DIY Aquaponics: 5 essential tools for every aquaponic gardener / farmer

best tools for aquaponics farming

You guys know I’m a huge fan of aquaponics, a very sustainable method of growing fish and plants together in a recirculating system. Aquaponic grow methods are relatively simple, once you get the basics down. Here are five basic tools that every aquaponic grower should have in their toolkit.

Top 5 Essential Tools for DIY Aquaponics

1) A professional quality water test meter

best water tester ppm aquaponics nitrogen cycle
Professional Quality Water Test Meter – $20

Aquaponics requires regular testing of the water for dangerous levels of ammonia. You want to shoot for 0 ppm of ammonia and nitrates. At a level of 1 ppm or more, your fish risk death from ammonia poisoning and your plants will eventually starve from a lack of oxygen and nutrients.

LORETTA GREEN LLC makes a professional quality water test meter that is exactly what you need to make sure your system is properly processing nitrogen into a form the plants can absorb. 

TECHNICAL SPECS:

  • Very durable with a 100% Money Back Guarantee for Life.
  • Accuracy: ± 2%.
  • Measurement Range:  Conductivity: 0 – 9990 µs/cm   TDS: 0 – 9990 ppm (parts per million)   Degrees Celsius: 0.1 – 80.0°C,  Fahrenheit: 32.0 – 176.0°F
    5 minute Auto Shut Off feature, so battery won’t run down
  • TDS tells you when you need to change your Filters
  • Net weight: 1.94oz (55g)
  • Size: 6 x 1.2 x 0.55 inches (154 x 30 x 14 mm)
  • 4 Display modes: press SHIFT button: TDS – ppm & °C, EC – µs/cm & °C, TDS – ppm & °F, EC – µs/cm & °F

If you find that your ammonia levels are too high, incorporate more biological filtration processes (grow beds with porous material #3 below), change and/or add new water, and feed your fish less. To reduce nitrate levels, add more plants. When stocking new systems, avoid adding too many fish too quickly.

2) An accurate pH meter 

Jellas Pocket Size PH Meter – $14.99

Plants like a pH just under 7. Bacteria generally prefer a pH just over 7. If the pH goes above 7.2, however, the plants cannot absorb the nutrients in the water and will wither, turn yellow, and essentially starve to death. The ideal target is a pH of 6.8 to 7.

JELLAS makes the mini pH meter on the left, which is perfect for monitoring the pH of aquaponics systems. The pH kit includes:

  • 1 × pH Meter
  • 1 × Carrying case
  • 1 × Calibration screwdriver
  • 2 × pH buffer powder (for calibration)
  • 1 × User manual

FAST AND RELIABLE READING, Highly accurate for measuring range of 0-14 PH, 0.1 PH resolution, measure & display pH result simultaneously with LCD display, reliable and quick reading. EASE OF USE, you just remove the protective cap and immerse the PH meter electrode in the solution and turn on the PH by “ON / OFF” switch to be measured. Beats the heck out of trying to see the colors of a litmus strip. POCKET SIZE: it’s only 1.76 oz with size of 5.94*1.22*0.79 inches, it also comes with a carrying case for you to easily carry and store your meter. 

To lower pH, you can utilize certain acids, such as nitric, muriatic and phosphoric. Phosphoric acid is the safest of the three acids (it is an ingredient in cola drinks) and it adds some phosphate into your system, which your plants will like. That said, phosphates can exacerbate an existing algae problem, so if that is your situation you may want to use one of the other types.

To raise pH, use calcium carbonate and potassium carbonate, either alternating between them or adding equal amounts of each at the same time.

3) Growstones or other sustainably sourced grow medium

best grow medium for aquaponics hydroponics gardening
Buy online – 25.8 pound bag of Growstones – $50

Why are Growstones our favorite grow medium over all other sources? Because they are engineered to provide a highly effective balance between air and water content. Growstones hold 3 times more water and 12% more air than Hydroton, which are made from clay. Growstones are made from recycled glass, are super light weight, and porous — meaning more surface area to house those beneficial bacterias. Growstones are the perfect growing media for vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowering plants; from lettuce and basil to tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, and orchids. Manufactured using up to 98% recycled glass bottles, though they look like natural rocks, which is very pleasing to the eye!

4) 100% organic inputs

Anything you add to an aquaponics system must be 100% organic, or you risk harming your fish.

aquaponics toolkit essential
Best liquid seaweed fertilizer for aquaponics

To supplement the plant nutrients that comes from the fish waste, you should add organic fertilizers including Maxicrop liquid sea fertilizer plus iron, steamed bone meal, and bat guano.

To control pests, I generally only use a peppermint castille soap plus essential oil spray mixture. I posted a vlog on this a few years ago. For bad infestations, reach for more powerful organic sprays including AzaMax Antifeedant and Insect Growth Regulator — a natural product with a broad spectrum of pest control. Cover grow beds with plastic or cloth covering before spraying any pesticide. Even though these are organic, as little of these pest controls should reach the water as possible. Fish are sensitive creatures.

For more detailed information, check out our 5 Best Organic Fertilizers and 5 Best Organic Pesticides suitable for aquaponics gardening and farming.

5) Pumps and backup pumps!

best air pump for aquaponics
Active Aqua Air Pump, 2 Outlets – $16

Pumps are something AP growers can always use more of. From personal experience, I can tell you aquaponic gardeners often spend the most money and time on broken pumps due to blockages and malfunctioning electronic parts.

The pump on the right is my favorite air pump, which you can buy with 1, 2, 4, or 8 prongs depending on how many airstones you plan to use. It’s super silent with multi-level muffler, low power consumption and adjustable air flow. 125-GPH, maximum amperage is 0.025 and maximum decibels is 40, 3-watts, 7.8-liter per minute, 120-voltage.

best water pump for DIY aquaponics
Learn more: EcoPlus Eco 633 Fixed Flow Submersible/Inline Pump 594 GPH

The best water pump for your system is going to depend on how much money and or time you are willing to spend on the pump. Here is another post describing two very innovative pumps you can make yourself, which would help avoid the problems on blockages and high energy use. We, however, are still using store bought water pumps. The pump on the left is our favorite because it seems to hold up the best and use the least energy for the biggest pump that can handle most sized AP systems. Plus the filter cage easy opens up allowing for easy routine cleaning.

Features: 594 Gallons per hour; 35 watt motor. Powerful oil-free, rare earth rotor magnet. Ceramic shaft and bearing insures reliability. Trouble free one moving part. Strainer protects impeller from damage. Comes with a 120 volt cord. Include inlet and outlet fittings.

Happy Farming!

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