5 Mistakes to Avoid in Aquaponics
5) Insufficient Pest Management
Aquaponic crops are less vulnerable to pests than other growing methods, but that does not mean you can throw out the bug spray and call it a day. Pests can come from a number of places and it is important to keep track and manage them appropriately. A common source of pests in aquaponic systems is seedlings purchased from nurseries, which can carry insects like aphids, and spider mites and insect larvae. If you do face an insect infestation, you have many options available to you to handle the problem in an effective, all-natural way. Large populations of insects can be controlled through spraying with streams of water and the application of predatory insects like beetles and lady bugs. In some cases, you may even be able to feed the bugs to your fish.
If you do face an insect infestation, you have many options available to you to handle the problem in an effective, all-natural way. Large populations of insects can be controlled through spraying with streams of water and the application of predatory insects like praying manti and lady bugs. In some cases, you may even be able to feed the bugs to your fish! A good resource to use is the BigBugHunt website. This can help you identify bugs in your garden and also keeps a watch list of pests being reported in your area. It’s a great way to stay on top of pests and identify unknown pests in your garden. Knowing what you are up against is the best way to be prepared to have an integrated pest management strategy in place to deal with it. Pest management is one of the most common mistakes in aquaponics beginners.
4) Too Many Fish
Too many fish in your system has two effects: fish die-offs and over fertilization of plants. Overcrowding can cause your fish to die, and can also result in larger fish feeding on smaller fish. Excess fish waste will over-fertilize your plants, killing them as well. A good rule of thumb for media based systems is one fish for every 10 gallons of water. Commercial operators practiced at aquaculture can have success with much denser stock rates but beginners should stick to this rule of thumb.
It is important to remember in aquaponics, the fish are really more of a fertilizer source unless growing at the commercial scale. If you are looking to have large fish populations you can harvest from frequently then a large scale operation is recommended. If you are looking to know what it would take for such an endeavor submit a request on our project inquiry page.
3) Too Much Change at Once
Making too many changes to your system at once puts stress on your fish and plants, and also makes it difficult for you to know what changes are producing which effect. This gardener recounts an incident with spider mites where he attempted to control them with multiple tactics, only to end up with no idea which of his strategies had successfully killed the pests off. Additionally, some of his attempts damaged weaker plants. Make sure you take a well-researched, gradual approach to handling issues with your system.
This is especially important when it comes to dealing with the water. Any fast, significant changes in temperature, pH, volume, or chemistry of the water will stress your fish. Too much stress can cause them to die or get sick. Whenever making changes involving the water in your system make sure to make them gradually.
2) Poor Climate Control
Plants need sunlight, but too much sunlight can boil your fish tank. Keep in mind the temperature range your fish can tolerate, and monitor your system to ensure that it stays within that range. This may include shading plants on hot days, especially if you live in a warm climate. On the other hand, too little access to light can wreak havoc on your plants. Without adequate sunlight or an artificial substitute, you may find plants withering away come cooler weather. Be sure to factor lighting into your system design, and to closely monitor the climate your plants and fish are raised in. If you don’t have tight control over your climate, plan your crops around your season to better handle changing climates.
In addition to lighting, air flow and air exchange are very important. Plants are used to being outdoors where they are subject to the wind. A light breeze stresses the plant in a positive way that allows it go stronger. Much like after we stress our bodies through exercise we get stronger as a result. Make sure your farm has fans for airflow and has a good HVAC or air exchange system to get new air into your farm.
1) Diving in too Quickly
Starting your own aquaponic garden can be exciting, but many aquaponic rookies make the mistake of trying to artificially accelerate the process by quickly adjusting pH or playing with nitrate and nitrite levels. It takes time for a system to be ready to handle fish and plants, but a well-designed system will get there on its own. Additionally, beginners are better off starting by growing a small selection of crops. Gradually introduce more varieties as your system matures. WE also recommend starting small. A small system has all the duties of a large scale system but is much more manageable while you learn the principles and practices for success. It’s also a good way to learn if you actually like managing an aquaponics system before making the large-scale investment. If you catch the bug you’ll be motivated to make the jump and build a bigger system soon enough!
At Trifecta ecosystems, we want to empower you self-sufficient through aquaponics. With the right preparation and knowledge, you too can succeed on your path to food security. Avoid these mistakes and your aquaponics system will be set up for easy success.