Hello to all! First, I want to apologize for being a little slow in getting out some blog updates with some awesome content. As you know, I love providing great information that will help you become a successful aquaponics grower! My heart's desire is to spread this worldwide! We are in over 75 countries and it’s growing. Daily, I am conversing with someone regarding aquaponics. I have a teacher in El Salvador preparing for a multi-national science fair they are hosting. She is building her very own aquaponics system. Very exciting for us here at MorningStar Aquaponics that we can be a part of an event such as this.
I am super excited to announce that will be soon releasing a new FREE E-book on “Plant Nutrients and Deficiencies. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen on Facebook with new aquaponic growers asking the community what’s wrong with their plants and uploading pictures. Then to see people offering the WRONG advice. Sometimes, making matters worse!
See, if you don’t know what you are doing in the area of system supplementation, you can not only diagnose your deficiency wrong, but you can add the wrong supplementation. Or you may diagnose the issue incorrectly but add the wrong supplementation and ultimately locking out other nutrients to the plants.
It can kind of get messy in the aquaponics world. Well, we want to help put and an end to that. About two weeks ago, I began writing this e-book. What started out as a mini-informational guide has now turned into a book! BUT, that’s me, a perfectionist and never happy. I want this so complete that after reading it, you will become confident in making the right decisions for your system.
So, stay tuned! In another few weeks, for those of you subscribed to our blog, you will receive this e-book via your email. As always, Happy Aquaponics!
Credit: financialmail.com by LONDIWE BUTHELEZI
Just outside Pretoria, a 1ha farm is producing 5t of fish using just 1% of the fresh water a traditional farming operation would need. And it’s growing vegetables, using the ammonia-rich water from the fish tanks for irrigation, then distilling the run-off and piping it back to the fish tanks in a never-ending cycle.
It’s a sophisticated operation, with technology that allows sensors to be activated remotely to monitor the fish and plants, turn water pumps on and off, and alert farmworkers if the fish are in danger or distress.
"It’s a completely self-sustainable turnkey model," says Leon van Deventer, agricultural engineer at technology company Matsei, which runs the pilot farm alongside Swedish enterprise software company IFS. "You can put it in the middle of the desert because all you need is solar energy and satellite communication to monitor sensors on the plants and fish tanks, and you use so little water."
It may be difficult to get one’s head around the idea of farming in a desert, but Sundrop Farms has proved it’s possible in south Australia. Since 2016 the company has been producing 17,000t of tomatoes a year using just sunlight and seawater.
While Sundrop’s system involves hydroponics — growing plants using a nutrient-rich, water-based solution rather than soil — IFS and Matsei are using aquaponics. A hi-tech version, at that.
Aquaponics brings together conventional aquaculture, such as raising fish in tanks, and hydroponics. Popular with missions and government aid initiatives, it produces more food using less water than traditional agriculture. And it uses just 1% of the land to produce the same amount of protein as a herd of cattle. Aquaponics farmers source fingerlings — juveniles of resilient species such as catfish — and feed them in a controlled environment until they reach the right weight for consumption.
Despite its efficiencies, it hasn’t gained traction in SA — just a few farmers are doing it, and then on a small scale. Van Deventer believes this is because aquaponics needs the entire production ecosystem — farming, processing, storage and transportation — to be in place in the community where the farm is.
However, agricultural economist Wandile Sihlobo says the issue is one of cost: because there’s ample open land still available for growing produce in SA, the cost of aquaponics counts against it. "If competition for land toughened, you would see aquaponics take off," he says.
Sihlobo believes concerns around climate change — and resultant concerns around food security — will drive the adoption of new agricultural methods, including aquaponics. "But the cost has to come down first, and I expect that it will in coming years."
Food security is at the heart of the IFS/Matsei project. The joint venture will focus specifically on rural communities, with the aim of promoting sustainable food production in poor communities, while offering a cheaper source of protein.
