survival preparedness

Short-Term & Long-Term Survival Preparedness Info You NEED To Know

survival preparedness

Note: This article was contributed by Richard Beck from TheOutdoorsPro.com. Read more about him in the About The Author section below.

Within your lifetime, you may encounter many different kinds of situations where you will need to rely on your own survival preparedness. Therefore, it is essential that you have the skills to survive on your own. Some of these situations include snowstorms, earthquakes, EMPs, nuclear, and many others. Being prepared for these situations is the first important step in survival.

72-Hour Bug-Out Bag

The first thing that you will need is a 72-hour bug-out bag for each member of your family. This bag should be kept with the family member at all times. If you have a child, and you do not live extremely close to the school, then you need to leave it at a friend’s house very near the school.

survival preparedness
Your family bug-out plan should include a safe place for your kids to go near their school, in case you are delayed in getting to them.

As the name suggests, this bag will help the person survive during the first 72 hours. Even assuming that it is safe to go outside, the government and other charities have admitted that it will take them that long to get organized and on site.

survival preparedness
Your bug-out bag should be packed and ready to go at all times.

There are numerous things that need to be in your bug-out bag, but the two most important things are food and water. While that may seem obvious, there are at least five other things that you should keep with you at all times.

Family Bug Out Bag

Food and Water

survival preparedness
While they do not need to be gourmet, your survival meals DO need to sustain you until you can secure an alternate food source.

Numerous governments around the world are stockpiling food. Imagine the very real scenario where you cannot go to the store and buy what you need. For example, you may be ordered to stay in your current location.

Even if you are brave enough to head out, if there is no electricity, you cannot buy gas to get you to the store nor will stores be able to get gas to transport groceries. Therefore, you need to be buying extra food until you have a year’s supply of food, A great place to start, however, is to develop 30 days worth of food.

survival preparedness
Dehydrated meals are a lightweight option for stocking your bug out bags. Just add boiling water to these Mountain House dinners and you have a hot meal. Click to view on Amazon.

While you can survive for a short time without food, although you may not want too, you cannot survive without water. Everyone needs to drink a minimum of 64 ounces of water each day. Since you may need to be physically active during this period, you may need to drink even more water.

survival preparedness
Carrying two water bottles per person will minimize having to stop and harvest water frequently.

Additionally, if a survival situation occurs during the summer you will need more water. Water can be extremely heavy, therefore, you need to know where to find water including how to drain water from all pipes in your home and how to collect rainwater. You also need to learn how to purify water.

Drought-Prepping-Intro2
Click here to learn clever ways to harvest water from natural sources, as well as how to make it safe to drink.

Finances

survival preparedness
Without currency, you will need to learn ways to barter for items you need.

If you are used to running to the ATM to get money, they will not work when the electricity is down. As recently seen in Germany and Puerto Rico, you may not be able to get your money out of the bank or be able to get it out in very limited supplies.

Therefore, the modern survivalist needs to keep a minimum amount of cash on hand as you may be surprised what it buys you during a bug-out situation. Additionally, make sure to make a copy of all your important legal documents and keep them in a safe at home. During an emergency, you may have to prove who you are and that you belong in an area before you are even allowed to enter an area.

survival preparedness
It’s a good idea to have photo identification for all members of your bug-out party, especially in the event that you need to cross international borders.

Communication

Communication is a survival essential whether you find yourself in an urban setting or in the outdoors. If you are starting to forget what it was like to live without a smartphone, or never knew, then stop for a moment and realize that during an extreme emergency, you may not be able to use any phones at all.

survival preparedness
It may be hard to get a signal in remote areas or cell phones may be useless, as with an EMP event. Your survival preparedness plan should include alternate means of communication.

Additionally, depending on the situation, most radio stations and most television stations may be off the air. You will still, however, need to receive information from the outside world such as how to take shelter, what happened, and what officials are recommending that you do about the situation. Therefore, everyone should have a hand-cranked AM/FM radio. If you live in North America, then use this radio to get information from the Emergency Broadcast Network.

survival preparedness
Emergency weather radios are a vital source of information during a disaster. The Eton Scorpion II has a handcrank, solar panel, and DC adaptor for multiple power options. Click the image to view on Amazon or CLICK HERE to learn more about emergency radios.

