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Posts Tagged ‘aquaponic gardening’

 It appears that Aquaponic Gardening in the USA is continuing to gather interest throughout the country, but it’s also facing a great deal of turnover due to the expense and fairly steep learning curve of start up.  Many excited newcomers, balk after seeing the high cost of pre made kits, or even the complicated nature of DIY when compared to growing in raised beds or traditional in ground gardens.

For those who manage a successful set up, new unforeseen headaches appear with water. Who really knew dechlorination and pH balance would be so time consuming and pricey, or that maintaining a thriving colony of bacteria that continuously convert ammonia to nitrites then nitrates is not as easy as it looks in diagrams or on YouTube.

Oh, let’s not forget about the fish. Waking up to fish floating in your tank is not only expensive, it’s discouraging, especially when you’ve poured a lot of hard earned money into having (Usually) Tilapia shipped from halfway across the country, only to watch them die in the first month or six weeks. In my case, I spent several hundred dollars learning that I could not raise redclaw crayfish here. I’m a slow learner.

The failure rate of ‘commercial’ ventures is even greater. The USA landscape is littered with abandoned Aquaponics systems that were going to make a fortune by selling premium products at premium prices to an ever growing health conscious public, who’ve grown tired of poisoning themselves with traditional supermarket fare.

The truth is, that there are only a relatively few places in America where the demographic that can afford premium prices, the proper climate for successful Aquaponic Farming, and would be entrepreneurs with the fortitude and work ethic to succeed are able to intersect.

I know some awesome people in west central and central Florida who are making it happen. I cannot promote them too highly. But they also work their butts off to make it happen.  Many, if not most, Aquaponics dreamers are simply not prepared to pay that price.

A large percentage of the success stories in the more temperate climates are not really commercial ventures at all, but are non profits, dependent on grants, gifts and donations to stay afloat. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with the model per se, but running a non profit is a whole different animal and requires a different set of skills than a for profit commercial farm.  Many would be Aquaponic farmers miss that difference and are destined for failure from the beginning.

Like its older sibling, hydroponics, Aquaponic farming is NOT the future of food production. It has its appeal, it has a niche where it can be successful, but it is not going to begin replacing traditional gardening and farming anytime soon.

If you have stayed with me this far, you probably think I’m some kind of hater or have sour grapes about my own lack of success with aquaponics. If that’s what you think, you would be wrong by a mile. In fact, I am within a few days of setting up my 2016 backyard aquaponics system, and I already have several hydroponic projects going.

What I want to do, is cut through a lot of the boloney and help you be successful, or at least help you set realistic expectations if you’re new to aquaponic gardening, especially if you’re on a budget.

I have no intention of discussing how to begin a commercial aquaponics farm.  I understand marketing and sales, because that’s my background, and I’m an entrepreneur to the marrow in my bones, but I have no experience in commercial aquaponics farming, and I will not pretend I do. A successful commercial aquaponics farm is a unique animal. It will require capital, patience and night and day work for a long time.  I will tell you that, as I’ve already mentioned, location is mission critical. Out here where my wife and I live, such a venture would be a disaster. If you are really keen on investigating how you might launch a commercial project, email me, or use the comments section and I’ll be happy to direct you to some people in the business who will give you good answers without the bull. This article is for people who want to begin a backyard, basement, or garage system.

First, understand that you can build several raised beds or buy a whole lot of containers for what a backyard aquaponics system is going to set you back. A small ‘off the shelf system’ that will keep a handful of fish and grow a few veggies will cost you over $1000.  If you’re going to grow in your garage or basement you’re going to have to add in costs of lighting and water temperature regulation, which can be significant. 

If you’re going DIY it can be much cheaper, but still significant. First there is the cost of Fish Tanks and grow beds. Will you use plastic barrels, IBC containers, stock tanks, or some other container? Your cost will be determined by what you choose and where you source it. I have historically used plastic barrels and stock tanks, but I also have some IBC totes for potential future use.

Plumbing costs money. There is the pvc, fittings, valves, hoses, cutting tools to consider, in addition to the costs of a filtration system.  Unless you already have an off grid power supply, you’re going to have to find a way to operate the water and air pumps. If you plan to run year round you’ll also have water heating costs.

