Aquaponics

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Jager06's picture
Jager06
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 2 2009
Posts: 395
Aquaponics

I did not see this thread yet and thought I might drop something useful for everyone to consider.

Does anyone have any experience or nutritional values for plants grown this way? Seems pretty sustainable. I can use a a couple solar panels to power the pump indefinitely. A smallish home made green house, suspended planters and some 50+ gallon barrels would allow me to grow year round and harvest crawfish and bass/ tilapia/ bluegill. Check out this video and maybe some of the other videos available.

With the chickens and canning supplies, this seems almost fool proof. Please shoot some holes in my entusiasm!

mark_visconty's picture
mark_visconty
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 16 2008
Posts: 10
Re: Aquaponics

Howdy, Jager06!

We have an aquaponics system that has been operating since June 2010 here in Seattle.  We built a 10' x 12' greenhouse with triple wall lexan sides and roof.  

We were concerned about plastic leaching into the water, since any leachate remains in the water/fish/plants and so we constructed the fish tank and grow bed out of plywood with a cement lining.  Plumbing is PVC which is not supposed to leach.  The fish tank is 350 gallons and holds about 100 fish right now.  They have grown from fingerlings to about 1/2 lb in 5 months.  We have experimented with a large range of plants and have had some success with most everything, but the leafy greens seem to be the most productive.

The system startup process was a bit of a mystery but once going it has remained remarkably constant in terms of ammonia/nitirite/nitrate concentrations and also pH.  Maintenance is very low once you have all the plumbing emergencies solved ;-)

We are using Tilapia because they are hardy.  The downside is that they like the water to be 80 degrees.

With this limited experience we have not yet concluded that it is the best solution for the Pacific Northwest since we can grow stuff almost all year outside even without greenhouses or cloches.  Note however, that growing protein is tough and that is one area where aquaponics has an edge.  Also, if you don't have a lot of room for a garden then aquaponics begins to look better.

I built a small demo system and ran it for a month.  It consisted of a 10 gal fish tank, three tilapia, and a storage tote for growing some plants.  I kept it in the garage in a commercial grow enclosure with a fluorescent grow light.  Even at this small scale things worked out swimmingly (lol).

From an energy standpoint, we are averaging about 4,000 KWhrs per year keeping the system going.  This is mostly the heaters for the fish tank and some supplemental lighting for the dark winter months.  Obviously, a warmer climate would help a lot.  Better insulation of the greenhouse would be a plus but would reduce the amount of sunshine getting to the plants.

Feeding the fish must also be considered.  Tilapia are omnivores and like plants, especially duckweed.  Duckweed is easy to grow and provides Omega 3s making the tilapia healthier to eat than store-bought ones.  They are also supposed to taste better.  We have not yet started growing duckweed and are using commercial trout food.  Note that the commercial food is designed for carnivorous fish and is produced using seafood byproducts.  Since we are greatly overfishing the seas we do not intend to continue using this type product.

Based on internet searches we expect to produce about 200 lb of fish and the equivalent of 2,000 heads of leaf lettuce per year.  We already have more lettuce that we two can consume and so we are planning to replace some of the lettuce with kale/spinach/etc.

Overall, we are pleased with the system.  Visitors Ooh and Ahh when they come, but I think that the system is actually simpler to manage than the dirt garden where you have to plan around seasons, crop rotation, pests (very few in the aquapoincs system), etc.  Our power costs are also low, about $0.08/KWhr (compared to, say, Hawaii where it is $0.44!) which helps with the heating costs.

Before we started we did a lot of research and wanted to just clone an existing system, but we did not find any that met our desires.  So we re-invented this wheel and have learned a few things, and are happy to share lessons learned.

Mark

Jager06's picture
Jager06
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 2 2009
Posts: 395
Re: Aquaponics

Wow! A 350 gallon fish tank provides that much! I am truly amazed! How much longer until you can begin harvesting fish, and how hard will it be to get them to be a breeding population?

If you wouldnt mind posting pictures/ diagrams and any other lessons learned that would be excellent. I have a geographically unusual piece of property which makes it difficult to have a continuous garden of any reasonable size, and was very excited to see this as a potential option.

Thanks for your reply!

mark_visconty's picture
mark_visconty
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 16 2008
Posts: 10
Re: Aquaponics

I think tilapia take about 10 months to get to eating size, about 1 lb.  I have seen some in the local Asian grocery that must be over 2 lbs, though.

Breeding is an unknown at this time.  Our fish are "all natural" and will breed, but like all fish they will eat the fry unless we segregate them.  I think there's a lot of technique and art involved, so stay tuned!  It will be a couple months yet before we try to do that.  It is possible to buy Tilapia that have been hormonally treated so that they won't breed, but this does not sound like a good plan to us.

Pictures soon...

JAG's picture
JAG
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 26 2008
Posts: 2492
Re: Aquaponics

Jager,

A couple other threads about aquaponics you might want to take a look at:

Can You Feed Your Family with Aquaponics?

Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Best, Jeff

Jager06's picture
Jager06
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 2 2009
Posts: 395
Re: Aquaponics

Thaknks Jeff....this is mind boggling and very good of you to have created!

I am going to bump the original thread....

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