Secondly, you should consider becoming a licensed ham radio operator and connecting with others in your area that are already a part of their emergency network. For over 100 years, the American Radio Relay League has been active in almost every disaster helping people get the information that they need the most. If you are not ready to fully participate as a ham radio operator, then at least get a good battery operated scanner and learn where they broadcast in your area.

best emergency weather radio

Shelter in Place Vs. Bug Out Location

The next decision that you will need to decide is what your best bet is on location. There may be times when you have no choice, but to stay where you are at the moment. If that is your home, then you need to have supplies ready to create a quarantine room.

Many people are making the choice of moving permanently to a bug-out location. When choosing to buy property for a bug-out location, you need to consider which area is right for you. Many people are buying in remote mountain area because of the abundance of natural resources and the water supply.

survival preparedness
The ideal bug-out location varies depending on your current location and how you plan to meet your individual needs.

Others are choosing to buy bug-out locations in the plains because food can more easily be grown there. Whichever decision you decide is right for your family, you need a comprehensive plan including knowing at least three routes to get there. While many people use GPS to get them everywhere, chances are in a survival situation, GPS is not going to work.

survival preparedness
Planning several different bug-out routes ahead of time will assist you in making the best choice when the time comes. Be aware of flooding or other obstacles that may make a route impassable.

Therefore, you need to get maps of any area that you may be traveling through. While it is important to have great road maps, you may also need detailed topography maps because you may want to avoid the highways. If you decide to purchase a bug-out location, then it needs to be within one gas tank of your current location. Incidentally, you should already be filling up your car every night with a full tank of gas. For more bug-out vehicle tips, CLICK HERE.

Power

survival preparedness
Are you prepared to handle life without electricity?

If a disaster knocked out the electrical grid within the United States, experts say it would take at least a decade to rebuild that grid. Therefore, you are going to need to learn to rely on your own resources to create the power that you and your family needs.

There are at least eight different ways that you can generate energy at home or in your bug-out location. The one that is right for you depends on many different factors including what things you are likely to have present in your environment. Some common choices include solar, wind, water, and steam, but you cannot wait until after an emergency occurs to get started learning to harness these forms of electricity.

survival preparedness
Solar panels are one way to increase the self-sufficiency of your bug-out location.

Self-Defense

During an emergency, you may not be able to rely on emergency services to provide even the most basic levels of protection. Therefore, it is essential to know how to protect yourself and your family. The first step in doing this is deciding which method of self-protection is right for you. Remember that you may need to kill someone or be killed.

survival weapons

While a gun may not be the right choice for everyone, if it is the right choice for you, then there are many different choices including Mighty Barret and AK-47s down to 9 mm handguns. There are many advantages and disadvantages to each one, so make the choice that makes you the most comfortable.

Never purchase a weapon that you have not been properly trained to use. If you are likely to have children around, then make sure to teach them how to safely leave a firearm alone and how to tell someone when they see a firearm improperly stored.

Medical Needs

In addition to protecting yourself, you may very well need to take care of your family’s medical needs. Again, remember that ambulances may not be operational and hospitals may not be a safe place to go. At a minimum, you may need to know how to control bleeding and treat wounds.

In order to prepare for survival, you need to build a great first aid kit. You also need to know how to treat more advanced injuries. Since medical care may be set back a long way during some survival situations, it is often best to study older medical guides and know what medicinal plants to grow and use.

We recommend: The Always Prepared Small First Aid Kit

Survival Forums

If you are fascinated by this topic, then there are several forums that you can check out that have great information on them. They also make a great place to ask your questions and have them answered by people who have spent a long time coming to their opinions. These include:

Concluding Thoughts On Survival Preparedness

It is not a question of if you will need survival skills, it is a case of when. Almost everyone will experience a survival situation at some time in their lifetime. Most will be caused by natural events like hurricanes, floods, snowstorms and fires. Others may be centered around man-made events caused by nuclear attacks or EMP events. The steps you take toward survival preparedness today will increase your chances of withstanding these events and rebuilding your life afterward.

About The Author

Richard Beck is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys hiking, camping, bushcraft and many other activities in the wild. For more information about all things related to the outdoors check out TheOutdoorsPro.com.

