Every homestead can benefit from a small scale aquaponics system. Let’s examine some of the reasons you might want to try one this year:
Enjoyment. It’s fun to watch fish grow and swim (even under ice in the winter). It’s also fascinating that you can grow healthy plants without soil.
Fresh produce. So many plants can be grown in aquaponics systems. The main consideration is the temperature if you plan on keeping the plants in the system. Example: scallions and strawberries can be kept year-round. Tomatoes, peppers and such are only growable in the warmer months, unless you have the system in a heated area.
Fresh fish. Even in a small system, you can raise edible fish. Catfish, perch and tilapia are all good, edible fish. You can even raise minnows or Koi to sell!
Natural fertilizer. I love using my fish water for fertilizer. A cup of fish water diluted into 5 gallons of water will be a nice light fertilizer for your garden or house plants.
Building a small aquaponics system is flexible. You can be as low tech as using a heavy tarp for a small pond liner, or you can purchase an aquaponics tank setup. I will explain how I have my system, which cost under $100 and has been running over a year.
I used an old recycled 12-foot pool. This is one of the pools you can buy at just about any general store with an inflating ring on top. The pump will not be any good, but you can buy a small fish pond pump for about $25. The plant container I used was the top of a plastic drum, so it had the two bung holes in the bottom. Along with these supplies, I used some stone that I had in the driveway to serve as growing media.
To summarize, the important components included only the following:
1. Old recycled 12-foot pool.
2. 1 plastic drum.
3. Stone (small driveway stone).
1. Dig a hole in the ground, 4 feet by 4 feet by 4 feet (saves money and keeps the pond cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter).
2. Place some sand in the bottom of the hole.
3. Use some old tarp and rugs to line the hole (to prevent puncturing the pool liner).
4. Put in the pool liner.
5. Fill the pond, but don’t drain your well! (You could use collected rain water.)
6. Pull out creases in the pond liner as you fill it. (So cleaning the walls in the future won’t be a hassle.)
Now that you have a small in-ground pool, it’s time to work on the growing container.
1. Cut the top of the drum. (I used a jigsaw, but you can use a circular saw carefully).
2. If using the top of the drum, cut it about 12 to 18 inches deep and use the end with the bungs.
3. Put a couple of treated 4x4s across your pond to rest the “drum top” on. Obviously, the bung holes will be facing down and keep the bung holes from draining on the treated lumber.
Time to fill the container
1. Place large stones over the bung holes so that small stones won’t fall through.
2. Fill container with stone (river rock, driveway stone, etc.).
3. Place your pond pump in the pond and the hose in the center of the growing container.I put a 6-inch terracotta planter bottom on top of my planter, and I have my hose pouring into that so it helps distribute the water.
4. I put a 6-inch terracotta planter bottom on top of my planter, and I have my hose pouring into that so it helps distribute the water.
This system works well and allows you even to take onion bottoms you cut and grow them into onion tops. Get creative and enjoy your own small aquaponics system. One last tip: Get some barley straw and toss it into your pond (it will naturally kill the algae that will grow in a pond).
Do you have any aquaponics tips? Share your advice in the section below: