Aquaponic Gardening

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I am in the process of finishing a very small system, maybe four or five plants inside my townhouse, maybe in the kitchen corner.  I am thinking a small bush tomato, a scotch bonnet pepper, and a couple of herbs. Using a small kit, such as a modified ten gallon tote and a home made system, has anyone tried to do this inside a home, apartment, ect... and not in a dedicated greenhouse?

If so, did you have problems with humidity in the house in general, too much noise from the pumps, ect...

I want to do something very small scale before I purchase a house and begin doing it on a little larger scale, and I thought small herbs and vegetables and a small system would let me learn the basics before I take on a large project.  But, since I'm a renter, I have no real outside place to put a small greenhouse and it is too cold here in the winter to just put it in my shed.  Thoughts?

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Good idea to start small. You can make this pretty small with an aquarium and a gravel bed set-up on top. Rebecca Nelson has a nice guide called Desktop Aquaponics that would help you out here, but she's not selling in on here website right now so I'm not sure if it is still available - you might want to send her a message from this site. Also, Emma in this community is doing a small scale, indoor system so good idea to check in with her.

No problem with humidity - you won't see any more than with a regular aquarium - and the noise shouldn't be an issue either depending on how you set it up.

Let me know if you are able to get a hold of the Nelson and Pade desktop guide.

Sylvia
I have Rebecca Nelsons book. She has a couple pages on a desk top system in the back. Fruits and vegetables require the highest level of nutrients, so if your tomatoe doesn't work out, you could replace it with more herbs. It sounds like you have a reasonable system. I have though of building a system much like it in my apartment. Emma has her plans for her system in the photo gallery. It is called "Ze Plans"
Rebecca has a specific book on Desktop Aquaponics that has more detail in it than the back of her Aquaponic Food Production book, which is what I'm assuming you are talking about. Worth pursuing. Glad you found Ze Plans (too funny)
Have you considered towers? They'll give you a lot more production in a lot less space.
I expect the weakest link for a small system like that is light. How much really bright light do you have in the corner of your kitchen? And are you willing to pay the electric bill to run artificial lighting for it and do you really want that much bright light in your kitchen?

For smaller plants, florescent lighting can work cause you can keep the light close to them but if you grow a variety of plants of different sizes, you need a light that is bright enough to work from more distance and penetrate thought to reach all the plants.

I've found that the mylar emergency blankets (cheap to buy in the camping department of any department store, don't pay for costly hydroponic mylar sheets) make a fairly good reflective curtain to put around an indoor growing area to reflect light back to the plants and to help soften the light escaping from the area so the rest of the room is still livable.
for lights you might want to check out T5 fluorescents. Great plant lights, and not so much power.
I like the use of mylar blankets to reflect light. They are dirt cheap and aren't worth much else. If you are really cold, that thing would not keep you warm.

David

TCLynx said:
I expect the weakest link for a small system like that is light. How much really bright light do you have in the corner of your kitchen? And are you willing to pay the electric bill to run artificial lighting for it and do you really want that much bright light in your kitchen?

For smaller plants, florescent lighting can work cause you can keep the light close to them but if you grow a variety of plants of different sizes, you need a light that is bright enough to work from more distance and penetrate thought to reach all the plants.

I've found that the mylar emergency blankets (cheap to buy in the camping department of any department store, don't pay for costly hydroponic mylar sheets) make a fairly good reflective curtain to put around an indoor growing area to reflect light back to the plants and to help soften the light escaping from the area so the rest of the room is still livable.
Honestly, Nate, if I had heard of the towers, I probably would have gone that route.

Daniel, I'm in an apartment where my complex plugs their ears at the sound of "aquarium." I'm really lucky like that. I wish I had started when I was still living in my townhouse, because I had a whole room with nothing in it (I moved to the apartment to downsize, funny enough). Since you're renting, you might want to make sure it's not listed in your lease that you can't have fish. Heaven forbid it's in there and your tank cracks (I've known it to happen), or a hose starts to leak.

My 5 gallon fish tank was really easy to set up. Granted, there was a lot of learning that happened in my week-long experiment, but I had no problems germinating tons of seeds even since I've disconnected it. I blogged about it (and my learnings) here.

