If you’re just starting out your venture in aquaponics, here are four of the best home aquaponics kits in the market that you can start with plus everything you need to know when it comes to aquaponics systems.
Aquaponics is like a combination of two worlds. It is a type of agriculture that brings together the act of raising fish in tanks with hydroponic plants or soilless plant culture.
If you like both gardening and fish keeping, then aquaponics will greatly interest you.
However, since you’re basically combining to separate hobbies and maintaining two different living things in one system, you have to make sure that both will survive.
To be able to take care of both, you first need to have the right aquaponics kit.
4 Best aquaponic kits To Grow Indoor All Year Long
Back To The Roots Self-Cleaning Aquaponics Kit
Ecolife Indoor Aquaponics System With LED Light
AquaSprouts Indoor Aquaponic Garden Kit
Springworks Microfarm Aquaponic Garden
How A Home Aquaponics Kit Works?
In an home aquaponics kit, fish and plants have a mutually beneficial relationship.
As the fish live in the tank, the waste that the fishes release as well as the food waste, builds up on water. The water then becomes filled with ammonia.
Meanwhile, the plants grow hydroponically or with no soil. Although there is no soil, the plants sit in beds with their roots hanging down on water tubs..
So how do both live? Won’t the fishes die because of the waste?
Well, that’s where the plants come in. The plants act sort of like an aquarium filter. They take the dirty or the ammonia-loaded water then filter it.
As the plants filter the “dirty” water and manufacture it as their food, they release the water back into to the fish tank as fresh new.
Simply put, it is a never-ending beneficial cycle for both. The plants can live without the chemicals that are usually come from the regular fertilization process in the field.
They get the nutrients that they need naturally from the fish waste. For the fishes, you never have to bother about changing the water multiple times because it basically cleans itself on its own.
How to Choose the Right Aquaponics Fish Tank
The fish tank is the most important component in any aquaponic unit. Furthermore, an aquaponics fish tank isn’t necessarily cheap so choosing what’s best for you is crucial.
There are a lot of kits to choose from that promise you the best system for your plants and fishes, how can you be sure that you have chosen the right one?
The size ratio
First of all, the ratio between the fish tank and the grow bed should be balanced. For beginners, it should be 1:1. Simply put, the fish waste that the plants should absorb should not be too much or too little.
The volume of the fish tank should be equal to the grow beds since the plants’ role is to filter the waste.
If there are more plants and too little fish waste, the plants will be weak but it is safer than having less plants. If you have fewer plants, the water in the fish tank will get more polluted easily.
If you’re quite confident in maintaining your aquaponics system, you can increase the ratio to 2:1 so you can expand the crops.
The fish tank’s size also depends on the kind of system that you want to have. If you’re planning to use aquarium fish, then a small indoor system will fit you.
For larger fishes, you would obviously need a bigger tank. Just remember the ratio above and you’ll surely get by.
Mind the shape
Some might think that the shape of the tank isn’t that important. Technically, rectangle or square shape tanks are fine as long as they have rounded edges but the best choice is an oval or a circular tank.
Round tanks let you have a better water flow and circulation all around the tank. This means that the water quality is good too, resulting to your fishes’ well being.
In addition to this, there are lesser areas in the tank where the water flow and chemical exchange is little, also known as dead zones.Because of the shape, it also lets the fishes swim against a current and improves the rate of water and air gaseous exchange between the air and water. Ultimately, it will greatly benefit the health of the fishes.
All about the materials
The success of your aquaponics also depends on the structure of the fish tank that you’re going to use. The tank is basically your entire system so you need to be extra meticulous in checking them.
Primarily, the tank should be sturdy enough to hold the water’s total mass weight (one kilo per liter) plus the flowing water’s pressure.
Also remember that aside from the fish’s movement, the temperature of the surroundings can also affect the tank.
For instance, the glass will contract if it is cold and it will also expand if it is hot. Furthermore, it should also support the weight of the grow bed on top of it.
It is safer to choose a higher glass grade since it has a lesser tendency to have leaks and holes.
In connection to the leaks, your tank must also be waterproof and watertight.
Leaks not only just decrease the level of water in the tank, those tiny leaks can also lead to greater holes.
Furthermore, the cuts in the glass where the pipings and fittings are supposed to go should be sized properly.
That way the installations will fit properly and there are lesser chances of leaks.
Food-safe material and not toxic
Of course, you’re taking care of a living thing and it’s actually a no-brainer that the place that they’re going to stay in should not contain any toxic material.
Remember that not only fishes live in the system that you’re going to make, plants, worms, and good bacteria are in there too.
The best bet is to have plastic or glass that is made of food-safe material. Unlike other components, food-grade material doesn’t release harmful chemicals when they get wet, when the temperature around them changes, or when they are under pressure.
