How to Start an Aquaponic Garden

When the conqueror Hernan Cortes arrived in Tenochtitlan in 1519, he saw a garden floating on the surface of Lake Texcoco. At that time, the Mexican Basin was characterized by an interconnected system of ponds and lagoons. Hundreds of water gardens dot the labyrinthine waterways around the lake.

The Aztecs called the garden chinampas. Cortes and his men later learned that the Aztecs had built a small island out of mud and staff. They grew vegetables, corn, and amaranth in raft-like structures.

Thousands of Aztecs depended on chinampas for food throughout the Mexican wetlands. Some of the water gardens were taking root deep in the muddy lake bed.

Hydroponics + Aquaculture = Hydroponics

Modern hydroponics systems that combine hydroponics and aquaculture work on a principle similar to that of Aztec chinampa.

The basic premise is the waste generated by the fish feed plant. Plants purify water for fish, creating small, independent ecosystems.

Modern hydroponics systems that combine hydroponics and aquaculture work on a principle similar to that of Aztec chinampa.
Modern hydroponics systems that combine hydroponics and aquaculture work on a principle similar to that of Aztec chinampa.

Getting Started with Aquaponic Garden

There are a few things you need to do to start an aquaponic garden. However, once the system is up and running, the Aquaponic Garden requires very little maintenance.

Here’s how to set up a media-based aquaponics system to grow your own food.

1. Build a fish tank.

Just like maintaining an aquarium, you must follow all safe practices for raising fish. Fish need a certain amount of space. The type of fish you decide to keep will determine the size of your tank you need.

Small aquariums or standards can be recycled. 20 gallon fish tank for small fish. However, most people choose to use it. big barrel or food grade containers with opaque sides. You can find many good options for both types of containers online.

Make sure you have a pump to draw water from the tank to the grow bed. For testing we PonicsPump Submersible Pump For two 25 gallon tanks. We were very happy with its performance.

For larger tanks, experts recommend using: air pump It also pushes oxygen into the water.

You need to set up your tank like a standard fishbowl. This means the water must be dechlorinated before adding the fish. To do this, cycle the water for about 4 to 6 weeks.

This gives the bacteria time to build up. The bacteria then break down the ammonia and nitrites present in the water. This process will in turn produce nitrates that will feed your plants.

Standard 20 gallon tanks can be recycled for hydroponics systems with small fish.
Standard 20 gallon tanks can be recycled for hydroponics systems with small fish. However, most people use opaque tubs or food grade containers.

2. Build the media bed.

You also need a container for your plants. This becomes the system’s media bed. You can use large plastic trays or wooden pallet boxes. You may need to put the bed on a stand that can support its weight.

Once the media bed is in place, it should be filled with the media of your choice. we use Organic Gardening Clay Gravel For our aquaponic systems, clay pebbles or hydrotons are pH neutral. They do not affect water. They also retain moisture well.

Website, Earth Easy, suggesting a 1:1 ratio of the size of the fish tank to the growing bed. This means the same volume for each.

Clay gravel or hydrotons are pH neutral.  They do not affect water.  They also retain moisture well.
. Clay gravel or hydrotons are pH neutral. They do not affect water. They also retain moisture well.

3. Add the fish.

Once the tank is circulated properly, you can add fish. Experts say certain species of fish have been found to be particularly adaptable to aquaponics. The most common choices are:

  • Tilapia is easy to grow, easy to care for, and rarely gets sick.
  • Goldfish produce a lot of waste, making them ideal for aquaponic systems.
  • Carp and ornamental fish such as guppies, tetras and mollies are highly appreciated by fish lovers.
  • Some farmers also raise catfish, carp, silver perch and barramundi in an aquaponic system.
Tilapia is easy to grow, easy to care for, and rarely gets sick.
Tilapia is easy to grow, easy to care for, and rarely gets sick.

4. Add plants.

Experts recommend leafy plants for an aquaponics setup. This plant tends to grow well in soilless systems. However, if you have enough fish, you can also grow fruit-bearing plants like peppers and tomatoes.

Here are the plants recommended for your system:

  • basil
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Mint
  • watercress
Experts recommend leafy plants such as watercress in an aquaponics environment.  This plant tends to grow well in soilless systems.
Experts recommend leafy plants such as watercress in an aquaponics environment. This plant tends to grow well in soilless systems.

Those with ample inventory and well-established aquaponic systems can grow larger plants. These may include:

  • bean
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • cucumber
  • squash
  • tomato
  • pea
  • pimento
  • Strawberry

Experts recommend planting seedlings. This will allow your garden to start. Gently push the roots into the gravel. The medium must be reached deep enough to draw nutrients from the water it will pass through.

Those with ample stock and well-established aquaponic systems can grow squash and other larger plants.
Those with ample stock and well-established aquaponic systems can grow squash and other larger plants.

5. Maintain an aquaponic ecosystem.

Maintaining an aquaponic system is easy and simple. You need to provide your fish with a quality diet. You can give them an occasional snack using simple flakes.

We feed the goldfish in our system. tetra goldfish flakes. Fish seem to like things. Feed only as much as the fish can eat in 5 minutes, 2-3 times a day.

Be careful not to introduce disease into the tank. This is why we advise against adding live food to fish.

You should test the water in the tank once every 1-2 weeks. Check your pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels. You will need a water test kit for this.

There are a few things you need to do to start an aquaponic garden.  However, once the system is up and running, the Aquaponic Garden requires very little maintenance.
There are a few things you need to do to start an aquaponic garden. However, once the system is up and running, the Aquaponic Garden requires very little maintenance.

we are happy API Freshwater Master Test Kit. This kit monitors the levels of the 5 most important water parameters in a freshwater aquarium. These are pH, a high range of pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels.

For fish to thrive, the water needs to be similar to what you would find in their natural environment. This means that ammonia and nitrite levels in the tank water must be imperceptibly low. If the system is set up correctly, the nitrate level should also be low.

The pH of the water should be neutral between 6.8 and 7.0. This level is ideal for fish, plants and bacteria. In an aquaponics system, the pH of the water typically drops below 7.0 at the end of the initial cycle. To increase the pH, you can add: calcium hydroxide Potassium carbonate in the tank.

Of course, you should take care of the plants in your system just like any garden beds you grow. In a good hydroponics system, weeds shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

The basic premise is the waste generated by the fish feed plant.  Plants purify water for fish, creating small, independent ecosystems.
The basic premise of aquaponics is that the waste produced by the fish feeds the plants. Plants purify water for fish, creating small, independent ecosystems.

In a functioning aquaponics garden, plants get the nutrients they need and fish get fresh recycled water. In return, the practical gardener gets organic vegetables for salads and fish for the grill.


Featured photo provided Flickr/Mediamatic

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