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.
Here for example, Tilapia is a fine fish species as it can handle hot climatic conditions and is also very ''hardy'' in the sense that it is too picky with its water quality, which makes it a perfect fish for beginners.
The Water Side
It has to be fresh water, as most plant do not like sea water. Although there are some experiment being run at the Al Ain University with halophites and by-product of desalination process, aka the brine. More on this later.
So water has to be of the best quality, of course. It can be tap or well water. But preferrably well water as it will contain minerals that we don't get in our tap water here, being mostly from desalination or reverse osmosis (RO).
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. Actually, many aquaponists enthusiasts use an RO* filter. Downside of that is it removes all good minerals as well as bad chemicals and residue.
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. A good way to make sure your water is of good quality is to send a sample to lab here in Dubai and have it tested for biological and chemical composition.
The Plant Side
Everything can and is grown in aquaponics, only changes come in the shape and types of different growing media and methods. Some experiment are run with fruit trees such as papaya and citrus.
There are four or five methods, media, Deep Water Culture, NFT, Dutch buckets, towers etc... I will talk about these in a more detailed articles about Aquaponics methods.
So again, the method you will use, will pretty much dictate what you will grow. For beginners I recommend going with media bed. This is what we call the system with gravel or better, clay pebbles. It is very easy to handle, cycle and everything is happy growing in there, even earth worms if that's your thing.
I hope this presentation of aquaponics was informative enough to make you want to go and explore the World Wide Web and find out all you can about your new favourite method of growing your own food.
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.