The concept of a basic aquaponics system is so simple a third grader could grasp it and with a little manual help successfully implement a working model easily. It includes 3 basic parts and from there it is scalable to fit in any space, whether for design and aesthetic beauty or more utilitarian purposes such as feeding your family.
So, what do we need for a basic aquaponics system?
First, you need fish ( the type and quantity to be determined by the size of your particular system) and a rearing tank where the fish will live.
Next, you need “grow tables” or “grow beds”. This is where you actually grow the plants and it’s arrangement will be decided by the type of plant, fruit, or vegetable you want to grow. Since we are no longer using soil and space for the roots is not limited by the amount of nutrients available to them through the soil, we can grow many more plants in the same area without each plant competing against the other for nutrients.
Finally, a circulation pump and filtration system completes the set-up.
This will include:
A method or device to capture the uneaten fish food and other particles that will erode the efficiency of the circulation of the water over time.
A unit called a bio-filter where the conversion of ammonia into nitrates takes place. This filter provides a place where nitrification bacteria can grow which is necessary to expediently remove the toxic ammonia from the water and turn it into life giving nutrients for your plants.
The Sump or “submersible pump” resides at the lowest point in the system which is usually at the bottom of the rearing tank. The water containing the nutrients is pumped up to the growing beds and circulates through the plants roots until it flows back to the lower fish rearing tank.
Water filtration and circulation systems vary immensely depending upon the type and size of your overall system and layout.
This is the basic science and function of an aquaponics system.
I recommend that you start small and expand.
It becomes less complicated when balancing all the necessary elements for this symbiotic system to function optimally, when you have easy access and manageability over the individual parts of the system.
If you serious about building your own system and want expert guidance to get it right the first time, be sure to check out our diy aquaponics page.