What is Aquaponics?

 Aquaponics is a sustainable method of growing food using fish waste as fertilizer in hydroponic grow beds.  Food and plants are grown in water, without soil, usually using a hydroponic grow media such as hydroton or lava rock.  The fish waste provides nutrients for the plants and the plants filter the water for the fish.  Having your own indoor aquaponic garden can be easy and very rewarding!

What do I Need to Start an Aquaponic Garden?

There are a few different ways of setting up an indoor aquaponics garden.  Retailers sell entire aquaponic kits, you can buy pieces and parts from a hydroponics store to form your own kit, or you can make one entirely out of recycled materials such as 55 gallon drums (food grade ofcourse).  Buying an aquaponic kit can be pricey and making one can be a little more effort than some want to put into it, but don't let this stop you!  You can get most of the parts you need at your local hydroponics store and be well on your way to sustainability.

Parts Needed:
  • A hydroponic flood tray/grow bed
  • Hydroponic grow media such as hydroton and/or lava rock, ect...
  • A flood and drain kit (ebb & flow)
  • A drill and drill bit large enough for your flood and drain kit (you may have to hit the hardware store if you don't have the right size bit)
  • A water pump and hose
  • An air pump with air stone
  • A light source (if grow bed is not in a sunny location you may need a grow light)
  • A reservoir large enough flood your grow bed and still have enough water for your fish remaining (I use a large rubbermaid tote for my aquaponic reservoir)
  • Fish and Seeds (fish can be purchased from a local pet store if you are not wanting to eat them)

What Fish should I use in my Aquaponics Garden?

What fish you use in your indoor aquaponics garden depends on if you intend to harvest the fish or not.  If you intend to harvest your fish for food, tilapia are a great choice.  They grow quickly, are a high-density fish (meaning you can have many fish in smaller amounts of water), and reproduce rapidly.

If you don't intend to harvest your fish for food, you can simply use gold fish.  Gold fish are very dirty fish, so few will feed several plants in an aquaponic garden.  I have found that just 2 gold fish will feed a 2'x4' flood tray with lettuce, parsley, lemon balm, and watercress all growing green and great with no pH problems at all.  If you have too many fish in your aquaponics system, nitrate levels will increase and the pH as well.