Your Thoughts

Which aspects of survival preparedness do you find most challenging? What resources have you found most helpful? Share your experiences in the Comments section below, thanks!

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canning safety guidelines

Safety Guidelines for Canning Your Own Food Supply

canning safety guidelines

Learning to preserve food through canning is a great step towards self-sufficiency. By canning your own food supply, you can prepare a stockpile of survival food for your pantry, develop your cooking skills, and use all of your harvested produce.

Canning is a great way to store healthy, homegrown food; here is a quick list of the benefits of home canning:

  • A simple, time-tested concept that has a wealth of how-to and recipe resources available
  • Less expensive than purchasing factory canned goods
  • Better for long-term storage than aluminum as glass decreases the risk of leaching chemicals
  • You can incorporate your own recipes, ingredients, and food to ensure your family will enjoy the meals and that there are no harmful additives – only the wholesome, organic ingredients you have selected
  • Preserves surplus from home garden harvests to reduce waste
  • Saves freezer space and is actually superior to freezing in that food will not spoil if the power goes out
canning safety guidelines
Imagine a pantry full of your favorite home-cooked foods! Image via thebittenword.com on flickr.

As with any food-related project, the key to success with canning lies in following the proper canning safety guidelines. By following the proper canning safety guidelines to keep your canned food safe, you will ensure that your hard work is not wasted and that your healthy, homemade food supply keeps for as long as possible.

In this article, we will cover the ‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts’ of safe canning practices so that you can rest assured your canned food is safe for your family and can all enjoy the many benefits of home canning.

Why Canning Safety Is A Top Concern

Whether canning for survival or recreation, canning safety guidelines should be your top priority. If bacteria, even in small amounts, is present in canned goods, it can result in foodborne botulism, which is caused by consuming the toxins produced by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. The repercussions of foodborne botulism can be quite nasty with worst-case untreated cases resulting in paralysis of the arms, legs, torso, and even respiratory muscles.

Early symptoms include blurred vision, slurred speech, dry mouth, and muscle weakness; however, symptoms may take hours to appear, with most appearing 18-36 hours after consumption. By the time you realize canned goods are contaminated, your whole family may have already consumed the toxic food.

While the spores of Clostridium botulinum bacteria are present on many foods, they remain dormant and harmless unless the right conditions exist – conditions that are precisely those present in canned goods – with the bacteria thriving in areas with moisture, low acidity, less than 2% oxygen, and a temperature between 40-120℉. This is why it is essential that you follow proper canning safety guidelines when canning for survival or recreation.  

For more information on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of botulism, please read this article from the CDC.

Quick Canning Safety Guidelines Reference

canning safety guidelines

Canning Safety Guidelines – Make Sure Your Food L.A.S.T.S.

To ensure your canned goods are safe, you’ll want to address the following areas: Lids, altitude, size, time, and storage.

Lids

A tightly sealed lid is a must for canning safety; in order to preserve freshness, food must remain vacuum sealed. To ensure a vacuum seal, process your filled jars in a hot water bath or pressure cooker/canner and then allow them to cool. Once the jars have cooled to room temperature, check the seal and examine the jars for any leakage.

Before canning, carefully inspect the rims of the jars you will be using for any chips or imperfections. Defective jars should not be used; however, they don’t have to go to waste – they can be repurposed as a vase for fresh herbs or as an LED lantern.

canning safety guidelines

Jar lids that come pre-treated with paraffin are for one-time use only; do not reuse the disks after they have already been heated. The heating process used in canning deforms the paraffin to create a seal, and once deformed, it will never be effective at sealing again. However, the metal rings or bands can most definitely be reused as long as you purchase extra paraffin-coated disks.

canning safety guidelines
The silicon gasket in this Tulid Mason Jar Lid is removable for ease of cleaning. Click the image to view on Amazon.

There are reusable lid kits available that consist of rubber or silicon gaskets to create a seal. Given proper care, they can be used many times; however, ensure they are BPA-free.