Now, for the fish. Most of us began with Tilapia. Most of us failed. If you live in in Florida, south Texas, Arizona, Nevada or Southern California, you might get away with it. For most of the USA, however, the only way to successfully raise Talipia, is to heat the water at least part of the year and/or to raise them inside. When water temps get below 50 degrees F, Tilapia are going to die. For example, my inlaws live in west central Florida just south of Tampa Bay.  They have wild Tilapia in the ponds and lakes around them. A couple of years back, during a particularly cold spell, tens of thousands of Tilapia died and floated to the surface of the local ponds. Now just imagine what would happen here in north Georgia, or Kentucky, or Indiana, or Montana, or Maine. I think you get the picture. Tilapia can handle a wide range of water quality conditions, but water temperatures are literally a killer.

I was successful growing Tilapia in my basement and garage when we lived in town, but it wasn’t cheap. I gave up very quickly once we moved out here in the country. The cost of heating water in my greenhouse was prohibitive.

On the other hand, I love gardening and many things grew better in aquaponics than they did for me using more traditional methods, so I started thinking outside the Tilapia.

After it became just too expensive to raise Tilapia, I tried bluegill and catfish. They grow great here. I suggest you look into what might work in your area. In many places, especially north of the Mason Dixon, Yellow Perch are a good option. They grow relatively quickly and are extremely tasty.

In our case, my wife doesn’t eat fresh water fish, so it was pointless growing them. If I want some crappie filets, I just go to the lake and catch some. Easy.  The last two summers, I’ve grown goldfish.  They are 20 cents apiece at the pet store. That price is hard to beat. If you don’t eat fish, if you are on a budget, or if you don’t intend to grow year round, goldfish may be a great option.

Other options include minnows and Koi. Minnows are cheap, easy to raise, and can be used, or sold as bait for crappie and bass fishing.  Our ducks like them, too. Koi are often in demand for backyard ponds and can easily pay for themselves.

Koi, minnows, goldfish, bluegill, catfish, and many other varieties can be overwintered if the tanks are deep enough, but my wife and I have decided that growing all year round is not worth it for us. We live in Bartow County Georgia, not Adelaide, Australia. 

My systems work this way. I set up my system(s) in April, stock it with goldfish, and grow exclusively lettuces, herbs and greens in raft (DWC) systems. By doing this and using plenty of oxygen in the water, I can keep growing lettuces almost all summer. I can also grow Okra very successfully in rafts.  By growing these things aquaponically and hydroponically, I have lots more room in my traditional garden for tomatoes, peppers, melons and etc.

Once fall comes, I will grow some kale and swiss chard. Then once things get too cold for gardening to be fun, I take the system down for the winter. The fish will be fed to the ducks and chickens. It’s that simple.

Aquaponics can be fun and rewarding. To make sure it is, think about where you live. What fish will work where you are? Do you want to eat your fish, or will they be just for aesthetic enjoyment?  Will you grow seasonally or all year round? Will you grow outside or in? What’s your budget?

In short, do your homework. It’s the equivalent of measure twice, cutting once. And by all means, think OUTSIDE the Tilapia.

Please email me with any questions or add your comments. After all, we’re in this together.

 

 

 

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Hydroponic Kale

Hydroponic Kale

People spend virtual (and sometimes, literal) fortunes trying to improve their gardens. We buy books and magazines, we attend seminars and lectures, we listen to radio shows and watch gardening television channels. Many folk even hire designers, landscapers and gardeners to do the work for them. On top of that, we search far and wide for the finest soil amendments and nutrients.

Gardening is BIG BUSINESS, and often a big expense, so I thought I’d offer for FREE, an often overlooked gardening secret that will kick your success into overdrive. It’s so simple, you’ll be inclined to think I’m overstating the case, but I’m NOT.

This secret is the same whether you’re growing in the ground, in raised beds or in containers. It’s also the absolute biggest open secret in Hydroponic and Aquaponic gardening. Oxygen!

Surprised? Feeling underwhelmed? Don’t be. Pretty much everything in nature needs oxygen in spades.  Sure, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and carbon dioxide are important nutrients, but you can put all the fertilizer in the world on you plants and if oxygen isn’t getting to the roots, the plants will not thrive.

Lots of new gardeners discover this when they spend good money on bags, or truck loads, of expensive topsoil only to find their gardens are not producing like they had hoped. The topsoil is just too darned dense for the roots to get oxygen.

If you add good soil amendments, like peat or coconut coir, tree mulch, perlite, or in some situations, small lava rocks, you will get almost instant results. I like perlite and sphagnum or coco peat added to my worm compost (not just castings) and a little straw as my favorite soil mix or amendment. This gives me lots of nutrients plus is loose enough for oxygen to get in and for the roots to spread out in search of the water and food it needs.

