At AliJon Enterprises, we've done our best to create a Web site that anticipates and satisfies our customers' needs. With that goal in mind, we've compiled a list of frequently asked questions. If you do not find an answer to your question here, contact us at 484.706.7352 or Info@alijonenterprises.com.
What is aquaponics?
Aquaponics is the combination of recirculation aquaculture and hydroponics. In aquaponics, you grow plants and fish together in one integrated system. The fish waste provides a food source for the growing plants and the plants provide a natural filter for the water the fish live in. This creates a sustainable ecosystem where both plants and fish can thrive. Aquaponics is the ideal answer to a fish farmers problem of disposing of nutrient rich water and a hydroponic growers need for nutrient rich water.
Given the nature of recirculating aquaculture and hydroponics, the two technologies combined in aquaponics, there are 2 consistent factors in all aquaponic systems. 1. Fish are raised in tanks. 2. It is a soil-free growing system.
Is aquaponics organic?
Aquaponics is a completely natural process which mimics all lakes, ponds, rivers and waterways on earth. The only input to an aquaponic system is fish food. The fish eat the food and excrete waste, which is converted (by beneficial bacteria) to a form that that plants can use. In consuming these nutrients, the plants help to purify the water. You can not use herbicides, pesticides or other harsh chemicals in an aquaponic system, making the fish and plants healthful and safe to eat.
This process could not be more organic but getting a USDA organic certification for a culture system that does not use soil is tricky. A couple of commercial growers in the US have had their plants certified as organic. The USDA has not finalized organic certification standards for fish yet.
What are the benefits of growing Aquaponically?
The combination of aquaculture and hydroponics is quite new and the potential for using aquaponics to grow high quality food around the world is tremendous. Here are some of the many advantages of aquaponic food production:
What plants can I grow?
Early on in the research of recirculating aquaculture systems, experiments were done to determine the efficiency of aquatic plants in consuming the nutrients in aquaculture water, therefore helping to purify the water for the fish in the system. As research continued, terrestrial plants were tested and proven to be an effective means of water purification for aquaculture and this nutrient rich water a nearly ideal hydroponic solution for growing plants.
Lettuce, chives and other leafy crops were first considered for aquaponics but, more recently, commercial growers and researchers have had great success with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, melons, flowers and many other crops.
What fish can I raise?
Tilapia, a fresh water that is fast growing and has firm white meat when filleted, is most commonly raised in aquaponics because it is very hardy and can tolerate a wide variety of water quality conditions. Other fish, such as crappie, brim, bass, carp, goldfish and koi can all be raised in aquaponics. If you are considering home food production or commercial aquaponics, you should start by contacting the agency that oversees fish and waterways in your area to find out if there are any restrictions on what fish you can raise.
How many fish can I put in my fish tank?
It depends on the size of the tank and the type of filtration you have. In an aquarium-based system, a good rule of thumb is to stock the tank at 1" (of fish length) per gallon of water. In larger systems with proper filtration, commercial growers usually stock the tank to a maximum of 1/2 lb of fish/gallon of water.
How many plants can I have with a certain number of fish?
The number of plants you can grow is directly related to:
The scientists at the University of the Virgin Islands have determined that for each 60-100 grams of fish food added per day, you can support 1 sq. meter of plants in raft aquaponics.
Can I make money doing this?
Maybe. Aquaponics, like any business, takes an adequate investment in equipment, proper design and excellent management and marketing skills. Plus, you need to be a skilled fish culturist and plant grower. With those qualifications, an aquaponic farm can be quite profitable.
Commercially, aquaponics is in its infancy but, as the technology develops and is refined, it has the potential to be a more efficient and space saving method of growing fish, vegetables and herbs. By incorporating aquaponics, hydroponic growers can eliminate the cost and labor involved in mixing a fertilizer solution and commercial aquaculturists may be able to drastically reduce the amount of filtration needed in recirculating fish culture. Although there is currently a limited number of commercial aquaponic operations, many people are expressing a strong interest in this intensive method of food production.
I found some old tanks, can I use them for the fish tank?
Your fish tanks and the materials used in your system should be food-grade plastics. This means that they won't leach chemicals into the water in the system. You should not use any tanks or containers that have had contents other than food or that aren't recommended for fish or plant culture.
