Aquaponics: A Basic Introduction

 

Feeding your family is crucial in a SHTF environment. There are two ways one can do this: stockpile or sustainable agriculture. Stockpiling will require space and money. It will require watching sales, rotating inventory, and storing. Sustainable agriculture, on the other hand, requires as much space as you can afford to give it. Another difference is that you can have a small operation or dedicate a whole farm to it. It does not require stocking up in so far as you will be able to reap the benefits you sow now as well as later. One method of sustainable agriculture is aquaponics. Simply put, aquaponics is a sustainable food production system combining fish and hydroponics, which is growing crops without soil.

It is only a matter time after disaster strikes that the food will run out. This situation might be something akin to Hurricane Katrina where there is looting and no food and lack of communication. On the other hand the situation might be something more like the fictional TV show “Under the Dome” in which case food cannot be transported into the town because the town is cut off from the outside world by the dome. Hence they only have available to them what they have stockpiled or they can grow inside the dome.

Aquaponics is not a new technology however it is growing in popularity as more and more people turn to organic foods and sustainable agriculture. In the simplest of terms, you set up a fish tank and a plant bed. You feed the fish and the fish create excrement. The fish excrement is a natural fertilizer. That fertilizer, which does not contain any chemicals, is then used to fertilize the plants. Both fish and plants are edible. Again that is in the most simplest terms.

In order for this to work in the fish tank and the plant bed, the water from fish tank, which contains the ammonia that the fish produce naturally, is pumped from the tank to the bed and back. The ammonia from the fish naturally changes into nitrate which the plants absorb which in return will clean the water. This recirculation of the water – the back-and-forth between the fish and the plant life – also conserves water. This symbiotic relationship between the fish and the plants is not only an organic healthy technology but one that would provide a food source once the grocery shelves run empty.

So what kind of fish can you culture? Tilapia is probably the most popular fish. One reason for this is the are very resistant fish. Not only are they more resistant to disease and parasites, but they can live longer in a more toxic environment or in water with high ammonia. They grow rather quickly – over two pounds in just seven months. They also procreate quickly, which is a pro and con. If you have limited space and a small tank this may be an issue.

In addition to tilapia you could also culture bluegill, catfish, goldfish, largemouth bass, and trout. In other areas of the world, farmers could culture fish specific to their location.

Lettuce is a very basic starter veggie. It also complements the tilapia in so far as they both need the water temperature in the same range. There are several different types of lettuce but most grow best when the temperatures are between 60 – 80 degrees F. The water temperature range for tilapia is 70 – 74 degrees. In addition to lettuce, spinach and watercress can also be grown. Herbs such as basil, chives, mints, parsley, rosemary, and Sage also flourish well. In addition the basil repels flies and mosquitoes while the rosemary and Sage repels other insects drawn to vegetables.

In addition to lettuce, one can grow broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, kale, melons, potatoes, radishes, squash, and tomatoes. Hence, aquaponics is the epitome of sustainable agriculture.

While you don’t need a PhD in plant life or biology, there is a learning curve for beginners. You need to know about water quality and ammonia levels and how to measure the pH factor. If the water quality drops it can be harmful to both fish and plants. Look for future articles covering such topics as choosing your fish and vegetables, how to set up your system, how to power your system, and other helpful related topics.

 

Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman (3 Posts)

Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman began writing in 1985, with her work appearing in several local newspapers. From 2003-2009, she spearheaded an online newspaper company, which had two newspapers, the PA Farm News and SolancoNews.com. The latter covered everything from hometown heroes and new businesses to the Nickel Mines Shooting. She received her Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Lock Haven University. She also writes for Examiner.com, as the Lancaster Diabetes Examiner and the Lancaster Prepper Examiner.


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Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman

About Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman

Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman began writing in 1985, with her work appearing in several local newspapers. From 2003-2009, she spearheaded an online newspaper company, which had two newspapers, the PA Farm News and SolancoNews.com. The latter covered everything from hometown heroes and new businesses to the Nickel Mines Shooting. She received her Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Lock Haven University. She also writes for Examiner.com, as the Lancaster Diabetes Examiner and the Lancaster Prepper Examiner.
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