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What is Aquaponics? How it Works & Why an Aquaponic Setup Can Fail

Posted at March 10, 2016 | By : | Categories : Basics | 0 Comment

Hi, this is a new article with attached video and Photos showing you all you need to know about Aquaponics, in Hawaii, exactly in Oahu, there is the first Aquaponics store in the United States that is specialized only in aquaponics and have every think you need for Aquaponics, also we will show you and explain to you Aquaponics from A to Z using the best aquaponics farm in Oahu. We all here in “Aquaponics Systems Answers” are very excited for writing this article as you will have every thing shown with explaining photos then you can see a videos to explain more techniques and secrets for Aquaponics. In this article we will show you the place here which called “the Aquaponics place” this store that specialized in Aquaponics. All the different parts you need for Aquaponics System, The plants, the fish, the different tubs, bins,totes and everything you need to do Aquaponics system in your home, so you can start growing your own food today, especially here in the island it’s very important to have a back up plan in case the ship doesn’t come in, to be able to grow your own food, and as much as I like growing food in the soil and dirt, you know, there is red dirt here, Aquaponics systems are great because now instead of having vegetables, you can also grow your own fish whether you want to keep the fish as pet or whether you want them as food source, they can grow a lot of  fish and a lot of vegetables to eat a very well balanced diets, so anyways what we are going to do today is that we use the Aquaponics place to share with you what Aquaponics is, if you do not know about it, and share with you some of the components of the system and share with you the fish that they offer here, also share with you some of the pre-made and pre-built systems you can actually buy and bring home. So Consider yourself with us in the Aquaponics place, and if you are Aquaponics Geek, this is your hang out man.

They have got all these different valve things and siphon things and screens, they got all kinds of fittings and they have basically every thing you need to do your Aquaponics system at home, I mean even in the main land, a store like this is just unheard of, I have never seen a store dedicated to Aquaponics systems, I think there should be a store like this in every city across the nation, so that people can start actually growing their own food and make it easy for people to get all the supplies and parts, the fittings , all this stuff, you know, because  you normally have to go around five stores, may be a plumping store, a hardware store, a swimming pool store and a pond store to get the different things to get a system together, I like that this literally a one stop shop to get all your Aquaponics needs met.


What we are going to do next is actually that I will share with you how Aquaponics system works especially, so that you will be able to know how it works and more importantly to be able to set one up and grow food for you and your family. So we are going to share with you what an Aquaponics system is and it’s pretty much right here as you can see, in these Photos, a big tank in the bottom and this is simply a fish tank it’s holding fish, there’s lots of fish growing in there, the Tilapia that you can eat or just keep as pets and then what happens is the fish is living in the fish tank and they are getting fed with the fish food which is the only input in this system, the fish eat the fish food and then guess what they create waste much like us, the fish make the pee and the poop and then that basically  gets in the water and then what they do is that they take the water and they pump it up into the top bed and then the water filters through this rocks, the cinder, and it basically filters down and goes back in and come back out and pour the water back into the fish tank, as you see in the Picture. What the plants do is that the plants actually filter the fish pee and poop and put it back into the water, so that the simplified version, we are going to talk about in a little while, and also about the more complex version and how this system and why this system really works. There is one big lynch pin that many people may not be ware about in an Aquaponics system that we will cover in just a little bit, so next we are going to show you some of the different edibles that you can grow in Aquaponics system to feed you and your familly Alright, so in this system they  got couple cool things, as you can see in this picture, first Soybeans, yes you can grow Soybeans in Aquaponics system, they got some little Kale right there in addition some Muzina, one of my favorite leafy greens,especially to grow in winter time, also the Lettuces, of course the Lettuces will do well in Aquaponics system but they can’t do well in full sun, they like a little bit shady, Also they got here one of my favorite veggies, it’s Shiso also known as Perrilla and this is a purple Shiso that I grow this each year in my garden and evidently it will do well under Aquaponics.

As you can see in this picture this is the cinder, check it out, this actuallu acts as a bio filter here and this cinder actually unlike any medias that can be used  for the Aquaponics and it has a lot of surface area because they are literally like little sponges, in addition it looks like they got a little Tomato over there and a whole bunch of Chives growing in this bed as we show in this picture.