What do I feed the fish?
If your goal is optimum growth rates and food production, you should feed your fish a species-specific NON-commercially fish food. Commercial fish food have too many by products and chemicals, With Tilapia R Us systems, you can grow or make your own fish food. Duck week, water lettuce, worms and similar live feeds are often fed to tilapia. This is why we promote Naturally Grown.
How does it work?
The key to a successful aquaponic system is the beneficial bacteria which convert the fish wastes into nutrients that the plant use.
More than 50% of the waste produced by fish is in the form of ammonia, secreted through the gills and in the urine. The remainder of the waste, excreted as fecal matter, undergoes a process called mineralization which occurs when Heterotrophic bacteria consume fish waste, decaying plant matter and uneaten food, converting all three to ammonia & other compounds. In sufficient quantities ammonia is toxic to plants and fish. Nitrifying bacteria, which naturally live in the soil, water and air, convert ammonia first to nitrite and then to nitrate which plants consume. In your aquaponic system the nitrifying bacteria will thrive in the fish tanks and in the growing medium in the grow bed. The plants readily uptake the nitrate in the water and, in consuming it, help to keep the water quality safe for the fish.
Do I need a greenhouse?
A greenhouse provides protection from environmental factors such as heat, cold, wind, rain and insect intrusion. In most climates a greenhouse is required. A greenhouse can even be beneficial in the tropics to protect the crops from rain, wind and insects. The type of greenhouse and the environmental control equipment varies widely depending on climate. There are aquaponic growers, however, that have hobby systems indoors, in a basement or garage. When indoors, they have to add artificial lighting for the plants.
When some people think of contingency planning, it conjures images of strange people wearing tinfoil hats huddled in a shelter while they wait for the mothership to return. For others, thoughts of a recluse living in a one-room shack in the middle of rural Montana come to mind.
But neither of those thoughts capture the real nature of contingency planning.
At its heart, contingency planning is simply preparing for the future. And since there is no certainty of what that future may bring, planners frequently hope for the best yet prepare for the worse. And with good reason, many planners feel that we are on the verge of a significant change in life as we know it. So they contingency plan.
For the modern contingency planer, planning involves three primary areas: acquiring the necessary supplies, learning requisite skills, and building a community.
Food, water, shelter. We all need these things to survive. Moreover, we all need a continual supply of them. Contingency planers know this and take steps to prepare their clients in case the supply is disrupted for any reason.
Contingency planers don't want the loss of a job or a truckers strike to keep them from eating. So they prepare. They buy extra food when its on sale. They grow their own in a garden and preserve it. They buy in bulk and store it for a rainy day.
Similarly, great planners don't like debt. So they pay off their mortgage, they live within their means, and they work hard at their jobs. They are not afraid of physical labor to provide for their families. Contingency planers don't want the loss of your business to turn into the loss of a home or car.
Contingency planning may start with food and supply storage, but it doesn't end there. Planers regularly learn and practice new skills. They learn to cook. They learn emergency first aid. They learn to hunt with a variety of weapons. They learn to build debris huts and other shelters.
From sewing and canning to fire-starting and and knot tying, planners learn important and potentially life saving skills before they may need them. Its part of being contingency planning so we can teach our clients.
Preppers recognize that there is value in getting to know other like-minded individuals. We can learn from each other. We can help each other. We can share our knowledge and encourage one another. Prepping is not a zero-sum game; we can expand the pie by helping others.
Additionally, its impossible for a prepper to acquire every supply and every skill he may ever need. There is simply not enough time or money to prepare to that extent. So preppers get to know others in their local community with similar passions yet different skill sets.
If you're having car trouble, its nice to know a mechanic. If you've injured yourself, its good to know an EMT. If the food supply is disrupted for an extended period, its good to know a farmer.
People helping people; thats part of prepping.
But what if you are wrong? What if an emergency never happens? What if you gather these supplies and never need them?
So what? Consider yourself fortunate. You were prepared for the worse and the best happened.
At a minimum, you were able to sleep better at night, secure in the knowledge that you would have food on the table regardless of what happened in the world. I would not consider that a waste of time.