The Three Different Types of Aquaponics Grow Beds Explained

The ingenuity of the human mind is amazing, and one example of this is aquaponics. Who would imagine that one could grow healthy food without traditional media like soil? You can. And you can do it yourself, easily at home. Aquaponics takes the best of two worlds, hydroponics (growing plants in water) and aquaculture (raising fish, snails, crayfish etc. in water and fuses them together.)  Even more astonishing is the variety of aquaponic methods available for the DIY aquaponics enthusiast. Here is an overview:

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

The nutrient film technique works  by creating an environment where the roots of plants have constant access to a moving stream of nutrient rich water. Imagine plants growing in a shallow “film” of nutrient filled solution and you will get the idea. The great thing about this is that plants have access to a ton of oxygen, more so than they would in traditional soil. The basic structure is that the plants are placed at an angle so that the nutrient solution can loop around and around providing the root systems constant food and oxygen. Overall this is a very viable option for nearly any plant/vegetable you want to grow. However, it is best suited for light plants that grow and will be harvested quickly. Plants like tomatoes and zucchini can be grown, but you have to be sure you have the right support systems for the stems so they plants do not lop over.  This method is generally not used for aquaponics but is commonly used in commercial hydroponic applications.

Deep Water Culture (DWC)

The deep water culture method of aquaponics is one that is seemingly counterintuitive. Plants are constantly placed in non-moving water (aka “arrested” water). It seems that this is a disaster waiting to happen. Talk about overwatering and giving roots a chance to rot out! But actually, the fact is that if the environment is the right temperature, has enough oxygen and the right minerals, plants thrive! Who knew?

Usually, plants are “planted” in a Styrofoam platform that sits on top of the water. The tank is deep with lots of room for the plant roots to grow downward. An air pump keeps bubbly oxygen constant and, voila, it is plant nirvana! Any do it yourself aquaponics grower can do this.

Media Filled Grow Beds

This kind of aquaponics looks more “normal”, in the sense that plants are grown in some kind of “stuff”, not just water. This is usually gravel, or expansive clay pellets, but there are many options besides these most popular ones. If you use gravel, the trick to this type of aquaponics is that the media has to not have too much space between the gravel, nor too little so the oxygen balance remains healthy.  You also have to be aware of the weight of the media so that you have a strong enough stand  or bench to place it on. Once this is set up, then water from a fish tank is pumped in to the media. This type of aquaponics is one of the best ways and is preferred by most growers, commercial and individual. Media filled grow beds tend to be preferred because it allows for diversity of the plants you can grow, and is low maintenance.

Aquaponics is an amazing technology that anyone can begin to do at home. It is relatively inexpensive and yields healthy food you can use for your family. Further, it utilizes the basic symbiotic relationships in nature so there is less waste and no chemical pesticides. Aquaponics is a great hobby and an effective way to have alternatives to store-bought food. Get started today! You will be glad you did.
Next Post »