AMES, Iowa – Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has released a pair of publications designed to provide information and guidance for anyone thinking of constructing his or her own aquaponics system. Aquaponics is a system that combines aquaculture (raising fish in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water), growing the fish and plants together in one integrated system.
The publication “Building and Caring for a Miniature Aquaponics System” (FA 0014) is written for the hobbyist who wants to make a small aquaponics unit for home use, while “An Overview of Aquaponic Systems: Aquaculture Components” (NCRAC TBS 124) is for those interested in using aquaponics commercially.
“These publications allow readers to gain more information about the type and construction of two very different sizes of aquaponics systems,” said Allen Pattillo, fisheries and aquaponics specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach.
“Building and Caring for a Miniature Aquaponics System” provides step-by-step instructions for constructing a bench top aquaponics system. It provides information on materials and tools needed, as well as photos that demonstrate how each step of the process should look.
“This is a functional design that will produce food but is small enough not to be a huge monetary investment,” Pattillo said. “We are trying to take away the money barrier that people might run up against, so the overall cost of this system is less than $100.”
The small size and simplicity of the system make it attractive to hobbyists and educators.
“All the materials needed are readily available,” Pattillo said. “It is compact enough to put in a small space but is robust enough to keep fish alive and grow plants. It is functional and small, and that makes it a much easier starter unit.”
“An Overview of Aquaponic Systems: Aquaculture Components” is geared toward the large-scale hobbyist, or someone looking into commercial aquaponics as a business. It is a companion to ISU Extension and Outreach publication “An Overview of Aquaponic Systems: Hydroponic Components” (NCRAC TBS 0123).
The publication discusses all aspects of the aquaculture portions of an aquaponics unit, using the system designed at Iowa State as an example. It examines the tanks, aeration, waste management, filtration and pluming design needed to create a working unit.
The publication also features tables that provide both positives and negatives, including relative costs, for a variety of options available for each system component.
“These tables will help those designing an aquaponics system make up their minds without having to get price quotes for each individual piece,” Pattillo said. “It allows them to make financial decisions that are going to be the best for that person.”
A list of additional resources for using an aquaponics system is also provided in the publication.