Similarly, in my Deep Water Culture hydroponics and aquaponics systems, I have seen results skyrocket by doing nothing more than adding extra oxygen to the grow beds and fish tanks.

I’m not a scientist, I’m a farmer. I learn by experimenting. I have watched healthy plants shrivel and die when the oxygen supply to the roots is cut off, even if adequate nutrients are available.  On the other hand, I’ve seen plants flourish with less than optimal nutrient and climate conditions, if the oxygen supply is optimal.

Kale bouquet. Think my wife will like them?

Kale bouquet. Think my wife will like them?

Let me use my hydroponic kale as an example.  Last winter, I grew Deep Water Culture (DWC) kale, swiss chard, lettuce and bok choi all winter long in my small unheated greenhouse. To keep the water temps up, I used a fish aquarium heater at night and let the sun do the work during the day. I kept the nutrients and water topped up and used plenty of oxygen. The results were off the charts.

In another system, designed the same, but using only half the oxygen, results were seriously reduced, and the plants were more susceptible to aphids.

Finally, this fall, I have been growing kale outside in a DWC hydro system with phenomenal results (see the pics in this article). I have not adjusted pH or nutrient levels.  Frequently, my top ups have been provided by rain. Sometimes, I top up with the garden hose, using city water. I have not treated the chlorine or chloramines.  All I have done is keep the oxygen levels up with lots of air stones.  I have not done a complete nutrient replacement and have topped up with nutrients only about every 3rd or fourth top up.  I got similar results last spring with cabbage, broccoli and kohlrabi.

Your plants need proper light and nutrients to be optimal, but before you spend a bunch of money trying more fancy foods and supplements, try making more oxygen available and see what happens.

Now it’s your turn. What’s been your experience with oxygen and your garden? For that matter, what’s been the one thing you’ve done or change you’ve made that has made the biggest impact on your results? I’d love to hear your experiences. After all, we’re in this together.

 

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One of our first attempts at container gardening

One of our first attempts at container gardening

Walking through the garden the other day, examining my raised beds and my containers I realized for like the one millionth time, how much I prefer containers to either the raised beds or to a traditional tilled garden spot.

I use a variety of containers: buckets, flower pots, Earthboxes, and Rubber Maid Stock Tanks, plastic barrels and IBC totes. Some of my older buckets and pots are pretty traditional, but my newer ones and all the other containers are set up as either wicking containers, DWC hydroponics or Aquaponics systems.

I use different methods for the simple reason that if something isn’t working, another style probably is. For example, my raised bed zucchini did not do well this year, but in wicking buckets it thrived like never before. On the other hand, my pole beans did so well in a raised bed I didn’t bother with any other ways. My hydroponics kale has outperformed that grown in either raised beds or buckets. Gardening is full of surprises, so variety really is the spice of life.

Please don’t get defensive if you’re a raised bed or tilled bed gardener. I don’t disapprove of them, I’ve just gotten better results (mostly) from other methods. Your experience may be totally different.

There are three primary reasons I like containers: Mobility, simplicity, and Spontaneity.  Let’s dive about two inches into that and let me explain.

  1. Mobility – We live in NW Georgia right on the edge of Zone 7 a/b. and we have a medium sized greenhouse (40’ x 24’). Our great weather allows us multiple growing seasons already, but by combining the benefits of containers and the unheated greenhouse I can get a very big head start in the spring and extend the season in the fall dramatically.
Earthbox wicking containers

Earthbox wicking containers

I plant many of my varieties in January, and by mid-April they are already quite large when I move them outside. I’m usually harvesting snap peas, cabbage, Jalapeno peppers, kale, bok choi and lettuce long before most of my neighbors. By growing Parthenocarpic zucchini and cucumbers, my wife and I were enjoying them in March.

Similarly, when night temps begin to drop, I can move containers from the garden back to the greenhouse and continue to enjoy fresh peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, etc. until very nearly Christmas. Greens will keep growing all winter.

Even before we had our greenhouse, I would take my hot pepper buckets and set them up against the south side of the house to keep them producing even after the garden was getting regular frost.

I could never do that with my raised beds. For example, I have some very healthy roasting pepper plants in a raised bed that I’m going to have to make a cover for because I can’t get the bed into the greenhouse.

Even the hydroponics and aquaponics systems can be emptied and moved relatively easily. Because I use compact systems that don’t have a great deal of complex plumbing, it’s mostly a matter of emptying the beds and tanks, then reassembling them inside or outside as need requires.

