How to Install an Aquaponics System

What You'll Need
Fish tank or aquarium of at least 10 gallon capacity
Under-gravel filter and pump
Grow bed such as a plastic storage bin
Submersible pump
Expanded clay pebbles
pH test kit
Siphon cleaner
PH adjuster
Hydroponic bloom solution

An aquaponics system is a very eco-friendly way of growing food plants while also enjoying the fun of keeping fish. It’s essentially a self-contained system with one element feeding the other. It’s simple to set up an aquaponics system once you have the proper equipment, all of which can be easily purchased from specialist stores.

Step 1 - What is Aquaponics?

An aquaponics system combines keeping fish with hydroponics while growing vegetables using water. It’s a closed system since the nutrients for the plants comes directly from the fish waste. Furthermore, the plants purify the water. All you input into the system is food for the fish and in return, you have an effective ecosystem. An aquaponics system is ideal for leafy greens, but most types of vegetables should do well in an aquaponics system.

Step 2 - Setting up the Tank

You can set up the tank for an aquaponics system in the same way you’d set up any aquarium. Start by putting the under-gravel filter in the tank, making sure you’ve installed the riser tubes, before adding gravel and water to the tank.

Now, you’ll need to connect the air stones to the tubing that runs from the air pump before you put them into the riser tubes from the filter. Fill the tank and use the pH test kit to test the pH of the water. Note, however, that for an aquaponics system it will need to be different from the pH needed for an aquarium. An aquarium needs a pH of 7.4. For an aquaponics system, you should maintain a pH of 6.8, which is lower than most pH readings direct from the faucet. Because of this, you’ll need to adjust the pH using a recommended pH adjuster. You should allow 48 hours before adding fish to the tank to give the water time to de-chlorinate.

Step 3 - Fish

You should add 1 fish for each gallon of water to allow them plenty of room. For a small home aquaponics system, goldfish or koi are the best choice. Make sure you also put in a plecostomus cat to help keep the fish tank clean.

Step 4 - Grow Bed

Prepare the grow bed by putting 3/16 inch drain holes spaced 2 inches apart on the bottom of the bed. One hole will need to be larger to accommodate the pump tubing from the tank. The grow bed should be larger than the tank on which it will sit so make sure you don’t place holes close to the edge.

Attach the submersible pump to the fish tank on the side of the tank by using suction cups or on a flat rock. Make holes in the feed tube. The tube from the pump should go up through the hole into the grow bed, letting the line play out across the bottom of the grow bed. Secure the end of the tube with a clip to block it. Now, fill the grow bed with expanded clay which will be your growing medium. Allow a month before planting in the medium so the system can become fully established.

Step 5 - Growing

From here, all you have to do is maintain the system. Check the pH weekly and adjust as necessary. Use de-chlorinated water that’s been supplemented by hydroponic bloom solution to top up the tank. Every month, use a siphon cleaner to take excess waste out of the gravel then use the waste on house plants.