What is th best home aquaponic system for a beginner? Through out our site there is plenty of talk about filters (biological and solids) and heaps of examples on how to DIY these for yourself. Adding filtration does add complexity however, is not is out of reach of the average home aquaponic (ist).
Adding filtration, separating fish from plants and various other additions, will without a doubt, give you more production. The additional filtration and control will certainly provide you with a more productive and sustainable system, the inclusion of these are not necessary if you are just starting out. It is best to stick to the following basics to get it right.
The Basics of a Home Aquaponic System
My personal choice for aquaponic beginners is to start with the following:
Fish tank up to 500 liters.
Generally animal water troughs work well. They are mostly virgin plastics, UV stable, durable and inexpensive. Simple 500 liter, open top shallow tanks for $220. You can find these types of tanks at most rain water tank suppliers or agricultural supplies. If you have the space go for 1000 liter tanks, they are easier to manage.
Media grow beds around 2m2 to 4m2
Depth of the beds is not important but starting at 150mm and up. One of the simplest and inexpensive grow beds will be hydroponic trays. They are light weight and generally come with a frame. If not a “qubelok” frame or blocks and sleepers can be used. Most of the hydro trays are around the 2m2 mark in size, so 2 or 4 of them will be perfect for a small home aquaponic system.
You can use gravel
Gravel is cheap compared to expanded clay. Gravel is heavier than expanded clay, so consider your supporting frame and costs. The expanded clay is a better choice if you can afford it. Shallow hydroponic trays (150mm) will require less media than deep grow beds. Cost and weight are the only two considerations between gravel and expanded clay. Depth of the bed will have no impact on growth.
Small water pump running continuous flow
2000 liters per hour pond pump will often do the job. Smaller pumps lose significant flow as the pumping height increases. More pumping capacity is better. Simply triple your pump size and be cautious with pumping heights. Pond pumps are often only suited to a small fountain, they are not suitable for pumping through pipes.
Inline or Submersible Pump?
The best pump is in-line (outside of the fish tank) not submersible. Inline pumps will prevent earth leakage, reduce the vibrations and stress for the fish. You can put the pump in the tank with the fish and it will work. To avoid clogging and reducing flow, the pre-filters on submersible pumps will need cleaning often.
Fish numbers no higher than 5 to 10
Keep the fish numbers low. You will have acceptable plant growth with 5 to 10 fish in 500 liters. This number is not many fish, but you will not need much to grow your veg. When you are beginning, the hardest part is growing the fish. Keeping fish at a very low density will see you with less disappointment and stress.
Best pumping configuration is up from the fish tank to the grow bed and gravity back to the fish. This is one of the most simplest systems to plumb and is consistently proven successful. Plumb the pump to deliver water to the grow bed and a small standpipe in the grow bed to return water by gravity. The grow bed will need to be higher than the fish tank. Try to keep your poly pipe or pvc plumbing a minimum size of 25mm and you will be fine.
Home aquaponic systems are simple to understand, build and operate. No solids filtration, no bio filtration, no aeration and minimum plumbing. You will want to have a small solar pond pump in the tank for backup running continuously like a fountain. Local hardware have these for around $200
If growing fish to eat is not the thing for you, you end up with a small pond to toss some koi in and you will still grow veg at very low cost and effort. Or if you don’t much like it at all you have not broken the bank with a great deal of equipment, tools and inflated priced kits.
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