What happens when you mix fish farming with hydroponics? Aquaponics! If you’re new to the subject, this type of food production can be an amazing resource. I think of it a bit like hacking nature. Aquaponics takes all of the primary needs of a plant and animal ecosystem and compresses them in to one cyclic package. It’s basically poo powered hydroponic gardening with the extra benefit of having tasty fish to eat.
The aquaponics system takes the waste water from the fish tanks moves it into volcanic rock grow-beds where the nitrification process takes place. The bacteria convert the ammonia into nitrites, then into nitrates. The plants in turn uptake the nitrates and minerals. The water is then recycled back into the fish tanks. Because of this movement of water, we have to keep a close eye on the conditions of the tank using specialized equipment, perhaps similar to this CO2 regulator, to make sure our fish are happy.
The entire system runs on a 75 watt pump. Gravity does the rest of the work. It’s know as a CHOP system, (constant height one pump). High stocking densities of fish can be grown in an aquaponic system, and because of the recirculating nature of the systems very little water is used. Our first system had 50 tilapia in only 1000 liters! Research has shown that an aquaponic system uses about 10 percent of the water needed to grow vegetables in traditional dirt gardening. In dry areas such as Northwest Costa Rica, aquaponics could be a solution for the water usage issues.
We’re currently using Tilapia in one tank and a special breed of wild Costa Rican bass called “Jagaur Guapote” in the other.
I’ll do a post later on how to build a simple yet effective system using IBC shipping containers.
Below is a video that does a good job of explaining how a flood and drain aquaponics system works.(flood and drain is what we use)