Every aquaponics system includes a few basic components and necessities. So we've created an essentials list to help make sure you've got everything you need to hit the ground running, and get growing - fast!
First, you have to decide what kind of fish you want to raise. If you want to set up a tropical tank (you need a heater) or a freshwater tank. Naturally a tropical tank will require fish that thrive in warmer water. Similarly freshwater fish can thrive in a colder tank temperature.
Common species for aquaponics systems include tilapia, trout, koi, catfish, carp, perch, barramundi, and goldfish. Some systems include mollusks and crustaceans. That said, certain fish are considered invasive, in part because they grow so rapidly that they tend to overwhelm an ecosystem. In this case, it may not be legal to keep them, so it’s important to check local laws before you purchase fish.
Once you decide what species you plan to raise, it’s time to choose which plants to grow. Most people successfully grow herbs such as basil and mint, and leafy vegetables such as kale, lettuce, and chard. It’s also possible to grow fruit, including blueberries, tomatoes, and pomegranates. The general rule of thumb: The more nutrients a plant requires to grow, the bigger and more productive the aquaponics system needs to be.
Some people arrange their aquaponics system vertically, while others set it up horizontally. It really depends on the available space. The most important thing to consider is that you have enough water for your fish; the more the better, so they have space to swim comfortably. The tank could be a clean glass aquarium. Whatever you use, it’s important to monitor how quickly the fish grow. You want your tank to be clean and humane – not only for the welfare of the fish, but for your aesthetic enjoyment as well.
An aquaponics system requires an aerator to provide oxygen for the fish and a pump to send water from the fish tank to the filtration system to the grow bed and back again (unless you use gravity for the water’s return journey). Solar-powered pumps will take your aquaponics game to a whole new level of sustainability and reduce your energy consumption.
5. Grow Bed
The grow beds can vary in structure and appearance, but one popular option is to use shallow boxes lined with pond liner and perlite, gravel, or clay balls - soilless mediums with excellent moisture retention and enough structure to provide plant support. An optional addition would be a bell siphon, which allows water to fill the grow bed to an optimal level, then uses air pressure to rapidly drain that water at the right time to prevent the roots from drowning.
Once you collect all the components, construct your system in a flat area that receives plenty of natural sunlight. Depending on your particular climate and the fish you choose, you should monitor temperature accordingly.
You can also add a grow light or grow bar to help boost the light needed for plants to grow on your system. This helps in darker spots around the home or for the winter months.