My friend has an indoor garden in her greenhouse that I find quite fascinating! She always had a beautiful, crystalline aquarium there, filled with bright, darting fish; really attention getting. But now a profusion of green, viney plants are roofing the tank, and filling one entire corner with leaves! I was riveted, and asked her how this new vista came about. I was curious about how the plants grew, without soil. The fish looked very beautiful and healthy, too.
My friend was quite enthused, and happy to tell me about her new indoor garden. She called the corner full of vines and fish an aquaponics project. Aquaponics is a crafted, symbiotic relationship between plants and fish. This is basically how the natural world works; ideally, there is a closed system between plants and animals. So, in this greenhouse project, fish feces and carbon dioxide are both utilized. In other words, waste, instead of being wasted, becomes food.
I was informed that a simple aquaponics system for enjoyment can be easily visualized. It works on these principals:
PLANTS: DITCH THE DIRT
- nutrients plants would receive from soil are suspended, and soluable, in water.
- a simple wick hangs from the plant box above into the fish tank below.
- plants are anchored in perlite, vermiculite, pro mix or coconut fibre.
FISH: CHOOSE HARDY ONES AT FIRST
- Goldfish or koi are simple for starters
- Add an algae eater (plecostomus) for algae in tank
- feed fish very little
- One or two fish per ten gallons of water.
I was excited! I learned I wouldn’t even need a fancy aquarium. In fact, a five-gallon bucket would do for starters as a fish container. The plants could be floated on top in a styrofoam ‘boat’ with a mesh floor and anchored with coconut fibre.
The beauty of this simple system is: Fish water is wicked or pumped to the planter suspended above the tank. The water is utilized by the plants, filtered by the roots and then flows back into the tank. Presto! Clean tank.
AQUAPONICS: FOR FAMILY CONSUMPTION OR BIG-TIME
Fish First: Talapia and Yellow Perch are easiest to sustain in the system, and highly marketable for consumption.
Via gravity feed, water drains from the fish tank into a gravel bed. In this bed bacteria will break down the toxic ammonia in the fish waste. The ammonia will turn into nitrogen, which is very beneficial to growing plants. The filtered water is now pumped into large growing beds for plants.
Plants Next: Salad greens and tomatoes grow very well in this medium.
In fact, aquaponics is the fastest growing branch of agriculture, and may well expand further in the future. As of now, aerable land comprises just about three percent of the earth’s surface and human population is growing. An efficient aquaponics technique can produce a yield 1,000 times greater than the same-sized acre of land could produce annually. So why not start your own indoor garden today? It can be a great hobby, business or a way to eat healthy. If you love gardening and the benefits that go with, then this is the system for you.