Aquaponic Gardening

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Aquaponic Product Knowledge Guides Issue 1 Tilapia, Filtration and worms

Aquaponic Product Knowledge is a continuing education series of guides that will help us on our journey towards a sustainable garden and farm. We all live on this beautiful and wondrous place we call earth. Our goal is to improve our lives through sustainable cultivation, understanding and education. We will explore how we can be good stewards of our planet while keeping our minds, bodies, animals and plants healthy.


Remember for your healthy mind and body, you are what you eat!


 We will present most of our guides in easy to understand language, some issues will be geared towards the person just starting and some will be advanced that go into detail. We will learn as more information and technology becomes available and we will share it with you. We will listen to you, tell us what you want to know, we will do our best to cover topics and present them in future issues.


Tilapia, filtration and worms


In this edition we will cover Tilapia, filtration and worms. Tilapia have a number of character­istics that make them attractive for tank culture. Their heavy large scales and coating protects them from abrasion and bacterial infections that would adversely affect many other fish. Tilapia will grow well at high stocking levels in tanks when good water quality is maintained. Due to their very efficient digestive system, the solid fecal waste (the highly technical term for this is “Poopy”) doesn’t cloud the water as much as other species. They can be grown on diets that are high in vegetables, which are more renewable and sustainable than from rapidly disappearing ocean caught fish meal. Anyone having fish for relaxation, their beauty and for the organic nutrients they will provide for their plants will be rewarded at harvest time. Herbs and veggies grown on an aquaponic system are unmatched in flavor and health! If you are going to harvest your fish to eat, you will be amazed with the flavor of the fish you grew using organic fish feed. Many Tilapia are grown in algae water, Tilapia absorb the flavor of the water they are grown in, unfortunately algae has a very muddy flavor. If you keep your system clean your fish will taste clean. Tilapia absorbs spices extremely well; the flavors you add will penetrate completely through and into the fish dish, not just on the top of the meat! We will talk more about this in future issues!


Use a high quality organic fish food that includes essential vitamins such as vitamin C (Ascorbic acid), if Tilapia are lacking in vitamin C their spines can break, called broken back syndrome, this is just one of the issues that can occur with a poor diet.

 In regards to the digestibility of the food, we want the fish to be able to utilize as much of the food as possible, if your feed uses poor quality ingredients that will not be completely digested, the result in an aquaponic system is excess excreted waste solids. Other sources of waste are uneaten food and algae. Most of the solid waste should be removed before it enters the plant growing part of the system. If this waste accumulates in the system, it will depress available oxygen levels as it decays and produce carbon dioxide and ammonia. If deep deposits of sludge form, they will decompose anaerobically (without oxygen) and produce methane and hydrogen sulfide, which are very toxic to fish and smells very bad. This is avoidable by removing the sludge and waste and keeping your system clean. There are three categories of waste solids (poopy)—settleable or sinking, suspended, and dissolved. In future issues we will cover different types of systems in detail. The plant part of an aquaponic system can be different types: floating, also called raft and deep water culture system and NFT (nutrient film technique) where the fish water flows through pipes or small troughs and aeroponic using grow towers with no soil. In these types of systems, the fish water needs to be filtered and clarified or the solids will get stuck in the roots and cause problems. To remove the waste, use a filter or filter system.  We will teach you how to make your own filters and go into much more detail about filtration in future issues!


 Another type of system is an ebb and flow, also called a flood and drain gravel or mixed media aquaponic system. Adding earth worms to these media based systems can be very beneficial. I will add a few words of caution about adding worms; keep your worms free of harmful bacteria. If you buy worms, make sure the grower is not using manure that has dangerous bacteria. Don’t use worms that could have come into contact with harmful bacteria. Fish waste solids do not contain harmful bacteria; bacteria, that is, dangerous to humans. Worms are great at breaking down fish waste solids in your system and releasing nutrients that your plants need to be healthy. If you are incorporating worm beds into your system, the worms will do better when feeding the fish high quality organic feed, your worms will thrive on it and release more dissolved nutrients into your system. Guess what? You’ll have safe organic worms to share with your fellow aquaponic growers!


Remember for your healthy mind and body, you are what you eat!






Patrick McKee

Grow Green Aquaponics @ Facebook


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Is this spam?

In your profile it says you rebuilt/coverted the system from NFT to raft, nothing about designing it. Where are you an instructor at? You seem a little sensitive too? So, if you went to UVI in 2007 you were an expert 2 years before that?

Just checking...

Good write.

I'm not trying to be critical but it seems like you are writing a book or starting a business instead of beginning a discussion on a specific subject related to aquaponics.

Thank you for sharing Patrick!

I think a cornerstone of aquaponics is sharing your knowledge, experience and skills.  I believe aquaponics is unique because it is so new and others are so willing to share and help others get started then to do better once they have started. I know I learn something new every time I read an article, watch a video, speak with a fellow aquapon or work with my system.

Best Regards,


Awesome job Patrick. So glad to hear someone is focused on others needs, not selling courses or writing a book, etc.

Thank you for taking the time to explain your history and focus.



You are certainly qualified Patrick. Thanks for sharing and good luck on your mission!

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