How Aquaponics Can Work And Here Are My Fav Tips

How many times did you want to grow your own vegetables, without chemicals or preservatives, just organic food that you, your children and your entire family can eat safely? How many times did you think for purchasing a land that will offer you the organic crops you long for? How many times did you wish to go out and pick your veggies without thinking of their rising price? If for all of these questions the answer is “many” then read on and find out how all you wishes may come true.

So, let’s start with the beginning. The first invention which made gardening far easier was hydroponics, which involved growing your veggies in special pots with water. However, the hydroponic system involves using many chemicals and fertilizers, thus the plants growing in there are not quite organic. Yet, the use of fertilizers and chemical substances is not necessary when building your aquaponic system.

Aquaponics or aquaponic farming involves growing fish and plants in a natural and useful interdependence. So, you grow fish in a normal fish tank and after a certain period you “plant” the seeds. Then you just take care of the fish and the plants will grow and develop naturally without any further help from you.

The aquaponic principle is simple: the fish provide food and fertilizer for the plants (their excrements), while the plants clean the fishes’ water, creating great conditions for them to develop. If you take good care of your fishes and make sure that their water is always oxygenated properly, then your plants will not need any other type of care. So, as long as your fishes are happy, so will be your plants.

There are plenty of advantages such a system can offer you. First of all independence from the market as you will grow your own vegetables in the comfort of your own home, secondly great use of your space, as you will only need a place inside the house or the garage where you can place the fish tank. Then there is the comfort issue, as you no longer have to dig the ground and plant the seeds outside, bend over and over again to clear the land from weeds and harvest the crops. In fact you do not need land at all.

This is by far the easiest, safest and most convenient type of gardening that has ever existed. Try it now and convince yourself that aquaponics is the future of gardening!

You Need Grow Lights for Aquaponics

If you locate your aquaponic systems indoors such as in your garage, you will need grow lights for your plants. Here are a few tips on which types of lighting to consider.

There are two types of effective grow lights available: fluorescent and high density discharge lamps (led). Each type of lamp has advantages and disadvantages. The appropriate lamp to use depends on what youre growing, the size of the plants, and your budget.

When most people think about buying grow lights, the first question they ask is how much the bulbs will cost. However, in addition to the cost of the bulbs, you need to consider the impact on your utility bills. The addition to your electric bill may be substantial. This is why its important to research grow lights thoroughly to ensure they meet your budget for initial and ongoing costs.

Fluorescent grow lights are ideal for smaller plants or seedlings, as they provide continuous, bright light without creating too much heat. Most plants respond well to fluorescent lights with a satisfactory growth rate. If you choose fluorescent lights, you will save money buying the common variety ones found in stores instead of more expensive ones sold as specialty growing lights.

High density discharge grow lights are a good choice in that they produce efficient light while being easy to install and move if necessary. They an also be somewhat costly, though many believe theyre more than worth the additional expense. However, since these types of grow lights emit high amounts of heat, you will want to take extra measures to keep the room cooler.

Also keep in mind that the combination of grow lights and water creates a lot of humidity. High humidity may cause the growth of harmful bacteria. You can prevent this, however, by making sure that the air in your greenhouse or grow room is constantly circulating. A dehumidifier wouldnt hurt either.

Water Quality Is Most Important For Aquaponics

Sure, your also need light and food for your plants and fish, but water, the aqua in aquaponics, is the lifeblood of your system. Most of your aquaponics problems will be caused by poor water quality. So, it is vital that you keep your water quality as high as possible. There are several water quality factors you need to control.  Lets start with what I call the 3 Hs: pH, GH, and KH.

Start With Good Water.
It is much easier to maintain good water quality if you start with water of good quality. If the tap water in your home is not as good as it should be, you may want to have water delivered if delivery is available in your area. Of course, you should test that water before adding it to you tank.

If you have the time and patience, you could run your water through a reverse osmosis (ro) filter to remove all the bad stuff. If you have a large system and a small capacity ro filter, this might take days rather than hours to accomplish. What to do if you have to start with bad water!

Adjust the pH
The pH of water is expressed as a number that reflects the acidity of alkalinity of water. The number can ranges from 0 to 14 with pure water being a 7.0 which is consider neutral. Technically, pH is a measure of hydrogen ions in water. The p comes from a German word potenz or power. The H stands for hydrogen. The H is capitalized because it is customary to capitalize element symbols. But enough chemistry, what we need to know is what pH number we are looking for and what to do if our water does test to that number.

Fish can survive is a fairly wide range of pH but plants are a bit more fussy. For most of us, a pH range of 7.0 to 7.5 is a good compromise. If your water tests out of that range, you can add pH up or down products until you get to the right number. You should do this slowly, over a period of days, if you have already added fish. When you get to the target range, you can maintain it by adding a pH buffer. If you do add a buffer, make sure it is safe for both plants and fish.

