Aquaponic systems can be very productive when they are well managed and well maintained.I must be honest and say I have never tried aquaponics for myself but I have been doing some research and I am very impressed with the concept, the thinking and the amazing productivity of the system as described and demonstrated by Murray Hallam. Mr Hallam has done fantastic work developing and promoting aquaponics and he is also a very generous man because he shares his knowledge freely, through (short clip) videos on youtube, his blog and the aquaponics forum. Longer videos with much more detail are available for purchase at Practical Aquaponics online store (all links below), as are a number of books and other resources. I have strung together a few videos on my own youtube channel on aquaponics and I am presenting some of these in this article, to allow the expert to explain the basics and describe the system and some key ratios and principles. I hope you enjoy the videos as much as I do.
This first video gives a basic introduction to aquaponics and discusses the basic techniques and demonstrates the productivity of an aquaponic system. Aquaponics is easy if you understand the basic principles and optimum ratios, This next video explains some of them.
The end product from a clean and healthy aquaponic system - good fresh produce and good fresh fish
One of the major downsides to aquaponics is the cost of ready to install kits, although they do include everything to make a very dynamic aquaponics system. You can make your own aquaponics system from recycled and (relatively inexpensive) new materials, such as IBC's (Intermediate bulk containers) and a submersible pump. As you can see in this next video, you only need basic DIY skills and one IBC to make a simple constant flow, one bed system. Personally, I would prefer a cycling pumping system and a couple more beds to make the system more productive and allow a higher fish:water volume ratio but as it is, this is a fine system for anyone to try aquaponics and elements can be added or changed to increase productivity and deal with and contain the flushed water that may still contain nutrients and is unbalanced pH wise. It's a little over 30 minutes long but it's worth watching I think.
Did you notice the blue drums and IBC's in the background, next to the rainwater tank. What an excellent example of reuse of discarded items as they are obviously set up to capture overflow from the rainwater tank and increase rainwater storage capacity! I would also add some solenoid vaves on the growing bed drainage and an automatic cut off system for the pump for when the grow beds reach full water capacity. This would hold the water (and fish poo) in the grow bed, allowing the bacteria time to do their work and stop nutrients overflowing back into the fish tank. You would probably need an electronic management system, such as an automatic garden watering system to manage some of the cycling tasks and a float valve or similar to control water volume in the grow beds. Murray likes to use covers on the fish tank to reduce evaporation and contamination and the fish feel more comfortable under cover as well. These are small issues but worth mentioning I think, if you are like me and like to get the maximum possible output from any system, without throwing it out of balance. * If you plan on trying this at home, you will need to wash the IBC's very well and double rinse if you suspect they contained chemicals and another tip is to spend a week or two trying to grow algae. If algae grows the IBC is clean and will grow food crops.*
I hope you enjoyed these three videos and if you feel inspired to try aquaponics at home I urge you to seek out more information for yourself so that you know all the little secrets and tips and all the pitfalls you might run into and how to deal with them. The sites I will link are good places to get started in this process. Aquaponics requires good management skills, a sound knowledge base and a good understanding of the basic principles, such as: Balance, Harmony, Diversity, Oversight and Knowledge. It also requires a power source to run the pump but if you add a solar panel and battery and use 12 volt electrical equipment, that can be totally sustainable as well. Water use is minimised as it's a closed system, recycling the water with only occasional (1/3 flushes). It is scaleable to fit any space and intended application and if there is a flush containment system, such as a reed bed, or a grow bed with plants that require only occasional water, such as aloe vera, reeds, etc.
Once optimised, this is a very dynamic system producing fresh organic fruit and vegetables with the bonus of beautiful, healthy fish for the table. It meets one of permaculture's fundamentalunderlying principles as well, which is minimum energy input, maximum potential output, as well as being multi-functional and maximing output for the space required. It is not suitable for all crops. Most root crops do better in the ground or a raised bed and fruit trees aren't suited to this system at all. The papaya that Murray was growing were doing fantastic, as were the strawberries, so some sweet treats do well, trial and error and a bit of common sense will tell you what's going to be best, especially for local climate conditions. To find out more follow the links below.