Friday, 10 May 2013

Aquaponics

Near the beginning of this blog, I posted a couple of pages relating to self sufficient living and how it was my dream to live a self sufficient lifestyle. As I currently live in a small 1 bedroom flat, no access to a garden, not much room etc, I previously thought it impossible to live a self sufficient lifestyle to any degree. That was, however, until I stumbled across the practice of Aquaponics.

Aquaponics combines both Hydroponics (the practice of growing plants in water) and Aquaculture (the practice of keeping, growing or breeding fish). Sounds like a lot of difficult work, and I suppose it is, to begin with at least.

A basic Aquaponics Diagram
So how does it work? Starting off with a basic fish tank, stocked with anything from your common goldfish to tropical angel fish or prawns and crayfish to just a few aquatic snails. You can stock the tank with anything that will produce waste product, which will be the main use for the fish. The water from the tank is then continuously pumped into a grow bed, filled with a growth medium, something that the plants roots can hold onto. This process uses no soil which makes it more suitable for indoor use. The plants absorb and filter the dirty water from the tank, removing any chemicals (nitrates etc) that are harmful to the fish, after which the clean water runs back into the tank. Essentially, this creates a symbiotic relationship between the fish and the plants, as one needs the other to survive and vice versa.

After your Aquaponics station is established, the only real input by you is the food for the fish, which, depending on the kind of fish you have, can be anything from flakes to kitchen waste or algae.

What kind of food can you grow? Well any leafy greens such as lettuce or spinach and any herbs such as mint and basil, easily thrive within this system. However it is still possible to grow fruiting plants such as tomatoes and peppers, although to gain a decent yield on these would most likely require a deeper grow bed, a larger amount of fish and possibly even a heat lamp, but the important thing to note is that it is not possible. Of course tuber plants such as potatoes are currently out of the question as these plants require very little light and a larger space. I am still unsure whether it would be possible to grow bulb plants such as onion and garlic in a grown medium instead of soil but its worth a try.

So what are your thoughts? A better way of using that living room fish tank? Or a space saving way of producing home grown food? Let me know what you think.

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