11 Amazing Food Producing Aquaponics Systems
Aquaponics is a type of farming that grows both fish and produce. You arrange a garden bed and a fish tank with a pump and pipes running water between them. You feed the fish, the waste from the fish feeds the plants, the plants filter the water before it goes back to the fish. You get to harvest both vegetables and fish.
Raise ornamental species like Koi or goldfish, or to raise the fish for food by growing trout, perch, tilapia, cod or bluegill. To make the system more sustainable, consider using a small windmill or solar panel to power the pump. Here are 11 inspiring aquaponics systems you need to know about.
1. Bahamas Aquaponics System
This is an aquaponics system in the Bahamas. Raising fish and produce in a tropical climate requires special considerations. The posts in the image are for a shade cloth that protects the system from overheating in the intense sun. Fresh water is collected from rain water catchment set-up on the roof.
There are benefits to the warmth though. These guys can breed fish eight months out of twelve. With all the bright sunshine they never need to use artificial light, and they achieve bountiful harvests year round.
2. Kiddie Pool Aquaponics System
You don’t need a fish tank or fancy pool to get started with aquaponics. This system uses a kiddie pool for the fish and it works just fine. The plants float above the water in a basket. There is a pump to bring water into the vegetable bed. The water returns, filtered and clean, to the pool through a few holes punched in the basket.
A simple set-up like this can produce enough salad vegetables for the whole family. Make sure to keep the water well aerated for healthy fish. You can use an air pump or an air stone like this one.
3. Centerpiece Indoor Aquaponics System
Even if you aren’t a hard core gardener, you might choose to grow some lettuce or herbs inside during the winter. It’s really nice to have fresh greens on hand come January, and the plants brighten the room.
With a classy aquaponics set-up like this, your little patch of indoor greens can be an attention grabbing centerpiece. You can use ornamental fish coupled with nice lighting. These lights also provide the necessary energy for the lettuce to grow.
4. Tasty Catfish from an Aquaponics System
Did we mention that you get to eat fish too? Aquaponics is not just a gardening technique to grow beautiful produce. You can raise fat catfish, trout, perch and even tilapia using an aquaponics system.
When choosing your fish, consider the climate and diet each fish needs. Some, like trout, perch and cod, like cold water, while tilapia, catfish and bluegill need warmer temperatures to survive. Goldfish and koi can live almost entirely on vegetables, as can tilapia, while other species need insects or carnivore fish pellets.
5. Indoor Aquaponics System with Trout
Believe it or not, this indoor aquaponics system raises trout. It is part of a showcase for a trout farm. The tank are 1000 liters, with two 90 liter growing beds. One of the beds is a raft system, which means it literally floats on top of the water. The other is set up to be flooded and then drain back into the tank. Herbs and salad vegetables will be grown in the beds.
6. Small Aquaponics System
You don’t need a large back yard or lots of indoor space to set up an aquaponics system. This one fits easily in a small apartment. You can build a similar set-up using any fish tank with most types of freshwater fish. It is important that the plants get enough light. Either place them in a bright window like this one, or consider supplementing with florescent or LED lights.
This is a great way to grow tomatoes or cucumbers if you live in a northern climate with a short growing season. Alternately you could raise lettuce, broccoli, kale or other cool weather crops indoors in a hot southern summer.
7. Vertical Aquaponics System
Your aquaponics system can easily run vertically as well as horizontally. You can use trays like the ones in this photo, or simply cut holes in PVC pipes to achieve the same effect.
This system uses silver and golden perch throughout the year. In the winter they add trout, and in the summer it’s barramundi. The fish that aren’t eaten right away are preserved by smoking.
8. Greenhouse Aquaponics System
This guy created an aquaponic greenhouse, to lengthen his growing season in chilly northern Michigan. His salad vegetables are grown in a holder made from PVC pipe. They are fed nutrient-rich water that is pumped from a fish barrel in the corner. He has also started a variety of tree and bush cuttings using old coffee cans as containers. You can see the robust root systems these hydroponic vegetables form.
9. Media Filled Aquaponics Bed
These professional looking beds are filled with expanded clay pellets. Aquaponics is a form of hydroponics, or gardening without soil. You will need some sort of media to for your plants. Ideally you will use something that allows the water to drain slowly while providing air pockets for the roots to breathe. Good choices for aquaponics included clay pellets like these, coconut husks, coco coir or pumice.
You can find great plans for small aquaponics system designs here.
10. Small Aquaponics System Under Lights
Here’s an example of indoor aquaponics using grow lights. You can grow indoors under compact florescent lights (CFLs), high intensity discharge lights (HIDs) or even full spectrum LEDs. The latter are more expensive but save a lot of energy in the long run.
HIDs are the most commonly used indoor grow lights, though they tend to get hot. You have to be careful not to burn your plants. If you are starting out with a simple set-up like this one, it is best to start out with CFLs. If you decide to get serious about indoor gardening, with or without aquaponics, consider full spectrum LEDs as they’ll save you money in the long run.
11. Sun Curve Aquaponics System
This is the Sun Curve, the latest in aquaponics technology. It is a closed loop system powered entirely by solar panels and a wind turbine. It comes with its own battery bank.
The fish provide the nutrients that feed the plants. The roots of the plants filter the water and return it sparkling clean to the fish tank. This is a beautiful and eco-friendly way to do aquaponics gardening.