It is not difficult to start and maintain a productive Aquaponics garden. But there are certain issues that sometimes make this food production method a complicated kind of endeavor, especially for newbie gardeners and fish growers. You need to be aware of these issues before starting up with any aquaponics system so that you will be able to either avoid any of it or deal with it accordingly as soon as it manifests. Remember, prevention is always better than cure.
When you don’t want to find yourself wasting a lot of time and energy as well as money in an effort to keep your aquaponic garden efficient and fruitful, here are the most prevalent issues (and some simple tricks to get rid of them) that hinder the success of most aquaponic systems:
- Power/Equipment Failure
Many people have experienced a major fish kill because of either a power failure or equipment failure. Power failure is one of the risks that you should always prepare for. When your pumps and aerators cease to operate, all biological filtration will come to an end because of the absence of air and with water not circulating into the system. This will then lead to the dropping of dissolved oxygen levels and the rising of Ammonia and/or Nitrite levels. Now this would mean very bad news to your fish.
Your system will reach a critical point depending on the stocking levels or the number of fish per litres of water. Long blackouts will surely cause lots of dead fish. Another thing to worry about aside from power interruptions is equipment failure. You may have to deal with leaks, bursts and blockages; particularly if you are fond of making human errors. Basically, it’s all about being responsible.
There are certain things that seem to be out of your control. Power and/or equipment failure may be one of them. But you can always do something to address this issue before it reaches the point of stressing out and killing both your fish and plants. You should always have a backup plan, particularly when it comes to dealing with power failures. You may need a back up power switching relay and other alternative devices should there be any interruption in the power supply. Try to install an alarm that would alert you when there is power failure. Also, keep spare pumps and other significant equipment.
Moreover, choose high quality system components. Look for affordable but reliable pumps, tubing, pipes, valves and other necessary devices. You can reuse old stuff. However, make sure that going for the DIY option won’t compromise the quality and efficiency of your entire aquaponic system. See to it that you properly set up both your aquaculture system and hydroponics system. Always be systematic.
- Water Quality/Temperature Issues
Most problems concerning water quality and water temperature can usually be prevented by implementing the dos and don’ts of Aquaponics gardening. When you know what needs to be done and which practices to be avoided, there is no way that you will have to deal with any water quality and/or temperature issues. It’s for this reason why you have to research well before starting up with a system.
So in order to avoid any problems regarding the water used, make sure that you have it tested (and regulated should there be any complications) for toxicity or hardness. The pH level of water should also be tested, corrected and monitored. In addition, you must also maintain proper balance between the temperature and fish density along with the levels of crucial bacteria, Ammonia and Dissolved Oxygen.
Ammonia or Nitrite toxicity will damage fish gills that will eventually trigger massive fish death. This is why you should always keep watch of the levels of Ammonia and Nitrite in your system. Both your fish and plants will suffer should the system fail to ‘cycle’ properly. You should not allow Ammonia and Nitrite to reach toxic levels. Water testing must be done periodically; and also to check on water quality and pH level. Feeding must be stopped immediately if you suspect Ammonia/Nitrite toxicity.
- Fish Stress and Disease
Ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis) is the most common (protozoan) disease of freshwater fish. It is often called as the ‘white spot’ disease because of the white spots you can find in the body and gills of affected fish. It is of great importance that you learn what causes fish stress and try to avoid it because an outbreak of Ich and other diseases can occur as soon as the immune system of your fish becomes ineffective due to stress. You should always look out for agitated fish movements and loss of appetite.
Stress from temperature fluctuations, improper handling of fish, inadequate diet or inconsistent feeding, careless introduction of new fish and water quality issues can result in various fish health problems that could eventually lead to death when not properly or immediately treated. Apparently, diseases can be prevented with the prevention of stress. Good management is actually very essential.
- Plant Deficiencies, Pests
Organic sprays or pesticides can be used to contend with numerous pest infestations. However, you should try to sort out this issue without needing to utilize any product no matter how organic it is.
Again, prevention and proper management should be implemented. Caterpillars, grubs and leaf hoppers can be thrown into the fish tank. Other insects can be avoided by putting a lid on your grow beds. This can also prevent the growth of fungi and algae.
Nutrient levels can be easily adjusted as long as you understand the symptoms of both toxicity and deficiency. You should be vigilant of your plants’ reactions and be consistent in monitoring their performance and doing maintenance routines.
Aquaponics is hardly complicated, particularly if you are already familiar with the basics of hydroponic gardening. You may have to study about many important things, especially with regards to the management of various aquaponic systems. But all your efforts in properly and sufficiently educating yourself will eventually be worthwhile. Imagine being able to maintain a truly productive aquaponic garden. By learning about the risks and problems that you might potentially encounter along the way and the effective means to avoid them, you will no longer have to worry about the occurrence of various issues that could put your entire system into jeopardy. You may not even have to deal with them in the first place! So take your time in doing a thorough research. Learn as much as you can.