Is aquaponics difficult to learn?
No, it's easy. Of course, you will need to do some studying to understand the process. There has been a lot of research done over the past 25 years. You can locate published papers and helpful articles on our resources page. There are also several successful farms in operation. Many farms offer public or private tours and most farmers are willing to share their knowledge. Overall, planting and harvesting the vegetables is the majority of the work involved.
What do I need to know?
First of all, the fish and the vegetables are equally important. Although the fish are the star attraction of an aquaponic system, they would not produce a profit unless combined with income from the vegetables. The fish are responsible for much of the operating costs including, fish food, electricity for aeration and labor for feeding, breeding and harvesting. The initial start-up cost will vary a lot depending on the size and purpose for your system. From a commercial perspective, you should research accurate numbers from farms in your area (or one with similar weather conditions). One reason for this is water temperature in certain climates. The temperature will need to be controlled. Many factors come in to play here such as, the species of fish you plan to raise and their rate of reproduction. From an ametuer prospective, just have fun and see our aquaponic tips page.
Can I use pigs, chickens or rabbits in conjunction with my aquaponics system?
No. The problem with this is E.Coli. Warm blooded animals carry a deadly form of this bacteria. Although E.Coli is everywhere, fish are cold blooded and can not transmit E. coli to humans. The only way to safely incorporate these animals is seperately using dirt farming.
How often must I change the water in the system and when do I need to sterilize it?
Never. This question usually comes from people who have hydroponic experience. The water used in hydroponic systems must be changed frequently. Aquaponic systems have an amazing amount of stability. When nutrient levels and pH levels change, they change slowly and over a few days or weeks. When these changes occur, they are easy to correct.
Where do I get fish and do I get them from the hatchery to my location?
We recommend starting off with koi or catfish because they are inexpensive and easy to get. Make sure they are close to the same size so that at the smaller ones are not the larger eaten by the larger ones. Some climates are not suitable for Tilapia. There are however many types of fish that grow quickly and can handle the water quality of an aquaponics system. These species include: yellow perch, trout and Koi. It's a good idea to check your local University if it has an aquaculture department. They may be able to provide a list of businesses that sell fingerlings. The fish can be transported in plastic totes or garbage cans. They will need air. You can use 12-volt bait-bucket bubblers, insert the tubing through a small hole in lid. Make sure the airstones are sunk to the bottom. Then you're on your way. It is a good idea to secure the lids with tape and remember: do not use chlorinated water!
What do I do in a cold climate?
Construct a greenhouse or move indoors. There are many spaces that can accomodate indoor aquaponics.
- Seth Geddes
Owner, Beneficial Living Center and Garden Supplies
"I attended an Aquaponics class last year at the BLC and am looking forward to an amazing new way of becoming sustainable. I am very impressed with Nick and Keri's knowledge and willingness to share information. I recommend taking their class even if you are a traditional backyard gardener to see how you can grow more with less space, resources and incorporate proteins for complete nutrition."
- Alicia Sidebottom