Troubleshooting At-Home Hydroponics and Aquaponics Kits

Better Farm's aquaponics tanks.
Aquaponics is the method of growing aquatic animals and crops simultaneously in a closed system. Water from the aquaculture component transfers to the hydroponics component, where nitrogen-fixing bacteria break down the byproducts into nitrates and nitrites (which the plants use as nutrients). The clean water then recirculates back into the aquaculture component, and the process starts again.



With Better Farm’s aquaponics system, a bed of lettuce and tomato rests above a fish tank, and pea gravel is used in place of soil. A tube transports water from the fish tank to the bed, and because the bed tilts at an angle, excess water drains back into the tank. Essentially, aquaponics requires no soil, fertilizers, weeding, or direct watering to grow the plantsβ€”and the fish tank gets cleaned out, too. Pretty darn cool.

Here's our first aquaponic tomato:
In any basic hydroponic or aquaponic system, you want to keep a close eye on a few major factors: one, the nutrients getting to your plants; two, the health of your water (and fish in aquaponics); and three, the life cycle of your plants and timing regular clean-outs for your setup.
 
We learned by trial-and-error that in an aquaponics setup, you need to be careful how much food you are feeding your fish. Too much, and you'll be dealing with a disastrously cloudy tank.  We dealt with this last month by doing a thorough cleaning-out of the entire grow bed. Rinsing out the pea gravel and scrubbing the container (and scrubbing the walls of fish tank, and changing the tank's filters) gave us a pristine system in which to continue growing.

Yesterday, we did our annual maintenance of the hydroponic setup, which involves cleaning out the grow bed and water tank, scrubbing the gravel, and refilling the tank with fresh water.


The annual or semi-annual maintenance required for aquaponics and hydroponics makes these methods some of the easiest for growing fresh, organic produce.

Further reading:
Aquaponics at Better Farm
Hydroponics