Aquaponics is a modern farming method that involves growing fish and plants for food without using soil as a medium. One of its main components is electricity. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to run an aquaponics system with electricity.
In this article, you will find the steps to running an aquaponics system without electricity.
Aquaponics without Electricity: Step-by-Step Guide
1. Design the Aquaponics System
You will need to develop an aquaponics system that does not require electricity. Normally, you will have to use electricity to power the pump that provides water flow and oxygen. You can go for a pump that doesn’t require electricity. You could choose to go for a bell siphon, a ram pump, or a system made from PVC pipes.
2. Set Up a Fish Tank
The fish tank is one of the most important parts of an aquaponics system. You can get fish tanks used in aquaponics from markets or build one yourself.
The size of your fish tank would depend on the fish species and the amount of fish you want to rear. Since you’re using an unconventional pump system for your aquaponics, you will have to stick to a small-scale farm.
Your fish tank should also have a solid lifting outlet. This would suck up solid fish waste. There should also be a T-fitting that prevents a build-up of a vacuum and a valve to prevent water flow during cleaning and maintenance.
Set up the tank like a regular fish tank. Treat the water and allow it to cycle for a while to enable the essential microorganisms to thrive. This ensures that minerals required to nourish the plants would be present. You will also have to add a radial flow filter to your system. The function of this filter is to allow solid fish waste to settle using gravity.
3. Prepare the Media Bed
Since you’re creating small-scale aquaponics, media-filled bed units are the best designs to go for.
The function of the media bed is to provide support to the roots of the plants in media bed units. It also acts as a mechanical and biological filter.
The media bed or flood table will also act as the enclosure for the plants to grow in. When constructing the enclosure, you need to use a sturdy platform to support its weight. This could be either a heavy-duty plastic tray or a wooden pallet crate.
The interior and bottom of the media bed should be constructed with plastic, fiberglass, or timber frames with water-tight polymer sheets.
Since you won’t need electricity, adding a bell-siphon mechanism will fill and empty the media bed replacing an electric pump. You might want to add some red wiggler worms to feed on any remaining solid fish food or fish waste. The bell siphon would also create a constant flow mechanism in the media bed.
4. Construct and Install an Alternative Pump System
Electric pumps in aquaponics are needed to cycle the water through the farm and aerate the system. Since you won’t be using an electric pump, you will need to find an alternative.
The three main alternatives when it comes to using aquaponics without electricity include
- A bell siphon
- A ram pump
- PVC pipes
These are other viable methods to pump water and aerate your aquaponics system but these options tend to be the most popular and tested methods when it comes to alternative pump systems
Components of the Bell Siphon
- Media guard
- Siphon Pipe
- Outlet Pipe
Set up your Bell Siphon
- Drill a hole in the grow bed and put an uniseal in the hole. After that, place the standpipe. You also need to ensure that you have the right size drill bit for the bulkhead.
- With a bit of effort, push the standpipe through the top of the uniseal. Keep doing so, until you can see the standpipe’s top is at the height of the bottom of the bell cap on the bell siphon.
- When done, connect the drain leading to the fish tank using a 90-degree elbow into the bottom part of the standpipe that lies just below the grow bed.
- Fill up your grow bed with grow media so that it is just about the height of the top part of the standpipe. Ensure that the growing media is high enough by filling the grow bed with water. If it is not high enough, you will find some low spots.
- Place the fish tank under your grow bed and wait till the grow bed has siphoned all the rinse water before filling up the tank with water.
- Place the bell pump and pipes in the fish tank. Check if it is stable, then turn on the pump to see if the siphon works properly.
Cycle the System
The cycling process ensures that the aquaponics system is healthy before adding fish and plants. The process will develop beneficial microorganisms in the aquaponics farm that will transform aquatic waste into nitrates.
Cycling takes about 4 to 6 weeks with fish, but you could speed it up by directly injecting ammonia into your farm.
The actual timeframe is determined by the water temperature, which should be between 75 and 80 Fahrenheit (24 to 27 Celcius).
Add Fish to the Aquaponics Farm
With the system cycled, you can add fish to your aquaponics farm. Ensure that the environment is at optimal levels before doing so. Always check the dissolved oxygen level in the water.
Add Plants to the Aquaponics Farm
When growing plants, you might want to try going for plants with a lot of leaves. Going for hardy plants that can live on low nutrient levels could boost your chances of success. You can cultivate a wide range of plants including peppers, lettuces, basil, cucumbers, roses, kale, watercress, squash, and mint.
Maintain the System
The aquaponics system requires constant maintenance to survive. You will need to check the pH, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrate levels in the tank water consistently to ensure are at the optimal level.