Canning Jar LidsKey Features
Ball Regular Canning or Mason Jar Lids, 8 dozen
• Single use lids work with standard mason jars and rings
• Value pack includes 96 BPA-free lids
Tattler Reusable Regular Size Canning Lids
• Gasket rings and lids are dishwasher safe and reusable
• BPA-free material also resists acid corrosion
Tulid Wide Mouth Mason Jar Lids (Pack of 3)
• Reusable lids fit wide-mouth Ball and Kerr mason jars
• BPA-free and dishwasher safe with writable surface for labeling
Click the images to view current prices on Amazon.

Altitude

The altitude at which you are boiling your canned foods is important as altitude affects boiling time and temperature. At high altitudes, boiling temperature is lower and therefore more time is needed during the boiling phase as water will not exceed its boiling temperature no matter how high the burner is set; starting at 2,000 feet above sea level, adjustments will need to be made. For more information, please read this article from the United States Department of Agriculture.

canning safety guidelines
The pressure dial on the Presto Pressure Canner allows you to carefully monitor each batch. Click the image to view on Amazon.

Size

When choosing jars for canning, look for jars that are tall, thin, and hold a smaller volume. As it is extremely important that all of the contents in the jar reach the desired temperature, taller, thinner and less voluminous jars will ensure uniform heating. If your jars are too wide, the outer contents will overcook or the inner contents will not get properly sterilized, resulting in a loss of food and effort.

canning safety guidelines

Using smaller jars also helps reduce waste when you are ready to consume your canned goods as you can adjust portions. Once a can is opened, it will need to be consumed and any leftovers will need to be refrigerated. If the power goes out, throw away any leftovers. Well portioned jars will help avoid excessive leftovers and reduce waste.

Canning Jars 
Ball Canning Regular Mouth Half Pint Canning Jar 8 oz. 12-Count
Ball Regular Mouth Quart Jars with Lids and Bands, Set of 12
Kerr 1 Pint Canning Jar Regular Mouth 12-Count
Jarden Wide Mouth Ball Jar, 32-Ounce, Case of 12
Click the images to view current prices on Amazon.

Time

The time involved in processing while canning will depend on the type of food you are canning as processing time is a function of the acidity of the food. Highly acidic foods (those with a pH of less than 4.6) will require a shorter processing period (anywhere from 5-85 minutes depending on the type of food) as they naturally inhibit bacteria.

canning safety guidelines
Once processed, carefully remove jars from the water and allow to cool. Image via thebittenword.com on flickr.

Conversely, low acid foods (those with a pH of more than 4.6) will require a longer processing time that can range from 7-11 hours and must be at a temperature of 240-250℉.

Always make sure that you carefully follow the instructions for your pressure cooker to ensure you have the correct time and pressure settings for your recipe, and make sure to set a timer to keep track of cooking times.

Pressure CannersKey FeaturesCapacity
Presto Pressure Canner and Cooker
• Extra large capacity fits bigger jars and batches
• Full range pressure meter allows for precise readings, especially helpful at high altitudes
• Heavy-gauge aluminum heats evenly and resists warping
23 quarts
All American Pressure Cooker/Canner
• Processes 19 pint jars or 7 quart jars at once
• Metal to metal sealing system using tightening screws with no gaskets to replace
• Processes at 5, 10, and 15 PSI with an automatic overpressure release
21.5 quarts
Granite Ware Pressure Canner and Cooker/Steamer
• Smaller size great for homes with limited storage space
• Durable hard anondized aluminum construction
• Secondary backup safety valve sounds whistle alarm while releasing excess pressure
12 quarts
Click the images to view current prices on Amazon.

Storage

When it comes to storage, you’ll want to consider two factors: Storage conditions and shelf life.

Storage Conditions

After following proper canning safety guidelines while preparing your food, ensure the temperature of wherever you are storing your stockpile of canned foods is kept at a steady temperature, somewhere between 50-70℉. Avoid storing your canned food in areas that border heating vents, electronics, or any other devices that emit heat, as higher temperatures can affect the integrity of the seal, causing food to spoil.

You will also want to store your canned food in an area with low humidity and dark lighting. Low humidity is best for maintaining the metal lids as it prevents them from rusting and darkness is preferable as sunlight should be avoided completely – UV rays will degrade nutrients and can cause spoiling.

canning safety guidelines

Another consideration is the integrity of your storage shelving. It would be a shame to go through all the proper canning safety guidelines and properly preserve your food only to lose it due to faulty shelving or stacking. Always make sure that the shelf you are using is secure and that the weight of the cans is equally distributed. Rather than piling unsteady stacks, opt for single-layer storage and additional shelves to avoid the risk of your cans toppling over. For more ideas on storing your food preps, CLICK HERE.