Now, I'm a fish enthusiast. I've had fish for a long time and am used to the sound of filters going all day and night. It sounds funny when they're turned off. That being said, I can walk out of the room and the filter noise doesn't follow me. I also have always aquascaped my fish tanks/bowls. Basically, I've always had live plants in with even my bettas to filter out the solids and keep the water oxygenated. It's always extended the life of my fish and cut down on the frequency I needed to clean out their tanks.

Lighting is indeed a huge issue (as well as cats eating my plants.. but that's another topic), but I just use a standard clip lamp with a sunlight spectrum compact fluorescent light bulb (6500 degrees K) in it, and haven't had any problems since. The overhead fluorescent lighting wasn't enough for anything but my low-light plants. If you have cats, make sure the plants you grow are not toxic for them, or that they can't get to it. I moved my seedlings to a plastic shelving unit I got at Lowe's for $13.

As for humidity, I live in Arizona, so my apartment is humid compared to the outside for most of the year, but not enough to make it uncomfortable or noticeable, really. I only noticed it for the first time this winter. When I lived in Ohio, there wasn't a difference at all.

Also, since you're looking at something on a smaller scale, I would suggest not cutting corners and stick to aquarium-safe materials. The smaller the ecosystem, the more susceptible to outside influences they are. If I had added goldfish to my mini-tank, I would have killed them due to the chemicals added to Miracle Gro's Perlite and the caulk I used. I touch base on those little particulars on my photo album on here "Experimental Mini-System." I've included some of these "findings" in with Ze Plans, so if you want to know why I picked something, feel free to ask. I ended up using hydroton instead of gravel and river rock, and picked up a few net pots to keep some of my plants from getting too big in the future, but otherwise Ze Plans are still in the works.

I should mention that I haven't read Rebecca's book, yet. I'm going off of my own findings and what I already know about fish and their ecosystems. My methods aren't going to be the best or the easiest, but I figured out a few things not to do ;) I'm only doing my large system with a 55 gallon because I lucked out and found someone on Craigslist that needed to find a home for her fishies. I was just looking for a used 30 gallon breeder tank to move my tetras to. I'm also less worried about waste than people who are growing their own fish to eat because mine are decorative fish and I have 5 bottom feeders. As these fish grow old and die off naturally, I plan to move towards more edible varieties, but that's going to be some time down the road. My best local resources have been the hydroponic store, pet stores, home & garden stores, and Craigslist.
I have a small system in my basement under FL and LED lights. I don't live far from you about 30 miles so if you would like to see it you are welcome to email me in private and I can give you my information. Mine is kind of a cross between a raft and media based system I use it mainly for a filter for the 55 gallon tank,so far it has been running for 6 months with no other filtration. It has 2 basil, 2 tyme, chives, 2 lemon grass, rosemary, and tulips. as far as humidity I dont know I run dehumidifier in the basement but I ran this before putting the system in the basement, hasnt really changed, still empty it twice a week, now I just add it back to the tank if there is room.

Earl
Just an FYI. I'm not sure about the safety of using the dehumidifier water in a food system. Since the coils and surfaces in a dehumidifier where the water condenses can't be cleaned/sterilized the water can pick up lots of bacteria and such and it is therefore not recommended to use. I think legonella (?sp?) might be one of the bigger worries from such condensate.

Only real use I've ever made of my dehumidifier water has been to flush toilets.
never really thought about it you are absolutly right, thats now stopped

TCLynx said:
Just an FYI. I'm not sure about the safety of using the dehumidifier water in a food system. Since the coils and surfaces in a dehumidifier where the water condenses can't be cleaned/sterilized the water can pick up lots of bacteria and such and it is therefore not recommended to use. I think legonella (?sp?) might be one of the bigger worries from such condensate.

Only real use I've ever made of my dehumidifier water has been to flush toilets.
I believe there are ways you could make it safe but I'm not sure it is worth the trouble. I've heard that you can use hydrogen peroxide to make the water safe but I've never been able to verify that to be sure.

When I was in my "wet" apartment, we made a stand for the dehumidifier over the back of the toilet and hooked up a hose to drain it into the toilet tank and we turned off the tap water to the toilet tank.

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