Just like any farming method, aquaponics is prone to particular challenges that need attending to, or else these could harm your chances of a productive and profitable harvest. This article aims to inform about the three general issues in aquaponics. Additionally, I have included some steps you could take to prevent them from happening.
What plant issues are common in aquaponics?
Aquaponics plants might suffer from the same weaknesses as regular plants. After all, they are still plants, except they are primarily grown in a soilless environment.
Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N:P:K) ratios, as well as other trace nutrients including boron, copper, chloride, zinc, magnesium, calcium, iron, and manganese, are required by aquaponic plants. All of these nutrients are necessary for optimum plant growth.
Another issue for your aquaponics plants is the pests. These unwanted insects feed on your growth, laying waste to your aquaponics garden, adversely affecting your harvest. Here are some of the common plant pests that you should know.
- Aphids: These tiny, soft-bodied pests find their way into every vegetable garden. Aphids are so small that they usually go unnoticed by the naked eye. These pests come in various colors, including brown, white, yellow, green, and black. Surprisingly, these pests can survive in almost any environment and increase quickly.
- Leafhoppers: This sort of pest is frequently confused with aphids. On the other hand, leafhoppers are faster than Aphids if you pay attention to their activity. The pest has a variety of colors, including brown, green, and yellow. These insects feed on plant sap and fluids, deteriorating the crop's resistance and causing the leaves to become brown. Young crops infested with these pests will have their growth slowed or stunted.
- Mites: This kind of pest is almost hidden from the human eyes. Small webs on foliage, sickly plants, and yellow curled leaves are all signs that you have Mites. Remember that mites are notorious breeders, and their population can quickly grow to dangerous proportions. To minimize widespread harm in your garden, you must deal with these pests immediately.
- Thrips: These pests come in different colors, including black, yellow, and brown. Thrips have thin, accentuated wings that are incomplete. When these pests eat your crops, you'll notice little white patches on your plants with silvery blotches. Thrips sucking the crop's plant cells cause it. Furthermore, when these pests feed on your plants, they transfer a virus that causes your plants to grow slowly.
What fish issues are common in aquaponics?
One major fish issue that you should be concerned about is fish stress. I am convinced that stressed fish is the fruit of various problems related to aquaponics fish.
Poor water quality
Fish become agitated if the water they are swimming in is filthy. A foul smell is one indicator that your water is in bad shape, which might be due to the increase in ammonia. It is probably because uneaten fish foods have decomposed underneath the tank.
Varying water temperature
Despite being a closed system, aquaponics is prone to temperature fluctuations that will harm the fish's well-being. The common cause for this issue might be attributed to your location or the sudden weather changes in your area.
Too much handling of fish
Allow the fish to feel safe at the back of the tank by leaving them alone. Don't handle them more than is strictly required. Use the right net weave to avoid your fish being snared and gilled. Only net them if you intend to harvest them.
Inaccurate pH level
In reality, the ideal pH range for fish and plants meet halfway in an aquaponics system. Monitor your pH frequently to verify that your system is operating at maximum efficiency. A roughly 6.4 to 7 pH is optimal for keeping fish and plants comfortable. The fish's health will begin to suffer a little outside of these boundaries, and the plants' ability to absorb a wide range of nutrients will be seriously harmed.
What system issues are common in aquaponics?
This issue affects your system because water is no longer freely flowing to do what it is supposed to. Many root causes explain the presence of clogged pipes. It could be due to pebbles from your growing media, especially if you are using gravels. The plants' roots could also be the reason behind the clogging of your tubes. Unfiltered solid wastes may also disrupt the water flow across your aquaponics setup.
Pumps are machines that help circulate the water so that it reaches every corner of your system. Additionally, these machines oxygenate your water which the fish badly need. Failing water pumps is a problem for you because the functions I just mentioned would not occur.
Another issue that has adverse effects on your aquaponics is unclean tanks. Failure to maintain your fish tanks, such as collecting solid wastes and uneaten food, is one root cause of this problem.
How can I prevent such issues from happening?
The issues I mentioned above can all be avoided, thus saving not only your aquaponics garden but your yield as well. Here are some general pointers that you could observe:
Produce an aquaponics maintenance checklist.
