I stumbled on the concept of Aquaponics a couple months ago, while reading, learning and researching about how to provide for Community and learning about rainwater collection. What caught my attention the most, is the fact that there is so little maintenance...
What is Aquaponics?
In simplified layman's terms, it is a sustainable plant and aquatic food production system. Fish/Aquatic life produce waste in a tank. Water is pumped from the tank. Beneficial bacteria in the grow medium, modifies/breaks down the waste into nutrients. Plant roots take in the nutrients. Cleaner water is returned to the tank.
Typical Gardening in the soil, set up a bed, till the soil, clear out weeds, mix in soil/ammendments, one plants a seed, put some water on it, sprinkle some fertilizer and it grows.
Maintenance could include:
*Regular watering (can be automated, a lot of water ends up being utilized)
*Pulling weeds (sometimes a LOT of weeds that can be very time consuming)
*Stopping animals from getting to the plants, etc
Typical Aquaponics, set up a fish tank, put fish in, feed a fish, pour some rock into a grow container, put in a pump and hose, plant a seed, turn the pump on.
Maintenance could include:
*Topping off the tank water once a month
*Daily fish feeding (can be automated - but if it's just a few fish, it can be done by hand AND can be quite entertaining)
*Weekly checking the pH of the tank (adjust if needed - verdict isn't out on this yet)
*Pull a random weed if it blows in some how
*Might have to deal with a cat or possum from climbing in
I see this as being a very efficient method for growing vegetables, culinary herbs, plants in general - with an added benefit of raising fish as well (which could be eaten - depending on species). Maintenance is significantly less and growth of the plants is significantly quicker. I will update as the current pilot matures.
All continued discussion in Gardening for the Community section
April 22, 2014
The alpha bed that I have been running has an incredible amount of broccoli plants growing, a lot of pepper seedlings, some potatoe, etc. It was doing great, but some thrips got into the romaine and red leaf lettuce and so, the lettuce was pulled.
It's time to clean up that bed completely and get most of the big plants out... and into the ground and get some more seedlings in, most likely herbs. We will see.
Now about 2 month in, with my aquaponics set-up and having some success and some issues.
I have set up the Arduino - monitoring system, which allows for monitoring of:
* Tank Temperature
* Air temperature
This worked out really well and I am able to monitor from my phone through an online application. That would be great if all I needed to know was temperatures, but unfortunately, the goal here is to grow fish and plants.
The fish have done really well and have more than doubled in size in the last couple of months, between 4-5" long as of this morning. The system runs well, has the appropriate timer, pulling water from the tank, pushing it through a filter and through the media grow bed and the raft system that I've set up.
But here is the issue. The seeds that I have put in for leafy greens, will germinate - grow a little, then either sit at that level of growth or dies near ground level. Any plants that I have pulled from the garden (basil primarily) when put into the grow beds, continues to grow and does a pretty good job - but I wouldn't characterize it as growing really well - does look very healthy.
So, I have been keeping tabs on pH since the start of this endeavor. pH has remained at about 8.0-8.2 since the start. I have utilized aquarium pH decreasers, where I get a temporary drop, but then the pH jumps back up to 8.0-8.2 when I test the following day. Even tried limes (the fruit), but came back up. The next step will be a significant alteration as to how I run a system. I have started a hole, large enough to submerge an IBC tote 3.5' X 4' X approx 4' deep. This will be a new test system, which will eventually be the fish tank, to help keep the fish warm through the winter time. I have also purchased a submersible water heater, to help keep the tank at or above 70 degrees.
Next steps: Will start a new nitrification cycle in the tank. Will have about a 300 gallon IBC tote, full of water, include a pump that will run 24/7 that will run through a grow bed and the two water rafts that I have currently. No fish will be introduced until I obtain a goal pH of about 7.0. To kickstart the cycle, ammonia will be added at a couple teaspoons a day, for a couple weeks. Several plants will be added and no filter will be included with this setup at this time. Will keep posted on this as results start coming in.