In this Aquaponics system they have a whole bunch of Strawberries that currently in the greenery or leafy stage, they are seasonal, so they’re not producing Berries in this time in addition they have a nice large Egg Plant that’s been there a while also they’re growing Lilikoi or Passion  Fruit that can grow out of the Aquaponics system over and over and up the chain link as the picture shows up, this will be great when it one day cover all this fence with this lovely Passion Fruit with hanging fruits to eat and also showing the massiveness of the plant after it’s been grown a while in the aquaponics system.

Other plants that can be grown in Aquaponics system are something like this, the Basil looks like it’s doing quite well, they also have some Parsley here, and besides Parsley they got the red Russian Kale , in addition they got the Green Malabar Spinach, I prefer the Purple Malabar Spinach but they got the Green Malabar Spinach as you can see in the picture it’s planted may be a month ago, it’s doing really excellent, this is definitely one of my picks for what I would grow in the Aquaponics system because the Malabar Spinach is what’s called a perennial edible vegetables, some vegetables and some plants go through a life cycle like Lettuce or like the Kales but with this guy this will continue to grow and put on food for you so you can  eat day after day, year after year without having to continually replant like what you do with the lettuce.

over next door here we got things like more Basil and look at this this Basil has been grown here a while and this Basil straight up has like woody stems on it, it’s quite old, and doing quite well, nice and tall there.

In addition they  have got the Calo or the Taro here which is also grown in the Aquaponics system, in addition they got a few Beets over there as you can see and some Rosemary.

Also this is Okra, it can be grow in Aquaponics system and it is a very delicious vegetable, look at this little baby, it is fresh Okra.

So over to this bed a few more things they are growing, things like Celery right here in the Picture, definitely looking really nice and vibrant here.

Also they got this plant, look at this guy, this guy’s a nice woody stalk, really thick, it is going to seed and these seeds are actually high in Omega 3 fatty acids as are the leafy green that you can eat, this is also the Shiso or the Perilla, this is the green variety, definitely I would encourage you guys to grow the Shiso green and the purple as well as Basil as like an herb bed but also do not forget to grow your leafy greens.

So here’s some Collard greens, I could propably choose the Georgia southern Collard, if I was growing them,

Lets see here this nice large Parsley, it looks super delicious, looks like it’s growing quite well.

So, you just saw some of the different leafy greens and edibles that you can grow in an Aquaponics system and I always want to encourage you guys to tryand grow different things and experiment because that’s what this is all about. see what you can get away with, of course, some plants are going to do better than others and, of course, that depends on how big your Aquaponic system is, how well it’s draining or not draining which we will talk about in a little bit. Also how much sun you are getting or how much sun you are not getting, very important factors is considered when selecting different vegetables and herbs to grow in your system, now besides the leafy green and I want to encourage you to eat at least two bounds of leafy greens a day, you know they are one of the healthiest food in the planet, the most nutrition with the least amount of calories and as you know the standard American food, fast food junk food, is very high in calories but low in nutrition, the greens are very high in nutrition.

Another thing that is pretty good in nutrition for the calories specifically and for protein are the fish here, so whether you want to grow your fish and eat them or you want to have them as pets, you can  definitely do that in the Aquaponics system.  in just about ten months, in average, and it depends on the size of your tank and how much you are feeding them and what not. Your fish the Tilapia will grow in full size and you can catch them and eat them, I think they are fun.

Alright, So now you saw what you could potentially grow, the plants and the fish, we are going to kind of dive more in and explain how exactly an Aquaponics system works and the different methods of growing.

We have two different types of set up here, they have like basically a system that has just like a flood and drain, kind of floods it and then it drains it may be some of you have the system where they are just constantly feeding it water and the system that you choose to have is depending on the plants you are growing for example some crops can be grown in a system where the roots constantly in water such as the Lettuce or such as water crest, whereas most plants are not going to like that level of water and have the roots wet all the time, they need to get proper aeration. So there need to be a flood and drain system where the roots are not constantly  staying wet, so now we are going to go ahead and show you both of those different systems, and how they do it here in the Aquaponics place.


