Aquaponic Gardening

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Building a system in our empty pool, some advice on system much appreciated!

Hello everyone!  I'm so glad I found this community, a lot of knowledgeable people here with great attitudes.  I hope this is the right forum to post in.

So, my first project is a little bit ambitious.  My mom found the Garden Pool site about a year ago and we finally convinced dad to let us try building a greenhouse in our pool that has been empty for 15 years.

Here's a picture of the frame we have so far, nearly finished:
Those gussets on the side are built around the lip of the pool to hold it in place during severe wind.  We live in Palm Springs near the mountain so along with the high heat we get crazy winds too.  And then there's the platform in the bottom so we can walk over the fish pond and have access to some trellises in the corners and hanging mushroom chandeliers.

So my main question is on what we should do for some of our grow beds.  In the shallow end on the floor we're going to have a bunch of rubbermaid containers (no plastic 3 or 7!) on blocks with flood and drain siphons.

To make use of the vertical space, we were originally planning on having rain gutters run along the rafters all the way down into the deep end.  Out here, the biggest we can get is about 5" ones.  I'm just worried that we won't be able to grow much besides lettuce in these, and we would have way too much, haha.  Then I saw some of those PVC channels that are anywhere from 6-10" and that would give us some leeway... but then I would have to do an NFT system in those right?  We were originally thinking about just capping the PVC/gutters and then having a hole in the endcap so the water would overflow at a certain point... but if the pump was on a timer wouldn't water just sitting there be bad?  Or should we run continuous flow and just make sure to use bigger siphons in the rubbermaids?

There are just so many variables, I've researched a ton but I am getting a bit lost.  If you have any other ideas for what we could do I would love to hear them.  Any advice is appreciated!

Thank you so much fellow aquapons,

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I'd say just start off with your media beds and get it cycling.  then you can think about adding other stuff later.  NFT pipes require filtered water so you might think about adding some Zipgrow towers instead so you just T off from the pump and let the water trickle through those kind of towers without needing to worry about sending clean filtered water to them since they ARE filters.

Hi Hayden

Good luck with your project!  These people in the Phoenix area have had to address most of the issues you will meet in terms of climate challenges.  They are happy to help others as well.

All the best,



OMG! STOP what you are doing!

Please don't take this in a negative light. I am in no way slamming your idea. I simply see wasted potential, which goes against my personal grain.

Qualifying question: Does you pool leak? If it does, discard my previous statement about stopping.

If it doesn't, I think you are making a big mistake by discarding the maximum potential of your garden. Too me it is like walking on ones toes instead of using ones whole foot to walk.

I would suggest that you build a smaller system on the ground and get the experience before expanding into it's maximum potential. The thing is, the more water you can hoard, the more potential you have for yourself and your garden.

But before I go on, I'd like to understand your motivation. Is there some particular reason you choose to convert your abandoned pool or did you see it somewhere and said to yourself, "that's kool/ neat, I think I'll do that too"?

There are good reasons to build greenhouses subsurface but usually only in extreme weather environments. There is never too much light, just too much heat. Solid sidewalls block light so you are not necessarily doing yourself any favors by building a system subsurface. 

After you get the experience with a smaller system, I would advocate using the whole pool to raise fish and build the greenhouse on top or along side of your pool depending on area available.


PS I agree with TC. A zip tower system is the easiest system I have come across. Perfect for first timers.

Thank you all for your replies!

TCLynx: Yeah that is exactly the plan.  We are trying to do things in steps but we want the water in asap so we're putting the tarp on tomorrow and then getting the beds started.  I hadn't heard of Zipgrow towers but they look perfect, thank you so much for the recommendation!

Jim Troyer: Thanks!  Yeah, my mom found the gardenpool site over a year ago and even before that I was researching into suburban gardening/aquaponics/permaculture/etc after reading about years before that. 6,000 lbs annual harvest on 1/10th of an acre!

I actually had a tour over at the garden pool and met Dennis and Danielle.  Very cool people.  He told me to ask him any questions when I started building so I should give them an email now that we're almost out of construction and into actual gardening.

Carey Ma: Yes!  My personal grain goes with yours.  The problem is that just having this thing built took quite an amount of convincing for my dad to agree to it (pool has been empty for 15 years after stripping the plaster and not being-able/wanting to pay $10k-ish to fix for something we didn't use much).  Plus, our back yard was landscaped pretty nicely a few years ago, so that was a significant investment and there is honestly no room to grow a semi-significant amount of anything else anywhere else that he would agree to. So for me, this is a great option to get this type of gardening experience first-hand.  For the record, I have devious plans to rule the world with goodness and plenty; it wasn't just "kool". ;P  My next step is to convince him to let us use our roof. =)

But yeah, these zip towers seem perfect for what we have.  Thanks again aquapons,

Oh well we're just filling the deep end.  I was just estimating, but we're going to measure how many gallons/min we get with the hose and then after filling/timing it we'll see what the official count ends up being.

Here's a handy pool size calculator you can use ahead of time so that you know roughly what to expect...should you want to...

I sure hope you have a good way to vent/extract all that excess heat you expect to get...the more windows you can open the better.

Well you got perfect place for the aquaponics system here. Comparatively your pool is a bit bigger than the usual so will get more beneficial to you in controlling the ph.

sorry, but having more water water won't make it easier to "control" the ph..

the ph is controlled by the nitrification process, media, type of feed, temps, and bioload..even algae will affect ph

a large volume of water will have a "more stable" temperature though..

I'd build a strong floor above the deep end step down 1 step into the dry shallow end.  Shallow end is filled with grow beds that drain back into the deep end.

More grow beds on the deck above the deep end.

Paint the pool, access door from the deck to the deep end etc.


Thanks Jim!  Yes, the platform allows us to lay down a few deep end beds, and we're gonna have a bunch in the shallow end as well.  I don't think there's room for the plants to grow on the deck above the deep end with the angles on these rafters, though.

And Vlad, thanks for that calculator but it is hurting my head. =) Plus our pool has a very irregular shape and curvature.  Definitely going to have two vents that can open/close on each end of the pool, hopefully that should be enough.

Thank you all for your help!

Can't wait to see more progress pics

So now that you are years down the road, How have things progressed?


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