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Aug 5, 2012 09:46 AM

Small Scale Aquaponics - what are your thoughts on this method?

This is an entirely new concept to me & my first impression was, "yikes, growing food in fish water! I don't even want to think about it."

Well, as always, I am a brave soul & will consider anything if you have a good story to convince me.

Has anyone tried this method? If so, what are the pros & cons of this method?

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  1. Pros: Faster growth than traditional dirt gardening, less grow space required, 90% less water than traditional ag, etc.

    Cons: Fish food is needed, and if you have no natural light, you need grow lights, which = electricity costs.

    Here is some of my arugula and other stuff I am growing completely indoors w/no natural light... Uses about the same amount of wattage as a laptop:

    6 Replies
    1. re: dalmartier

      Wow, your pictures were absolutely fascinating! What are those little balls all over the place?

      Would love to pursue this further, but unfortunately I am one of those who has a hard time plugging in a PC, in other words no mechanical abilities whatsoever. Yes, I am a gal who dreams a lot but after looking into something like that set up with all those wires, I am out of luck. Is it hard to hook up & maintain?

      Could I do something like this on a very small scale? Is it even cost worthy? Are their books or websites that could bring me along?

      Please give us some background on your setup. How long have you been doing this?

      You can get fish food in large sacks at the feed store...generic brand used to feed "pond or tank fish". Was quite cheap, but don't know about now.

      Thanks for a great "look/see"...hope I can do a simple set up. Actually, you are using "poop" water, is this not true??

      1. re: cstout

        The balls are called hydroton - they are essentially used to hold the root structure in place and because of the gaps, the roots have easier access to oxygen, vs traditional soil.

        If you have a basic knowledge of siphons and irrigation systems, it should be pretty easy to get started. It took me a few months to obtain all of the pieces, but once it is set up, it pretty much runs itself - it has been running since October of last year and is becoming more established as it runs.

        My system is considered 'micro', as each bin contains about 5 sq ft of grow space. This is in my entry way, so 15 sq ft suits my needs just fine for where I am now. If I wanted to scale up, I could add another 15 sq ft to make it 30, by adding another shelving unit + irrigation, all while using the same tank.

        I would probably start here if you are really interested: there are a few books out, but I think that Sylvia Bernstein's "Aquaponic Gardening" is considered the industry standard.

        Email/message me if you are interested in a similar set up. There are a few different system designs and you should do what works for you and your space. As for the poop in the water, I have worms in each of the beds to eat/mineralize it to break it down further for the plants. Anyway.. good luck!

        1. re: dalmartier

          About how much did it cost you to set up your "micro" system? I will spend time this weekend reading the link you gave. I have a lot of questions, but I need to read more about this before I can even ask an intelligent question.

          Thanks also for allowing me to email...but first I shall get a feel for what this is all about.

          Just curious, do you feel this is something you will be doing for the "long term"? Will you ever consider selling your veggies to the public? Oops, there I go asking too many questions.

          Will be in contact, & thanks again!

          1. re: cstout

            Just curious - what is your motivation for trying aquaponics?

            It was semi-practical for me, as we live in a space with little natural light and no outdoor space. I liked the idea of growing a portion of my own food, but because we have no outdoor space, our options were limited to indoor soil gardening, hydro or aquaponics. Hydroponics wasnt really appealing, because chemical, pH balanced plant drinks seemed impersonal.. And I'm not a neat freak, but no matter how careful you are with dirt, you are going to spill something sooner or later.. Having grown up around fish and aquariums, aquaponics made the most sense for me.

            Where I am from in California, you can sell your homegrown plants/veggies to the public, so if I ever decided to scale up, retail might be an option. I am still experimenting, but I am enjoying growing and eating my own stuff in the meantime.

            1. re: dalmartier

              My motive for delving into aquaponics was strictly a curious thing. I am always searching for "off the wall" methods of growing things.

              The TX heat here is scorching & makes a garden almost impossible. Even plants in the shade are completely wilted by noon. Aquaponics sounds like this might be a great way to beat the heat problem.

              Plus, I have a love affair with seeds, always been fascinated about methods of getting them to grow. It really is an esoteric thing with me, the idea of getting that baby seed to burst forth into a food that nourishes your body is such a beautiful thing.

              1. re: cstout

                I can dig it. :) Best of luck, and if you get a chance, let me know which design you decide works best for you. It is a lot of fun once you get things up and running. Enjoy!

    2. My friend and I are in the process of setting up the barrelponics design (here's page with links to the PDF design files)...

      I'm planning on using crawfish, since they already breed in the retention pond on my property.

      2 Replies
      1. re: deet13

        Nice design & good luck.. Where are you located?

        1. re: dalmartier

          I'm a few miles north of Tampa Fl..

          I have everything I need to start building the system; but, I'm still in the process of refurbishing an old 1hp water pump for the system.