Do you love the idea of growing your own veggies out the back but your soil is poor and you donâ€™t have much water to spare? Do you like the idea of being able to grow edible fish in your own backyard?
If you answered yes, then Aquaponics may be for you! Aquaponics is the most water efficient method of growing plants and fish together and uses a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics techniques. Aquaponics uses nutrient-rich water from fish tanks to circulate through grow beds filled with gravel where plants are grown.
Nitrifying bacteria that live in the grow beds convert fish wastes into plant-available nutrients. The plants then use these nutrients and the clean water is returned to the fish in a continuous cycle. Basically, an aquaponics system is made up of a tank containing the fish of choice, and a series of grow beds for vegetable production. Aquaponics uses no chemicals, requires one tenth of the water needed for field plant production and only a fraction of the water that is used for aquaculture (fish culture).
Aquaponics systems are great for growing a wide range of vegetables including tomatoâ€™s, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, strawberries, and other green leafy vegetables. Aquaponics systems can range in scale from domestic backyard arrangements to large commercial operations, and are a great way to involve the whole family in healthy food production.
When aquaculture and hydroponics are used alone, there are a range of waste management issues that have to be dealt with. Water used in an aquaculture system quickly becomes too toxic for fish and must be disposed of â€“ often into our waterways, which can cause further environmental problems. This practice means aquaculture also uses a large amount of water as systems must constantly be emptied and refilled.
Hydroponics on the other hand, requires the constant addition of nutrients and chemicals to the system to maintain plant growth. When these too systems are combined to form an aquaponics system the negative aspects are cancelled out. The water is basically recycled with only a small amount of water added weekly to compensate for what is lost by evaporation and transpiration by the vegetables.
Therefore Aquaponics uses only about 10% of the water required for traditional gardening or fish farming. The Mt Pleasant Natural Resource Centre is hosting a talk on aquaponics with Stuart Haberfield â€“ an experienced DIY backyard aquaponics user, on the evening of Friday 3rd August. This is a great opportunity to find out how Aquaponics works, learn about the design and operation of different systems and get all your questions answered with Stuart.
Photos courtesy of: Joel Malcolm, www.backyardaquaponics.com