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If you’re thinking of starting a pond in your home for decorative purposes, consider aquaponics as your option to turn it into something beneficial. With a pond aquaponics system, you can utilize natural fish waste to grow vegetables, essentially creating a sustainable farming environment right in your backyard. So, what are the important things you should know about starting a pond aquaponics system?
When starting a pond aquaponics system in your home, you must understand the primary elements that make up the entire system: the pond, the fish, and the plants. In this article, we discuss each element along with some of the best options you have when starting an aquaponics system at home.
Pond Aquaponics System Elements
The concept of aquaponics combines aquaculture and hydroponics. Aquaculture is the concept of raising fish in a controlled area, while hydroponics is the concept of growing plants without soil. Combining these two systems creates a culture where fish and plants mutually benefit from each other.
An aquaponics system generally has three elements that work together: a pond, fish, and plants. Here is an overview of each element:
If you already have a pond in your home, you can easily convert it into a pond aquaponics system by rearranging a few elements and fixing up the area. If you’re building a pond from scratch, be sure that your home has sufficient space. Some fish species thrive in larger ponds than other fish that can survive in smaller tanks.
In an existing pond, you might already have your fish and a few decorative aquatic plants ready. Aquaponics is already at play with just these fish and plants. The fish waste is providing the nutrients that your aquatic plants need to grow while the plants clean the water that the fish thrive in.
You can take it to the next level by planting vegetables and actually make use of the plants that grow around your pond. You will need a grow bed to better utilize the pond water. A grow bed holds the plant elements of an aquaponics system and acts as a filter for the water.
It gathers the water directly from the pond, which contains ammonia from the fish waste. The grow bed contains plants that convert this ammonia into nitrates, which it uses for nutrition. The ammonia-free water filters back into the pond, and then the fish have clean water to thrive in, and the cycle continues.
We mentioned that some fish species thrive in larger ponds while other fish may do well in small tanks that easily fit in your house. Other factors that should determine the kind of fish you farm in your aquaponics system include the water temperature, pH level, and what fish are available in your area.
You may also want to consider your intentions for your fish, whether you want them for ornamental purposes or if you intend to eat them. Goldfish and koi are common ornamental pond fish. Both species are not the best for eating and are great sources of beneficial waste for your aquaponic system’s plants.
Goldfish thrive in water temperatures between 78°F-82°F (25°C-27°C) and a pH level between 6 and 8. Meanwhile, koi fish thrive in water temperatures between 65°F-78°F (18°C-25°C) and a pH range between 6.5 and 8. Both goldfish and koi are common fish species and are available in local pet stores if you want to start a pond aquaponics system with ornamental fish.
If you intend to raise edible fish in your pond aquaponics system, you have a few fish species to choose from:
- Catfish: Catfish is an edible species that tastes mildly sweet and is moist to touch when cooked. They are easy to breed and raise in an aquaponics system because they can tolerate a wide range of water temperatures (50°F-80°F or 10°C-26°C). A water pH level of 7 to 8 is ideal for raising catfish, which you can harvest in about three months.
- Largemouth Bass: Largemouth bass’s flavor is “mild and watery” when cooked. While people consider it “great-tasting,” this remains subjective. These fish thrive in warmer seasons and prefer water temperatures of between 65°F-80°F (18°C-26°C). A pH range between 6 and 8 is ideal for largemouth bass.
- Freshwater Salmon: You can raise salmon with other fish because they are a naturally social species. However, salmon may require more food than the other fish you raise in your aquaponic pond. They can tolerate water temperatures between 55°F-65°F (12°C-18°C) and a pH level of 7-8.
- Tilapia: Tilapia can grow within six to eight months, depending on your aquaponics system conditions. The species thrives in water temperatures of 82°F-86°F (27°C-30°C) and a pH level between 6.5 and 9. Tilapia’s meat is sweet and mild. Its bones are easy to remove, making it easy to eat.
- Trout: Trout thrive in water temperatures between 56°F-68°F (13°C-20°C) and prefer pH levels of 6.5-8. The species is very particular about water conditions, which means you must ensure that your water is filtered correctly. Since they prefer cooler water temperatures, you should also adjust the types of plants you grow for your aquaponics system.
The role of plants in an aquaponics system is to clean the water for your fish while thriving off of the fish’s waste. Fish waste is rich in ammonia, large amounts of which could harm your fish in the long run. Your plants convert that ammonia into nitrates for their own nutrition, saving the fish from the risk of ammonia poisoning. This cycle continues as you maintain your pond aquaponics system.
Nothing is stopping you from using vegetables as your aquaponic plants, essentially creating a sustainable farming system in your home. If you are new to running an aquaponics system, leafy vegetables are the best and easiest plants to maintain and grow alongside your fish. Consider growing the following plants:
- Kale: Kale is relatively pest-free, making it ideal for aquaponics systems if you want to avoid unwanted vermin. Kale is easy to grow. You can stimulate its growth with water temperatures between 55°F and 70°F (12°C and 21°C) and a water pH level of 6.5-7.5.
- Lettuce: Lettuce is a popular plant to grow alongside tilapia. This plant does well in water temperatures between 70°F and 76°F (21°F and 24°C). Ideal pH levels for lettuce are 5.8-6.2.
- Spinach: Growing spinach in your aquaponics system requires a water pH level of 6-7. Water temperatures between 75°F and 78°F (23°C and 25°C) can help your spinach grow within two months.
- Swiss Chard: Swiss chard is an ideal aquaponics system plant for growing alongside different kinds of fish. You want to keep water pH levels between 6.6 and 7 for proper growth. Meanwhile, optimal temperatures for growing this plant are within 60°F and 76°F (16°C and 24°C).
When you have established your aquaponics system, you may proceed to grow “advanced” plants like cabbage, cauliflower, chili peppers, strawberries, and tomatoes. You can also leave a few ornamental plants like water hyacinth to maximize the nitrogen cycle in your pond aquaponics system.
Conclusion: Starting a Pond Aquaponics System
Understanding the elements that make up an aquaponics system is the first step to starting a pond aquaponics system in your home. Consider your area and if you have enough space to raise your fish. You must also consider the kinds of plants that thrive in your environment. The key is researching the best practices that match your area and adjusting the elements you include in your aquaponics system.