The world of gardening is a vast and exciting one with all sorts of techniques and methods to produce beautiful plants and bountiful crops. The practice of aquaponics has grown in popularity around the world as an easily sustainable gardening method.
If you have heard about this growing trend and are wondering where to start, a good pump is essential to your garden’s well-being. To help you choose the best one for your garden, we’ve put together out top aquaponic pump recommendations.
What Is Aquaponic Gardening?
It might be growing in popularity, but plenty of people are just hearing about it for the first time. Essentially, it means cultivating both fish and plants together so that the fish’s waste can become nutrient for the plants.
Sounds gross, right? Well, it creates an ecosystem of sorts and is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to grow a garden. The garden virtually takes care of itself, making it less gag-worthy than reaching your hands into a pile of compost.
That fishy waste turns into nitrate and ammonia that naturally fertilizes the plants. Since the plants are removing those wastes, it cleanses the water for the fish. This continuous cycle only requires you to add a little water from time to time when it evaporates.
What on Earth Does This Look Like?
There are all sorts of setups for aquaponic gardening, but they all follow a basic idea. Part one is a fish tank filled with water and, of course, fish. The most commonly used are tilapia since they are some of the easiest to take care of.
A hydroponic submersible pump is placed in the fish tank so water can be drawn up and out to part two, the grow bed. As the plants are watered, they take in nutrients from the fish’s waste and clean the water. This water is then returned to the fish tank via another pipe.
The Most Important Aspect
While all of these parts work together to create a self-sustaining environment, the most crucial piece in the entire setup is the pump itself. The size and type of pump significantly affect how well your system will work, ultimately controlling how well your plants will thrive.
There are a variety of factors to consider when choosing the best hydroponic water pump. So, consider the following when shopping around to help make your garden a success.
The Flow Rate
One of the most crucial aspects of this form of gardening is the aquaponics pump flow rate. If the water in your fish tank isn’t being cycled out fast enough, everything will come to a screeching halt.
The best aquaponics water flow rate cycles through all of the water inside the tank at least every two hours. If you have a small ten-gallon tank, then your pump should be able to cycle out 5 gallons every hour. For a large 100-gallon tank, your pump will need to move 50 gallons of water every hour.
These rates can be measured in gallons per hour, per minute, or in liters. So, make sure to calculate the proper conversions if necessary to find the right rate for your system.
The Right Size and the Right Math
One of the top searches by those starting out their garden is “what size water pump for hydroponics,” and that’s a critical question to ask. The pump size for an aquaponics system determines how powerful the water flow will be.
Choosing the right aquaponics water pump size brings us back to the flow rate. Larger pumps are going to cycle through the water in your fish tank faster with a more powerful engine.
Remember, your system is going to be pumping water upwards through your pipes. That means the motor in your pump is going to need to be a little stronger to keep things moving vertically. You can measure the distance between the top of the water in your tank, and the top of your grow bed to find the head height.
Using your required gallons per hour and head height measurements, look on the side of the box or online for the company’s sizing chart. This will tell you what aquaponics air pump size you would need from their product line. If all of that sounds a little too confusing, then go with something larger than you think you need to be safe.
The Power Source
Will you need a solar powered aquaponics pump? What about an aquaponics pump with no electricity? This choice all comes down to personal preference, but it is important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of each system.
Traditionally, pumps run on electricity just like the ones you would find in a regular fish tank. While there’s nothing wrong with this option, those looking to save on utility bills may want to look for an alternative source of energy.
Wiring solar panels to the pump is an excellent way to make your garden even more sustainable than it already is. Their energy efficiency can’t be beaten, they are a cost-effective option and are easy to install. The only downside can come from using too small of a panel, which will end up drawing less power than your pump needs.
A zero-electricity aquaponics setup will also eliminate the need to draw from a source of energy, but you will have to figure out another way to draw the water up from the fish tank manually. That could be as simple as using a bucket or as complex as a rope operated pump system. If you don’t mind putting in the extra work, then this could be a great option for saving energy.
Top 5 Aquaponic Pump Recommendations
Choosing a pump for aquaponics can seem like a daunting task, but we’ve sorted through hundreds of products and thousands of reviews to pull out some of the best on the market. Now that you know a little more about what to look for, hopefully, these will help narrow your search.
EcoPlus makes a variety of submersible models that range from 75 GPH all the way up to 7400 GPH. This feature makes them suitable for nearly any sized aquaponic setup.
Another useful feature is the 120-volt cord. It ensures that the pump has enough power being drawn in and reaches a whopping 32 feet. That comes in handy if your garden is situated farther away from your house.
This pump also offers standard inlet and outlets, meaning that you won’t have to hunt hard for the right size piping. Each fitting is already measured and displayed for you. If you’ve ever bought the wrong size tubing or piping then had to drive all the way back to the store, like me, then this information is much appreciated.
This model by PonicPump comes in 400 or 530 GPH and with either a 6 foot or 16-foot cord. While that might not be enough GPH for extensive aquaponic gardens, it is more than sufficient for a hobby sized setup.
One of the better features of this model is the polished aluminum oxide impeller shaft, which helps to extend the pump’s lifespan by increasing its durability. It also incorporates a wet rotor design, meaning that water will not damage the pump if it leaks through.
It is safe to use in both salt and fresh water fish tanks, and an epoxy resin encasement that protects the metal parts from corroding. This pump also comes with three different fitting sizes, which makes it easier to switch to if you already have the proper piping.
Simple Deluxe makes three models ranging from 160 GPH to 1056 GPH. Each has a different lift height, or how high the pump can push water vertically. After purchasing a few models and having to do the math, or guesswork, by measuring the head height and GPH needed, it’s nice to have a company do the work for you.
Another great feature this product offers is that it is not only circulating the water but aerating it at the same time. This could help to save you cost on aeration stones down the line. Just like the Ponics Pump, this one also features a polished aluminum oxide impeller shaft for increased durability.
This model by Simple Deluxe can also be used in an inline setup as well as a submersible one. That versatility comes in handy if you ever decide to change your garden’s setup.
This pump model features an adjustable flow rate that goes up to 580 GPH with a maximum 6 feet lift height. Alternatively, you could choose the 616 GPH model with 7.5 feet lift height. It is also suited for salt or fresh water use and does not contain any seals that might be broken and result in water damage.
Another great feature is the quiet engine. I appreciate not having to talk over the constant hum of this model. The energy saving design helps cut back on utility bills by consuming a minimal amount of power to keep the device running at maximum output.
This model by Tiger Pumps features an adjustable flow rate that goes up to 120 GPH, making it more suited to smaller garden setups. It’s compact size, however, does help it to save on energy consumption while helping it to run quietly.
If a compact sized pump is essential to your setup, then this model’s 2.58” x 1.61” x 1.94” size might make it the best option for you. The suction cups on the bottom keep the pump from moving around since it is so lightweight.
One of the great features of this product is its durable body. The material is both acid and salt resistant, keeping it safe from any possible buildup in your tank.
Our Top Pick
After weighing the pros and cons of each model, we chose the EcoPlus Submersible Pump as the clear winner.
It features flow rates to handle small, medium, and incredibly large setups while offering an extremely long power cord so that you won’t be limited to an area next to an outlet. Even in the more powerful models, the size isn’t too large to comfortably fit inside a tank next to the fish.
While it does rely on electricity, the power draw isn’t something that will make your electricity bill skyrocket. Plus, it runs nice and quiet to help maintain that peaceful garden feeling.