Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture, which is growing fish and other aquatic animals, and hydroponics which is growing plants without soil. Beneficial bacteria gather in the spaces between the roots of the plant and converts the fish waste and the solids into food for the plants they can use to grow.
Aquaponics is a way to grow your own fish and vegetables at the same time. There is no need to use fertilizers because the fish provide the necessary nutrients for the plants. And you use less water for the crops.
Aquaponics can be traced back to the Aztec Indians, in Central America. In as early as 1000 AD, the Aztecs were growing plants on rafts that floated on lakes full of fish. Early Asia also used aquaponics systems, using rice patties using fish and other crustaceans, and they still exist today. Modern day aquaponics is usually done indoors, either in a home or another existing structure such as a greenhouse—so another advantageous reason to have an aquaponics system is that plants and fish can be raised year-round in almost any part of the world.
Imagine in a worldwide crisis or even if food becomes scarce or unaffordable, having an aquaponics system can yield large amounts of food in a relatively small space.
Aquaponics resources, and supplies.
1. Start small, see if this is something you can handle, if so, you can start to scale up.
2. Keep in mind certain fish like tilapia breed fast, and 1 female can produce between 150 to 1,500 fry… every time they breed which can be at least once per month.
3. Have a back up power source, oxygenation of the water is crucial, for both the plants and fish.
4. Use food grade plastics and avoid using any pesticides that could harm the fish, plants, or you.
5. Feed the fish regularly but avoid over feeding, even though the plants will use most of the waste produced in the tanks .too much food can spoil and cause water quality problems that could lead to sick or dead fish.
Any size from a small betta tank to a large 200 or more-gallon glass or acrylic tanks can be used.
55-gallon drums have been used with much success, they have a small footprint and can house many different fish species.
Garbage cans, you of course want new clean garbage cans, but they can also be used as aquaponics systems too.
250-gallon totes are large and have reinforcing metal bands to hold it all together, they are widely used in aquaponics for their size and versatility.
Pools ,many people have used either an existing built in in-ground or above ground pool they are no longer using to swim in. you can also buy a plastic or pvc pool that you have to assemble to use as an aquaponics system as well.
Hot tubs, similar to pools if you have one and you’re not going to use it anymore, or it doesn’t work properly ,instead of getting rid of it ,it would be a perfect setup for aquaponics.
A diy pool pond that you can dig out yourself and install a pond liner or one made from plywood,2x6s and a pond liner, or even concrete can be built at reasonable prices, the advantage to these ponds is that you can custom build them as big or as small as you like.
Tilapia : Female tilapia “mouth-brood” their fry—which means, they lay their unfertilized eggs on the bed of the lake or tank bottom. The eggs are then fertilized by a male, and then the female returns and sucks the eggs into her mouth, where she “ mouth-broods” them until after they hatch.
Just one female tilapia will typically produce about 200-1000 eggs per spawn, and she will spawn every 4-5 weeks or so if conditions are decent enough in the tank (tilapia can breed in a variety of conditions). Even with low survival, that's still a lot of tilapia for your aquaponics, or to sell or give away.
Blue gill/brim/sunfish/crappie : Spawning season begins in late May and doesn't end until August. The male bluegills first arrive at the mating site and they prepare a spawning bed in shallow water. As a female bluegill approaches the nest, the male will circle around her and make noises. Eggs and milt -- the liquid containing the sperm -- are released into the water over the prepared spawning bed, which the male fish has constructed. The eggs are fertilized as they fall toward the bottom and remain in the spawning nest during their incubation period. In one breeding season, a female bluegill can spawn three times releasing 2,300 to 81,000 eggs per spawn.
Channel catfish are cavity nesters, meaning they lay their eggs in crevices. The spawning season of channel catfish is usually during the months of April through June; females start laying their eggs at water temperatures above 21°C (70°F). The eggs of channel catfish are large (2.4–3.0 mm or 0.1 inches in diameter), very adhesive, and usually laid in a large egg mass. Female catfish lay eggs once a year during the spawning season. The number can be up to 50,000 eggs at one time. After the female has completed laying her eggs, the male catfish will fertilize the eggs. Depending upon water temperature the eggs from a 36 hour old mass should hatch in six to ten days. If they are incubated at the proper water temperature of 76 to 79 F degrees the eggs will usally hatch in four to six days.
