Aquaponics Spotlight: Pest Control

Aquaponic systems bring many aspects of life to flourish around it. Plants grow better, fish get a nice healthy environment to live in and healthy bacteria populations explode as they scrub out the water. One problem that may arise is when too much life is brought in for your area.

When little bugs or pests start bouncing around your system it is best to combat them as swiftly and safely as possible. This is especially important if they system is in a highly trafficked area, such as a kitchen, office or work space. Here are some suggestions on how to handle the incoming invasion.

Find the Source

The first thing to look for is where the bugs are coming from. Are they making their way inside and then leaving again? Are they coming from another area inside? Is there a spot in or around the unit that may be a breeding ground for bugs? Pay close attention to the environment around your system to find where the bugs are coming from. Then take corrective action to eliminate the source of the bugs.

A great way to pile on environmental benefits and products to your system is to add a worm composting bin into the mix. Worms provide a quick way to break down scraps while providing worm tea and castings (that make an amazing fertilizer for the outside garden). But be careful when placing your bin, as the material in the worm bin is the perfect place for other pests to lay eggs. Simply cover the bin with at least 2 inches of shredded newspaper and then layer the top with whole pieces of newspaper. This will stop most pests from making their way in and out of your worm bin.

Traps

Once you have noticed that there are a few bugs crawling around your aquaponic unit, there is likely a lot more hiding. Traps are a great way to eliminate many bugs and deter others.

Fly paper strips can be put up around your unit to catch the flying pests. These are inexpensive, easy to use, and effective. Placing a couple of fly paper strips may be the only thing you need to do if your pest problem is minimal.

There are many traps out there and a lot of them you can make yourself. These passive pest eliminators sit around your unit, catching any bug that enters their proximity.

Specific Pests

bug ap

Sometimes there may be an invasion of the same species of pest. These can be tough to control as the population will be constantly breeding. The first step to controlling pests is to find out what species they are. Once you know your pest, you know it’s weakness and can eliminate it from your system.

Spider Mites:

These little pests go crazy over cantaloupe and watermelon. Place the rind of a cantaloupe or watermelon next to the infested area. Come back later and you will find the rind covered with little bugs. Then, remove the spider mite laden rind by disposing or destroying it (just make sure you do this far away from the aquaponic unit!). Repeat this process with a new piece of rind until there are no more spider mites on the rind or in your system.

Fruit Flies:

A simple trap can be made in which fruit flies love to dive in and get stuck. In a small bowl, mix together some apple cider vinegar, a couple drops of dish-washing soap and a spoonful of honey. Place the mixture next to the system and wait.

The honey and apple scents will attract the fruit flies into the bowl. The dish-washing soap will stick to the bugs wings, trapping them inside the mixture. They will then drown in the vinegar. Keep an eye on the mixture every few days to refill or scoop out large clumps of flies. Once you have this trap out for about a week, the fruit flies will have disappeared.

Ants:

Ants can cause all sorts of disastrous problems in an aquaponic system. It is best to take action against these pests as soon as you see them. First, check to make sure they aren’t marching into your home through a crack or crevice. This is very easy to do if they have started to make a trail.

Ants hate cucumbers. Simply by placing some cucumbers or cucumber rinds around your system or even around the entry points of your home will deter ants from invading.

Safe Sprays

Aquaponics is a unique growing technique in that it involves many parts of an ecosystem. Each aspect needs to be carefully balanced and watched for. Sprays that are usually good for plants, can be deadly to fish and chemicals that help fish will kill plants. So be very careful when adding any chemicals or sprays to the system. Here are a couple of safe sprays that won’t harm the balanced ecosystem in your unit.

For Bugs: You will need:

  • 4 hot chilies (diced or powder)

  • 2 cloves garlic (diced)

  • 3 drops of vegetable oil

  • 1 liter of water

  • 2 drops organic dish-washing soap

Boil the chilies, garlic, vegetable oil and water for about 10 minutes. Strain out the big chunks, let cool and place the water mixture into a spray bottle. Add the dish-washing soap and spray on the effected parts of your plants.

For Molds and Mildews:

Combine 1 teaspoon of baking soda with 1 liter of water in a spray bottle. Spray on the infected areas. This has an additional benefit of buffering your system toward pH 7.

Pests can be a huge nuisance to running an aquaponic unit. We hope that these tips give you come more confidence and help keep the pests off your mind and system!

Photos: Unsplash

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