"It’s easy for communities in Africa to cultivate starch such as maize," says Van Deventer. "The problem lies in getting meat-based protein, and we know red meat is costly for many, even the middle class." Read the remaining article: CLICK HERE
This is section 2 of Part 3 in our “Key Elements of Water Quality.” Last time we talked about aeration and dissolved oxygen (DO). We covered the aspects of DO and the important role it has with fish, bacteria, and plants. I recommend that you go back and read that posting, Aeration - Section 1. Also, there are previous articles in this series - “Water Purity” and “Water Temperature.”
As stated before, we have covered DO, but now we want to discuss ways of adding oxygen to your system. Fish in their natural habitat, oxygen is supplied either by aquatic plants that produce oxygen through photosynthesis or from water movements such as waves and wind that dissolve atmospheric oxygen into the water. That can be the case in aquaponics to a minimal degree. Because of fish density and bacteria dependent upon DO, you must take extra steps to ensure your system has the proper amount.
Aquaponic growers that are a hobbyist and have less than commercial size systems have relative ease in supplying the proper amount of DO needed. In our e-book, “Step by Step Aquaponics, Simplifying the Building Process for You.” The systems we feature in the e-book takes proper precautions a grower must perform in providing DO needed for the fish, bacteria, and plants. Commercial systems can be much more complex for various reasons, but one being the stock density of the fish.
Today, we will talk about two ways to aerate your system and they are easy to perform. Under normal circumstances, you will not have any issues with DO unless you have a dramatic rise in water temperatures. If that is the case, the DO needs to be supplemented through management strategies.
In your system, you need to ensure that there is proper aeration in the fish tanks, bio-filter, and grow beds. By doing so, this will make sure that all forms of life are getting the required amount of DO, which is 5-8 ppm. Side note, I make sure my sump pit is receiving aeration. It’s an area you can capitalize on with little effort.
Two ways for aeration in smaller aquaponic units are to use water pumps to create a water flow, and to use aerators that produce air bubbles in the water. Water movement and aeration are critical components, and their importance cannot be overstated and stressed upon.
Water Pump Driven Aeration
Water pump driven aeration systems would include spray bars, venturis, oxygen saturation cones, and water mixers. Below is the description of each technique:
Spray Bars or Heads - are some of the most common ways to aerate your aquaponic system. It doesn’t require much skill in building them and they are easy to make. The main thing to consider is where you can place a spray bar to effectively break the water surface. In the designs we provide in our e-book, you will do so in the sump pit and fish tank. Below are the photos of the two ways we accomplish this. As you can see, we have a bar traversing across the fish tank. The water is sprayed directly onto the water surface. As it’s doing so, aeration is occurring. The other photo shows the water coming from the grow beds directly into the sump pit. The dump tube has a cap on the end and several perforated holes to allow the water to spray out onto the surface of the water. There are many ways you can customize a spray bar. The main objective is to break the water causing bubbles to form and water movement.
Venturis - are used to “suck” air into a pipe and mix it with water. Medium and high head pumps have enough pressure to allow installation of a venturi device which restricts water flow creating a suction force which draws air into the draft tube above the venturi. The flow of water and the pressure determines how much air can be drawn in. Please note it will reduce the water flow volume and pressure when using a venturi.
Spray bars or heads and venturis are really all you need in a smaller backyard aquaponics system regarding water movement (Note: you will need to add a mechanical aerator as well). There are other applications that can be used but not as common in the world of aquaponics or at least in the backyard builds, they are known as Oxygen Saturation Cones and Water Mixers. Click "READ MORE" in lower right to read the rest of the article.
This is part 3 of our "Key Elements to Water Quality" blog postings. I suggest that you go back to read the others as well on “Purity” and “Temperature.” We are now going to be discussing aeration. I will be dividing this into two sections due to it being such a vast subject.
Dissolved Oxygen (DO) can be a common thing that many overlooks and don’t give it the attention it deserves. Also, when they think about it, they will only consider the fish needing oxygen but do not realize nitrifying bacteria and plant roots need it as much.
When building a system, you need to consider ways to introduce oxygen into the system; that is called aeration. Oxygen dissolves directly into the water surface from the atmosphere through natural conditions, fish can survive in such water. This amount of DO diffusion does not meet the demands of an aquaponics system. It needs additional oxygen in the water to offset the deficit created by the breakdown of waste (fish fecal matter or food), higher temperatures, and consumption by fish, nitrifying bacteria, plants, or any other organisms living in the water such as algae.