Carp may spawn throughout the year, with peaks in January-March and July-August. The Common Carp always matures at six
months old whatever its size. Breeding is carried out in, cement tanks or small ponds. Submerged aquatic plants are used as substrata for egg laying. Hatching takes 40-72 hours. If the weather is cool the spawn takes a longer time to hatch. If it is warmer it hatches out more quickly. When the fry are 4 to 5 days old, they are stocked into nursery ponds. A typical adult female can lay 300,000 eggs in a single spawn. Carp mostly spawn in the spring, in response to rising water temperatures and rainfall, carp can spawn more than once in a season.
A Koi's prime mating age is between 3-6 years old, but koi have also been able to produce baby koi fish until they are up to 15 years old. Make sure to give your breeding koi couple some privacy when it's time for them to mate. Koi need a place to lay their eggs. A female koi fish will lay about 100,000 eggs per kilogram of weight, and can produce up to a million eggs in a spawning season. She'll lay the eggs randomly over the pond walls, on the surface of the pond and on any available plants. During the spring season you might witness your koi chasing each other around the pond; mostly first thing in the morning. This type of activity is neccessary because she has no ability to push her eggs out with her abdominal muscles. Koi produce more than an enough amount of waste for bacteria to convert for plant growth. “Koi are the best species for creating nutrients in an aquaculture system – such as ammonia, magnesium, and potassium; all essential for healthy plant growth” (Ward, 2020).
Goldfish, which are relatives of carp and Koi, are a very popular choice of fish to use in aquaponics gardening. Goldfish are readily available at most local pet shops and easily adaptable to various water conditions, Goldfish are a great choice for people looking to get started in aquaponics immediately. Goldfish are excellent at producing large amounts of waste, which translates to vital nutrients for your aquaponic garden. Goldfish are ready to breed from 1-2 years old, but typically they breed best at 3 years. They spawn once a month from April to August, when the weather is warmer. A female can lay up to 10,000 eggs Only a small amount of these eggs will be viable as not all will be fertilized by the male.
Pacu are easy to raise because they are omnivorous and can be fed a variety of food. The pacu fish can grow to a very large size, which makes them an attractive harvest. A high growth rate is important since it results in a larger quantity of harvest. The pacu fish can withstand various water conditions and is able to eat most foods. However, they need to be kept between 75 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit or 24 degrees Celsius and 28 degrees Celsius. Any temperature hotter or colder than that can result in stress and diseases. Therefore, the temperature of the water requires constant attention. They should be purged for 2 to 3 days before harvest time. A separate tank is recommended for the purging, the purging process removes any biological contaminants, and physical impurities. Being large in size, using seperate tanks is appropiate for this process to be effective.. The pacu reproduce by spawning, the female fish will reproduce unfertilized eggs into the water. The male pacu will then release sperm after this to fertilize the eggs. The pacu can often release 150,000-200,000 eggs, but some females can release a million eggs at one spawing.
While black bass can be a great choice in aquaponics, they’re certainly not a beginner fish because of cost, but if done properly they can be an extremely profitable choice.
One reason that black bass are such a great choice is the fact that they can adapt, and thrive in a wide range of temperatures. They can survive temperatures between 55-85 degrees.
Adults can get to 16 to 32 pounds depending on how large of a tank you have and how many gallons it holds, and their diet will have a significant impact on their growth rate too.
Females lay the eggs in the nest that the male has constructed for them and he then externally releases his sperm to fertilize the eggs. Eggs hatch in 1-5 days, with those in warmer waters hatching more quickly. Black bass fry reach independence in 7-10 days or as long as 5 weeks. A female black bass can lay between 2,000 and 7,000 eggs per pound of body weight. The male guards the nest, fanning the eggs with his tail to keep off silt and debris. He will vigorously defend the nest, and attack anything that swims near the nest. Black bass is a very popular choice for aquaponics because of it’s value and it’s desirable taste.
