Aquaponics – Plant, Feed the Fish and Harvest

aquaponics malaysia sabah

Love plants and wanted an easy way to grow them at home? Then you should start your own aquaponics system at home. After hearing and learned how our vegetables and plants are grown in Sabah using extensive pesticide and chemicals, we decide to start our own garden at our home. Organic and naturally grown vegetables are expensive and monopolized by the supermarket and supply can be irregular. After comparing a different kind of gardening method, we decide to start our garden using Aquaponics system.

Aquaponics is the combination of re-circulating aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil). Planting is easy with aquaponics, you only need to play, feed the fish and harvest.

To start an Aquaponics system, the learning curve is not easy and the system takes about a month to develop the nitrifying bacteria, necessary for the system to thrive. After checking around Kota Kinabalu, we manage to find, a company specialized in building and providing training for Aquaponics system in Sabah.


The first step is seeding germination. We are using coco peats as the media in a net pot. The net pot is transfer to the raft bed when the roots are grown from the baby plants.


Simply put the net pot into the custom-made hole on the raft bed and that’s it. Now we only need to wait for the plants to grow.

The fish waste provides the nutrients the plants need and the plants, in taking up these nutrients, help to purify the water in which the fish live. This is an organic process with the only input to the system being fish food which creates a sustainable ecosystem where both plants and fish can thrive.


My custom build system consists of gravel rock media bed and raft bed.

Aquaponic plants are known to grow faster than soil plants since there are no weeds that take up all the nutrients. You’ll be able to yield up to 20 times more in lesser time.  Synthetic chemicals and pesticides are used in various forms in aquaculture and hydroponics. In aquaponics, it is guaranteed they aren’t used as their application destroys the natural balance of an aquaponic system and can result in fish deaths.

20180302_082028Tilapia fish in the fish tank feed on Azolla and fish feeds. The fish waste (ammonia) pass through the filter (gravel bed/filter) and converted into Nitrate. Bacteria are a crucial and pivotal aspect of aquaponics, serving as the bridge that connects the fish waste to the plant fertilizer. The nitrifying bacteria convert the fish waste, which enters the system mainly as ammonia, into nitrate, which is fertilizer for the plants.


My custom built Aquaponics set. The size of Aquaponics set is 4ft * 8ft, consisting of a fish tank, gravel media bed and raft bed. Water from the fish tank is pumped through gravel media beds, which filter the water and bacteria turn it into usable nutrients for plants to take up.`

It is advisable to have a greenhouse to protect the system from rainwater and sun.

The bacterial action takes place mostly in the gravel media bed. The gravel media bed contain earthworms, bacteria and protozoa and other life found in soil.

Aquaponics is the balance between the amount of waste from the fish and the nutrient uptake by the plants. The primary input of nutrient for fish and then plants comes from the food fed to the fish. The health of the fish affects the health of the plants.



My first ever homegrown lettuce. Look at these healthy roots




my raft bed full of lettuce.


Japanese rock melon grow well on the gravel bed


Marketmore cucumber

Aquaponicsplanting herbs such as sweet basil, oregano, mints and tarragon are easy. No need watering!


you can also grow baby spinach on the gravel bed or raft bed.

One of the most common question regarding aquaponics is what it the difference between aquaponics and hydroponics. Aquaponics is more complicated than hydroponics and using natural bacterial as a catalyst to drives the aquaponics system

The main difference between aquaponics and hydroponics are:

  • Hydroponics systems are fairly sterile while bacteria are revered by an aquaponic grower as they are the engine that drives the system.
  • Chemical nutrients involved in a hydroponics system are expensive and their costs are increasing with passing time. Whereas, fish-feed is used in aquaponics which is easily affordable.
  • An aquaponic system is easier to maintain than a hydroponic system as in the former one, balance is created naturally between the system elements
  • A hydroponic system is a man-made environment which cannot be accomplished successfully without his intervention while an aquaponic system is a natural ecosystem which will work as long as the pumps are successfully working, without human control.
  • You can only grow one types of plants at one time using hydroponics as you can’t easily balance the nutrient between plants in a Hydroponics system whereas Aquaponics bacteria break down and manage the nutrient intake of different plants in the Aquaponics system.

Because you’re growing crops with aquaponics in the means of your own home, it’s most likely that your food will be much healthier than the vegetables you usually buy at the grocery store.

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Joanne Lee

Chief Eater Extraordinaire of Sabaheats
I cook, I eat and I always looking for good food!


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