Shelf Life

Generally, home-canned foods have a shelf life of one year. High-acid foods, such as tomatoes or vinegar, can typically last for 12-18 months while low-acid foods can last anywhere from 2-5 years (but this is typically for store bought versions).

When deciding whether or not food is safe to eat, always err on the side of caution. Look for things such as mold, discoloration, leakage, bulging lids, and putrid smells as an indication that the food has spoiled and should be discarded. If you find even one jar that has spoiled, make sure to check all the others from the same batch in case there was a problem with the canning process. When in doubt, throw it out – never taste food to determine whether or not it is safe to eat.

canning safety guidelines

To keep yourself organized, make sure you mark each lid with the canning date and organize your shelves so that the oldest canned food sits at the front and the newest at the back.

While it may be tempting to stockpile as much canned food as possible, a better strategy is to stockpile 1-2 months worth of food and then rotate out the older jars as you add new ones. By following this process, your family will become accustomed to eating the canned foods, but more importantly, you will prevent waste and ensure your supply stays fresh. If you want to build a supply that will last beyond several months, add more new cans than what you will consume.

Additional Canning Safety Tips

Choosing Food

When choosing food to can, always start with high quality, fresh ingredients. Ensure all foods to be canned are thoroughly washed and any seeds and stems are removed. For most recipes, you will be instructed to peel certain ingredients such as carrots, potatoes, and fruits.

canning safety guidelines

Timing

Always ensure you allow enough time for yourself to complete the canning process from start to finish. The less time your prepared foods spend exposed to air, the better. When filling your jars, make sure to fill them individually and close the lid before moving on to the next jar as this will minimize air exposure.

canning safety guidelines
The Presto 7 Function Canning Kit includes a timer for keeping track of cooking duration. Click the image to view on Amazon.

Air Bubbles and Heating

Get rid of any air bubbles by tapping the jar to move all air bubbles to the top – you do not want to trap air in the contents as this will rot the food. Before heating, make sure to leave about 1” of headspace at the top of the jar to allow for expansion during the heating process. Always keep a clean rag on hand to wipe the rim and threads of the jars so that no food can become trapped in the lid.

canning safety guidelines

Cooking Your Canned Foods

As an extra precaution, never consume your canned foods directly from the can. Boil your food for at least 10 minutes before consuming in order to kill any bacteria and destroy any toxins that may be present.

Helpful Canning Accessories

Canning AccessoriesKey Features
Bellemain 6 Piece Canning Tool Set
• Stainless steel tools have vinyl coating for improved grip
• Jar lifter allows you to safely remove jars from hot water
• Includes wrench for easily opening canned food lids
Presto 09995 7 Function Canning Kit
• Funnel fits in both regular and wide mouth jars
• Lid lifter is magnetized for removing lids from hot water
• Includes timer for keeping track of cook time
Norpro Small Canning Rack
• Keeps jars off of the direct heat and allows water to circulate for even cooking
• Vinyl grip handles fold flat for easy storage
• Holds 2 quart jars or 4 pint/halfpint jars
• Fits most pressure canners (8.25 inch diameter)
JarBox Canning Jar, Pint, Semi-Clear
• Stores and protects canned food
• Easily organize jars by contents, or plan a few day's meals
• Stackable and transportable for moving or sharing
Ball Jar Sure Tight Band Tool
• Be sure lids are tightened properly with less strain on wrists
• Also serves to unscrew rings, with integrated lid lifter for opening jars
Mirro 9605000B Stainless Steel Canning Accessories Food Press with Wooden Pestle Cookware, Silver
• Mash and strain fruits and vegetables, remove skins
• Stainless steel press seats in rack for convenience
• Pestle is shaped to fit for effectiveness
Click the images to view current prices on Amazon.

Conclusion

There are myriad benefits to canning your own food, including the ability to enjoy fresh, healthy foods year round and moving yourself closer to self-sufficiency. Canning is a tried and tested process that reduces waste and costs less than store-bought canned goods. However, the importance of practising canning safety guidelines while preparing your canned foods cannot be understated. Safety is of utmost importance, but when canning safety guidelines are followed, you will be rewarded with healthy, delicious meals that you and your family can enjoy year round.

