I’ve been a gardener for years, but it wasn’t until just recently that I wanted to try my hand at aquaponic gardening. I’ve been aquaponic gardening for a little over eight months now, and I’ve learned so much about this sustainable gardening process. I just wish I had an aquaponic gardening guide to use as a reference back when I first started! For those of you who are still a little unsure about what aquaponic gardening actually is, it’s the combination of aquaculture (or, the study of raising fish) and hydroponics (or, growing plants without soil, I have a whole post on it here). Basically, it’s the practice of growing fish and plants together in a sustainable environment (to both be used as food!) and it’s absolutely incredible.
Are you ready to start aquaponic gardening? Use this aquaponic gardening guide for beginners to keep your garden (and your fish!) completely healthy.
Use A Media Bed As A Beginner
One of the most intimidating parts of starting a hydroponic gardening is choosing a growing bed fit for your growing needs. I recommend using a media bed. A media bed removes any solids from your water, cycles water through your garden bed, and has a built-in biofiltration process. A media-bed is a great all-in-one system for anyone that is new to hydroponic gardening.
Make Sure You Choose The Right Sized Fish Tank
Seriously, this is so important when it comes to ANY kind of hydroponic garden. Typically, you’ll need at least 200 liters of water to raise a fish to “plate-size” for a meal, it is recommended that beginners start with fish tanks of at least 1,000 liters. The bigger your fish tank, the less likely it is to make a mistake that could jeopardize your ecosystem!
Figure The Ratio Of Your Fish Tank To Grow Bed
Just as the size of your fish tank is important, the ratio of your grow bed is just as crucial. Typically, it is recommended that your grow bed and fish tank match to a 1:1 ratio. Meaning, your grow bed should be just as big as your fish tank. As your system becomes more advanced and healthy (usually within 4-6 months after you’ve begun growing) you can “up” that ratio so it is 2:1. Set your grow beds so they are AT LEAST 30cm deep.
Water Temperature Is Crucial
The type of fish you decide to cultivate will determine what temperature your water should be. However, if you plan on cultivating a variety of different kinds of fish, it’s best to use fish that can adapt to different water temperatures and environments. I recommend cultivating Tilapia, Trout, or Catfish. Growers can purchase and utilize an aquarium water heater should they find it necessary.
PH Levels Are Just As Crucial
Dying for your plants and fish to thrive? Checking the PH levels of your water is an important part of that, and healthy PH levels are important if you want the necessary bacteria to grow in your water garden. Gardeners with an aquaponic garden should aim for PH levels in between 6.8 and 7.0. Test the PH levels at least three times weekly, and if levels should get below a level of 6.6, gardeners can use potassium carbonate to bring the levels up. Should levels reach above 7.6, it is recommended that gardeners use a form of phosphoric acid to bring levels down to a normal level.
Give Your Fish Food!
This is probably the most crucial tip in my entire aquaponic gardening guide! Making sure your fish have an adequate amount of food is crucial to raising a healthy crop! In my experience, baby fish eat up to as much as 7 percent while adult fish need a measly 1 percent of their body weight to continue living later on in life. A friend recommended to me that you should not let fish eat more than they would in a five-minute span, 3-5 times a day. Remember that fish like to eat and if they’ve suddenly started avoiding their foods, it could be as a result of stress. Check your PH levels and water temperatures ASAP!
Grow The Right Plants
To have the best success while aquaponic gardening, you should avoid growing plants that grow best in acidic soil environments. I’ve grown salad greens, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, and basil in my aquaponic garden with little trouble. You can even grow all of these plants side-by-side in your hydroponic grow bed with little issue. Don’t forget this crucial part of my hydroponic gardening guide!