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by Tracy Hoffman June 26, 2019 6 min read

Want to grow your own vegies and herbs and even grow enough fish to feed your household? Aquaponics is a system where waste from fish is used to feed plants in the system, the plants in turn remove nutrient from the water creating a healthy environment for the fish. Aquaponics is a great and easy way to start growing vegetables at home and has many advantages over a traditional vegetable garden. 

  • You don't have to remember to water as the system is constantly recirculated through the growing medium
  • Save on water, as water used to water the vegetables flows back into the pond system and then back through the vegetables
  • You are in control of what products go into your system including what your fish eat and what if any nutrients you supplement your vegetable growth with (fish waste is the primary food for the plants in the system)
  • You harvest not only vegetables and herbs but fish or even Marron as well
  • Our aquaponics systems are portable and above ground, ideal for renters
  • Our aquaponics systems are at the right working height for most people - no bending over garden beds potentially hurting your back
  • Having fish as part of your vegetable system is more interactive, exciting and educational for kids

 

 

This simple aquaponics system has just been installed.

We recommend the use of expanded clay in your grow bed, no soil is necessary, simply plant directly into the clay balls. Expanded clay is light weight, clean and lasts many years. Due to it's structure and light weight, oxygen is able to reach the plant roots and the clay is able to store water and nutrient for easy access by the plants. When planting seedlings ensure your aquaponics riser/drain kit is set to full height so that the water level reaches the seedling roots. The water level can be dropped as plants grow.

It is important to put fish in the system soon after you install plants. Fish help kick start the nitrogen cycle helping your pond establish the correct healthy bacteria required in your system (use water conditioner to remove chlorine from the system if you fill with tap water). We recommend starting with a small number of fish to begin with. It will take at least 6 weeks for your system to find it's balance and it is important to not overload with fish during this time. Pond bacteria can be added to assist this process.

Sometimes, in new systems, plants need supplementary nutrient until fish are producing enough waste to feed the system. We recommend using small amounts of a natural product such as Seasol to feed your plants. We have found this not to be harmful to fish.

When considering plants for your system it is important to choose plants that you can harvest at different times, thus staggering replanting and harvesting. This ensures that at no time is your system without good numbers of plants. Harvesting too many plants or fish at one time can upset the balance of your system. The removal of large numbers of plants at once can result in high levels of nitrate which is toxic to fish.

Ensure fish are not overfed, remove any excess food that has not been consumed after 5 minutes. Excess food results in nutrient overload and could cause a toxic nitrate spike.

Regularly remove debris (leaves, dead plant matter) from the base of the pond and surface of the grow bed to keep your system clean and healthy.

Plants to grow in the Spring/Summer months

  • Broccoli
  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Eggplant
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumber
  • Corn 
  • Beans
  • Kale
  • Snow Peas
  • Basil
  • Thyme
  • Dill
  • Tarragon

Fish for Spring/Summer

  • Silver Perch
  • Barramundi
  • Marron (water temp below 25 degrees)

Plants to grow in Autumn/Winter

  • Spring Onions
  • Garlic
  • Peas
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Leak
  • Radish
  • Lettuce
  • Mint
  • Thyme
  • Oregano 
  • Sage
  • Chives

 Fish for Autumn/Winter

  • Rainbow Trout
  • Silver Perch
  • Marron

Cauliflower growing in our Aquaponics system.

Fresh and delicious strawberries are easily grown

 

Installing an aquaponics system is easy, with our system just follow these easy steps:

Level the ground and Position the Aquaponics Tub, Grow Bed and Stand.

Using a hacksaw cut the stepped hose tail for the Aquaponics Riser Kit to the 25mm size to ensure unrestricted flow from the grow bed to the Aquaponics pond. Cut the stepped hose tails on the pump t piece and pot conversion kit to the 19mm mark.

Screw the Aquaponics Riser into the base of the grow bed with the riser on top and the 25mm cut edge underneath. Screw the pot conversion kit to the rear of the grow bed with the 19mm stepped hose tail on the outside of the grow bed, ensure you press the rubber seals firmly against the grow bed prior to screwing into place to obtain a seal.

Place the slotted pvc drain pipe over the Aquaponics riser in the grow bed – it is very important to do this prior to putting the expanded clay into the grow bed.

Hold the slotted pvc drain pipe firmly in place and empty the bags of expanded clay into the grow bed, spreading evenly, do not place expanded clay on the inside of the slotted pvc drain.

The expanded clay needs to be rinsed through until the water runs clear. The clay particles are not harmful, however they will cause the water to turn red and will take weeks to settle. There are several ways you can rinse the expanded clay depending on the location of your set up:

  • Run water from a garden hose through the grow bed and attach a pipe to the grow bed drain point and divert water to a garden bed
  • Run water from a garden hose through the grow bed, filling the Aquaponics pond and then use the pump to pump the water onto a garden bed
  • Hose the expanded clay in a wheelbarrow prior to placing in the grow bed

Attach the 19mm ribbed hose to your pump and place the pump in position towards the centre of the Aquaponics pond. Run the hose and power cord to the rear of the Aquaponics pond and attach the ribbed hose to the bottom of the Aquaponics stand using the hose clip provided, this not only looks neat it also ensures maximum flow from the pump. Attach the ribbed hose to the pot conversion kit on the outside of the grow bed.

Fill your Aquaponics pond with water and turn the pump on.

Check for leaks at the rear of the grow bed. If this is dripping then ensure rubber seal is pushed up hard against the tub and the ribbed hose is pushed on firmly, use the hose clamp if necessary.

Your system is now ready for planting

Ensure you rinse all the dirt off the roots of your plants prior to planting directly into the expanded clay. Keep the water in the grow bed at a high level for the first week using the Aquaponics riser to ensure sufficient moisture high in the grow bed for young plants. Segments can be removed from the Aquaponics riser to drop the water level as the plants roots move down through the grow bed (usually after a week or two)

If you have used scheme (tap) water you will need to either leave the system running for at least 4 days or use water conditioner prior to introducing fish. If you use water conditioner fish can be added to the system after 20 minutes. Ensure you start with a small number of fish until your system establishes (ie 10 fingerlings).

It takes approximately 6 weeks for healthy bacteria to establish and we recommend regular water testing during this time and not introducing additional fish until after this time.

We have the following recommended products available in store to help you get the most out of your Aquaponics system:

  • Oase Quick Sticks Test Kit
  • Ammonia Test Kit
  • Pond Starter Bacteria
  • Crushed Limestone
  • Thermometer
  • Water Conditioner (if you use tap water to refill)

Fine Gravel can be added to the Aquaponics pond for both aesthetic purposes and to maximise area for growth of healthy bacteria. We recommend 2.5 bags per square metre.

 

 

One of our Large Aquaponics Systems. A third grow bed can be added to this system