Most of the time, food-safe containers are a bit thicker and more durable than other types. Furthermore, it doesn’t change the pH level of the water in the tank.
Keep in mind that the fish waste can already change the water’s pH level, you don’t need unnecessary materials to add on it.
AVOID copper, metals, galvanized, and zinc tanks that easily rust.
4 Of the best home aquaponics kit to buy in 2019
Now that you already know what to look for an home aquaponics kit, here are some of the best aquaponics starter kits in the market.
Best Overall: Back To The Roots Water Garden, Self-Cleaning aquaponics kit
If you’re just starting in this venture, this Back to the Roots Water Garden, Self-Cleaning aquaponics kit is for you. You don’t need to be a certified green thumb to be able to have a successful aquaponics system.
This product is a mini aquaponics aquarium that measures about 13.4 x 13.4 x 9.5 inches and only weighs 7.1 pounds.
You don’t have to worry about anything since this kit already includes everything that you need to start your very own aquaponics system.
First of all, the set includes fast-growing and organic microgreen seeds that you can grow on growstones that are also included in the kit.
What I like about this product is that it doesn’t limit me in planting other varieties of seeds, they also have a plant list if you’re not sure what to grow.
You also have a coupon for a Betta fish plus fish food that contains just the right vitamins, proteins and dietary supplement that your new fish needs.
The self-cleaning feature is expected since this is an aquaponics ecosystem after all.
However, you still get D-klor that cleans out the chlorine in the water and improves the protective slime coating of your fishes.
Meanwhile, the Zym-Bac helps maintain the nitrate and ammonia levels in the tank.
This product promises a 100% guaranteed growth but then again not everyone can always grow a system perfectly.Don’t fret since they will provide a 100% refund on your kit, you can also opt for a replacement that is free of charge if you want to try again.
Quick Product Pros and Cons
- Contains everything that you need
- Highly-rated by Modern Farmer, Rachel Ray Every Day, and Wired
- 100% Guaranteed Returns
- Good for beginners
- Not for intermediate aquaponics enthusiasts since it’s a bit small
Most Advance: Ecolife ECO-Cycle Indoor aquaponics Garden System with LED Light
This product is quite simple and straight-forward but is also a little advanced because of the LED light upgrade.
Before buying this product, note that this doesn’t include a fish tank so if you have an existing aquarium, you just need to plug this one in and place on top of your tank.
It has such a wide grow space for your plants and is really easy to troubleshoot too.
If you’re a newbie, the instruction manual is a great help for the set up that even kids can basically set it up.
Still in doubt? You can try the phone and email support plus the instructional videos.
A lot of users gush about how this system lets them have thriving plants.
It works as water pumps into the aquaponics section of the system.
Then, it passes through the sponge filter into the biological section and ultimately flows through the plant roots.
The cycle finishes as the water goes back into the tank.
Let’s talk about that LED light feature. To help your plants grow faster without using too much energy, you can set up the programmable LED lights that have four grow settings and a built in timer. You can program it using the small remote control included in the package.
Quick Product Pros and Cons
- Good for beginners
Programmable LED light setting
High plant growth rate
- Helpful guide and curriculum for teachers
- Does not include a fish tank
- Can be a bit complicated to set up if you want to tweak the system
Budget Pick: AquaSprouts indoor aquaponic garden kit
Just like the Ecolife Garden System, this one doesn’t include a fish tank in the package so make sure that you have one first.
The AquaSprouts Garden fits any standard 10 gallon aquarium that measures about 20" x 10" x 12".
First started as a kickstarter campaign, this product comes with ALMOST everything you need to begin growing and raising your favorite plants and fish.
It has a very simple but modern black matte design that will fit your space plus a grow media that you can use in your grow bed.
Aside from the AquaSprouts garden itself, it also comes with a light bar where you can install any indoor grow light if your system is positioned in an area where there’s a little natural light source.
Its submersible pump makes 120 V 160 gallons per hour. As for the 24hr timer, you can set it in 15-min intervals.
If ever you encounter any problems with the pump or timer, don’t worry since they are under a one-year warranty.
Their customer service is really helpful too if you have a bit of trouble following their manual.
One thing to note is that this product is basically an open ecosystem, unlike other products.
Water will most likely evaporate over time and it makes the product a bit nosy once the water level is low.
The manufacturers have updated the model has now included an adjustable drain extenders to make the water flow quieter.However, I would advice that it is safer to refill the water every once a week.
Quick Product Pros and Cons
- Good for starters
Includes warranty for the pump and timer
- Easy to maintain
- Does not include a fish tank
- A bit expensive
- Can be a bit noisy when the water level is low
Best For growing herbs and vegetables: Springworks Microfarm Aquaponic Garden
Last but certainly not the least is an Amazon’s Choice product, the Springworks Microfarm Aquaponic Garden.
