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Automating an Aquaponic System

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When it comes to aquaponics, there are a number of inputs that are made on a continuous basis to ensure that the system is running properly. Automating the aquaponic system can bring numerous benefits to your aquaponic journey.

Automating an aquaponic system can be done by using an automatic fish feeder to keep the fishes fed in a timely manner and a simple toilet float to maintain a constant water level in the system. Maintaining other parameters such as water quality and crop health has to be done manually.

Depending on how large the aquaponic system is, your daily schedule, and your budget, you will be able to determine the extent to which you want to automate the system.

See our detailed guide on aquaponics and what you need to know to run a successful system.

Automation may seem like a daunting task, but it’s really simple if you have a small-scale aquaponic system or if you’re doing it as a hobby. Using a timer and a float switch makes automation simple but setting it up is crucial in ensuring everything runs smoothly. So let’s see how to set up this automation.

My Aquaponic setup

Build a successful system with these affordable equipment from amazon, that I’ve tried & tested on my setup.

Click on the links to see them

Best water pump
Best Water Pump
Best air pump
Best Air Pump
Best air stone
Best Air Stones
GROWNEER 25 Packs 4 Inch Garden Slotted netcups
Plant Net cups
Bio Balls
Bio Filter Medium
API Freshwater Master Test KIT 800-Test
Water Test Kit
The Aquaponic Equipment Essentials that I use in my system.

How to Automate an Aquaponic system?

Aquaponics is a very sustainable way of growing crops organically and can produce quality crops in a very small space. In a sense, Aquaponics is a kind of automation itself whereby the fishes create food for the plants and plants use the nutrients and prevent build-up in the system which can harm the fishes.

It’s an automated ecosystem formed by the symbiotic relationship between plants and fishes until it comes to feeding the fishes.

We’ve now hit a block, there is an input that has to be made. Routinely!

What if you can feed the fishes with minimal interference? Maybe your schedule doesn’t allow for you to continuously be tending to fish or ensuring that the system isn’t running dry.

Maybe your system is up and running and you want to have some sort of automation set up so that you won’t have to continuously keep checking the fishes.

For the average gardener with a small-scale system feeding the fishes can be done by simply setting up an automatic fish feeder.

They take the work out of how often and how much food your fish needs. They are incredibly useful for when you go on vacations or extended trips. Your fish will be fed consistently even when you are away.

Fish feeders come in many different shapes and sizes, depending on the size of food you are feeding the fish. They work by setting a timer to allow food to be fed to the fishes based on the allotted time the feeder is kept running by the timer.

The best feeders I found which can do this are the Eheim and the Zacro automatic fish feeders from amazon.

The Zacro features are impressive since it has two types of power supply, a connected power outlet and a battery which can last up to 3-6 months. It can also serve a fish stock in a 600L or 158 US gallons fish tank. All done with a built-in timer for your continence.

The Eheim features a ventilation system that always keeps your fish food dry so it doesn’t go bad and can handle most types of fish food. This feeder can be used for smaller systems and also aquariums.

My pick would be the Zacro it services all my fish feeding needs.

Now if you are a DIYer like myself and you’re probably are since you are looking to advance your system. You can build a Fish feeder. It’s a simple and fun project which you can undertake using everyday materials.

Here’s the one I’ve made –

This DIY feeder features

  • A container holding the dry fish food
  • An open pipe running through the bottom of the container to pull food from the container and into the water
  • A screw made of hard wire, driven by a 5 rpm motor
  • The motor is powered by a timer switch power outlet and is operated remotely or at a predetermined time.

Another part which you should automate is the water level in the system.

Water in aquaponic systems is subjected to evaporation. This means, that the level of water in the system is continuously dropping. You may not see it since it falls in small increments because the evaporation process is slow.

In hotter days and depending on the weather conditions the rate of evaporation may be higher causing even more water loss.

Another issue that may arise in aquaponic systems, although not common, the roots of the plant’s mat grow long and big enough to eventually plug the outlet pipes. Pipes can also be plugged by a small build-up of debris over time.

This leads to loss of water due to overflow. Depending on how your system is set up the water loss may be small or very large and can drain the entire system.

An easy fix is using a tank float.

By placing afloat in the component that holds the water pump. In most cases, it’s in the Sump. The water level will remain constant at all times. Think about how the toilet tank works. You flush the water goes down and the float allows water back into the tank without overflowing and causing a mess.

The simple float switch can save a lot of misfortunes when you are away or can’t attend to your system.

NFT aquaponic system

The third recommendation.

I strongly suggest getting an automated backup electrical system in the event that the power goes out. Power outages can wreak havoc on an aquaponic system.

These include –

  • Pump stops working
  • Fish feeder stops working
  • Water level rises and overflows in the sump because pump stops
  • Loss of air pump and oxygen in the system to keep fishes alive
  • With the oxygen being used up, fishes die

The backup power supply switches power from the normal 110 Volts power to a 12 Volts battery. This keeps the system functioning without any adverse effects. Usually, power outages do not last for more than a couple of hours and a good backup supply will allow for bump-less power transfer with running time for the duration of the power outages.

Here too you can DIY a battery backup to save the aquaponic system. You can use this one as a guide to building your own.

Apart from the total power backup system to keep the entire system running, you can get a backup air supply to only keep your fish alive during the outage. The plants will survive for this short time period provided that they are in an NFT system.

Plants that can survive longer are Deepwater Culture systems.

Pros and Cons of Automation

Automating an aquaponic system on a small scale is definitely doable with these simple additions. But this is as far as it goes unless you are willing to dish out the dollars.

Little input after installationCostly to Implement
Timely feeding of fishesA bit more work to get it installed
The system can run when on vacationAutomation may lead to complacency
Prevent the loss of water
Prevent the loss of crops
Prevent fishes from dying
Pros and Cons

Larger commercial systems that are also automated also require some work to ensure proper crop quality.

Although this system is Hydroponics. It shows the extents of which automating these system can go.

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