So this is the first system that we are going to show you and this is the easiest system to make, and if you think of your bathtub, if you fill up your bathtub with water and it gets so high, it has that overfill valve, right so you can never overflow your bathtub and it won’t like leak on your bathroom floor, well this system, growing the lettuce in constant water works pretty much the same way. So what many systems use is they may use like some kind of Styrofoam, but they choose not to use the Styrofoam beads will break off and gets into water as shown in the picture, and contaminate your system.

So they actually have a nice piece of plastic here and lets go ahead and lift this guy up, so what happens here is that water is getting pumped in over here on this side and if you look on the backside, I do not know if you can see that there in the picture on the far side, but there is basically like overfill drain on bathtub that’s sucking the water in so water never overflows but always stay on a constant height, the water is kind of being aerated due to the flow of the water in and out and you can see in these little net pockets they have here these little lettuces are growing these little root hairs out and in these net pods, the plants are just set in the cinder and that’s actually just to hold the soil and also another reason that we will talk about in a little bit but these lettuces will grow really well like this and another thing that will grow well like this also is the water crest that likes to have it’s roots wet.


So now we are going to show you the 2nd kind of system they have here. this is a system that actually drain out the water and actually drains it it fairly fast so that the roots are not staying wet because most plants do not like their roots wet. they will succumb to root rot, possibly other diseases if you do that and that’s all made possible with this guy right here. it is actually called a bell siphon and how this works is simple. so we are going ahead to give you a close up to show you exactly how this works.

Alright, so how this system work is that we got a grow bed with all the little cinders in here and then they got this little kind of of mesh thing that does not allow the cinders to go in and they have their overflow tube, much like the other overflow tube in the lettuce bed, so when the water level that is getting pumped into this bed is high enough, which is almost there now, what  it is going to happen is the water level is going up and if we look, pull these rocks back here, you can see the water level right here as in the picture, it is getting higher and higher and if we just let it get this higher and go into the overflow tube which it’s almost going to reach in a minute, it is always going to stay at that level. Now this is what happens exactly in the Lettuce bed, the water always stays at certain level and it is almost overflowing now. and it is just about overflowing now, so can check it out and you can see the water running over the top into the tube there which then returns the water to the fish tank down below and now you have the water always at this constant level.

So what this guy does which is the bell siphon valve, it basically creates a vacuum or suction to pull the water faster than it would just normally drain out, so for example the water’s draining out here but it’s never going to go below this exact level that you are seeing.

Now this is the standard bell siphon that they offer here, just looks like that, it is basically just some PVC with a cap on top, they put some little wholes on the bottom in a nice shape but actually  they have a  cool one which for display purposes only which actually has a clear top on it.

So, I don’t know if you will be able to see this in the camera, but what we are going to do is we are going to go ahead and put this guy over the drain tube and once again it has cut outs on the bottom, we are going to put that over the top and I don’t know if you can look in there but what is happening is this is creating a massive suction.

Look at this water draining out very quickly so now the roots are not sitting on a constant water supply so that they will not get the root rot and it is a special siphon that siphons the water out until it’s siphoned out and basically it will slowly fill up again until it’s full. when it gets full again and then it siphons all the water out fast again, so this way you’re getting a drain in and flow without additional appliances or electricity or anything. it is all happening on suction, this is definitely an indigenous way to make to make this happen and then it’s just kind of cool to look  at the water as it’s as it is working in there and see if it is sucking if it’s filling or if there is air bubbles or if it is sucking air or what.

Definitely so cool, lets go ahead and fill this guy up so this can continue to work how it should.

So you guys have just learned what you can grow. Then you learned how to  do it in 2 ways you can accomplish this.

Next, I want to get into Nitti gritty the bare bone of how the Aquaponics system works, it is actually fairly simple but yet complex on some levels so pay attention to this part. It is probably the most important part of this article.

So as you know what happens is you feed the fish, then the fish poop and the poop is pumped up through and then put into the top here, so that it can filter down in to the few components of the system.

Number 1- is that they got a very simple screen here. so this screen catches all the solid waste because we do not want that solid waste going into the gravel bed and get all funky and stuff like that right.

