Aquaponic Gardening

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Can a system be cost beneficial for a family of 5?

Hi!  I am completely new to this site, but am loving everything I see so far.  I have a super tight budget (I need to make this cost beneficial ASAP) - but I can't find any plans online that would suggest that this would be a financially beneficial decision for our family.


1) I live in a town home with very little outside room - are there any systems that would work better for indoor use?  Does it produce a high enough moisture content to potentially grow mold?


2) Where would I find seeds to begin planting?


3) How many square feet of space will I need to effectively feed our family?


4) We live in CO, so outdoor use would probably not work as well for nearly half of the year - how do you all get around the variances in temperature?


5)  I know, super crazy question, but is there any place (or do you know of anybody) that may sell used systems?


I apologize if this post is all over,  but I'm so excited for the possibility of hopefully using this to feed our family.


Thank you for your help!

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Interesting!  I'll check it out!  Thanks!  I found your cost breakdown very helpful.  :-)

Meg Stout said:

I've put together plans for a module that takes up just 3' x 5' that doesn't cost much. A recent video is over at my blog - My early breakout of costs is in my post explaining why I call it 3x5 Aquaponics.


It's about $300 for the basic system (it cost me less than the amount I originally estimated) - add lights ($150) and fish, and you're good to go. I used gravel, $10 for 500 pounds. I got my seeds locally, and I've seen seeds available to sell again, like at Home Depot.


I haven't tried doing microgreens yet, but that may be a way to help produce food short term, while waiting for the rest of everything to mature. I'd love it if someone could post how one does microgreens with an aquaponics system - I'm coming up with ideas, but would prefer to stand on the shoulders of giants, experience-wise.

That is great to know - I'm looking forward to starting an aquaponics system sooner than later.  :-)


With your experience, would it be wise or foolish to put a system in my basement?  Have you ever had a system flood out?


Sylvia Bernstein said:

Hi Katee.  With regard to the humidity indoors, yes there will be humidity, but it won't be bad if you don't heat the water beyond the temp it naturally moves to with the ambient temperature of the room.  So select your fish accordingly.  I keep my tilapia at about 70 during the winter, so it isn't a problem.  One of our customers in Boulder put his system on an unheated sun porch and it became a rainforest. As soon as he put a space heater near the system the problem corrected itself.


If you are in the Boulder area let me know and you can come visit and see my backyard greenhouse.

Thank you so much - I've been trying to find hard data on grow times aquaponically, but it never occurred to me to check the source (ie seed catalogs).

TCLynx said:

Many seed catalogs will list days to bloom or days to harvest for different plants.  Of course this is usually under ideal conditions so it would take longer under less than ideal conditions.


I just read an article in Mother Earth News about how it is possible to grow $700 worth of food in 100 square feet of growing space in a season.  The bed they used was 5' by 20' and they compared to high quality organic foods in the markets to get the prices for their figures.

Regarding flooding, it depends on your design.


With an earlier design I did, it was possible for the water in the growbed to drain out when electricity failed.


With my current design, the water doesn't drain out when electricity fails (yeah, O-rings) - in fact, I might want to drill a small hole in the bottom of my drain pipe so it does always drain a bit, to empty out when power does fail or when the pump and light power switches off at night.


If you've got your fish tank under the grow beds and there isn't any plumbing through the part of the fish tank below water level, you should be good.


Having learned from my other experience (and vicarously from others), I now only add a gallon or so of water at a time, so I haven't run into the issue with forgetting the hose is on, or such.


Katee said:

That is great to know - I'm looking forward to starting an aquaponics system sooner than later.  :-)


With your experience, would it be wise or foolish to put a system in my basement?  Have you ever had a system flood out?

Hi Katee,

 It's great to see that you're getting started in aquaponics. TC is correct in her responses and if you are interested, I offer an introduction to aquaponics class in Denver, CO. The next one is this saturday Jan, 15th. The class will teach you the important things you need to know in order to confidently get started in home scale aquaponics. In addition to the lecture portions of the class, we teach in a greenhouse where we have four different styles of aquaponics systems so the students can observe and perform hands on activities. You can visit my website at for more information.


Hey Katee,


Have you had any recent progress with your system?  I'm living in Colorado as well and am facing similar challenges as far as budgeting goes.  Would love to hear about anything that you've done in the past months.  Also, I took the Intro workshop with JD and it was extremely helpful!  Still working on designing the system up here in Rollinsville, hoping to start building it by early March.

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