Aquaponic Gardening by Sylvia Bernstein

Aquaponic Gardening by Sylvia Bernstein

The Big Idea: Aquaponic gardening is a symbiotic, permaculture-friendly version of gardening in which fish supply nutrients to plants, which then remove all fish waste from the water.

  • Aquaculture dates back to 5th century B.C. China
  • Benefits of aquaponics: completely organic, cheaper than hydroponics, minimal maintenance, minimal fertilizer, lots of vegetable production, fewer diseases, no weeding, no watering, growing fish is a bonus
  • In warm weather states, you can have an aquaponics system outdoors year-round.  Just watch out for insects.
  • The “basic flood and drain” setup is good for beginners. In this system, gravity carries water from the grow bed to the fish tank and a pump carries it back.
  • Use a 1:1 grow bed volume to fish tank volume for the basic flood and drain setup.
  • More advanced setups: CHOP, CHOP2, Barrel-ponics
  • Stock your tank with 0.1-0.2 lb of fish per gallon of tank water.
  • Place your fish tank in the shade if you put it outdoors.  Also partially cover it to help prevent debris and algae growth.
  • IBC totes are ideal for aquaponics systems. You can also use a bathtub for a vintage look.
  • For your grow media, use gravel or expanded clay (Hydroton). Grow media is the replacement for soil, and houses beneficial worms and bacteria.
  • Use only dechlorinated water.  Protect your water from changes in temperature, pH, oxygen levels.
  • Fish that work well: tilapia, goldfish, catfish, koi, shrimp.
  • Choose a fish depending on your needs and climate.
  • Supplement commercial fish feed with duckweed, worms, black soldier fly larvae.
  • All plants (except those requiring acidic or basic soil) grow well in aquaponics systems.
  • Nitrosomonas and Nitrospria bacteria convert fish waste into nitrites and nitrates, which are less harmfell to fish and nourish the plants.
  • Worms digest solid waste and dead root matter into valuable vermicompost tea for the plants.
  • Cycle the system with half of your fish to get your system started.
  • Check system levels of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates regularly.
  • Check pH. temperature, and check for insects regularly.