When Jim and Sandra decided to start an aquaponics garden, they started looking for basic aquaponics design plans that would fit nicely in a corner of their yard. Sandra explains it in basic terms….aquaponics blends aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (the no soil growing of plants in a water-based, fertilizer-rich solution). With a simple aquaponics design plan, Sandra and Jim will use a grow bed for plants, and aquarium for raising fish. These two components work symbiotically to create an effective aquaponics system.
Before formulating your aquaponics garden, let’s review some considerations, then look at the most effective aquaponics system designs. Lastly, we will review which components you will need to purchase to build your own aquaponic system.
Benefits of Aquaponics Kits
Jim thinks that aquaponics kits are a fantastic educational tool for the classroom. They also make attractive displays in the home and office, and require very little maintenance when compared to most other systems. Besides being interesting and easy to operate, they will grow wonderful plants.
Key Benefits of Aquaponics
- Easy to set up and maintain – no weeding, no chemicals, less water and pests
- Space-saving, energy-efficient, sustainable, and fast plant growth
- Fish waste provides the only nutrients needed
- Attractive addition to the home or office and educational
A Few Things to Consider When Building An Aquaponics Garden
Aquaponics is not a good choice for growing potatoes, carrots, radish or other root vegetables. Since fish tanks use electricity to operate, there will be some cost associated with that. In addition, don’t let any chemical touch the aquaponic ecosystem, as this will ensure your fish will die, rendering the system non-operational.
Types of Aquaponics Systems
These are the four general components of every aquaponics system:
- aquarium (fish tank)
- grow bed for plants
- a method of transporting water from the aquarium to the grow bed (a pump is often used)
- a method to drain water from the grow bed back into the aquarium (pipes or siphons are often used)
The most common designs used in planning an aquaponics system are discussed below.
Ebb and Flow (Flood and Drain)
Ebb and Flow is the most popular design used in aquaponics. For beginners who are creating their aquaponics design plans, consider using this type of system. It’s simple to implement, and results are typically very good. Let’s see how this technique works:
- a grow bed is placed above an aquarium, which allows for gravitational draining
- plants grow in a media-filled bed (such as clay pebbles)
- a submersible pump is placed in the fish tank, which pumps water into the grow beds
- to regulate the amount of water being pumped into the grow bed, and to drain this water back into the reservoir (fish tank), with either a timer or a bell siphon
- a bell siphon (or auto siphon) is placed in the grow bed to automatically regulate the ebb and flow of water, and to allow draining back into the fish tank (no pump or electricity are needed to operate a siphon)
- when making the decision to use a timer-based system vs. using a bell siphon, there are no rights or wrongs and the decision is up to you
- when using a timer, running the pump (flood) for 15 minutes, then turning off the pump (drain) for 45 minutes is effective
A Continuous Flood (or Constant Flood) aquaponics system has essentially the same design as Ebb and Flow. However, no timers or siphons are used. Instead, a pump continuously floods the grow bed with water, and then circulates it back into the fish tank.
While this aquaponics design is certainly simple, results can be mixed. Most aquaponics enthusiasts prefer the Ebb and Flow because many plants benefit from periods of dryness. With that said, there are fewer costs involved, and Continuous Flow is extremely low-maintenance. Beginners have the option of starting with this type of system, then adding a timer or siphon when they are ready.
Benefits of a Continuous Flood system
- easiest design for your aquaponics plans
- no timers or siphons are used
- inexpensive because less parts are needed
- simple design and less parts means low maintenance and great for beginners
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
Nutrient Film Technique is another aquaponics system which is better suited for smaller, leafy green types of plants. NFT works by flowing a thin stream of nutrient-rich water down enclosed channels or gutters. Plants sit in small net pots or plastic cups. The nutrient-rich water will nourish and hydrate the root zone of your plants.
Much like Deep Flow, water continuously flows from the aquarium, through filtration components, then through the NFT channels where the plants are grown, and then back into the fish tank. A separate bio filter is necessary in this type of system. While NFT may work well in larger commercial operations, a media-filled grow bed is more suited to the hobbyist.
Essential Parts Needed for your Aquaponics Plans
So, you are ready to make your aquaponics plans. Designing an effective system will require buying the essential components. We have combed through some of the most popular parts for creating an aquaponics system, and listed them here to give you some ideas for implementing your aquaponics design plans.
Flood Trays / Flood Table / Grow Trays
These are used as grow beds to hold plants. The size of your fish tank – and the amount of fish you raise – will determine how many plants you can grow. The larger your aquarium, the larger your flood tray should be. Remember that a standard ratio to begin with is one fish per one plant (1:1).