Aquaponic Gardening

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Hi folks, here are some photos of the progress of our greenhouse build. We went with 8x15 because anything over 120sq' requires a permit within Sacramento city limits, and we wanted to keep our first foray into aquaponics relatively small.

So far We have the 4x4 "foundation" square and level, roughly 50% of the excess dirt from within the foundation has been removed, and when not digging I've been working on stands/cradles for the growing beds.

Once all the earth moving is complete, we'll tamp it down, lay down some weed barrier. and pack the inside of the foundation box with gravel.

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As some of you know I had to relocate my system. It is currently in my very small back yard for the time being. I get very little sun back there thanks to the surrounding apartment buildings and trees, otherwise I'd get it up and running where it sits. 60% of the grow-beds are in total shade, the other 40% only get about 3 hours of partial sun on a good day. I am debating putting shade loving ornamental plants in the beds just so I can get some fish going, but seems like a wasted effort if I can't produce veggies as well. I'll get a wide angle photo of the back yard later this week to give you an idea of the space I'm working with.

Any suggestions for plants which grow well in damn near total shade?


Another thought i had was to put cattail, bulrush or other wetland/marsh type plants which have high nitrogen absorption capability in the grow-beds running constant flood, so I could max out the stocking density in my tanks in an effort to offset the lack of edible veggies.

There are many water plants that can use up lots of ammonia even.  A constant flood bed of water without even gravel can grow duckweed and other floating water plants to use up much nitrogen and I know duckweed likes quite a bit of shade.  There are other pond and bog plants that will work well for you too I'm sure.  I've heard of people growing lots of water iris to filter water.

Most plants that grow in total shade are not going to suck up a huge amount of nutrients through.  Aloe grows well in shade through and is useful.

Watercress is edible and nutrient greedy while not needing full sun.

Mint might work for you but beware it could also take over the grow bed and become a problem.

If you were to grow some vines, could you train them out to where they can get sun, at least in the summer time?  Lufa can grow huge and will suck up huge amounts of nitrates, but it needs a long hot season and a really big sturdy trellis once it reaches sun (one of mine consumed a 30 foot oak tree last summer)

I was planning on growing duckweed on the surface of my crawdad tank (22"x14'7"), but I guess I could go all in and become a duckweed farmer, Ha! , Water Iris would be interesting. A thought I had on that same line was growing Giant Helleborine orchids, they like wet shady places.

I really am blocked out fom the sun not much I can do about it....


Hi Fishy

Nice system in the works there!  I have been following another large project that is fairly mature.  He has set up his system between two buildings and does not get much light but his results are very good.  He has a dark tunnel setup just for duckweed too.  So don't get too disheartened.  Here is a link: He builds his 3rd system about page 25.

Keep the faith!


Made the first tangible progress in some time today. Got the pond liner installed in the crawdad tank/sump, and filled it up with water. About a 1" difference in height across the length of the 14' crawdad tank/sump. Good enough for me. I'll post photos when I get the patio straightened up a bit.

In lieu of attending Jon Parr's Santa Cruz AP tour this past weekend (hopefully I can make this weekend's), I literally turned my phone off, and got to work on my system. More major milestone progress than I've achieved in a single weekend since I've started. Drilled all of my grow beds and fitted them with uniseals and standpipes, completed the grow beds over my crawdad tank/sump (gravel guards, Affnan type bell siphons, & filled with Hydroton), completed my feed plumbing to the grow beds from the water tower (photos will explain later), completed plumbing from pump to water-tower. Ran out of daylight on Sunday..

After work today I turned on my pump for the first time, opened the valves to the grow beds, cracked a beer, and watched my bell siphons do their thing for half an hour. It only took minor adjustment to the flow at each grow bed (made possible by ball valves at each bed) to attain an equilibrium of water being pumped from the sump to water siphoning through beds.

Much more to be done, but an extraordinarily satisfying amount of progress made in the last few days.

Hopefully I'll be able to post some pictures tomorrow.

Just did the math and in footprint totaling 55 sq' I have, over 300 gallons of fish tank, 240 gallons of sump/duckweed/crawdad tank, and 250 gallons of grow bed. Not too shabby if I do say so myself. now I just have to "finish" it!

And yes, I'm planning on running a lower than maximum stocking density to compensate for the tanks being larger than my grow bed area.

Finally some photos of the progress so far! Sorry for the low quality. I had to take these with my iPhone, I couldn't find my point and shoot.

This first picture shows my water tower at the far left, and the sump/crawdad tank/grow bed. The main water line to all of the grow beds is the 2" pvc line running diagonal across the image on the uppermost part of the stand. Directly under the HDPE beds you can make out the common drain plumbing tucked back underneath the beds (detail photo further below).

Also clearly visible directly to the right of my water tower is the behemoth tree trunk belonging to the thieving punk who blocks most of the sun which may have been available to my little patio. He was here first though......

Just continuing the pan around the rest of the yard.

Sorry about the mess. active jobsite.

The photo below was taken @3:30 pm today, Aug 25th. I think it paints a clear picture of the amount of sun I'm getting. Later in the afternoon this area does get full sun, after the sun gets low enough to shine under the side of the large tree mentioned earlier.

And there you have it.

Detail photo of the water tower below. Small line on the right (3/4") is the feed coming directly from the pump. Larger line drawing from the bottom of the barrel (2")  is the main trunk of the water feed to the grow beds. I have a tee and a threaded plug in the fitting so that I will be able to add additional growing area off to the left of the image if i choose to expand the system later. All major components are joined by rubber couplers so that they can be disassembled and moved as complete units (sans media and H2O), with all plumbing intact in the future. The pump I have flows more than needed (aprox 650gph @ the current 7' of head) when completed the tower will have a float switch to turn the pump on and off as the barrel fills and drains.

Shot of an individual grow bed. 2" PVC feed line at top, HDPE 1/2 barrel grow bed, 1/2" bell siphon plumbing @ bottom center of barrel, which feeds into a community drain. The main drain pipe will eventually lead off to the right and merge with the drains coming from the other grow beds, then overflow back into the fish tanks. The tee and downspout dumping back into the sump are temporary.

Two detail shots of the connection to the main drain. I cut the tail end of the siphon plumbing at an angle so I can see when it is operating at full siphon. I have tested the drain with all 5 beds feeding into it flowing full siphon simultaneously, and the 2" drain had no trouble keeping up.



I'm impressed that the 2" pipe with holes in it can keep up with that many siphons at once.  You must have been very careful to make sure you kept the perfect amount of fall on that drain line!  The "air gap" so you can see when the siphon is running probably helps to also provide "venting" on the drain line to keep it from backing up.

Wow very impressive setup

Looks great fishy!

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