You can then take the solid waste and this is a fish poo as you can see in the picture, but this is solid fish waste you can probably wash this out, I would probably put it in your garden and use it as fertilizer, so this is going to catch all that stuff, now the non solid is then are going in the cinder bed and what happens is the plants just don’t absorb those nutrients directly, there is a middle man involved, You Know when buying things I like to cut out the middle man whenever possible, but in this system I am afraid you can’t cut out the middle man or the system will not work and it will crash.

So the thing that you will need to know for this system to work is the middle man, what they are, are in this bottle in this picture, to jump start the system. Now the middle man will occur naturally but jump starting the system, you guarantee the system that are going to work more effectively and work right the first time. This actually called the organic digester, so this product reduce the ammonia, phosphate, nitrites, nitrates actually in there and they do this by a very special way using the beneficial microbes, bacteria and enzymes that will break down the bad stuff in the fish poop and make it bio available for the plants to absorb, so without this critical component, that will also occur naturally if you do not want to add it like this, your aquaponics system can work properly and flourish, the other thing that is very important is the medium so they  got this cinder here and you know the cinder if you look at that closely, it’s kind of looks like a sponge with all different cracks and cervices, so this gives the bacteria and the microbes a place to live in the system so that can flourish and break down the system from the fish to make it a plant absorbable, so really the beneficial bacteria, microbes and fungi is truly what makes aquaponics system possible but if you are also a home gardener in the ground it makes a standard garden in your ground and will thrive as well.

So know you learn how this system work, lets talk about the input required to grow the fish and all your plants, basically what you need to do is that you need to feed the fish so that they can create their bio solids or their poop to feed your plants plus you need to have the bacteria so all these things are pretty much a one-time investment. Once you got all these guys going, you only will need to buy three additional things to keep your aquaponics system going, number one you are going to need the fish food of course. the fish balance may be $33 for 40 pounds of food at this time in bulk, and I always encourage you to buy it in bulk for the best price. So the fish food is all what you are going to need to keep the fish happy so that they create their poop and their pee because they are living in water so you are not going to provide that.

But the few other things you will need are:

Number 1- you are going to need what’s in this little bag in the photo1, and what is in this little bag is a special stuff as you can see this in photo 2, this special stuff is actually oyster shells, it’s often used for gardening but what this is, this is a PH balancer, so you can use the oyster shell which act a PH balancer so that the fish have the right PH to live in properly.

Number 2- Another thing you may need depends on where you live are heaters. Th Tilapia like to grow and live in temperature that Hawaii is naturally, so you do not need additional heating in Hawaii, but in other places in the United States of America you may need actually to use heaters to keep your water warm enough or your fish are not going to do well, they are not going to grow fast and they are not going to make it at all.

Number 3- Another thing you will properly need here and what they recommend at this aquaponics place, is the iron chelate in picture 4, this iron chelate helps keep your foliage green, it is a nutrient that is not provided by the fish food that will encourage and ensure your plants are healthy.

number 4- The other thing that I would personally experiment with, that they are not yet doing here, and hopefully one day they will, is the rock dust minerals, I would experiment with the Aquaponics and adding rock dust minerals that will add 70 plus different trace minerals into the water which will also give nutrition and provide nutrition to your fish but also more importantly to the plants, so the plants and fish will have more minerals and be more healthy, and when they are more healthy,they are going to grow bigger and grow larger, they are also going to be more bug resistant in the case of the plants. Probably disease resistant and have a stronger immune system in the case of the fish, so I do not know exactly how much of this stuff to add, but it can be done cause I have heard about people doing it before and I would highly encourage you to look into that and add some rock dust even in small amounts to add some of those trace minerals back into your system so that you can grow some of the most nutritious food ever.

So now you know how this Aquaponics system works, Now we are going to explain the anatomy of the system or the parts you need to do it.

As you know, here, at the Aquaponics place they will supply you of everything you need, including the plants, the fish, the container, the pump and everything to do it

As you see in this photo 5, this is a standers Aquaponics system, now the system prices can range from a couple hundred dollars to a thousand or more dollars depending on how  large you want your system.

