Lifestyles for Better Living

Aquaponics Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Aquaponics is an efficient answer to the most basic requirement of modern living: a clean and sustainable source of food. Here are some answers to many of the most frequently asked questions.

QUESTION: Why is an aquaponic setup needed to cultivate plants without soil?

Many people wonder why they canít cultivate plants on jars of water. The answer lies in whatís in the water in the first place. Plants need a lot of nutrients in order to grow. Aquaponics answers this need by providing a source of adequate nutrition to the plants — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

QUESTION: I like the home-sized system, but is there any way to get the same results with the plants without having to raise the fish?

Yes, you will need to add manure tea to the water periodically to supply the bacteria in the water with ammonia. Manure tea will also ensure that the plants get sufficient minerals from the water. However, this is no longer aquaponics Ė this falls under the realm of hydroponics only.

It should be noted that, in a strictly hydroponic system, water has to be drained to prevent toxicity in the system.

As a hydroponic system ages, chemical builds up in the water. Plants are extremely sensitive to chemical levels; thatís why the system has to be periodically purged of excess levels of chemicals to prevent toxicity to the plants.

This is not to say that pond culture is perfect. Far from it Ė fish ponds can be highly saturated with fish to the point that solid waste from the fish will float on top of the water.

Because there is no way to filter and process the effluent waste from the fish, the waste remains in the water. Aquaponics remedies the weaknesses of traditional aquaculture (pond culture) and hydroponics and combines the advantages of both methods.

Aquaponics is specifically a hybrid form of farming that utilizes the breakdown of fish feces and fish feeds to nourish aquaponic plants.

Nutrient wastage is eliminated because the water is cycled through different tanks continuously. Stagnation of water is also prevented because water is regularly cycled with the help of a pump. For single-tank setups, water is still purified by the aquaponic plants.

QUESTION: How come the roots of the plants donít rot even if there is direct contact with water?

The main idea behind hydroponics is to utilize the nutrients present in the water without having to depend on the soil. This is not to say that the plants are there without any medium. The plants still have to be transplanted upon a sturdy medium such as gravel or rocks.

Water penetrates the medium and the roots of the plants are able to absorb nutrients. Grow bed media also prevent the roots of the aquaponic plants from drying out. Adequate media, combined with an ebb-and-flow system or a once-hourly flow system, will ensure that the roots of the plants are always moist.

QUESTION: I donít like the idea of pouring gravel into my grow beds. Is there any other way?

There is another way of cultivating plants without the use of a regular grow-bed media like gravel. Itís called D.W.C., or Deep Water Culturing.

As you can imagine, this technique allows the roots of the plants to be partially submerged in the nutrient-rich water. Styrofoam allows the plants to float on water. Narrow channels on grow beds allow the floating plants to absorb nutrients from the flowing water.

However, when the roots of the plants are submerged in water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the roots can rot if the plants are not used to low nutrient levels. The nutrient film method is usually used for D.W.C. systems. (As a reminder, the nutrient film method utilizes a continuous flow system.)

QUESTION: I like the idea of flooding a small grow bed with water from the holding tank. However, I want a system that does not require a sump pit. Is there a setup that is similar to a solar pond but still works like an ebb-and-flow aquaponic system?

Flooding and draining of a grow bed can be done by having a low yet high-capacity holding tank and an elevated grow bed.

The grow bed has to be directly above the holding tank. Periodically, a pump activates so that water from the holding tank floods the grow bed. Slowly, the water drains back to the holding tank.

This system is simple and very effective. It also reduces the incidence of root rot because the roots of the plants are not continually submerged in flowing water.

However, unlike the CHIFT system, the water level in this setup does not remain constant at all times. When the grow bed/s are flooded with water, the water level in the holding tank will decrease for a short period.

For more information and help, pick up the Nook book, Aquaponics for the Home Hobbyist at Barns and Noble.

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