If you haven’t canned your own food before, why not give it a try? Now that you know how to can your own food safely, it is the perfect time to give it a go and see if canning will work for your family as a means to develop a more self-sufficient household.

Your Thoughts

Do you plan on making canning part of your prepping plan? Are there any aspects of the canning process that intimidate you? Have you had an experience canning food on your own? We look forward to hearing from you in the Comments section below, thanks!

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home aquaponics

Introducing Home Aquaponics: A DIY Way To Build An Endless Food Supply

home aquaponics

Food is one of the must-have essentials for preppers, as without it, you will not survive for too long. Building stockpiles is a great way to ensure adequate food for short-term emergencies, but in the long-term, even the most robust stockpiles will run out. The best solution is to find a source of healthy food that will never run out – this requires growing your own food.

When contemplating growing their own food, most people imagine it requires lots of land, daily watering, laborious tending, and a constant battle with pests – generally, conditions and labor requirements most of us won’t have access to in a bug-out scenario.

There is an alternative to outdoor gardening and agriculture; it’s an option that can produce an endless supply of organic, chemical and GMO free food in any space with minimal labor requirements. This ‘magic’ system? It’s called aquaponics, and every prepper should ensure they are familiar with it.

What Is Aquaponics?

Aquaponics is an innovative combination of aquafarming and hydroponics. It involves creating a simple, self-sustaining ecosystem of plants and fish that yields an indefinite source of both fresh, healthy vegetables and protein for you and your family.

How It Works

The process works by virtue of the nitrate cycle. The waste from the fish is broken down in the water by nitrogen fixing bacteria and converted into nitrates and nitrites; too much nitrogen in the water will kill fish, but these particular forms of nitrogen are usable by plants as food.

The water from the aquarium is pumped into the hydroponic plant bed where the plants remove the nitrogen from the water; the filtered water is then cycled back into the aquarium. The basic premise is that the fish fertilize the plants while the plants clean the water for the fish.

home aquaponics

The system is completely self-sustaining except for the requirement of adding food for the fish and the occasional water chemistry maintenance. The only other time you will need to interact with your aquaponic system is when it’s time to harvest all the ripened vegetables.

Benefits

The best part about a home aquaponics system is that it can be built to any size to suit your living space and consumption requirements, so even in a small space your survival plan can include an option for growing your own food source. Once it’s set up, you can essentially forget about it; there’s no need to water as the water is constantly being cycled.

This also makes it a highly efficient system as both water and fertilizer are cycled and not lost back into the ground. Despite its low maintenance, an aquaponic system provides a high yield crop as plants are constantly receiving needed water and nutrients. It’s the perfect system for those with busy lifestyles or working families.

The following is a quick list of some additional benefits of home aquaponics:

  • Easily alternate plants for added variety
  • No weeding – the bed is raised above the ground and does not contain soil
  • Produces organic, chemical-free, and non-GMO produce – much cheaper than buying organic at the supermarket
  • Helps decrease intake of preservatives, artificial coloring and flavoring, and refined sugar with fresh fruits and vegetables available daily
  • As a self-contained system, it is not susceptible to pollution, drought, or natural disaster, and does not affect or disrupt the natural ecosystem in the way that agriculture does
  • Easier and less hassle than a traditional outdoor garden with no bending required to weed or harvest, no digging, etc.
home aquaponics
Imagine having fresh organic produce every day without having to go to the market!

Getting Started

The Basics

When setting up a home aquaponic gardening system, you will need five basic elements: tank, grow bed, growth medium, plumbing, and power source.

Tank

The tank should be made from an opaque material, such as plastic, in order to block out the sun and prevent algae growth. For a small system, a deep Rubbermaid bin works well.

home aquaponics
You can see the algal growth in this tank due to its position in direct sun.

Grow Bed

The grow bed can be built out of wood for structure and lined with plastic for water tightness.

Growth Medium

The growth medium should be lightweight and have a good water-to-air ratio for water retention. The most commonly used growth medium is some form of clay formed into uniform pellets: Round pellets allow for air and water to circulate in the space between the pellets, with an 8-16mm diameter representing a good range.

