Sunday, May 27, 2018


AQUAPONIC FARMING is the combination of the latest aquaculture (raising fish in contained tank) and hydroponics (growing in soil with recirculating water system). Water is drained from the fish tank, into a media bed using the gravity force. The theory of aquaponics is to maximize the use of the energy and nutrients produced in the system in order to harvest the maximum amount of healthy vegetables and fish protein from it. Combining the fish, water and plants can produce vegetables and fish in a very small space, and only little water is required to make this system run. From my observation to avoid chemical-laden vegetables in their diet, urban farmers are opting for another method of organic farming-aquaponics. The method is a marriage of this new concept of aquaculture and hydroponics (soil-less growing of plants) - fish are reared in tanks, their wastewater provides food for growing plants, and the plants act as a natural filter for the water which the fish live in. So fish and plants grow together in one integrated system. Normally one aquaponics enthusiast is aircraft maintenance training instructor. For the past eight years my observation at home has been an experimenting ground for the green farming method where most of frmers hopes to develop a system that suits Malaysian homes and environment. This article at 'Anim Agriculture Technology' I would like to share the information about urban aquaponic in Malaysia.

When we started out for aquaponics it was unheard of here although it was already gaining popularity elsewhere. So we pretty much learnt everything himself. Now we is so well-versed in the subject that we is sought after for advice by other enthusiasts in the small but growing local aquaponics community. The chemical-free farming is picking up as more and more people like my neighbour namely Mr Ramli to practise the farming method known as aquaponics. A basic aquaponics set-up consists of water from the fish tank below is channelled to the planter box above to nurture the plants, which filter the water and keep it clean.  The chemical-free nature of this green farming method was what caught the aircraft engineer’s attention. While hydroponic farming relies on nutrients made from a concoction of chemicals, salts and trace elements, aquaponics on the other hand needs no chemical input as nutrients for the plants come from fish waste. Ammonia in the waste is converted by bacteria into nitrates that are food for plants. In hydroponic systems, the water needs to be discharged periodically as salts and chemicals build up in the water which becomes toxic to the plants. In aquaponics, little water is needed as it is recycled. From my observation water is added only if it is lost through evaporation. The water in the fish tank is clear as it is filtered by the growing vegetation. There is no odour and the fish I rear do not have any bad taste or smell.

In this concept, nothing can beat farming in soil, but it requires large areas and plenty of water. Aquaponics is said to require only a quarter of the size of a farm to produce the same amount of vegetables. Plus you get a double crop and fish and greens. We believes aquaponics is the perfect farming method for urban areas since it requires minimal space. At his home in Putrajaya we has built aquaponics systems to demonstrate that they can fit into a typical 6.1m x 21.3m (20ft x 70ft) link house. The most basic system consisting of a 1m x 1.5m fish tank and a smaller planting box above it is compact enough to fit into an apartment balcony. It’s a modular system, so one can combine two or three sets to get a bigger set-up, as displayed in his backyard. There, he has put together three fish tanks in which he rears tilapia, catfish, lampang and jade perch. Stacked above the fish tanks are four smaller planter boxes holding potted chillies, rosemary, eggplant, mint, lemongrass, chives, pandan, turmeric and a herb, sambong nyawa. And that’s the beauty of aquaponics with both fish and farm share the same space. Crops like pandan, rosemary, chillies and chives can all be grown aquaponically.

There are different approaches to prepare aquaponics. In the raft-based growing system, plants are placed in holes in a foam raft that floats in a channel or tank filled with fish effluent water. This method is suitable only for plants where the roots can be submerged all the time. It is most appropriate for growing salad greens and other fast-growing, relatively low-nutrient plants. Another method has the plants growing in planting media such as gravel, coir and clay pellets. The grow bed also functions as a filter and living space for bacteria which are essential for breaking down elements in the water into a form which the plants can absorb and use. The watering system here is known as the flood and drain method. In this method, water from the fish tank is pumped up to flood the planter box. Once it reaches the desired level, it drains back to the pond through a siphon that is placed to the correct height. This gives oxygen to the plant roots and moisture to the bacteria that converts ammonia to nitrates in the wastewater.

This technology applicable to compact aquaponics sets that can fit an apartment balcony. Most people chose to work with this system as it is suitable for most types of vegetables. Initially there are problems controlling the water level. But then it persevered and after some eight months of tinkering with the system where it working properly and reliably with just a slight modification to the siphon he replaced the cylindrical tube with a funnelled one. Because of that than the global aquaponics community now calls that design with the siphon. Then most people used to sell basic aquaponics sets to enthusiasts but has since stopped.  They will understand better how the system works. If I sell the set, people expect it to work perfectly and if it doesn’t, they just give up. It is better for people to do their own research, learn, evaluate, then they’ll know what they’re doing. The system failures are usually due to normally poor understanding and a lack of information. Common problems encountered are pump failure and a clogged siphon. Both must be cleaned periodically. One must also grow suitable plants. A new aquaponics system must have time to mature that is, for the nutrients to build up. If one immediately grows nutrient-demanding plants such as tomato and chillies, it will fail. One should first start with less demanding low-nutrient plants such as mint, basil and kangkung. Sometimes, the plants may not thrive due to certain nutrient deficiencies, so supplements such as iron or Epsom salt (to promote chlorophyll growth) can be added. It was not had to buy fish for a long time but he has yet to grow enough greens to fully feed his family. In most cases try to make it easier for everybody and by developing an aquaponic system that works best here.  The system available to everyone so most people can try out this method of planting. All urban farmers will certainly look forward to that day. Thanks!!...

M Anem,
Senior Agronomist,
Room 1624, Hatten Hotel,
Bandar Hilir, Melaka,
(21 RabiulAwal 1439H)
Published on 27 May 2018.

1 comment:

  1. Hi. I am researching urban aquaponic. I wonder how to contact Mr. Ramli for support in my urban aquaponic project?