PAGE TABLE OF CONTENTS
- The Importance of Understanding Water Chemistry
- What Determines Water Quality?
- The Importance of Water Temperature
Now let’s talk about water. Water is essential to both areas of your gardening system. Obviously, it houses the fish, but as fish waste is cycled into the grow beds, the nutrient-rich substance nourishes your plant garden. In many cases, this extra fertilization causes plants to mature faster and grow much larger than traditional soil gardens.
Many people are extremely interested in the food they consume. It often goes beyond GMO and chemical scares. The animals raised for human consumption typically experience horrendous living conditions and have very short life spans. As fish are living creatures, it’s our responsibility to give them the best living conditions we possibly can when they’re in our care. No, that’s not new age guru-style blather. It’s a simple admission of responsibility. But whether or not we want to admit it, we all know this. So let’s move on to your water requirements to learn how to make sure your fish are treated properly and your harvest offers the best yield possible.
The Importance of Understanding Water Chemistry
We all know that water is comprised of hydrogen and oxygen, but these atoms are in constant battle for control. Therefore, water is an unstable liquid which can react instantly to a number of chemicals. Oh, I could go deeper into how water is constantly separating and rejoining, but I’m not a chemistry major and you don’t need to know everything about the chemical makeup in order to be successful with your aquaponics garden. You do, however, need to understand the importance of keeping your water clean. And that’s where water chemistry comes into play.
Water can absorb and change matter. You’ll see this as your fish tank clouds and clears. Fish waste will settle on the bottom of your tank, and the water will make it soggy as it waits to be cleared by smaller aquatic life or recycled into plant nutrients. However, if you use the wrong materials while setting up your system, or if you do not have enough plants or worms to clean the debris, extra toxins can make the water extremely unstable. This will lead to the destruction of your overall system. The better the water quality, the healthier your aquaponics garden will be.
What Determines Water Quality?
The Power of Hydrogen is the long term for what we refer to as pH. Neutral pH is around 7.0 on the pH scale – equal distance from the 0-14 reading. However, when the level is above 7, the water is considered acidic. That just means there are more hydrogen ions than hydroxl ions currently in the water. If the level is under 7, the ion exchange is reversed and that’s considered alkaline. Fish pH tends to settle around 7.4. If the surrounding water is either overly alkaline or acidic, it can cause problems for the fish and even kill them. Different plants also have a preferred pH set point, and adjustments to the neutrality may affect their survival as well. Therefore, it’s essential to continually test your water’s pH levels and adjust your plant-fish ratio and/or add in extra waste disposal options as necessary.
How often should you test your water? Once per day is a good rule of thumb. If your water becomes overly alkaline, you may need to add calcium and potassium supplements to raise the pH. Oxygen levels are also a concern regarding aquaponics systems. Good bacteria is known as aerobic. That means it functions in high oxygen-based water. However, bad bacteria which can harm plant and animal life is anaerobic.
Anaerobic bacteria dislikes oxygen and thrives in low oxygen conditions. It will do whatever necessary to ensure those conditions are met. This often involves releasing poisonous gasses which can kill your live harvest. If the oxygen levels are low, a simple adjustment in aeration may correct the issue without any significant loss to your harvest. The fish tank and raft-based grow beds (if you use those) generally require high concentrations of dissolved oxygen. Constant aeration may be required for those components. Air pumps are most commonly used for this, but you can also increase the oxygen level by simply splashing the surface of the water. This works by increasing the surface area of the water and redistributing the gasses throughout the tank. Of course, if you’re already following previous suggestions of using a shallow and wide fish container, you may avoid this issue altogether.
The Importance of Water Temperature
Your fish, plants, and the helpful bacteria within the converted nutrients, all have a specific set temperature preference. The plants we eat have adapted over centuries to accept a large array of growth temperatures, and many fish adapt well to a number of conditions as well. However, you must pay attention to the water temperature to ensure it does not fall below your chosen fish type’s preferred body temperature set point.
Why is that so important? Because if fish become too warm or cold, they’ll stop eating. And if they stop eating, waste isn’t produced. If waste isn’t produced, your fish slowly die of stress and starvation, while your plants stop receiving the vital nutrients they require to survive. Your diy aquaponics gardening systems are symbiotic and requires all parts work as a team. If one part fails, the entire system dies.
The good news is that it’s really easy to keep everything functioning through aquaponics water testing. Check your water levels daily, keep the aeration high, and pay attention to the water temperature. Those three tasks will ensure all living parts of your system function at their very best levels.
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