Prepping and homesteading is all about getting back to the basics and being self reliant, a huge part of that is having control over your food supply. With a simple Aquaponics system you can have an abundance of healthy organic food (vegetables and fish) year round.
So what exactly is Aquaponics?
It is the combination of raising fish (aquaculture) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil). Aquaponics has become increasingly popular over the last couple decades here in Canada, although it actually isn’t a new idea at all. There is debate over where the idea of Aquaponics originated but it definitely has ancient roots. Asian countries like Thailand and China have been using it to cultivate rice in their paddy fields for thousands of years and it was also used by Aztecs to irrigate their crops.
Aquaponics allows you to grow food (vegetables and fish) in a closed loop ecological system. You can get very scientific explaining how it works but to put it simply, water is shared and circulated between a fish tank and grow beds. The fish water is pumped through the grow beds, watering the plants and providing them with nutrients from the fish waste (fertilizer) which in turn cleans the water for the fish. This purified water is then circulated back to the fish tank and the cycle continues.
Aquaponic Gardening/Farming Has Many Benefits
Unlike usual gardening Aquaponics setups don’t waste water, since it is constantly cycling, the only water loss is due to evaporation. There is also no need for soil or pesticides and the vegetable growth rate is almost double that of soil based gardening. Daily maintenance is quite simple too, primarily just feeding the fish and checking the plants.
There are many species of fish that can be raised in an Aquaponics system. The most popular edible fish are tilapia as they are hardy, fast growing, and aren’t sensitive to crowding and changing water conditions. They are however a warm water fish so they require temperatures of 55+ degrees. Other suitable fish include trout, perch, bass and catfish. For those who aren’t interested in eating the fish, goldfish and koi are an excellent choice.
There is also a range of vegetables you can grow depending on your setup but it is always best to choose ones that do well in your geographic area and climate. The easiest vegetables to grow are leafy greens like lettuce. Since they don’t have a root structure, they do very well on floating raft beds and have a very short harvest time. Other vegetables require more traditional planting so they are typically grown in media filled grow beds, which are usually filled with gravel. Media beds are great for veggies like tomatoes, beans, and peppers. It is always a good idea to plan ahead and schedule planting times, by staggering your plantings you can avoid periods where nothing is ripe or everything has ripened at once. Only grow what you like to eat and always preserve, freeze or can excess food.
The Possibilities Are Endless When Choosing an Aquaponics System
These systems can be as simple or elaborate as you want. Some people have small setups in their houses, while others have larger systems outdoors or in greenhouses. If you live off grid all you need is a solar panel and a battery to run your system. The cost also varies greatly, you can purchase manufactured Aquaponics systems for hundreds to thousands of dollars or you can make your own, for as little as $100. Barrels, IBC containers, and PVC piping are commonly used in DIY Aquaponic projects. There are plenty of plans, videos and tutorials online to help get you started. The good news is your system will pay for itself over time, just with the savings in groceries.
If you’re wanting to increase your self sufficiency, find an alternative to store bought food or if you are just looking for an inexpensive hobby, Aquaponics is definitely something to consider!
Inexpensive, fairly easy to build off grid solar powered aquaponics system