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One of the most common mistakes of novice aquaponics growers is not providing enough oxygen to their system through aeration. Aeration is the process of creating movement in the water to promote a high dissolved oxygen level. This is crucial for the survival of your fish and plants. Bear in mind that in extreme cases where the dissolved oxygen level is low, both your fish and plants might die. And that’s why growers use different aeration methods to supplement the oxygen requirement of their aquaponics system. While most people assume they need an air pump for aquaponics, there are also various other aeration techniques such as using a paddle-wheel or spray bars. But which one is the best for your aquaponics garden?
An air pump for aquaponics is the best solution to ensure that your system has the right amount of oxygen. This is ideal for backyard growers due to its efficiency and portability. While spray pumps are generally cheaper, the efficiency is less than what you can get from an air pump. And as for the paddle-wheel, this is more suitable if you maintain larger ponds.
In this article, we would like to share what you should know about aquaponics air pumps, why they’re essential, and things to consider when buying one. To conclude, we will make a few recommendations on some of the best air pumps for aquaponics on the market.
What is an Aquaponics Air Pump?
What an air pump does is that it forces oxygen into your fish tank and your grow bed so that your plants and aquatic creatures will have an ample supply of oxygen. There are different air pumps available in the market, but these are not always created equal. They have various size capacities, and you must understand what your aquaponics system needs.
Before setting up your aquaponics air pump, you need airline plastic tubings, air stones, and check valves. Let’s examine each of these instruments in more detail:
The airline tubing is attached to the air pump’s nozzle, where it transfers compressed air to the fish tanks and grow beds. These are made of flexible plastic, which makes it ideal if you need to adjust it depending on your aquaponics system’s configuration.
Air stones are porous stones that are attached at the other end of the airline tubing. This helps in diffusing air into the fish tank.
Check valves are important to avoid the water from being siphoned back to the air pump, as this could destroy the device. Ideally, you add check valves when your air pump is placed below the level of your tank and tubing.
Why Air Pumps are Necessary for Aquaponics
Like humans, fish and plants need oxygen to live. However, we are more resilient and can quickly adapt to environmental changes. The case is different for crops and aquatic creatures where they are more prone to stress whenever there are changes in temperature and oxygen levels. Thus, we need to ensure that their eco-system is consistent. We can maintain this equilibrium by using an air pump.
As aquaponics practitioners, one of the responsibilities in our checklist is to observe if there are changes in the fish’s behavior, or if the plants are experiencing deficiencies. If you notice such, the aquaponics system may lack oxygen. Allow us to share more information about this.
Oxygen Requirement for Fish
As a generic rule of thumb, fish can survive within a dissolved oxygen range of 5 – 12 mg/L. There are telltale signs when your fish need more oxygen. The most common one is that you will notice that your fish are swimming to the surface and gasping for air. This includes fish species that commonly spend most of their time at the bottom of your tank.
Usually, there’s an oxygen depletion during hotter days or summer, as water can hold less oxygen compared to cooler temperatures. Higher temperatures can also increase your livestock’s metabolic rate, which means they need more oxygen to survive.
Oxygen Requirement for Plants
Plants require a dissolved oxygen range of 4 – 12mg/L. This is crucial for aerobic respiration or the process that releases energy for nutrient uptake and root growth. A visible sign that your crops require more oxygen is slimy roots.
What to Look for in an Aquaponics Air Pump
If you plan to buy an aquaponics air pump, you need to consider the following:
Air Pump’s Size
Air pumps have different capacities, and you can use the guide below to choose which one is perfect for your aquaponics system.
Water Volume in Liters
(Calculate the total volume of your fish tank, grow beds, and sump)
Air Pump’s Output (Liters per Hour)
|100 – 200||510|
|350 – 700||1900|
Take note that the type of air pump may vary depending on the quantity and the size of your fish per volume.
Naturally, pumps tend to be noisy. But some models emit bearable sounds. As air pumps are recommended to be turned on 24/7, it is ideal to get a type where the sound is tolerable for most people.
Value for Money
When choosing your aquaponics air pumps, price should not be your sole basis. Always try to compare the features first and understand your system’s requirements.
Best Air Pump for Aquaponics
We took the liberty of finding the best air pumps for your aquaponics system using the criteria we highlighted above.
Conclusion: Do I Need an Air Pump for Aquaponics?
Is it necessary to have an air pump for aquaponics? The answer is yes. An air pump isn’t just for survival. But it helps in promoting healthier crops and ensures a safe environment for your livestock including fish and shrimps. An aquaponics air pump is your assurance that the system is in optimal condition.
In addition, we recommend that you also invest in a backup source of power in case of a power outage. It could be a generator or a power station that will allow your air pump to run for at least a couple of hours. And if possible, get an aquaponics air pump that automatically turns on in case the power shuts down.