Aquaponics for Beginners
– By Colle and Phyllis Davis
There are literally millions of pages on the Internet about the topic of aquaponics.
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Let’s talk about aquaponics for beginners. When we launched Portable Farms ten years ago on June 8, 2008, there was very little information available about aquaponics. We’d tell people we were building aquaponics farms and they would always blink and then say, “Aquaponics? What’s that?” Today, that has changed and aquaponics has become main stream.
PFAS LLC’s website has been visited several million times over the last 12 months, and we are only one of the many other sites available. To start the journey of having a working aquaponics system, the best place to start is to begin to search the Internet and devote several hours of time to do the research and then assemble your own unique aquaponics system.
Begin with one beta fish or gold fish in a bowl to support one lettuce plant. Grow your interest to feed your family and then if the stars align, install a community garden. BEGIN SMALL and grow from there.
If you’re interested in owning your own aquaponics system, your first goal is to select the size aquaponics system you’d like to operate for your own unique purposes. We always suggest to our customers that they learn how to successfully operate an aquaponics system and if it fits their needs THEN expand to multiple aquaponics modules (the sky’s the limit).
There are literally thousands of websites that can show you how to set up a small workable open-source backyard hobby-aquaponics systems without paying for the information. For those who are not able to purchase our systems, we suggest you START TODAY by working with online/open source information so you can learn about aquaponics and build your own farm. We also suggest you visit online aquaponics forums so you can ask questions you may have from other aquaponics enthusiasts.
Please do all the research you need to feel comfortable moving forward with your aquaponics project. Some quick numbers that will be helpful:
- IF you place your small system inside, as in garage or basement, be prepared to spend a few hundred dollars on the very smallest system that will be a joy to show off to your friends and enjoy a few vegetables each year. Indoors, if you build a larger system (4 x 8’ grow tray size) be prepared to spend a little over $1,000 and that will help feed one and a third people. More fun and more bragging.
- If you go absolutely crazy and put up a greenhouse or ‘big’ installation to feed 4 to 8 people then you are looking at an investment in the US$3,500 to US$8,000 range (depending on your choice of greenhouse).
We call this process of starting small and expanding the size of your aquaponics system ‘getting your hands wet’ because even if one possesses all the knowledge in the world about a topic (in this case aquaponics), it will not feed a single person; only ACTION GROWS FOOD and in this case several steps are required before it creates food that nourishes someone and that action has an impact. Start with research, build a small aquarium and dish pan system, move up to garbage cans or IBC totes, go crazy and build a ‘real’ system so you can kill fish and plants. Oh, sorry, you may not want to hear that, but that is what will happen. That is how one learns, by making mistakes.
In the world of makers and successful businesses there is a motto: Fail fast and fail often. This means you will try things and if they work, keep them, if they fail, try something else. Side note here: we have killed thousands of fish in our 45 years in the field of aquaponics. Some we ate, some were our own dumb mistakes coming to bite us and some were out of unintended consequences.
Back to getting a running start in aquaponics. Start somewhere, at some level, now. Modern aquaponics is a brand new field because it encompasses recent technology and innovation along with successful techniques from the past. Aquaponics is evolving rapidly and slowly becoming main stream. The commercial side of aquaponics may take another ten or twenty years to accept on par with hydroponics, but it will happen.
It is the hobbyist, gardener, cook and home owner who are leading the charge on this ‘new’ technology, not the big companies, governments or NGO’s. Aquaponics is up close and personal as only eating can be and it is the opportunity to eat the best food on earth, every day, for a long as you live.
The important part is to get started NOW. Have fun, make mistakes and eat great food.