Of course I will encourage you to buy the biggest Aquaponics system possible, because the biggest system that you can buy will produce more fish and and more greens for you to eat faster, just in case you want to  eat out of your garden exclusively and not the grocery store.

so it’s really simple how this systems work, you got two big tanks \s you see in phooto6, you got the bottom tank which in where the fish live and then you got some concrete blocks that they stake up to make like legs like a table as you see, then they have basically a 2*4 wooden frame that of course the grow bed up top, they have the bed up top to fill with the cinder and you plant your plants, I mean really Aquaponics system is really that simple.

Now whether you buy a constructed set up like this which is all looking simple and professional or whether you get a standard which is called an IBC tote on Craigslist for $100, $200 depending on where you live, and cut it down,it’s really that easy to do an Aquaponics system, even if you are renting, having a condo or if you do not have land or  in ground space aquaponics system is an excellent way to use some of the extra space that you have, you do not necessarily need a nice full sun spot, if you want to grow Tomatoes so, yes you need a nice full sun spot but even in the shade here in Hawaii something like the Lettuce and the herbs are going to do well so that you can start providing food for you and your family in stead of being dependent on the grocery store.

So did I tell you that the Aquaponics place will sell you everything you need including your kit, your fish and even you plants, they got a starter plants here for sale and what I am going to show you next is actually how they start their starter plants actually in an Aquaponics system, this is actually unique cause I have never seen this being done anywhere I visited with all the Aquaponics systems that I have seen, I have never seen anybody do like this, it’s really cool so pay attention to this section, if you are going in aquaponics and you want to start your own plants from seeds, aquaponics makes it really easy.

This is how they start their seeds in the Aquaponics system as you can see in photo 7, this is really cool, so you do not have to use any space or any kind of soil, what they got is a standard seed flat, standard square flat as you can see, and what they have done is that they have filled it with Rockwell which is a popular Hydroponics growing medium that they also sell here, and in the Rockwell they basically just put the seeds in the little holes and because this is a flood and drain table this gets wet and the drains out so it’s not constantly sitting in water which then you could get seed rot, but in this way this will just get enough water so that the little water can germinate into a little baby plants once they germinate and get a little big then you are going to transplant them into little individual containers that are next door, so let me go ahead and show you those next.

So once they got those little baby plants started from seeds or actually you can do cuttings like this, you are going to basically put plants in the little containers here in image 9, check it out, and these little containers once again have the holes in the bottom, and it’s just growing in the cinder as you can see, and then you just basically bury this down in the Aquaponics bed, just deep enough so that it gets enough water , enough plants will get fed and and once again they got that bell siphon valve here as you see, so it’s flooding and draining so this so the roots are not constantly drenched in water, it’s getting enough water and this is literally an automatic watering system for all the baby starts, this is supper genius so it looks like they got a water crest as you can see, and this is probably  my top pick for growing in Aquaponics system.

Water crest is one of the most nutrient sense vegetables on the planet. In addition they got the Kale another yet dense nutrient vegetable, I believe you should be eating at least several times a week, they also got the Shiso, I love the Shiso especially the purple one as you can see in this picture, they got the green Shiso they got the Chives, they got some corn growing on the Aquaponics.

Now probably my favorite crop to grow if I was here in Hawaii, I’d grow the water Spinach or the Ung Choi, it is actually classified from the the USDA as invasive obnoxious weed so you are probably not supposed to grow it in anywhere else in the United States, because it could get in the water way and all this kind of stuff, but you can grow it here in Hawaii and it will grow fabulously under an Aquaponics system like this and you can literally just take cuttings and replant it, you will have a whole mass of food that will continue day after day, year after year and the great thing about the Ung Choi is that it has a nice mild flavor, it is not strong and bitter like Kale some people might not like, and it grows real simple and real easy.

Finally, so hopefully after all this information, you are supposed to know what Aquaponics is,what you need to grow, how to grow it and why it works. I think this is very important fundamental piece of knowledge, that everybody should know how to grow their own food, whether you live in Hawaii and food might stop coming in or whether you just want to have a backup plan in case trucks stop running or there is a financial collapse or whether just want to eat the healthiest food possible.

Based on the current agriculture system in my opinion they are not growing the healthiest food possible to do that you must do it yourself at home, pick it and eat it fresh, for higher level of nutrition, plus you can add things in, like the trace minerals that are not in food today.

Hopefully you enjoyed the article and learned everything about Aquaponics system.

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