Aquaponics is the fusion of aquaculture – the growing of fish (normally on a commercial scale) and hydroponics – the growing of plants without soil.
Closed system Aquaculture traditionally creates a lot of effluent- water with high concentrations of fish waste. Even in our small (comparatively speaking) aquariums, this is a problem, which we manage by partial water changes. This effluent, it turns out, is nearly a perfect hydroponics nutrient solution. A correctly sized hydroponics system can be an effective filter system for aquaponics systems, or an aquarium.
There are several different ways to grow plants in water. Every hydroponics method can be adapted to aquaponics. Some of these techniques can be scaled down to an aquarium sized system more easily then others. There are a few extra things we need to do when we feed an aquaculture system into a hydroponics system like removing the ‘solids’ from the fish effluent.
There are many different types of aquaponics systems being used today. Most of these work quite well. Most of these are quite a bit bigger than what we may have space for indoors. They also aren’t ‘pretty’ enough to have much appeal to be placed in a living room or reception area. We can however apply a lot of the good points from these various systems to our aquarium sized systems and leverage existing aquarium equipment to build them.
Some of the popular outdoor and greenhouse systems include:
Barrelponics – uses 2 blue plastic 55 gallon barrels to build a small self contained backyard aquaponics system with a continuously running water pump.
CHOPS – A system that incorporates a fish tank, a sump and a growbed(s) using a single continuously running water pump
Not all existing systems of aquaponics can be satisfactorily applied to indoor use. Issues such as appearance, humidity, and where the water goes if something leaks are all major considerations for indoor systems. It could be hard to gain household acceptance for an ugly, rigged-together looking ‘thing’ in the house that’s liable to leak onto the carpet and smells bad!
Some aquaponics systems look really cool in a greenhouse, but aren’t near as neat in your living room. Many people take objection to rows of PVC pipe or blue barrels cut in half in the corner next to the TV. Aesthetics can be a primary consideration for an indoor system where it may not be important at all in an outdoor system. Indoor systems we need to hide a lot of the plumbing and keep the aquarium and the plants on display.
An aeroponics system (not considering the potential for clogged sprayers) in the living room probably a bad idea. The water stains on the walls and the constantly wet carpet are likely to cause problems. Even though a properly balanced and maintained aquaponics system has minimal smell to it, spraying the water into the air is still likely to make the room smell like a tropical fish store.
And let me tell you from experience, 50 gallons of water in the living room carpet from a overnight leak is not much fun!
There are only a few components to an aquaponics system.
The fish tank
The plant grow bed
The stuff that hooks the two together.