Looking for a way to save money by growing your own healthy food while entertaining your children at the same time? Aquaponics is a fun way to start your sustainable home gardening journey.
What is aquaponics?
Aquaponics combines aquatic animals (most commonly, fish) with farming. Take a regular aquarium, put a couple of plants on top, and voila! You are an aquaponic farmer. The fish waste acts as fertilizer for the plants, and the plant roots absorb the fish waste, which keeps the tank clean and leads to fewer manual water changes.
Done properly, aquaponics is the most sustainable type of farming. Aquaponics systems also produce 20% more yield than soil-based farming, because plants grown in water grow faster. However, even if you are not interested in becoming a master aquaponic farmer, bringing aquaponics into your home has benefits for the whole family. Studies have linked aquariums and aquaponics to an increase in positive mood and a decrease in stress. Kids get the benefit of having a pet fish, while growing plants at the same time!
How to get started:
If you have a little bit of money to spend and you’d like to invest in a good-looking aquaponic garden, several companies sell premade aquaponic systems. These systems include:
- the tank
- a filter
- and sometimes, seeds!
(Note: Substrate is usually soil, but since your plants will be growing in water, and not soil, the plant roots will be in gravel, pebbles, peat moss, or a variety of other growing mediums.)
If you’d like to save as much money as possible, you can make your own aquaponic garden. What you’ll need:
- a tank (any size)
- a filter (filters are smaller or larger depending on the tank size they are made for — they will be marked accordingly on the box)
- substrate (your choice of gravel, pebbles, peat moss — several aquaponic garden companies sell substrate by itself, so you can buy the substrate without having to buy the whole system)
- red solo cups (or something similar) as planters
- Styrofoam or cardboard for a lid
There are plenty of online videos and other resources with DIY tips for how to set up your own system.
Lastly, you will need at least one fish. Two of the most common fish kept in aquaponic gardens are goldfish and betta fish. Goldfish are a beginner fish, and despite the way they are often advertised, betta fish are an intermediate level fish. I recommend doing background research into the type of fish you choose, so you can provide it with ethical living arrangements. Whatever you do, do not keep a fish all by itself in a tank, without any decorations!
What to grow:
The easiest plants to grow are leafy green vegetables and herbs. In fact, you can harvest a plant like wheatgrass in just a few days using an aquaponic garden! Leafy greens and herbs are the best plants for a beginner, because they have lower nutrient requirements and lower lighting requirements than other types of fruits and vegetables.
When in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask questions, because part of the joy of farming and gardening is sharing with others.
If you are new to aquaponics, you can check out the online communities below to get started:
And be sure to check out my article about hydroponics to learn about another sustainable gardening method!
By Tureygua Inaru