Some brands come pre-rinsed and ready to use right out of the bag; look for those with a neutral pH as this will help prevent the growth of mold and fungus.

home aquaponics
Expanded clay pellets allow for optimal hydration and aeration in the growth bed.

Another option is to use crushed rock, but be cautious of rock containing limestone as it will leach minerals, affecting the pH of your system. A rock medium is much less expensive than clay pellets, but also heavier, something to consider if you plan on moving your system around.

A combination of the two can be used to save costs and still reap the benefits of clay; simply use a layer of rock at the bottom of the grow bed and top it with a layer of clay for planting.

Plumbing

The water in your aquaponics system will circulate via an electric pump, through either pvc or vinyl tubing. Regulators adjust the flow to meet the biological needs of the system.

Power Source

You will need a power source to power the plumbing system; this power can come from a traditional electrical connection or, for a completely self-sustaining system, from solar cells.

Setting Up Your Home Aquaponics System

The best part of any home aquaponics system is its versatility to fit any space requirement. If you start off small, you can always expand your system as your needs grow, or scale back if required.

When setting up your system, you will want the tank to sit lower than the grow bed, or directly below it, allowing water returning from the grow bed to be gravity-fed back into the fish tank. Rocks can be used as substrate, but stick to a large enough cobble that it will not interfere with the pump. Stay away from typical aquarium gravel, as it is usually too small and can clog your system.

home aquaponics
This aquaponic system circulates water from a single fish tank through two growth beds.

For the garden bed, ensure you locate your system in a place that receives adequate sunlight to support the plants. Remember, it is a drought-resistant system as the plants have constant access to water and nutrients, so full sunshine is fine.

As a contained ecosystem, you can set-up your aquaponic system anywhere that is convenient. If you live in a mild climate, it’s feasible to keep your system outside year-round on a deck, patio, or lawn. For colder climates, an outdoor system can survive winter in a climate-controlled greenhouse to continue food production through the colder months.

home aquaponics
Some fish, such as these tilapia, can thrive in high density tanks. This makes them ideal for smaller set-ups.

Small systems can function well indoors as long as they receive sufficient sunlight – either natural or using a grow light. There are even countertop systems available; these are great for growing herbs in the kitchen.

For a fantastic, informative video series on building and maintaining your own aquaponic system, click here.  

Customizing Your Aquaponic Garden

Choosing Your Fish

When first starting a system, you may want to use feeder fish, such as goldfish, to establish the water chemistry as they are inexpensive to replace. After establishing the correct water chemistry, you can then upgrade to edible varieties of fish.

The ideal fish should be a species that breeds well in captivity, grows to a decent size, is edible, and something your family will enjoy. Also, your chosen fish needs to be a freshwater fish as a marine environment is not suitable for plants and the water will be shared.

When stocking your tank, very young fish called ‘fry’ are cheapest but will take longer to nutrify the water as they produce so little waste; fingerlings, fish that have developed scales and working fins, are more expensive but will take less time to balance the water chemistry.   

Recommended species

There are many types of fish that will work well with a home aquaponic system. Goldfish and koi are hardy, ornamental, cold-water fish that breed well in captivity but are not particularly desirable to consume. It’s probably best to stick to species that are edible – and enjoyable – as this will provide maximum enjoyment for your family.

home aquaponics

Tilapia: A popular choice as they breed well in captivity, are large in size, and hardy in terms of water conditions. They typically prefer warm water, so you may need to set up a heat source in the tank. Tilapia eats plants and duckweed, which can be grown right in the tank, or high quality fish food can be used. Nile tilapia are commercially farmed and produce a white meat with a mild flavor that is low in fat; they typically reach plate size in four months.

home aquaponics

Crappies: These are good-tasting, smaller fish, that are hardy and easy to raise. However, it will take two years for them to mature to reproductive age and the tank cannot be stocked with larger fish as they will eat your crappies.

home aquaponics

Trout: These fish have a fast growth rate, are suited for cold water, and follow a carnivorous diet that includes insects, molluscs, worms, and feeder fish (you can choose to breed these yourself or purchase pelleted food). The downside for trout is that they are less hardy and require very pristine tank conditions.