Aeration can be performed many ways and we discuss that in the next article. This blog post, I want you to become more familiar with dissolved oxygen and the effects it has on the system. When we talk about DO, we’re talking about the oxygen that is soluble and has dissolved in the water. It is measured by ppm (parts per million) or some will refer it to mg/L (milligrams per liter), which can be used interchangeably.
Low DO levels are not usually a problem with hobby aquaponic growers with low fish stocking rates. The problem tends to arise more in commercial operations with high stocking rates. The systems featured in our “Step by Step Aquaponics” material are designed in such a way to ensure high levels of DO. If you feel you are experiencing lower levels, there is no risk of adding too much oxygen through more aeration; when the water becomes saturated, the extra oxygen will disperse into the atmosphere.
Our recommendation of stocking density is around 1 fish per 5 gallons of water or 20 kg of fish for every 1000 liters of water. When making these calculations, I am only considering the fish tank size. I realize that this may be a conservative approach, but I would rather be cautious. As the system matures, it is safe to increase your stocking density, but you need to continue to monitor the health and wellness of your system by checking your pH, ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, plant growth, and that your fish are not gasping for air on the surface of the water. If you see your fish doing this, you have a DO problem and it needs to be rectified immediately. Click "READ MORE" in lower right to read the rest of the article.
When you think of Wisconsin, you don’t think of salmon? Or leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach, and etc. I think of dairy cows and cheese!
Along with the greenhouse is a replicated North Atlantic Ocean 1-acre fish house. Thousands up thousands of salmon ranging from newly hatched eggs brought in from Iceland to 10 pounds after two years of growth. They are raised in 22,000-gallon tanks filled with fresh water drawn from a 180-foot well.
At this time, 95 percent of the Atlantic salmon consumed in the U.S. is mostly imported from countries such as Norway and Chile. Then about 90 percent of the lettuce grown in the U.S. comes from California and Arizona which is grown by traditional farming methods.
According to Superior Fresh, they are the largest aquaponics facility. “This is really a pioneering facility that’s breaking all the molds,” said Steve Summerfelt, an aquaculture systems expert and the chief science officer for Superior Fresh. “We’re truly disrupting food systems.”
The financial backers of this project are Todd Wanek, the CEO of Ashley Furniture, and his wife, Karen. They have put millions of dollars of support to ensure of its success.
Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics. The water is circulated from the fish tanks into the greenhouse to help the plants to grow. Some will say jokingly, fish poo equals plant power; it provides the nutrients for the plants. Then the water is recirculated back to the fish tanks. The beautiful thing is, it’s all certified organic with no pesticides, growth hormones or other additives.
The goal for the future is to develop even larger facilities on the east and west coasts that could potentially be twice the size of the current location in Wisconsin providing fresh greens and salmon to millions of people.
Because of the controlled environment, Superior Fresh can ensure cleanliness including bio-security to prevent crop contamination. Food safety is a major concern especially with recent scares that occurred with e-coli outbreaks with romaine lettuce. Click "READ MORE" in lower right to read the rest of the article
The most effective temperature range for aquaponics to operate in is 68 to 75 F or 20 to 24 C. That is not saying you can‘t operate one if the temperatures are not that. I live in the tropics of Central America and we all know, it can get really hot. It’s not always convenient to either cool the system or heat it. It’s important that you build a system in such a way to naturally cool or heat first. Then, if you have to, spend the money needed to do either.
Plants and fish are your most important considerations. Decide what temp range you will be dealing with in your growing season. You may be fortunate enough to be growing all year around versus having only a short season in colder climates. Then you need to know the temp range for your plants and fish. This will determine what you can grow and type of fish you can have in your system. For example, you can have lettuce in cooler temps, but it will not do well in very hot climates. The same goes for fish. Tilapia, the temp range should be between 60-80 F and for Trout, it should be around 45-72 F. There are multiple other fish to consider as well.
But what if you are still having issues of being within the proper temperature range? What if you have the right temps for the summer but you want to extend your growing season by starting earlier and extending it further into the fall? Or you have scorching summer temps, but more moderate winter temps like in the tropics. We now will discuss ways to either cool the water or heat it.
