Build Your Own Aquaponics System
By JP Wood 13 July 2018
Takeaway: How does an aquaponics system work, and how can you make your own? Our friends at Crop King Seeds bring us this handy, introductory guide.
Aquaponics is what we call a combination of fish farming and hydroponics. It also happens to be one of the best ways to grow a high-quality cannabis crop. In marijuana circles, aquaponics are known to produce especially the same kinds of pleasing tastes and smells usually attributed to organically grown plants and fruits.
How to Build an Aquaponics System
When you’re looking to start your own aquaponics system, you have two options: You can go out and purchase an aquaponics system kit, or you can choose to build your own. If you decide to go with the latter, it’s important to remember that you need something called a “flood and drain” system to properly nurture your marijuana. Just make sure your pump works on a timer. It’ll save you a ton of headache.
1. First, you need to drill two holes in the row bed that will be able to fit two bulkheads. These two holes will function as a drain and fill. The next thing that you need to do is to connect the bulkheads to the pump where the holes are. Once the connection is in place, turn on the pump and keep it on for 15 minutes and off for 45 minutes. This process suggests a far more frequent flood cycle than is used in hydroponics. This more frequent flooding provides enough filtration to keep your fish healthy while your plants are growing.
2. Now it's time for you to put your grow bed on top of your fish tank and fill it with your selected medium. If you're looking for something that will last, then clay is probably your best option. It is ideal to have at least 12 inches of depth on the grow media.
3. Before adding your fish, make sure to cycle your system beforehand. This will help to establish the colony of bacteria that is responsible for the nitrogen in your aquaponics system. Once you have done this, and the fish first begin to create waste, the bacteria will be able to grow and begin to produce the nitrogen that your plants will need. If you don’t cycle properly before you start your plants, you’re not going to have the bacteria levels that you need. This means that your plants will also fewer nutrients than what they require, and your crop will be disappointing. Testing the nitrogen levels, starting with ammonia on the water, will help you determine if the cycle is enough. Always remember that you need to use pure ammonia. This will help you to eventually bring the ammonia levels from starting levels of 2ppm to around 4ppm. Starting higher than 2ppm too soon risks destroying the valuable bacteria.
4. After the next spike in nitrogen levels, you should start seeing nitrite.That spike is caused by the bacteria converting ammonia into nitrite. These nitrites will be consumed and will eventually turn into nitrate. This is the kind of nitrogen that is well suited for plant growth. When the ammonia and nitrite levels read 0 ppm, most of the nitrogen has been converted into nitrate, marking the end of the cycle.
5. Now that the system has finished cycling, it is time to add your plants and fish into the grow medium. Even when you're finished, you're going to need to keep an eye on things to make sure that you reach the proper balance between the plants, fish and bacteria.
Understanding the Dual Root System
In a traditional aquaponics system, you can’t rely solely on the nutrients created by the fish and microbes within the system. While their contributions are valuable, you may still find yourself low on phosphate and potassium. That’s why the Dual Root System was developed as one of the keys to a successful aquaponics cannabis crop.
Use burlap, or any other root permeable material, to separate whatever traditional clay media you may have. Add a soil layer on top of that, and you have your dual root zone. The outer layer of soil gives terrestrial microbes a place to live whole the aquatic layer provides. You can adjust your setup to taste, but this particular arrangement gives you more than enough nutrients and has the added bonus of increased gas exchange between your water and your plants.
By using both biomes of microbes, you can maximize the natural nutrients that your plants are consuming.
Using the dual root system you’re going to: need to use fewer fertilizers on your plants, be able to save a little bit of money, and avoid the hassle of flushing your plants before the flowering phase.
Overall, this method should provide you with a harvest that has a much smoother smoke, and a richer flavor.
Remember, no matter what method you choose, everything starts with a seed. If you're looking to get started, Crop King Seeds is where you want to shop.