Aquaponics is an excellent way of growing food in your own backyard. A small, simple backyard aquaponics set-up can produce enough food to feed your family and have extra to give away to friends!
All you need for a backyard aquaponics system in a tank for the fish, a hydroponic grow bed for the vegetables, a pump, tubing, and a submersible heater if you live in colder areas (depending on the fish you choose).
An excellent growing medium for a backyard aquaponics grow bed is gravel, as it provides support for the plants, acts as a filter, has good water flow characteristics and yields good plant growth. Choosing gravel as the growing bed medium will save you from having to buy filtering elements. The best gravel to use is one with a size of about 1/3 to 3/4 of an inch in diameter. If the gravel is much smaller it can clog and obstruct the water flow. You don't want it too large either, as it will not filter the water and will not provide support for the plant's roots. The gravel will also provide an excellent habitat for the bacteria, which are a crucial component of an aquaponics system. Get smooth, round gravel that is gentle on the hand and on the roots.
If you set-up the system properly, you will need just one pump for the whole set-up to run efficiently. Such a system involves placing the grow beds on top of the fish tank, so that you only have to pump water from the tank to the grow beds. The water will then flow back to the tank via gravity.
Heating of the water is not required if you choose your fish wisely, however, maintaining a uniform water temperature will speed up growth of both fish and plants. Thus though you may be spending more on electricity, you will have higher yields, and actually it will be more profitable. The reason why plants benefit as well is because the bacteria in the water will be more efficient at converting wastes to nutrients, and the plants will therefore have more nitrogen available to them. Note that water heating is a requirement if you are growing fish that have optimal temperature ranges that are different from the temperature in the area of your setup. Water heating is also required if the temperature of the aquaponics system's location fluctuates a lot, as this will stunt or kill the fish.
It is a good idea to have a good pH testing kit at hand, as it is tantamount that the pH of the water stays around 6.7 to 7.0. Fish can tolerate pHs up to 8.0, but plant growth will suffer at high pH. On the other hand, plants can tolerate pHs as low as 4.5, but fish will start to die at pHs under 6.5. Therefore, a pH range of 6.7 to 7.0 is optimal to both fish and plants.
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