Barramundi are protandrous hermaphrodites, which means they change sex from male to female. They mature first as functional male fish and then undergo a sex change to become female.There is a relationship between size and sex. Barramundi female may produce 30–40 million eggs per spawning season. The barramundi is a fast growing fish. It should reach 1 pound in just 5 months, 2lbs in approximately 7 months and by a year be as much as 4lbs. This will depend on the space they have available and their environment and food supply. Barramundi are predators and will eat almost anything., crayfish, shrimp worms and feeder fish are a good idea, alongside commercial fish pellets, the are also cannibals, feeding on smaller barramundi, so keeping them well fed and also, sorting out and separating them by size will ensure your chances of successfully breeding and raising them to maturity
Freshwater shrimp are very low maintenance which makes them easy to have in an aquaponics system. Freshwater shrimps adapt really well to their environment and don’t need any special arrangements. They can tolerate fluctuations in water which makes them relatively easy to keep. They can survive in waters of 60 to 100 degrees but going that low or high is not is not the best for their growth. They eat almost anything as they aren't too picky when it comes to food, which includes organic matter such as leaves dead roots, fish waste, left over fish food. however smaller species shrimp should be separated from larger fish, because the fish will make a meal of them. A Clutch size for most shrimp can be between 50,000 – 1,000,000
Trout will not spawn naturally in home aquaculture systems, so the eggs are artificially spawned in larger farming facilities, from which you can purchase fingerlings to grow out, from fully mature brood fish; trout can start spawning at 2 years of age, but females are rarely used for spawning before they are three or four years of age. Trout are usually fast growing fish, especially under the proper conditions allowing you to increase your population. This can be useful if you want to sell the fish to generate additional funds or just enjoy eating them, and will allow you to increase the number of vegetables you can grow
Another reason in choosing rainbow trout is that they can survive in a wide range of temperatures; maximizing the production of nutrients to help your vegetables grow.
An average three-year-old female releases from 500 to 1,000 eggs. Fertilized eggs settle into the spaces around the gravel. Water temperature has to stay between 35 and 55 degrees for brook and brown trout eggs to survive.
Most species of crayfish will breed at any time in the home aquarium, though feeding high quality foods and keeping the water pristine will help trigger breeding behavior. Crayfish can be extremely hard to determine the sex for someone new to keeping them, but the easiest way is to look at the swimmerets (swimmerets, are primarily swimming legs, and are also used for brooding the eggs) . Sometime after mating the female lays about 200 eggs, which she carries in a mass under her tail. After several weeks the eggs hatch, and several miniature, replicas of adult crayfish, hatch. Red claws are extremely productive at breeding and will keep you with endless supplies of babies. The slow season for mating is May through June. Space planning tips for healthy crayfish housing is 5-15 per square meter or 10.5 square feet. The water doesn’t have to be deep because these crayfish thrive just as well in shallow fast moving streams and slow, deep water just the same in the wild. Be prepared to manage your colonies. They breed often, and in massive quantities, but you wont have any problem with selling your extra crayfish, or eating them.
The fish produce waste that fertilizes the plants, essentially for free. You do have to feed the fish but there are ways to feed the fish for free or at an extremely low cost, here are some ways:
Earth worms: The red earthworm (Eisenia fetida) – aka redworm, brandling worm, panfish worm, trout worm, tiger worm, red wiggler worm and other common names – is a species of earthworm adapted to live and thrive in decaying organic material like rotting vegetation, compost and manure. Scientific studies have shown that the red earthworm has adequate levels of protein, essential amino acids and lipids similar to those found in traditional fishmeal and are on par with the nutritional requirements of numerous fish species. Further studies have recommended worm meal to replace conventional fish feed protein without impacting the growth performance and reproduction of fish raised in an aquaponics system.
DUCKWEED: Most fish will readily eat duckweed and similar plants. Duckweed has proven to be an ideal feed for tilapia. Other fish like it too and even crawfish love it. Carnivores get benefits from duckweed. Aquarium fish that prefer live food, will consume the roots of duckweed and the microbes that live on the roots.
Duckweed can be fed to chickens and livestock. Since duckweed can grow extremely fast, consider that Duckweed can double their mass in between 16 hours to 2 days under optimal nutrient availability, sunlight, and water temperature. This is faster than almost any other plant.
Black soldier fly larvae. Fish raised on a black soldier fly diet grow just as fast as those raised on a traditional fish diets, such as fish meal, and the black soldier fly larvae has no negative effects on humans that eat the fish. In fact, black soldier fly larva are edible to humans too.
Females lay several hundred eggs at once, and incubate for 4-days then they wriggle out and begin their lives eating organic matter , garbage and dung. For 14 days, these juicy fat larvae will eat almost anything with a voracious appetite and build up fat stores that will sustain them for the remainder of their adult lives.