid human pathogens from getting in the water.
- Never overfeed your fish. It’s tempting to overfeed them because they ‘frenzy’ when you feed them and it’s entertaining to watch them jumping around, but the fish are healthier if you’ll feed them only what they can eat in 15 seconds.
- Don’t overcrowd the fish tanks and make sure the tanks are always clear and clean.
- Empty the Clarifier/Settling tank regularly so their water does not foul with ammonia buildups.
- Never, ever, use chemicals that could harm the fish, plants or the system.
- Add make-up water during times of hot weather by placing the hose in the grow trays before it circulates back into their fish tank.
- Feed your fish nutritious a high-protein fish food and even duckweed if you have it available.
- Give your fish occasional treats of organic chopped greens grown in the farm.
- Experiment with plants and seed selections and determine what works best in your aquaponics system in your climate.
- Since space is at a premium in any aquaponics Grow Tray, maximum production is achieved by careful attention to size, quality and grow time for seeds.
- Implement stalking and support systems to encourage vertical growth of plants that bear heavy fruits and vegetables (tomatoes, zucchini, etc.)
- Protect plants at all times of their growth and maturation. Protection from wind, humidity, extreme temperatures (hot or cold), insects, disease or predators.
- Pay close attention to water flow with appropriate levels of nutrient from fish waste.
- Take care of plants that require pruning unneeded branches.
- Don’t allow plants with large root systems to remain in grow trays too long. For example, the root system on a tomato plants grows very wide and very deep like a 4 inch thick carpet under the gravel and will alter water flow for the rest of the Grow Tray.
- Study indoor pollinating techniques designed for non-pollinating and self-pollinating plants.
- Apply effective and safe organic methods for treating plants IF they need support (seldom needed, but occasionally, you might have a problem) for any type of bugs including ants, aphids, red spiders, etc.
- Learn effective harvest and planting cycles that are crucial to maximize yield in all aquaponics systems.
- Use grow lights from 4:00PM to 8:00PM from Mid-November to March 1 if living in the Northern Hemisphere so you can grow various crops year round that require a longer grow day.