  1. Simplicity – Containers are uncomplicated. There is very little preparation or space required. It’s a matter of filling with your favorite planting mix, inserting your chosen seed(s) or seedling(s) and you’re gardening. There are no special tools or groundwork required. The most important decision is the size of the container. You wouldn’t want to put an indeterminate tomato in a window box, but that container might be just fine for cilantro.

Weeding is a snap, as is mulching. Watering is generally required more frequently that with raised beds or tilled gardens, but wicking containers can mitigate the work load, as can automated watering systems.

  1. Spontaneity – If I get impulsive (which happens to me a lot) and want to try a new variety or increase number of plants after my garden is already planted, containers allow me to simply grab a new bucket and try it. Similarly, if a plant is not thriving, I can pull it up and begin again without the risk of damaging the plants around it. When plants are getting ready to flower, I can decide at the last minute to isolate one or two for seed saving by moving the container a little and using row covers for protection. This is especially useful for peppers and tomatoes.

Container gardening is an outstanding option for beginners and gardeners with small spaces. And it doesn’t have to be expensive. You can repurpose buckets and flower pots you already have around, or you can buy very inexpensive ones from your local Big Box Store or online.  Let’s face it; you can buy a lot of containers for the cost of buying and maintaining a rototiller.

We haven’t had a tilled garden since 2001, when we lived in Iowa. With our busy schedule and my ADD that option just wouldn’t fly. We have a few raised beds, most of which are being converted to growing berries.  We have many dozens of containers. If you consider aquaponic and hydroponic systems as containers (which I do) then our garden is 90% containers. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Are you a container gardener? Why or why not? I’d love to hear your experiences. Please share. I value your opinions. Besides, we’re all in this together.

 

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Photo comes from theaquaponicsource.com

Photo comes from theaquaponicsource.com

Two weeks ago, I was at my wit’s end with, and over, the whole Aquaponics thing. I threw up my hands and said, “I’m done. The end. El fin.” And probably a few other things, not ready for prime time.

The first two or two and a half years of my Aquaponics journey had been rather positive.  Sure, I’d had some problems, but I had successfully kept a batch of Tilapia, Bluegill, and Catfish alive, while raising loads of herbs, okra, duckweed and KangKong in the grow beds. Using water from filter changes and routine partial water exchanges, I had successfully grown a number of plants in self watering containers. I had even saved a small naval orange tree and a pineapple plant from the brink of death and watched them bear fruit. Life was good in Aquaponicsville.

Late last summer, though, things just went to…, um, er, well, lets just say they went south.  I had filter problems, pump problems, plumbing problems and even predator problems (it turns out, we have wetlands right behind us, complete with blue herons. You can figure out the rest).  I lost a lot of fish and spent days and days working on my systems.

Just when everything seemed to be gaining traction again, we were visited by the coldest winter in Georgia since 1912. My greenhouse isn’t heated, so I use aquarium heaters in the winter water. During normal winters, that’s not a big deal. This year, though, it was a nightmare. The water heaters just couldn’t keep up, but my electric bill sure did.

The cold kept the beneficial bacteria from growing, so it was very difficult to keep the water clean. In the end, my fish died and I was not happy. I had towel in hand and was ready to toss it into the ring and surrender, when my moment of enlightenment came. I had my priorities all bassackwards and was working too hard towards the wrong goals.

I have been pursuing fish as the end game, which is not my real priority in Aquaponics Gardening. Brittan and I don’t eat that much fish, and our market is fairly limited. The stress of trying to keep fish alive all winter was totally unnecessary.

To a large degree, even the plants we grow in the system, aren’t the end game, either.  They are  important to our operation, but the ones we raise in our growbeds are mostly there to take up some of the excess nutrients created by the beneficial bacteria.  In truth, I’m using Aquaponics to farm nutrient rich water, which in turn, grows the vegetables in both my Aquaponics growbeds and my wicking beds (self watering containers). Yes, the water is the end game, and I don’t need nutrient rich water in the winter time.

The moment the realization hit me, the lights came on in my head again and all the pressure melted away. Until my greenhouse is heated, Aquaponics gardening will be a seasonal venture.  I can raise just enough Tilapia to put in our freezer and sell a few of the excess and use twenty cent goldfish to run all my other systems.  After I harvest the Tilapia in late fall, I can bring the goldfish into the greenhouse, shut down the grow beds and overwinter the goldies in the big tank.  They can handle the cooler water.

