Keeping a Small-Scale Aquaponics System Clean

keeping clean

When dealing with a simple, and maybe even pump-free system, like my Mason Jar Aquaponics, a problem with solid waste and murky water may be prevalent. Here are some tips on how to keep your small system cleaner:

1. Don’t get too many fish
Perhaps your water quality is not up to standard because you simply have too much fish waste, which means either you do not have enough plants removing these nitrites and nitrates, or you simply have too many fish. Finding the right balance is probably the most difficult part because fish grow and produce more waste as they grow. Try to keep logs on how many fish occupy a given set of area so you have future reference.

2. Use fish pellets instead of flakes
If you are using fish flakes, you may notice that your water is constantly dirty. Sometimes fish flakes will float to an area that is hidden by roots, decor, vegetation, or whatever else it may be. These flakes can go unnoticed and uneaten, simply dissolving into the water. I also notice that when fish eat from flakes, they tend to disperse the flakes everywhere, which also contribute to the previous thought. Switching to fish pellets will minimize the food waste as well as keep the water cleaner.

3. Engage in Water Changes
I have a pump-free system, which means that my aquaponics system is basically an aquarium (without pump) with plant roots submerged in it. Although the plant helps a great deal in eliminating fish waste, sometimes a fish that produces waste may be too much for a young plant without a developed root system. Sometimes algae will also grow in the fish tank, so it may be necessary to clean out this algae once in a while.

A major drawback to having a small-scale aquaponics systems, especially ones without pumps, is that they do not have the brute power of commercial or full-sized aquaponic systems. However, these desktop aquaponic systems are convenient for many users and can also be used indoors. The pros definitely outweigh the cons as long as you are willing to make a few accommodations.

17 thoughts on “Keeping a Small-Scale Aquaponics System Clean

  1. I think therefore I am .............. CONFUSED says:

    Made a sample Jar today with something called a fighter fish, supposedly requiring very little oxygen. Want to share the photo but dont know how.

    Also need some advice. I put fish food in which the fish did not eat immediately, and after that I put the lid on. Now I doubt that the food could have sneaked into the pot (one with the plant). How to know if the fish is fed or hungry?

    • GreenPLUR says:

      If you just introduced your fish into a new habitat, it may not eat for the first couple of days. Let your fish get comfortable to its environment first. The only way I can tell if my fish is hungry is to try to feed it. If the fish rejects the food, try again later or the next day.

  2. I think therefore I am .............. CONFUSED says:

    My plants are dying although fish is fine. Instead of a net pot, i am using a regular pot with holes in the bottom. Do you think that’s the problem?

    I planted a show plant that we normally pluck from host and plant it in the water. It grows roots on its own and thrives. In this system, it has failed to develop roots.

    • GreenPLUR says:

      I am not sure if the regular pot with holes would be causing any problems because I always use a net pot.

      Which plant specifically did you use for this system? This micro-system is really only capable of growing light plants like herbs and such. Remember, when trying to influence root growth from any cutting, you do NOT want water with too many nitrites and nitrates. Water with too much “fertilizer” will burn any baby roots.

      Perhaps the fish should be added to the water after the plant has developed a root system. I have placed both cuttings and seeds into this aquaponics system with no problems. I once took basil from the produce section at Target (that still had the roots attached) and adapted it to this system. After a couple of days, the plant came back to life and was flourishing.

  3. Cait says:

    Is there enough oxygen in the water for the fish? Because I made a system sort of similar without a pump with a 2 liter bottle, but the fish kept dieing I think due to the lack of oxygen.

    • GreenPLUR says:

      Hi Cait. In all of my trials, my beta fish survives because twice a day I lift up the net pot to feed him. This aerates the plant roots as well as expose the top of the jar to fresh oxygen. It is important not to fill the water all the way to the top of the jar, to ensure your fish has oxygen throughout the day 🙂

      I hope that helped!

  4. juvalyn says:

    I’m new at thus. I want to make this for my son. Few questions. I’ve heard that dirt mucks up the water so you are just suppose to wash off all the dirt and put it in the cup? And can you grow broccoli and cauliflower in an aquaponics/ hydroponics garden? Love this idea!

    • Green PLUR says:

      Hi Juvalyn,

      You definitely need to wash all the water off the roots before moving to hydroponics. It helps to soak the roots and dirt in a large bowl of warm filtered water for half an hour before trying to wash all the dirt off.

      Ease of transplant depends on maturity. Younger plants with less-extensive root systems will be easier to wash off all the dirt.

      You then carefully place the roots of the plant into the net pot and add the expanded clay pebbles around it to support the plant (just as soil did).

      You may not be able to grow broccoli or cauliflower in this system because the roots may get too big and leave no room for the fish. These systems are best with short-root plants like lettuce and some herbs.

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