If you are wanting to set up a reasonably large scale aquaponics set up – trying to do it indoors may be a bit of a problem, particularly if you are short on space. Taking it outdoors is then the best option. Many people resort to backyard aquaponics as this allows them to make better use of the space outside, and the light and air are available in plenty. However, there are a few concerns that you must keep in mind if you are doing this…
Concerns about setting up an aquaponics system outdoors
The space is an advantage of doing it outdoors. Also, you save money on artificial lighting – which you’d need indoor. However, there are still a few factors to weigh before setting up the system:
- Temperature – outdoors means that there will be times when the weather will get cold – and that will expose your plants and fish to the frost as well. Therefore, if you do live in areas where the temperature can get quite cold – consider an aquaponics greenhouse to protect your system.
- Tank – the fish tank is another thing to consider. If you are doing it on a large scale you’ll want to have a large tank. However, decide between one or two large or multiple smaller tanks. That way you can maintain multiple fish species as well. However, there are a few requirements of fish tanks and always keep them in mind when choosing. Also, since it is outdoors (even if it is inside a greenhouse) – aquaponics fish farming requires maintaining water temperature. So be very sure about the water heating measures you will have.
- Growbed– make sure that you have adequate grow bed to filter out all the water you have in the system. As the plants play a major role in keeping the fish healthy – make sure that your system has enough plants, and that they are growing properly. If you see any stunted growth, yellowing or dying plants – diagnose the problem as soon as you see it.
- Setup – the aquaponics system depends to a great extent on the cycle you can set up. And this will depend greatly on how you connect all the components and how efficiently they are running. Ideally, you should have some experience in doing it on the small scale – and you should know about all the important factors to keep in mind.
- Fish – not all fish are best suited for aquaponics systems. The best options are Tilapia – that grow very quickly to large sizes, and catfish and Yellow perch. Tilapia is a little picky about water temperature, though the other two can withstand cooler water too. However, water heating is still essential since fish will not grow much in cold water.
- Plants – picking the right plants is also important. For a regular unassisted aquaponics system, green leafy plants are your best bet. They grow with just the nutrients found in the fish waste. Examples include dill, basil, arugula, lettuce, spinach, kale. However, if you are prepared to add hydroponic nutrients to the water you can also grow zucchini, tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and cucumbers, among other things. You’ll know what to add for each if you ask at the hydroponics supply store.
Now that you have these factors considered, it’s time for…
A handful of tips for setting up the system outdoors
- Make sure that there is enough sunlight in the spot where you are setting up the system.
- Wait for the water to come up to about 70 degrees before you add the fish fingerlings to it.
- At the same time as adding the fingerlings, get your seedling planted in little containers of potting soil.
- Keep the water circulating through the grow bed even when there are plants in it yet. This will filter the water and also get the bio-filter bacteria colonizing going.
- Your fingerlings will have grown to producing adequate waste by the time the seedlings are big enough to transplant.
- When transplanting the plants – make sure you wash out all the potting soil from their roots before placing in the growing media.
- Oxygenation is important for the fish – so when the water falls back to the fish tank, make sure that it is splashing down at some point – this aerates the water without the use of extra equipment.
- You know you are giving the right amount of food to the fish if they are eating it up in 20 minutes. Also, do not feed more than 3 times a day.
- To make life simpler for you – especially during the colder days – you can get automatic fish feeders.
We have tried to assemble some tips and information on backyard aquaponics for you – but this is in no way an exhaustive list. There is a lot more that goes into the system – since the bigger the system, the more complex it is. However, while we have dealt with a few plant problems – yellowing , dying, not growing-for the greater number of problems, it is best to take help from your local aquaponics shop.