What is the Life Cycle of Aquaponics? That is a great question.
There is a basic formula for the life cycle of aquaponics.
- You have a fish tank, can be small or large.
- You need the correct amount of fish
- You will need a grow bed for your plants
- A water pump
- An oxygenator for the water
- A complete understanding of the nitrogen cycle
- Knowledge on how to set up the tanks, tubes, pump and a heater for temperature control for your fish. If you are in a warm or hot climate, you may need to keep the fish tank cool.
- A proper fish to tank and vegetation ratio
So the fish produce ammonia in their tank as they poop in the water. The ammonia is then converted to nitrates by bacteria. The plants use the nitrates as food to grow and clean the water. The water then goes back to the fish tank clean and healthy for the fish!
A complete Aquaponics Life Cycle for your sustainable living experience.
So What are the steps that you need to accomplish?
- Set up your fish tank system. Set up the Tank, the pump and tubing including the grow bed tank. The gravel or clay are in the grow bed with the return water tubing. Fill the tank with non-chlorinated water (captured rain water is great!)
- Test the pH. The pH should be between 6.4 and 7.0. some people fret to get the pH exactly to 6.8, but this is real life, and I am sure you want to be realistic and not a perfectionist. As long as the pH supports healthy edible plants and the fish you are growing, you are fine.
- Place Your fish in the tank. Once your tank system is clean and everything is correct pH wise and with the proper temperature for your fish, put in the fish! Remember, the Fish are your guests and your pets, or food, so make them comfortable so that they grow in a healthy environment.
- Turning Ammonia into Nitrites and Nitrates. Nitrification is the conversion of ammonia to nitrate through biological oxidation. It is an aerobic process that involves several stages and numerous species of microorganisms. I am not going go into that now, but you can go to the link Nitrification to learn more. As the fish are fed, their waste becomes ammonia in the tank. The converted ammonia (now nitrates) flow to the grow beds, where it flourishes in either the gravel or clay bed.
- Keep the water chemically balanced. Test your tank water and keep the overall pH around 6.8 or so, and keep the ammonia as low as possible. This is a must to keep the fish and the vegetation healthy and growing.
- Send the water from the grow bed (after being used by the vegetation back to the fish tank. In this step, the water that has been cleaned by the vegetation gets drained back to the fish tank. The plants consumed the nitrogen and sends clean water back to the fish! Do not forget that the plants roots will need to drain periodically so that they can get the oxygen they need. You can use a flood valve to automate this setup.
Now comes a new mindset and some new skills. As the system is running, gain the habit of checking ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH levels frequently. You can purchase expensive equipment that will do it for you and send you an alarm, or you can just check it yourself.
Do not overfeed the fish, as it is the only external element required in the process, if you overfeed the fish it can increase the ammonia created in the tank.
Pay attention to the smell of the water. It should have a fresh scent, not a rotting or nasty odor. With the nitrogen cycle started properly, both fish and plant life will thrive in your aquaponics system.
That is the basic Aquaponics Life Cycle. The fish eat and poop, the bacteria change ammonia to nitrates and the plants eat the nitrates. The clean water goes back to the fish tank! All one happy cycle and you benefit!
The Native Americans taught about the cycle of life for centuries before we even thought about it. It is the balance of life that ensures your life’s journey is Joyful and Healthy. The 4 Brothers is a great place to start your understanding.
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