When you decide to build your aquaponics system, it is important that you take the time to size everything accordingly. There are some ratios to respect. The size of the grow bed according to the size and stocking density of your fish tank and also the filters (if you decide to use any) as well as the heart of your installation: the pump.
There are two ways to bring water to the grow bed: water pump or air-lift with an air pump. In this article I will introduce the two possibilities. Although, note that my preference goes to the water pump :)
When you read about ''cycling your AP system'' doesn't mean taking it on your back and going for spin with your fancy bicycle... LOL I just made that up and the picture I had in mind was very funny. If only I could draw :)
On a more serious note, after reading the previous post, you have a better understanding now of the nitrogen cycle and this is what it is about.
When you finish to build your system and it has been tested for leaks, the siphon is working, you have filled the grow bed with media and should now plug in for, ever, your pump.
Let's see a more in depth approach to cycling an aquaponics system.
When we talk about aquaponics, we can't do so without talking about what makes it all possible. I am talking about the nitrifying bacteria, the Nitrobacter and other Nitrosomonas. Without them, the ammonia excreted by the fish would stay in the water and after passing in the grow bed, where the plants would not like the taste of it, it would go back in the fish tank.
The ammonia is very toxic for the fish and the bacteria we are talking about, are responsible for converting it into nitrites and eventually, into nitrates. But let's take a break here and dive into science a little bit.
If you have never held a drill, a grinder and or a saw, be aware, these powered tools are dangerous and require that you first, wear protective equipment and second, if you're really a beginner and not too sure, ask for help. Pride can be stitched back, not your little pinky ;)
A piece of history
The first time an IBC tote was used to build an aquaponics system was in the early 2000, in Australia as it appears. Australia is extremely developed in aquaponics farming and many Australians have their own system in the garden. The resilience coupled with the ''grow your own'' movement is growing around the world. So why not you? Read on and learn how I got bittne by the bug :)
Let me start by telling you that DIY in Dubai is taking the concept to a whole new level. Between sourcing all the pieces and parts to do something, to actually finding the location Google Map thinks he knows exactly where is or best, getting yourself understood by the salesman when you don't even know the name of what you are looking for... It has been a huge challenge. The challenge was very interesting, I learned a lot and am confident to take any DIY project today in Dubai.
By its nature, aquaponics demands a certain control over the growing environment and therefore, if you give nature it’s right to thrive, it will thrive. So what it does is, it delivers to the plants the exact nutrient solution and a constant source of water as well as an oxygen rich environment. The three elements, water, nutrient and oxygen are what a plant need to grow; same as us if you think about it ;)
Aquaponics is actually not such a new method of growing food. The Aztecs of the Tenochtitlan aka Mexico City were among the first to use this method, along with the famous Chinese paddy fields.
The Fish Side
Any fish can be used in an aquaponics system. If you decide to have edible ones, you will have to take into account the time it requires to grow into a plate size fish. If you decide to go with ornamental critters then you don't have to worry to much about that, just keep 'em happy. There are some ratios of fish per liters of water/tank size combined with the plant area aka grow bed. More on this later.
The Water Side
It has to be fresh water, as plant do not like sea water. Although there are some experiment being run at the Al Ain University. More on this later.
So water has to be of the best quality, of course. It can be tap or well water.
Dubai has apparently a very good quality tap water. It is drinkable and has very little taste. Although, it is recommended to use some filters. Actaully, many aquaponists enthusiasts use an RO* filter. Downside of that is it removes all good minerals.
Water has its own chemistry and what matters to us is its pH level, as well as if it has Nitrates or Nitrites and Chlorine or Chloramine. The latter are a big No No for your fisheez. Again, it is possible to add a filter to your tap in order to get rid of the Chlorine.
The Plant Side
Everything can and is grown in aquaponics, only changes come in the shape of different growing media and methods.
There are four or five methods, media, Deep Water Culture, NFT, Dutch buckets, towers etc...
So again, the method you will use, will pretty much dictate what you will grow.
RO filter aka reverse osmosis. I will probably write a post about water quality.
My journey into self sustainability started a long time ago, when I was introduced to growing my own greens... Actually, it was what we call permaculture and I hope to be able to share with you in the coming posts, how aquaponics tie in so perfectly with permaculture.
At the time I was only using soil and off-the-shelves fertilizers, I didn't know better. I was certain that soil needed to be treated as a plant support, in the physical sense of the term and that food for the plants was coming from adding fertilizers... There was a long way to go until I discovered the ancient secrets of aquaponics, growing plants using the fish effluent.
First, I had to start some gardening. We had just moved to Springs community and have our own little patch of grass. Let see next how I started to prepare the soil with a magic bucket.
©2017 All Photos belong to Dubai Aquaponics
Rome was not build in a day and as we know, this rule applies big time in planning your aquaponics system. I decided to pace myself and review many times what would be the ideal aquaponics system design to adapt to our backyard.
I have a very supportive and trusting wife, thank her for that as otherwise, I think there would not be Dubai Aquaponics blog.
Once we agreed on a location, where I must say, I had to compromise with sunlight exprosure against a more functional one, my mind started to wonder and my on-line research began to take a new level.
Google is our best friend, no doubt about this but... And there is a big but: watch out what you're finding when you do some research.
©2017 All photos belong to dubai aquaponics
It is essential to do some research as I do not pretend to know it all but what I will share with you is a simple yet large backyard aquaponics system.
Where you place it is also important. The floor has to be level and if you are in an apartment and plan to have this on the balcony, well, think again... It weights close to a ton once fully loaded, if not more.
Are there different ways to build?
I am a French expat, married, dad of one, nature lover and firm believer of sustainable living. My background is leisure and tourism industry. I fell into aquaponics and now I am sharing with you my adventure.