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Veteran practitioners of aquaponics will tell you that cultivating plants using an outdoor system requires vigilance. Regardless if you are constantly checking your crops for signs of pests, or making sure there is an adequate shade to protect fish tanks from excessive sunlight, it’s easy to see why managing an outdoor aquaponic setup can come with a set of challenges. The use of a greenhouse is often the practical solution; however, even indoor environments such as this may not be beneficial for every setup. This leads many gardeners to wonder, do aquaponics systems need a greenhouse to be successful?
Aquaponics systems don’t need a greenhouse to be successful. However, greenhouses are commonly used for commercial growers with a large aquaponics system since an outdoor setup that is exposed to natural elements can be harder to supervise and manage. But for small backyard growers, greenhouses give more control over the system and provide a micro-environment for out-of-season crops. The downside is that it also requires extra equipment, which can increase your operational and startup costs exponentially.
Before you spend thousands of dollars on a greenhouse, in this article, we will take a look at the world of aquaponics greenhouses, and help you determine if you should consider buying your own.
What is an Aquaponics Greenhouse?
Generally, greenhouses provide a sheltered environment for your crops. Heat enters through its plastic or glass coverings to warm its interior, and this promotes healthier harvests. In locations where it is naturally hot, the sun might do all the heating. However, greenhouses in colder environments typically leverage some type of artificial heating source.
While a greenhouse can provide a ton of benefits for your setup take note, though, that there are instances where a greenhouse can overheat, which can cause problems for your aquaponics system. Thus, vents are necessary so that hot air could exit the greenhouse.
This is just one prime example of a factor that should be considered before jumping headfirst into an expensive greenhouse investment. Let’s take a look at all the benefits and drawbacks of implementing an aquaponics greenhouse.
Aquaponics Greenhouse Benefits
Let’s examine a few of the most common benefits of using a greenhouse.
Aquaponics greenhouses can improve crop quality and yield because you can maintain ideal growing conditions at all times. This is the reason why more commercial and personal growers are interested in using this solution.
Another advantage of using an aquaponics greenhouse is that it can minimize the damage brought by external factors. This includes varying temperatures, wind, precipitation, pests, certain diseases, and even animals that could attack your crops.
Aquaponics Greenhouse Drawbacks
Creating a greenhouse also has its disadvantages. It is important that you are aware of them so that you can adequately gauge if this is the best solution. Aside from the added costs, there are additional duties on maintaining the greenhouse.
Setting up an aquaponics greenhouse may require a substantial capital investment, depending on the size, structure type, location and utility integration. The larger space and the more advanced the equipment are, the more costly the greenhouse would be.
In addition, operating a greenhouse equates to higher monthly costs. One must consider allocating a budget for electricity and gas to regulate the temperature and airflow of the greenhouse.
Additional Management Duties
Maintaining a greenhouse means more responsibilities. Understanding not only how an aquaponics system works, but also the operation greenhouse functions can create additional management duties to add to your checklist. It is necessary to learn how to control and troubleshoot the equipment, such as heaters, because overheating could potentially harm both your plants and fish.
If you decide to use an aquaponics greenhouse, we have more tips in store for you below. We’ll talk about how you can set it up and what you need to consider when buying a greenhouse.
How to Setup an Aquaponics Greenhouse
When setting up an aquaponics greenhouse, consider different factors such as your location and your preferred type of system. The different aquaponic systems, namely media bed, deep water culture, and nutrient film technique, have different shapes and configurations. Your design and layout should be based on this. However, there are a few general tips when building your greenhouse. This includes the proper placement of your system and equipment, and allocating a work area. These are briefly explained below:
Expose Grow Beds in Sunlight
In most cases, plants need a good amount of sunlight to reach optimal growth. This includes wheat, okra, and hops, to name a few. The case is different for ginseng, where it thrives well in shaded conditions. But as a generic rule of thumb, you must place your grow beds where the sun could easily hit it.
Fish Tanks Should be in a Shaded Area
We recommend that you place your fish tank in a shaded spot. When your fish tanks are exposed to sunlight, it can get too hot, and it can lower the dissolved oxygen in the water and make the overall temperature of the water unsuitable for certain types of fish.
There are several portable heaters and fans for greenhouses to ensure warmer temperatures during the colder months. Get something that has an automatic timer as this is more efficient and saves you energy costs.
Proper insulation is essential to reduce heating costs and to increase the efficiency of your aquaponics greenhouse. You can attach bubble wraps onto your structure by using greenhouse clips or staple guns. We also recommend using wraps with bigger bubbles as it allows more light and provides better insulation.
Ventilation is also vital for your greenhouse to promote good airflow. Generally, you have to keep your door and windows open during sunny days. You can leave it partially open at night if the temperature is still high. If possible, add exhaust fans towards the roof. Circulation fans are recommended as well.
Working Area and Walking Space
Consider adding an ample workspace when you design your greenhouse’s layout. Walking space should be considered on the plan as well. Aside from that, vertical clearance should be enough for tall-growing plants.
An aquaponics greenhouse needs a proper electrical design for wirings and switches. We recommend working with a professional electrician to make sure that it is designed according to local safety standards.
There are several flooring options to choose from for your greenhouse. You can either use concrete, gravel, and pavers.
Concrete is recommended if you need a surface where you can easily move wheelbarrows or big equipment. Gravel is more practical, especially if you are just starting up and on a strict budget. Pavers or stones, while a bit expensive, is one of the best choices because it drains well.
Where to Buy Aquaponics Greenhouse
Building your aquaponics greenhouse from scratch can be a fulfilling yet overwhelming task. If you are not a builder, you might end up spending more than just buying a ready-made one. Fortunately, there are several manufacturers offering small-sized greenhouses perfect for backyard growers. We’ve found the best ones below:
However, as these options offer limited space, you might need to have a separate utility building or unit where you can store your fish tanks and pumps. Before you place an order for your aquaponics greenhouse, always check the following:
- Do they offer a warranty?
- Is the shipping fee included?
- Is the greenhouse flexible enough if you want to extend it?
Conclusion: Does an Aquaponics System Need a Greenhouse?
To answer the question if an aquaponics system needs a greenhouse; it could be Yes or No. Aquaponics greenhouses are effective if you grow plants that are out of season, or if you live in an area where the temperature is not conducive for farming. It is also useful if you spend days away from home, or if you have a large-scale aquaponics system. You can also add an automatic fish feeder to increase your system’s efficiency. However, if you live in a region where the climate is perfect for your crops, and you can spend most of your time in the garden, an outdoor aquaponics system should work just fine.