I feel so much better now.  I didn’t want to give up on Aquaponics. I’ve never seen okra, basil or kangkong perform better than they do in aquaponics systems. I didn’t want to lose those results. Using the fish water in the wicking beds actually builds the soil rather than creating a toxic salt build up like some commercial nutrients do. On the other hand, I can’t go through another winter like this one, running up an electric bill, only to watch my Tilapia die off one by one in the frigid temps. Now that my priorities are back in focus, I don’t have to. Aquaponics is fun again!  I like fun.

 

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bunniesDecember is ‘retrospective month’.  Turn on the radio, the television or the internet; open a magazine or newspaper and you can find a nearly infinite number of ‘best of’ and ‘worst of’ stories for the year that was.  I think I’ll give that a miss.  2013 was a tough year, mostly because of the wet winter and my surgery.  Poor Brittan was left virtually alone to keep this ship afloat.  She did a great job.  She is one incredible woman.

Fortunately, the year is behind us, I’m 90% healed (and probably can’t expect more than that) and the new year awaits.  I am psyched and ready.  I hope you can keep up.

Here are some of the plans:

  1. In January, I plan to apply for a live plant license in order to sell seedlings to the public.  Oddly, you can sell basil leaves a farmers market, but the plant requires a license. It’s ok to sell tomatoes by the bushel, but you better have a plant license to sell that seedling for a buck and a half.  I know, it’s weird, but that’s life and we’ll comply.The idea was born from two seemingly coincidental events. First, we had so many starter greens and herbs last year that we had to feed hundreds of them to the compost heap.  Secondly, a nearby shop experienced a lack of interest from a well-known starter plant distributer.   The truck would drop off the plants, but the company didn’t come around to attend to them or keep them freshened.  As a result, many plants bolted or died.  I thought to myself, I bet that if seedlings were grown locally and naturally, they would have a stronger appeal and be able to be cared for in a better manner.  Since one of my favorite parts of gardening is starting and transplanting seeds, it seemed serendipitous.  I’m only hoping the State of Georgia agrees. seedlings
  1.  We will be expanding our garden considerably.  The addition of aquaponic and hydroponic systems is going to allow us to greatly increase the amount of produce we grow and make available.
  2. More Rabbits, Fewer Goats is the name of the game.  We’ve already reduced our goat herd considerably and may move a few more.  We didn’t have the market for goats and goat meat I had hoped for, so we are cutting back to a smaller herd that will still be large enough to provide plenty of meat and dairy, but will not overburden the pastures or pocket book.  The freezer will remain full and we may occasionally still have some goats for sale.  At the same time, we are increasing the number of rabbits.  The manure alone makes the decision worthwhile.  The rabbit waste is like gold when it comes to producing good compost.  There is nothing better.  We can raise 99% of all the food the rabbits need and the meat will feed us AND our dogs/cats.
  3. We will be cutting the number of hens, adding ducks and bringing back turkeys.  Basically, we decided that the broiler chicken business was too much work for no money.  We will keep a few hens for eggs and pasture maintenance, but just a few.  We have missed eating good turkey this year. Those rubbery, greasy things from the grocery store simply don’t cut it with us anymore, so we’ll raise a few birds this year for fall consumption.  I can’t wait.  The big thing, though, is Brittan want ducks.  She likes to watch them waddle and hear them quack.  She wants to try cooking with duck eggs. Who am I to argue?  Besides, I want to keep a few meat ducks (the OTHER red meat).
  4. tilapiaTilapia and Crawfish have been added already.  The Tilapia are doing nicely in their winter tank and we expect them to be ready for a nice autumn harvest.  In March or April, I will separate a breeding colony and begin breeding my own.  That ought to be an adventure.  My crawfish are surviving.  That’s better than the last time I tried raising them.  My fingers are crossed as I really want to be able to make a go of them.  They can be great food, good fish bait, and the carcasses are awesome for the compost heap.
  5. You Tube Channel is on the drawing board.  I’ve toyed with the idea of a channel for a couple years and even made some episodes that I never posted.  Brittan has convinced me that it would be a good idea, so I’m looking at “Gardening With The Village Idiot”, or something similar, to be released this spring.  The concept is, if I can do it, anyone can.

There are other projects and dreams in the oven, but I hope these will be enough to pique your interest enough to keep dropping back in on us here.  We love it when you come visit our site.  We’d like to see you come by more often.  And…we’d love to hear from you.  Don’t be shy.

 

 

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Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe

Just look at these cantaloupe plants.  They want to take over the world.  These little beauties are perfect illustrations of the power of aquaponics.  They are being grown in earthbox self-watering containers and are primarily being fed with water from my aquaponics systems.  How is that for awesome?

