It’s always a good day to save time and money, right? So here’s an idea that can do that while also helping your indoor plants grow better. (Bonus: It’s good for the planet, too). It’s really simple. Plants need fertilizer; fish poop is a potent organic fertilizer. Put plants and fish together and you’ve got aquaponics.
Setup: Aquaponic systems start like any hydroponic growing configuration. Plants are held in a soilless media, such as clay pebbles or rock wool. Water that includes fish waste is pumped periodically from fish tanks over the plants’ roots. As the water passes through the plants, it is partially cleansed; it is then recycled back to the fish tank. The simplest systems have plants held in floats on top of the water with the roots just dangling in it. Sophisticated systems feature multiple levels of tanks and filters to pull the maximum amount of nutrients from the water. You can build your own aquaponic system with an ordinary home aquarium and a bookshelf from a home center for about $110. Or you can buy a complete kit for a 48-square-foot garden with a 140-gallon fish tank for around $3,000.
Plants: Lettuce, spinach, and other greens are ideal plants for a small aquaponic system because they need only a modest amount of light to produce a steady supply of leaves that you can harvest daily. In a larger setup, you can grow fruiting crops, such as tomatoes, peppers, and strawberries. Many flowering and medicinal plants also fare well in aquaponic gardens.
Fish: Tilapia have become one of the most popular fish for eating because they are mild-flavored, high in protein, and inexpensive. They grow rapidly and efficiently, reproduce reliably, and are well adapted to the water conditions in a tank, so they’ve become a favorite for fish farming (aquaculture) and aquaponic systems, too. Carp, trout, and bluegill are other common choices. If you don’t plan to eat the fish, any aquarium species, including goldfish or even guppies, works in a small setup.
Learn more: You can find lots of information and videos online. Here are a few that we found interesting.
In this 10-minute tutorial, you can see how to build a basic aquaponic system starting with a blue plastic barrel.
Six months after setting up a moderately elaborate home system, a grower reviews what he’s learned in the process.
A crafty guy shows how he perfected his aquaponic setup.
Learn to avoid common mistakes with "What Not to Do in Aquaponics."