If you are searching for a system that can grow top-quality fruits without using fertilizer, very little water, and a free fish for dinner, aquaponics is what you are looking for. Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture, or fish farming, and hydroponics, or growing plants without soil. The fish and the plants work together in this system. When the plants take up the fish wastes it will purify the water in which the fish live, while the fish wastes will provide the plants with nutrients they need. The only input needed to the system is fish food which creates a sustainable ecosystem where both fish and plants can thrive.
Step 1. Set up the Tank.
Put the under-gravel filter in the tank. Add gravel and water. Check the pH of the water, and make sure it is about pH 6.8. Wait for 48 hours before adding the fish so that the water can be de-chlorinated. For starters, add about a 1 inch sized fish for each gallon of water.
Step 2. Set up the Grow Bed
Make a hole large enough for the pump tubing to fit through, and 3/16-inch drain hole every 2 inches at the bottom of the grow bed. Place a flat slate or rock at the bottom of the grow bed and set the pump on it. This is done so that the pump will not be clogged with gravel. Drill little holes on all sides of the feed tube except in the section that will go from the pump up to the grow bed. Insert the tube in the hole of the grow bed and loop the rest of the tube down one side and back up the other side of the grow bed. To force the flow to go through the holes on the sides of the tube, block the end of the tube by folding it over and securing it with a zip tie or strong rubber band. Fill the grow bed with clay pebbles.
Step 3. Add the Fish and Plants
It is recommended to allow the system to become established with only the fish before adding plants, which may take about 1 month. Plant the fruit seeds directly in the grow beds.
Step 4. Maintenance of the Aquaponics System
The aquaponics system is easy to maintain. Make sure to check the pH level every week and that is maintained between pH 6.6 and 7.0. Use a siphon cleaner to clean the excess waste out of the gravel every month. Remember to bring the level water down ¼ when doing this process, and don’t forget to fill the tank back up when you’re done.