The end goal here is to create a maintenance routine that applies to your plants, fish, and system. The checklist serves as your guide in determining the well-being of the biotic and abiotic (living and non-living) factors that comprise your system. What I recommend is, for you, to produce a daily, weekly, and monthly maintenance checklist. By doing so, you are monitoring what is going on, and this keeps you updated on any issue.
One good practice that falls under this step is by having an aquaponics journal. You can use your aquaponics journal to track what's going on in and out of your system. Keeping a running list of any test results or notes will help you keep track of the crucial details. These notes assist in preventing issues from arising or problems from repeating.
Monitor your system's water quality.
Since water travels throughout your system, it is then crucial that you have a good quality of it. Always assess the pH level and water temperature because your fish and plants heavily depend on them.
Here are other maintenance steps for monitoring your water quality:
- Drain away about a third of the water in your aquaponic system regularly
- Cleanse the filters
- Keep the overall quantity of particles buildup to a minimum.
Manage the temperature of your water and environment.
Water temperature is one of the most critical parameters that an aquaponics planter must continually maintain. The water temperature affects the health of the fish, plants, and microorganisms in an aquaponics system. It's also necessary for nutrient and waste degradation and uptake. Thus, you must always ensure that your water temperature is at its optimal range to help your system operate according to your expectations.
You should also check the temperature surrounding your garden. The surroundings affect the growth rate of your plants, and if it is outside the recommended readings, it may lead to some problems.
Maintain proper aeration.
Aeration is the technique of creating water movement to produce a high dissolved oxygen level and complement an aquaponics system's oxygen requirements. Improving aeration would mean using clean air stones and high-functioning water pumps and aerators.
Look out for pH fluctuations.
The optimal pH range for fish, plants, and microbes is different. When the pH level is beyond the optimal range, it can result in poor plant growth, sick fish, and the death of one or more of the system's living components.
Do not overfeed your fish.
Overfeeding can make your water tank filthy, which could lead to fish ailments. So keep an eye on your tank and eliminate any uneaten food. One good way of avoiding overfeeding is this practice: Feed your fish no more than they can consume in 5-10 minutes. This will help to limit the amount of food waste in your system, which can throw off the equilibrium.
Defend your system from pests.
Pests can harm plants in aquaponics systems in a variety of ways. It generally starts out quietly enough, but the entire crop has been affected and infected before you know it. Organic pesticides, such as neem oil extract, blended at two tablespoons per gallon of water, can be used to manage pests in aquaponics systems. The use of mechanical barriers such as nets, physical removal of unwanted insects, and the use of helpful ones are some of the other pest management approaches I would recommend.
What are the steps in dealing with the common aquaponics issues?
The single answer to this question is to deal with the issue immediately. By allowing the problem to persist, you are only making matters worse, and it could eventually destroy your aquaponics system.
If you have spotted pests' presence among your plants, act right away. Identify the type of pest and the proper steps in dealing with it. There are many different pest management methods, but pest control in aquaponics is a little more fine-tuned. This fact explains why you should have a solid pest management program.
Fish stress does not do your fish any good, and once you have detected it among your fish, you should make the necessary adjustments. One effective way of doing so is to make your fish tank a conducive place for your fish. If it is overstocked, then reduce your fish. Suppose the water is blurry and dirty; logic dictates you clean your fish tank.
The plumbing and pumping systems of your aquaponics contribute to the well-being of your plants and fish. Therefore, whatever complications you could identify, it will be best to fix them promptly. I believe owning the necessary tools and acquiring some repairing skills would help you be on top of any situation. If the problem is beyond your capability, calling for help from professionals would be good for you.
What aquaponics system is the least prone to issues?
Every aquaponics system has its own exposure to problems and issues. No system is problem-free. For this very reason, I suggest that you learn the aquaponics system you are inclined to adopt. Add to this studying the species of fish and plants you plan to rear.
Aquaponics is a great way of producing your food in the comfort of your backyard. Through this system, you generate two types of nutritious food while simultaneously using a sustainable approach to preserve our environment. Nevertheless, it is still subject to specific problems that could hurt your harvest. With the help of this article, you should know the common aquaponics issue and the effective ways of dealing with them.