I have been talking to a good friend at work lately and he is a huge fan of many different homesteading systems. One of the things we have been talking about as of late is Aquaponics. We both have been watching shows, videos and reading up on it to start our own farms.
For those that do not know Aquaponics is a combination hydroponics and aquaculture (raising fish, crawdads, etc in tanks). This is a combination of methods that creates a symbiotic relationship between the plants and fish and requires low maintenance and provides high yields. The best part is you can build a sustainable ecosystem in a small area that will provide your family with fresh fish and vegetables essentially forever if you maintain it properly.
I have been doing some searches as of late and have found a lot information online about Aquaponics and found others who have some really ingenious and elaborate systems built in their greenhouses, sheds and even in their houses.
Something I found when doing my research is that the choice of fish is as important as the design of your system. The reason is that some fish will thrive in an Aquapoincs system and some will stress and die quickly. Remember that the whole system you are trying to produce is based on Polyculture whereby one organism sustains the other through its waste products. The fish provide the plants with nutrients through their waste and the plants provide the fish with a constant supply of food.
So back to your choice of fish. There are several species that do well in an Aquaponics garden, but one is considered the most versatile – Tilapia. I will explain more in the list of fish below.
- Tilapia is one of the most popular fish in the world. In fact is becoming wildly popular in many countries because of the ease for which it adapts to its environments. It is well suited for fish farming and will breed until there is no more room in the tank it is in. This along with the fact they eat just about anything and lets not forget they taste great makes them the best all around fish for your Aquaponics garden. There is one drawback to Tilapia though…it is a warm water fish and so it is important that you regulate your water temperature during the winter or you will lose a lot of fish. Typically Tilapia will be mature within 6 to 10 months depending on conditions.
- Silver Perch is even more flexible then Tilapia when it comes to weather. They thrive in virtually all water temperatures and do well feeding on plant greens. If it was not for one drawback to them they would beat out Tilapia as the best Aquaponics fish for sustainable food source systems….their long growth time of 12 to 18 months.
- Koi or more commonly called Carp here in the United States is a colorful fish that can be raised as food or to be sold. They reach full length by about 24 months so are not a great long term solution for sustainable food sources if this is your only meat source. They do make for a great economic solution though as many people like to pay good money for them for ponds and water gardens.
- Goldfish like Koi do not stress easily and so thrive in Aquaponics gardens. They are great for selling, but as a food source they are not recommended due to their long maturation period of 24 to 36 months. They are excellent for selling and are used by to control mosquitoes in stagnant ponds.
- Trout is a great tasting fish and many subspecies of trout such as Lake Trout continue to grow for decades and can reach upwards of 60 to 70 pounds. The drawback to trout is that they are a cold water fish and require temperatures below 70 degrees. Typically they thrive best in temperatures around 60 degrees.
- Catfish are a warm water fish like Tilapia and personally my favorite fish to eat. They are a bottom dweller and do best in tanks when paired with Blue Gill which tend to stay at the top of the tank. Catfish have a huge drawback though as a sustainable food source though and that is the fact they do not produce large numbers of offspring. Depending on the size of fillets you want it will take from 4 months to as much as a year and half for catfish to grow to proper eating size.
- Bluegill are a great tasting fish, but slow to reach plate size. Typically they take between 1 to 2 years to reach plate size and considerably slow down in growth after this.
The best part of the fish you use is that you will have a renewable food source and you can sell them to others for a nice source of income.
The next thing that you need to consider when setting up an Aquaponics garden are the plants you will use. These are going to play an important role not only for a food source for you, but as a food source for your fish as well. Leafy greens such as Lettuce and herbs do great in Aquaponics, but honestly most vegetables do well in this system. The biggest factor that is played when choosing your plants are your personal preferences and conditions for plant growth (temperature for example).
One thing you might be wondering is where to buy the fish to start your Aquaponics garden. There are several places on the internet that supply starter fish. One of the best ones I found was The Aquaponics Store. They provide you with everything you need to start your garden including equipment, how to videos, fish and more. If you are looking for more information visit our video area and watch videos related to Aquaponics and learn more from experts around the country. As this is a passion of mine the videos in this section will continue to grow as I find more useful information for you.