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Backyard Aquaponics
Ashley Walsh
Growing vegetables by aquaponics not only produces tasty home grown veggies but also your own fish to eat.

However, an aquaponics system can be set up in a relatively small area, yet still produce an abundance of backyard vegetables.

Darren and Belinda Vance have a large backyard dedicated to fruit and vegetables but also grow vegetables using aquaponics.

Darren says the difference between aquaponics and hydroponics is that aquaponics is totally natural.

"You don't add any chemicals, the nutrients for the plants all come from the fish waste and the bacteria living in the grow beds."

He says with hydroponics those nutrients are supplied artificially.

The system in the Vance's backyard comprises two fibreglass fish tanks, one of a thousand litres and the other of four hundred litres.

There are also three different size grow beds, using expanded clay pebbles as the growing medium.

Darren says a pump is running constantly to take the water from the fish tanks up to the grow beds.

"The bacteria in the grow beds, living in the gravel, converts the ammonia and the waste into nitrogen and the nitrates for the plants and as you can see they grow pretty well."

Darren has had a variety of fish in the tanks including trout and Jade Perch.

At the moment the tanks are home to some yabbies and small perch fingerlings.

Another benefit of aquaponics is that you not only produce fast growing vegetables but also some tasty fish once they reach maturity.

Darren says there is very little maintenance involved apart from feeding the fish and topping up and testing the water.

The vegetables thrive in the system, so much so that Darren has to prune his tomatoes to keep them under the roof.

Darren says when he's planted zucchinis in the ground and in the grow beds at the same time, the growth rate in the aquaponics system is three to four times faster.

A lettuce seedling would be ready to start harvesting leaves in two to three weeks.

At the moment the aquaponics system is also producing Vietnamese mint, capsicums, chillies, chives and Chinese cabbage.

Darren says he first got interested in aquaponics when he had a fairly small backyard.

"If you want nice, clean organic veggies, it's the perfect way to go."

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