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The growing popularity of aquaponics has given rise to a new generation of gardeners looking for sustainable methods to cultivate crops for personal and commercial use. Naturally, however, many people are looking for innovative ways to leverage the aquaponic technique using animal species other than different types of fish. Duck aquaponics, while not as commonly implemented, is a rising sub-category that claims to provide the same benefits of fish, but with a quacky twist. But is the duck aquaponics system any good? Is it more work to maintain? Will it yield better crops?
While it is a good alternative for traditional aquaponics, using a duck pond can require more maintenance. However, a lot of growers have attested to the positive effects of using this system on their plants. After comparing crops using fish vs crops grown in a duck aquaponics, some have attested that plants from duck aquaponics appear to be healthier, overall. But further studies are needed to prove this claim.
In this article, we will explore the benefits of using duck aquaponics, how it works, and how to maintain an aquaponic duck pond.
What is Duck Aquaponics?
Duck Aquaponics is sometimes referred to as Quackaponics. In this method, instead of using fish in an aquaponics system, you will raise ducks in a pond where the pond collects the animal droppings. From there, the water, now with nutrients from the droppings, will be pumped out and filtered. This will then be used to nourish the plants in your grow beds. These grow beds with drainage are connected back to the pond. It also serves as a filtration system so that your ducks can have cleaner water once again.
But using ducks for farming is not a totally new approach. In fact, in the 6th century, Chinese agriculture already used ducks aside from fish in their early aquaponics system.
Benefits of Duck Aquaponics vs. Fish Aquaponics
Using fish for aquaponics became popular for a number of reasons. Most of the fish types used in the system such as koi and carp have a lifespan of 10 to 20 years. It means you do not have to replace the source of your nutrients frequently and is deemed to be cost-efficient. These are ornamental and can make your garden look visually appealing. In addition, certain types of fish are edible like tilapia, catfish, and trout. By breeding these kinds of fish, you already have an instant source of fish meat. And while it is already a good option for aquaponics, let’s also take a look at the benefits of using ducks.
Pest and Insect Control
One of the reasons why ducks are ideal for aquaponics is that it can help growers control pests and insects. They forage snails, slugs, mosquito larvae, and grasshoppers, among many others. This protects your plans and improves your garden’s overall condition.
Generally, ducks produce a lot of waste that is high on potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus. These are all essential to grow healthy plants and vegetables. However, ducks may defecate on grounds and not directly onto the pond. Fortunately, there are a number of ways on how you can get your ducks to spend more time on ponds, and these are discussed in the latter part of the article.
Egg and Meat Production
Another advantage of raising ducks is that you can get both duck meat and eggs. The duck meat can be used for several recipes and is a great source of zinc and selenium. It also has a high content of iron.
Choosing the type of animal for your aquaponics system largely depends on your preference. Saying ducks are a better alternative might not be true for other people as we also need to consider other factors. But if the benefits above sound good for you, then you might want to consider ducks for your system.
Building An Aquaponics Duck Pond
Similar to environments using fish, duck aquaponics systems can require specific materials and equipment to maintain the overall health of the ecosystem. Fortunately, ducks are pretty versatile, allowing you some flexibility to source some of these materials cheaply or even find them within your own home. Let’s examine some of the important elements you need to have when building an aquaponics duck pond:
Growers who find themselves on a tight budget can use old bathtubs and even portable kiddie pools as a duck pond. What matters most is that there is adequate water and space for your ducks to swim.
Ideally, your duck coop has some type of insulation and is enclosed on all sides except the entrance. This will allow the duck family to huddle together for warmth, and also help protect them from the wind and also potential predators. Keep in mind, you can always manually insulate the coop as well. Check out these options on Amazon.
Water Pump and Filter
You can buy a ready-made grow bed, create your own, or recycle different materials. Once you have it, you can add gravel or other grow media such as expanded clay, shale, growstones, and lava rock. Just ensure that your grow medium will work best for your plants.
Types of Ducks for Aquaponics System
Unlike fish, ducks are only semi-aquatic, thus, their waste contributions will not be as consistent as would a traditional fish-based aquaponics setup. Ultimately, this can affect the quality of nutrients entering your system. A great solution to this problem is to use duck breeds that love to swim. Some of the recommended breeds are Dutch hookbills, Cayugas, Pekins, and Rouens.
Maintaining Your Aquaponics Duck Pond
The beauty of the aquaponics technique is that while the plants receive nutrients from the duck waste, the plants themselves act as a filtration point for the water that recirculates back into the pond. Due to this, the system automatically helps to maintain a cleaner pond. However, there are still a few manual intervention tips that can help you keep your aquaponics duck pond at its best.
Regularly Add Fresh Water
Like humans, ducks love clean water, and they are likely to stay in there more time than a pond filled with filth. Try not to solely rely on the filtration system you have in place, or the plants providing a helping hand in filtering out waste. One solution is to add fresh water to your pond regularly. The more time that your ducks spend in the pond results in more of their waste being deposited into the system.
Set Up a Fountain in Your Duck Aquaponics System
You can also add a fountain or sprinkler inside your pond. Ducks enjoy moving and splashing water. If you turn on your sprinkler or fountain, they will likely go back to the pond and stay longer.
Common Issues With Duck Aquaponics Systems
Before starting your duck aquaponics system, you have to ask yourself the following:
- Do you have the time to frequently clean your coop or your garden?
- Is your property spacious enough to build a duck aquaponics?
- Will your neighbors not be affected by the smell of your duck aquaponics?
- Do you understand the health concerns of using duck waste in growing vegetables and fruits?
It is important that you understand the challenges and issues of maintaining a duck aquaponics system. This is so you can properly gauge if your resources and location are appropriate for this type of setup. Some of the common issues are explained below:
Duck Aquaponics Can Be Higher-Maintenance
Rasing ducks requires more time and effort. At times, it can be messy. You see, after the ducks spend time in the pond, they will naturally go around and scatter mud around the coop. Or if you don’t have a dedicated coop and your pond is out in the open, you will have to clean your garden more often.
Ducks don’t usually smell in dry environments. However, when the area is damped or wet, it can emit a foul smell. If you live in an urban setting where you live close to your neighbors, this might not be the most practical solution.
Pathogens, Salmonella, and E.Coli
Duck waste can contain dangerous pathogens. This can be harmful to human health. It can lead to abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and fever. To avoid contamination of plants and vegetables, ensure that the waste will not come in contact with your plant’s leaves. In addition, always clean and cook your fruits and vegetables properly.
Conclusion: Is It Better to Use Duck Aquaponics?
Yes and No. If you are after the benefits of using a duck aquaponics system such as healthier crops, an additional supply of eggs, and duck meat, then this could be a better alternative. But if you are a new backyard grower, starting with a more traditional aquaponics and using fish instead of ducks is a more practical solution.
If you decide to start your duck aquaponics system, we recommend that you raise a few ducks first. This will allow you to measure if the maintenance is something you can do regularly.