1. The location of your system. Build your system in the shade more so than in the sun. This will give you a 5-degree heat reduction. Obviously, you must consider the plants you will be utilizing. How much sun do they need?
2. Does the area have good natural airflow? If not, can you build in such a way to install box fans?
3. Consider the size of your system. The more thermal mass, the less variation you will see over time in temperatures. Remember, it takes longer for the larger system’s water to heat up, but it takes longer to cool them down.
7. Insulate the exteriors of the tanks as well. Some have reported a 2-degree drop in water temperatures by doing so.
8. One trick I found and possibly an inexpensive way is to get a refrigerator. Start by drilling two holes in the side, connect a hose to the pump in the sump pit, run it into the hole that you drilled, coil the hose up in the refrigerator, and then run it out into the fish tank. This will cool the water and should be the last option. The only problem you would have to consider is the head pressure on the pump. It may require you to get a bigger pump with greater strength, thus require you to use more electric.
As you can tell, there are easy ways to cool the water for your plants and fish. Yes, I am sure there are some other considerations as well, but this will get you going in the right direction. TO READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE, CLICK "READ MORE" IN LOWER RIGHT SECTION.
When you use a natural stones as a medium for your grow beds, make sure you test it. Here is a video I produced to show you how to do so. Trust me, by skipping this step, you are potentially costing yourself much labor and finances in repairing the potential pH issues that could arise in your system.
Water is one of the most important components of the aquaponics system; it ties the entire system together! What is remarkable is all the things that are taking place within the water that will not only make your plants grow healthy and strong but enables your fish to thrive in a clean, toxic-free environment. The fish waste is moved out of the fish tanks with the circulation of the water. The ammonia that is produced is processed by the bacteria colonies that live on the surfaces in the system within the water. These colonies convert it into nitrites and then ultimately, nitrates for plant growth. Properly aerated water allows the plant’s root systems to flourish along with the fish absorbing dissolved oxygen from the water through their gills.
Since the fish, bacteria, and plants are ALL dependent on the water, it is very important that you properly manage these four components to ensure proper water quality - Purity, Temperature, Aeration, and pH. Obviously, there are other things, such as the levels of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. We will talk about those in a later blog post.
Rainwater and potable pH neutral well water are the best choices for filling an aquaponic system. Unfortunately, not all have access to these two types of water sources. Many must settle for their city tap water to fill our systems. There are municipals to where the water is safe to use right away, but that is not the case for many others. They will add chlorine and chloramine to the water for disinfectant purposes. These compounds make the water safe for us to drink, but unfortunately, they are toxic to fish and the nitrifying bacteria in the bio-filter. If it was just chlorine we are dealing with, that would be easy, just let it sit overnight with an aerator and it would dissipate out. Chloramine (chlorine and ammonia bonded together), requires more of an effort to get it out of the system.
Be careful of all the water conditioners available in the marketplace such as pond supply shops and aquarium stores. These products on the surface may resolve the issue of Chlorine and Chloramine, but these products are not certified for use with fish and plants for human consumption. It’s important to read the labels.
Believe it or not, ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) can help you treat the water. 100 mg can treat up to 10-gallons of water! Adding 500 mg can in return neutralize chlorine and most of the chloramine in 50-gallons of water. So, calculate the size of your system in gallons and appropriately do the math to figure out how much ascorbic acid you need. There are other means as well by using high-grade or medical-grade activated carbon pre-filters. You plumb a canister in the water line to pre-filter the water entering the system.
These are some viable options to consider when charging your system. The beautiful thing about aquaponics, it’s a closed-looped system. It does not require you to dump a continuous supply of water into it. Once charged, you will merely top it off as it evaporates. This little amount of water doesn’t require the water treatments discussed above.
That was our first post on "Water Quality." Next week, we will be discussing how to maintain a proper temperature for your system as well. We go into great depths on either cooling or heating your water. Make sure you subscribe to our blog before leaving. You don't want to miss our updates.
Thank you for stopping by. I certainly hope you enjoyed this article.
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