Whether as a hobby or a full-time activity, aquaponics is a great way to practice agriculture. It’s also an incredibly efficient way to use your space.
But what if the space you have available is just three cubic feet or less? Does it mean you can’t get your own aquaponics system up and running?
As a matter of fact, it is very much doable! Here’s what you need to know to make it happen.
What Is Aquaponics?
The word “aquaponics” may sound complicated, but it’s really all about growing fish and plants together in a cycle that requires little space, produces great results, is fun, and is easy to set up.
The waste generated by fish (from droppings, feed, urine, and more) is broken down by bacteria to create nutrients for the plants. As the plants grow, they clean the water for the fish to use as well.
How An Aquaponics System Works
An aquaponics system basically contains 3 primary parts. These are the fish tank, a pump, and the grow bed. It also incorporates 3 different living things, these being fish, bacteria, and plants in what seems to resemble a symbiotic relationship.
After bacteria digest ammonia from their waste, water from the fish tank (containing nitrates) is pumped up into the grow bed.
Here, plants use these nitrates as food, eventually making the water clean again. This water is then pumped back into the fish tank, and the cycle continues! You can even start a full aquaponic garden if you have plenty of space!
How Can You Start Aquaponics With A Tiny Space?
If you’re starting out with a tiny space and not a lot of money, it can be hard to know where to start.
Here are some tips for people who need to get their aquaponics system up and running in a small area.
Understand what you need:
You will need several supplies to get an aquaponics system up and running. Apart from the fish tank, these will include gravel, water, a water pump, and plastic tubing. You will also need a grow bed, preferably suitable enough to sit on top of the fish tank, growing media, and a pH testing kit.
Of course, you will also need fish, plants, and the tools needed to build and assemble the system if you plan to do it yourself.
Now that you know what you need, these tips can help you get started and make your aquaponics system projects a success.
- Start small: Start with fewer plants and fish
- Invest in vertical space: Make your fish tank and grow bed deeper rather than wider
- Keep smaller fish in the tank
- Grow smaller plants
What Do You Need to Grow Hydroponically?
Growing plants hydroponically simply means growing them, without soil – just water, nutrients, oxygen, and light.
Some of the most crucial things needed for hydroponic growing include the following:
You’ll need to get your hands on a hydroponic growing medium. There are many different kinds of hydroponic growing media, but the most popular one is hydroton or expanded clay pebbles (ECPs). ECPs come in various sizes and colors, and they’re usually sold with a pH testing kit included.
Hydroponics also requires ensuring that the plants get a consistent amount of light. Sometimes this means using artificial lighting, especially if the space doesn’t get enough sunlight. Led lighting like the kind used in controlled environment agriculture (CEA) is a common choice these days when growing plants in indoor settings.
If you’re using artificial grow lights, a light timer will make sure your lights turn off at night or when the plants get enough, so they don’t waste electricity 24/7.
If you want to make sure your plants are getting all the nutrients they need, consider adding some nutrients to the water as well. These can be purchased separately or in combination with an ECP kit that also includes everything else you’ll need for your system.
What Kind of Nutrients Do the Plants in Aquaponics Need?
Plants in aquaponics need the same nutrients that they would in a normal hydroponic system. This is because the plants are still being nourished by the same water source, so you can use most of the common fertilizers and supplements that are used in conventional gardening.
While your aquarium may provide nutrients like nitrogen, plants may need other minerals like phosphorus, potassium, and calcium to grow healthily. They also need trace elements such as iron, zinc, and magnesium. You might also want to use products that contain silica or boron although these aren’t essential for healthy growth (but they may help).
Alongside nutrients, your plants also need a rich supply of oxygen from their roots at all times. It is thus important not to let them sit in water too long without any circulation – otherwise, they won’t absorb enough oxygen from it!
You Don’t Need a Lot of Space to Set Up an Aquaponics System
You don’t need a lot of space to set up an aquaponics system. You can grow plants in a small space, and even in just a few inches of water! If you want to grow lettuce or basil, all they may need is water, some sunlight, and nutrients from the fish poop.
The only thing you really need is a container deep enough to accommodate both the plants you want to grow and your fish tank. Add gravel at the bottom of the tank so that nitrifying bacteria have a home, add water, add fish, fix the pump and tubing to connect both containers and you’re almost good to go.
If you’re looking for a way to grow your own food at home, aquaponics can be a perfect solution. It’s easy to set up, requires minimal space and maintenance, and can be done on a minimal budget.
Plus, you’ll also be keeping some ornamental pets or food fish! With this tutorial as your guide, you’ll hopefully be well on your way to becoming an expert in no time!