I recently added a grow bed to my existing pond. Since we already have an existing fish and water lilly pond, that part of the aquaponic system which needs some time to circulate was taken care of. Good, healthy bacteria grow within a balanced fish pond to help break down fish waste. This bacteria is important to the entire aquaponics system. If you are starting a new pond or system add “pond starter” to help boost the bacteria population. It is a good idea to add more bacteria every few weeks, there are no downsides to adding the bacteria, and after water changes in the pond it recharges the bacterial environment.
The grow bed I used is a simple “under the bed” storage container. I placed it on the edge of the pond. A proper aquaponic system requires drainage back into the pond or fish container after movement through the grow bed.
I drilled 1/4 inch holes into the lower side side of the container, which you can see in the lower left side of the picture, by the wheel. A pump was placed into the bottom of the pond with tubing attached for water movement into the grow bed. I placed a “faucet” on the grow bed side of the tubing for water flow control. The faucet is shown in the top right of the picture. A stone tile holds the faucet in place.
Inside of the grow bed is a bottom layer of coconut coir , the next layer is water plant gravel, and the top layer is fish tank gravel and small round stones. The stones and gravel hold down the coconut coir so it does not wash into the pond water, or clog up the drainage holes. Coconut coir is an excellent media for aquaponic grow beds.
As an test for the system I have planted 4 strawberry plants, 4 hot peppers, 2 brocolli plants and 4 red cabbage plants. I added some humic acid liquid to the pond water to enhance the plant growth. We are soon adding 50 tilapia fry to the pond when they arrive from the nursery. The balance of fish and plants are critical. I have several water lillies growing in the pond which will draw waste from the water and keep toxins from building up.
In a perfect system your wastes will be utilized by the plants as fertilizer. I would check your water levels with a test kit to help you keep an eye on the balance. The pond bacterial cultures will help reduce toxic waste build up and act as an extra layer of safety.
Aquaponic systems use electricity, if you plan to continue the system in a “what if” happens an alternative power source will be needed. Solar panels would solve this problem. Just remember eventually technology will break down. Anything you can do to simplify and remove it from the grid will help provide some food during a “what if” situation.
If you have any questions, you can email DrBones and I, Nurse Amy at [email protected]