home aquaponics

Catfish: The channel catfish (pictured above) and blue catfish are the most common varieties used for consumption, as they are fast-growing and a good source of vitamin D; however, catfish must be skinned before eating as they do not have scales. As they are bottom-feeders and large enough not to be prey, they typically cohabitate well with other species.

home aquaponics

Carp: These fish are adaptable to environmental changes and breed well in captivity. Typical species raised in fish farms for consumptions are the bighead carp, grass carp, mud carp, and crucian carp (pictured above).

home aquaponics

Largemouth Bass: These hardy, cold-water species are popular as gamefish. The flavor of the younger (smaller) fish is preferable to larger fish due to the difference in diet; this means that they can be consumed before they are fully grown. A carnivorous fish, the largemouth bass feeds on shrimp, insects, and small fish.

Compatibility / Multiple Varieties

When it comes to mixing the variety of species in your aquaponic system, be aware that some species of fish can co-habitate while others prefer a monospecies environment. When cohabiting, be sure to choose fish with the same requirements for temperature and water conditions.

Choosing Your Plants

You should choose the plants for your system based on their nutritional benefits and your family’s tastes, as well as their compatibility with your water conditions. Plants that require a pH much higher or lower than 7 are not suitable, as highly acidic or basic water does not support fish life.

home aquaponics
Some plants are naturally faster growing, such as beans. It is good to have a variety in your garden so you will always have ripe vegetables to eat.

Leafy plants, such as lettuces and herbs, do quite well in aquaponic systems and are the easiest to grow. Fruit-bearing plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, and beans, will require a higher nutrient concentration and therefore do best with a well-stocked aquarium.

Subterranean plants can be grown, however, the hydroponic substrate makes it difficult for the root vegetable to achieve typical shape. The end result is that you can grow healthy potatoes and carrots but they may not look as you would expect them to!

Plant-to-Fish Ratio

Balancing the plant-to-fish ratio in your system is the biggest challenge; it is essential that you have the right amount of plants to filter the waste for your fish, as well as enough fish to supply adequate nutrients to your plants. The water ratio is 1:1 for water in the grow bed and water in the tank. The general ratio of plants-to-fish is four plants for every pound of fish, but this may need adjusting depending on the species of fish and types of plants.

In order to properly maintain the water chemistry and achieve a healthy system, a water testing kit is a must. Once you have it figured out, the system can be expanded to increase the food supply by simply adding another grow bed and adjusting your tank water volume. You can also add multiple tanks of fish for variety.

Different Types of Aquaponic Setups

There is no ‘right’ way to set up a home aquaponics system; in fact, a successful system can be set up in many different ways. The following are examples of different types of setups you can try yourself, or use for inspiration to create your own:

home aquaponics
This growth bed is made primarily from gutters and downspouts instead of a traditional bed.

 

home aquaponics
Separating plants into pots works well in this larger system. The turbulence of the gravity-fed water return system helps to keep the oxygen level up.
home aquaponics
A decorative approach to home aquaponics that requires more complex plumbing but also takes up very little room. The columns are filled with growth media and the plants grow out the slit toward the sunlight. The fish tank can be concealed or displayed next to the vertical growth bed.

Need Help Getting Started?

Aquaponic systems can be daunting for beginners; they sound complicated and many first-timers find it difficult to know where to begin. Setting up your own home system is actually quite easy if you start out with the right knowledge.

Click here for a complete guide on everything aquaponics – it will teach you how to get started, how to maintain your system, and how to make crucial improvements and adjustments to accommodate your family’s changing needs.

home aquaponics
Click the image to learn more about the home aquaponics video series.

Conclusion

A home aquaponic system is a viable, sustainable solution to an endless food supply and a positive step toward developing a self-sufficient home. The versatility of the system, along with its efficiency, make it a good choice for any household as it can provide a dependable source of food (both protein and vegetable) in almost any space and climate.

While the concept may seem daunting at first, many resources and studies exist to help get you started and maintain your system. Once it’s up and running, you’ll have a dependable, cost-effective source of food you can rely on.

Your Thoughts

Do you have experience growing food with an aquaponic system? Do you have any questions about home aquaponics gardening? Let us know in the Comments section below, thanks!

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