In the spirit of full disclosure, I do supplement with a dash of chelated iron and some Epsom salts, but that’s about it.  I am loving the results.

I forgot to take photos of the current state of our raft system but it is the perfect way to grow greens, herbs and okra.  Also, I had some tomato seedlings that were struggling in their starter trays, so I moved them to the raft aquaponics for a couple weeks and, BOOM, the growth was off the charts.  I transplanted them into their earthboxes and they are outperforming the plants I put directly into the boxes.  It’s incredible.

With that awareness, We are putting up a series of small systems throughout the garden to provide nutrients for all our containers and wicking beds.  We bought two 100 gallon stock tanks to be used as fish tanks and are using half barrels as filters/grow beds.

system being planted

system being planted

The systems, as you can see from the pics are simple, almost rudimentary.  The half barrels are just sitting on top of the tank and are used primarily as a bio filter.   A simple 40 watt submersible pump sends the water up into the grow beds where it is filtered by clay pebbles and lava rock and falls directly back into the fish tank.
As a side benefit, they will also grow plants.

One of my additions to these new units was to add a garden hose faucet to the water line.  This is cheaper than running a bunch of drip lines, but saves a lot of time and effort vs. filling watering cans.

Because it’s late in the season, I’m using comet goldfish in everything except the raft system which has catfish.  Next year each unit will have catfish and Tilapia.  We will also add some 500 gallon (2000 liter) tanks as well, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  I have a lot of electric lines I need to run before I can even think about a major expansion.  For now I’m just enjoying the power of poo; fish poo, that is.

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Raft System before planting

Raft System before planting

I do love aquaponics gardening.  I make way too many mistakes, but I continue to persevere.  Our raft system is running fairly well.  We have some fantastic basil.  I believe raft aquaponics and basil are the perfect match.  The plants grow tall and the leaves are twice the size of traditionally grown plants.  We have both sweet and purple basil.  Both are performing splendidly.  We have some butter crunch lettuce that is to die for.  The sage is looking good.  I just put some okra and a couple small tomatoes as an experiment.  We’ll see what happens.  I’ll try and get some snapshots of the root systems on these plants.  They are huge. I’ll get some photos this weekend to add.

On the downside, we’ve had some algae bloom that wreaked havoc on our catfish.  I’ve lost most of them.  Fortunately, there is enough ammonia in the system to keep feeding the beneficial bacteria and ultimately the plants.  In the meantime, I’ve treated the algae, added a bacterial supplement and covered the fish tank with shade cloth.  I didn’t have any of these issues when it was an indoor system, but there’s a whole new set of challenges having the unit in the greenhouse.  The plant growth, though, is way superior to indoors under lights.

Once I’ve fixed the ammonia and algae issues, I’ll add some goldfish and run my units off of those for a while.  Much better to learn on 15 cent goldfish than expensive or exotic species.

I have a flood and drain system ready to begin cycling as soon as the timer arrives.  I had some challenges with the auto siphons in the original design and decided to switch it to a timed fill and drain instead.  The flood and drain work great.  The timer should arrive just before Memorial Day, so I’ll cycle it for a few days then add some goldfish.  This unit will mostly grow zucchini and squash. I am told that by growing squash in an aquaponics system I can avoid squash bugs because they need soil to live on.  I can’t wait to get it started.

I have one more single barrel experiment to try before June.  I want to hook up a 55 gallon barrel, with the top third turned into a grow bed.  I will place it in the middle of my earthbox

First 2013 Tomatoes in Earthbox

First 2013 Tomatoes in Earthbox

garden and will run a hose off of the fill line so I can divert water to top up my self watering containers.  Yes, it will mean more frequent water changes in the aquaponics unit, but I believe the fish will benefit from that.  If it works, I will add a larger tank later in the summer.  This single barrel will grow oregano, thyme and dill.

In June, I will order my breeding colony of Tilapia.  They will be kept in an aquarium in the greenhouse.  I have three other aquariums to use for nursery and grow out.  By next spring, I fully expect to be using small swimming pools to grow out large numbers of Tilapia.

We will begin with Blue Tilapia as they are about the hardiest variety.  If all goes well, we will have to build another greenhouse next spring for the Giant Redclaw Crawfish.  I’ve been waiting two years already to get that project going.  I’m close enough to see it  now.  I have three obstacles between where I am and where I want to be; time, money and patience.  I’m a bit short on all three. Then again, who isn’t.

 

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