This is the third product in the list that doesn’t include an a fish tank so again, make sure that you already have any standard 10-gallon tank.
Among the three kits above, this one contains the most stuff in it. First of course is the grow bed that is made from durable plastic where you can grow the non-GMO oregano and sweet basil seeds that are also included in the pack.
You can successfully grow those seeds in the lightweight clay aggregate medium in the kit.
Although there’s no tank included, it has a tank lid and all the necessary fittings needed for your existing aquarium.
The preset timer for the pump is a really helpful addition since it lets you control when to drain and flood your plant’s grow bed.
The timer controls the high-output light too. However, I wouldn’t recommend growing plants that are over 14 inches since the light fixture on top may get in the way.
Low-height crops will thrive in this.
What I like about this set is that is has pH equalizer, DChlor, and beneficial bacteria that will help in maintaining the water quality and assists in turning the fish waste into plant food.
The overview of each aquaponics kit above will help you in choosing the best for your plants and fishes. To make it even easier for you to maintain your first or even your current aquaponics system, check out some of my tips below.
Quick Product Pros and Cons
- Maintaining the whole system is a breeze after the installation process
Includes everything that you need as a beginner
- Made from quality materials
- Timer preset for pump is really helpful
- Does not include a fish tank
- On the higher price tier
- The grow tray is a bit small
- Not for bigger crops
Additional Tips: Maintaining your Indoor Aquaponics System
Make sure that the water and air circulation between the fish tank and the grow tray above it is adequate.
Most of the time, problems arise from the poor water movement in the tank. Your plants, fishes, and the bacteria in the tank will be healthier if there’s a good water movement.
Once again, water plays a vital role in your system since it’s responsible in transporting the nutrients to the plants.
Here are the key water parameters for your system, you can easily measure them using some test kits
Dissolved Oxygen – 5 mg/litre
Nitrate levels – 40 to 80 ppm
Water pH – 6 to 7
Temperature – 18 to 30 degrees C
Do not overfeed the fishes in the tank. If you’re a beginner, it can be quite tempting to always check on your fishes and give them food more than necessary. Basically, you can feed them every day.
However, make sure to filter out any uneaten food in the tank. The food can rot and will most likely cause disease. Furthermore, they take up the dissolved oxygen in the water.
Aquaponics Fish Species For Your Home System
Carefully Choose The Plants And Fish To Take Care Off. The Types Of Fish That You Choose Depend On The System That You Have.
Think if you want breed edible fishes or just the ones that look good and will provide nutrients for your plants.
Goldfishes and Koi are popular choices when if you want aesthetic and ease in maintenance. Tilapia and Trout are some of the best ones if you want edible fishes.
Avoid overcrowding the tank. Do not add unnecessary stuff in there if you want to manage the system easier.
Remember that the ideal stocking density in the tank is 20 kg/1000 liters. Also take note of the advisable ratio as previously tackled above.
Have a weekly check on your crops for insects. Most of the time, these pesky little things hide under the plant’s leaves.
Clean the pipes and pumps at least once a month to make sure that the circulation and the whole system is at its prime.
Manage Algae in your Aquaponics system
One of the most common problems in an aquaponics system is the algae growth.
Algae growth can result in pH level swings and oxygen depletion so make sure to monitor your tank for any accumulation of algae. Remember that green algae thrive in water that has consistent sunlight.
Aquaponics is not only a great hobby, it can bring a lot of benefits to your home too. If you’re still at the edge if you should start pursuing aquaponics, these points might finally convince you.
Why should you buy indoor aquaponics kit
You don’t need soil to grow the plants and to dig around the yard. If you’re a bit icky when it comes to getting down and dirty with the traditional planting, you don’t have to worry about that in aquaponics. It is also said to be the cleaner type of gardening.
Plants and fishes can be maintained easily. Again, this is a small complete system where the two can benefit from each other.
You just need to oversee for a bit to make sure that everything is going well. Less effort!
You don’t need a big space in the garden or in the backyard to take care of both. You just basically need one corner in your home and you’re already set.
You have the chance to grow your own food! Plus, if you’re growing them on your own, you are in charge of the process.
No need to worry about whether your produce is dripping in chemicals and synthetic fertilizers that can be dangerous to your health.
It encourages you to be environmentally responsible. In aquaponics, there’s low consumption of water and overall power usage.
You can easily teach the kids about this system. Most school teachers introduce aquaponics in schools since it is relatively easy.
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Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she attended University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture. She has supplemented her formal education by working on various organic farms, including spending a semester abroad in India.
Growing and/or raising just about anything gets her excited. She is especially passionate about environmental justice and low-tech, sustainable ways to better run small-scale farms and homesteads. Lindsey started Urban Organic Yield to discuss gardening tips and tactics.
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