Tap water in most cities will be 8.0 or above. This is done to reduce the risk of leeching harmful particulates from water pipes. Think Flint, Michigan. The tap water in my hometown, Las Vegas, Nevada tests between 8.2 to 8.4. It took me several days to adjust it to the pH I wanted.

Products to raise or lower pH are available in most pet stores, hydroponics stores, or online on Amazon. You will also find kits for testing pH in these places. You can use test strips, test kits, or test meters. The kits and strips may not be quite as accurate as a test meter. Test meters are not all that expensive, so you might want to invest in one of these.

Adjust for Hardness
The tap water in Las Vegas qualifies as very hard. I think it is so hard that if you look closely, you can see small rocks floating in it! When I first tried to measure the hardness with a test kit with witch you keep adding and counting drops to a test tube until the test solution changes color, the number of drops got so high that I quit counting and concluded that, yes indeed, the water was hard.

There are two types of water hardness: general hardness (GH) and carbonate hardness (KH). General hardness (GH) is usually the measurement of calcium and magnesium ions in the water. General hardness is not usually a concern except that it will can leave unwanted mineral deposits on faucets, bath tubs, and toilet bowls. But your fish and plants do require these minerals for good health.
Carbonate hardness (KH) is the measure of bicarbonate and carbonate ions in the water. The important factor of GH is the effect it has on the pH of the water. Too high, and it will be difficult to lower pH, too low and the pH may undergo big changes which can be harmful to your fish. So we need it to be just right, a reading between 4 to 12 dKH which you can measure with an API test kit.

Other Water Quality Issues
Temperature, levels of ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, and dissolved oxygen are also very important in maintaining good water quality. We will cover those in other articles. However, if you get all your Hs right from the beginning, you will have a head start on maintaining good water quality in your aquaponics system.

How I Fought and Won a Battle Against a Dreaded Algae Bloom

A couple of months ago, I was very pleased when a friend remarked how clear my aquaponics fish tank was.  And it was, until about a week later when I saw the first signs of green starting to appear.  A few days later, the water was solid green and my fish were only visible when they surfaced to eat.  I was now in a full scale battle against an algae bloom.

In nature, algae play a very important role.  But in my fish tank, besides being unsightly, they can cause problems such as using up oxygen and causing big changes in the waters pH.  Neither of these is good for my fish.

There several things I could have done to fight the algae.  The first, of course, was to try to prevent it in the first place.  This particular tank is on my patio and although partially shaded,  it was in full sunlight for a couple of hours a day.  So I put up a beach umbrella for more shade.  I also reduced the amount of food I was feeding the fish.

Another weapon I could use would be an algaecide.  Many people hace used it successfully.  Others, however, end up with no algae and no fish.  I was not willing to take that chance.
Water changes are also recommended, but I was trying to build up the nitrates and nutrients and didnt want to dilute my tank with a big water change.  I decided against water changes.
My next choice was the install a UV sterilizer.  I had one installed for my saltwater fish tank for which I had paid several hundred dollars.  It had a powerful UV light which was designed not so much to kill algae, which it did, but to kill nasty critters in the water that could make my fish sick.  I didnt need a light that powerful or expensive for my aquaponics fish tank.
I fired up my computer and logged into Amazon to find a UV clarifier which is was less powerful and less expensive than my pricey salt water sterilizer.  No problem finding one on Amazon that was well within my price range.

A few years ago there was a game people played with the Google search engine.  They tried to find a search term that would return only one result.  It was difficult to find one, but it could be done.  Today, you are hard pressed to find a term that doesnt pull up a million pages.  Amazon is kind of like that.  Try searching Amazon for a product and see if you can find one they dont have.
I selected a clarifier that had good reviews and was affordable.  Since I am a Prime member of Amazon (who isnt), two days later a packages was on my front door steps.  I installed the filter immediately which was easy since it had barbs to fit several tube sizes.  The instructions said it had an easy to read indicator light so you to see that the unit is running, but I really couldnt tell whether the light was working or not.

After a couple of days, I didnt see any improvement and because I wasnt sure the light was working, I informed Amazon that I was returning the unit and printed out a return label.  Amazon has a very liberal return policy.  Then, I selected another UV filter and waited two days for it to arrive.  Like clockwork, it was delivered in two days.  The old unit had been installed for those two days since I decided to leave it hooked up until the new one arrived.

As soon as the new unit arrived, I went to install it.  But as I was about to do so, I noticed my water was starting to clear.  So I left the first filter hooked up, and sure enough on the third day my water showed more improvement.  Same on the fourth, fifth, and sixth days.  By day seven, all the algae was gone.  The filter was working even though I couldnt tell if the light was on or not.

I kept the second filter for a spare and to use if algae attacks another of my fish tanks.  The moral is that you should take steps to prevent algae in the first place and to be patient after installing something new.  I won a battle against algae, but the war is never over.

I dont know if the filter I bought is the best or least expensive one you can find, but it worked for me.  If you have algae in any of your aquaponics fish tanks, you may want to consider installing a UV filter.

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