If you are doing aquaponics as a hobby or commercially, you must maintain several key elements.
What are these elements?
First, you need a tank for the fish. The size of this tank will vary depending on the size of your operation. You will need to match the gallons of water in the tank with the pounds of fish and the size of your grow beds. You can find this information at Aquaponics How to. Next you need to ensure you have the proper type of pumps to maintain your flow of oxygenated water. You will need PVC pipe to move the water from tanks to the pumps to the grow beds. Don’t forget the grow beds, and you can’t forget that you will also need lights.
These basic elements can be arranged in different ways to create many different designs for your aquaponics system. The variations really apply to the hydroponics system because there are only so many ways you can build a fish tank. These are a few different suggestions.
Continuous Flow Design
With this design, the water is pumped from the fish tank up to the surface of the grow bed. It then trickles down through the perlite or other media and back into the fish tank. This is very simple system and ideal for the home hobbyist. There are some disadvantages to this system. The water tends to flow through the media too quickly resulting in the nitrates not completely being eliminated from the water. The solution to this is run the pipes across the surface much like you would see in a sceptic tank. This deposit more water across the growing media, and allow the plants to absorb more nutrients.
Flood and Drain Design
This system attempts to mimic the natural flow of the tides in the ocean. The grow beds are flooded and the completely drained of effluent filled water allowing the roots of the plants to receive nutrients and also oxygen as the water is drained. The surging action of the water limits the build up of solids in the grow bed. It is widely accepted that this design is superior to the Continuous Flow design.
This design adds a sump tank to the basic aquaponics system. A pump in the sump tank moves water into the fish tank. There is an overflow pipe in the fish tank that takes the overflow of the water into the grow bed. The water then moves from the grow bed into the sump tank. The result of this is that you get a flooding and draining action in the grow bed. This type of system maintains the level of the water in the fish tank and also eliminates the need for a pump in the fish tank. The downside is that you will need the extra tank for the sump system and also you need a fish tank that is taller than the sump tank.
Simple Flood and Drain design
This is probably the simplest method and thus makes it ideal for the home hobbyist. The grow bed sits directly above the fish tank. A pump residing in the fish tank pumps the water directly into the grow bed, and it drains through the bed right back into the tank. There are very few disadvantages to this system, however, it does create fluctuating levels of water in the fish tank.
These are just a few designs for an Aquaponics system. Once you understand the basics of it, you can design and experiment with just about any configuration of tanks and grow beds.