Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

So, I was doing a lot of research yesterday on feeding my fish. I somehow got it in my head that they could live off duckweed, but after finding out that's not enough I found some very interesting things. 

First, and I mean no offense here, but many AP'ers are using commercial feed while claiming to be organic, or thinking they are eating healthy. That stuff ends up in your plants, thus tainting them. You can't get around the evils of GMO's and pesticides.  I was actually kind of dumbstruck by the fact that a community that is so focused on sustainability and healthy/organic would overlook something so basic. 

So, diving into this more, I found a lot of people growing their food, and how difficult it is. I was getting depressed as I thought my project was doomed. Could I grow food for my fish? After even more research this morning, I came to this conclusion. 

Everybody is overthinking this thing. All you need to do is do what you do in AP, mimic nature. What do (in my case) Tilapia eat in the wild? They don't eat corn, or soy. They do eat other small fish, insects, algae, vegetation and so on. 

So that's what I'll feed them. I've already got duckweed growing. I'll breed guppies, and I'll have a special bed to grow the "various vegetation" to make sure they have what they need. 

My system will be augmented with vermiculture, so I don't think my system is missing anything. So, while I think some are overthinking it, am I underthinking it? Am I missing anything? 


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I should add also that, my plan is very fluid right now. Now that I have the basic layout, I need to make sure that I have enough inputs into the system. Right now, I have worms, duckweed (I may make by extra duckweed tank an azolla tank instead), guppies, and greens. I need to figure out a way to get bugs and/or larvae into the system. 

I've eliminated a sep. system for my main duckweed, making it part of the AP system, reducing the need to feed more fish. 

An organic fish food is the one thing we don't have in AP. I hope you are able to produce enough natural food for your fish.

I think most of the AP folks would like to produce their own fish food but you can end up working more on growing food for the fish than food for yourself!

I think your efforts are great and I hope you are successful. Please share your results with the forum so we can learn from you. I think an organic fish food co-op would be great way to produce the organic, non-GMO ingredients needed.

There are also these pods for growing black soldier fly larvae. Check them out if you haven't done so already.


Keep us posted



Todd - I definitely will be sharing my journey, both the good and the bad. I love the idea of a fish food co-op. I know I'm biting off a lot, but I just can't bring myself to feed my fish this gmo'd soy and corn (which fish don't even eat in the "wild"). 

The problem w/flies is that I'll have to do it indoors due to the coldness during the winter. If I can get enough during the warmer months (only about 3) to carry me thru the winter, then I'll do it. 

I've made several trips to Idaho Falls, I understand your weather issue!

I'm going to send you a private message on another idea

Todd, cool I'll await your message.

Just accept the friend request  and I can send it to you

Ya start small and do what you can.  Learn lots from your first small start up system (make sure the parts of your start up system are either big enough to act as a component of your larger scheme -like as a quarantine system or fry system- or that the parts can be re-used as elements in the larger system.)  Get a bit of hands on experience while you leave your options fluid and learn how much lighting you will need to make a given system stable with regards to plant growth and nutrient availability.

Don't let the changing design ideas stop you from getting started with something small though.  You want to learn about cycling up a system and have some cycled up media to use for seeding future systems and so on.  Now matter how long you spend designing and re-designing on paper, you will still wind up making changes once you get started actually building things and you will probably also want to make more changes once it's built.

To provide perfectly natural feed 100% to your fish, you would probably need to have a natural pond to grow them in.  To do it in small tanks indoors, you will only be approximating nature as best you can and growth may be hampered by lacking diet that you might not know how to recognize or fix.

I gotta agree with Carey. AP is not inherently sustainable. Dirt farming is. It takes a lot of capital, effort, and maintenance to even get a small crop going in AP that competes with an easy peasy organic garden. And the risks of failure in AP are high, with clogging and pump failure, chemical spikes, power outages, overflows, faulty circuits. I've got more plastic in my greenhouse than the toy aisle at Walmart. We APer's aren't solving any energy or pollution crisis, we are donating to it.

AP, however, is a sustainable way to raise fish, easing the burden on wild fisheries and hopefully someday reducing the use of poorly managed conventional fish farming. So I focus on the fish. And you've got it right for sure about feeding the fish what they would naturally eat. Use local fish preferably, and feed them local food, preferably. Duckweed is great, but needs some surface area. BSFL is supreme, and composting worms. Tilapia and carp will eat grass, so just weed-whack or mow, and feed. I feed mine rabbit food, which is just compressed grasses, Timothy and alfalfa and whatnot. Yes it's commercially prepared, but is not GMO, and is generally more locally sourced.
BTW, if you're growing indoors or in a greenhouse, BSFL will likely produce year around. Mine produce all year even outdoors. I read somewhere that you need 12' of indoor vertical space for BSF to mate, and of course a bypass for some larva to hatch without all being fed to the fish. And if you growing outdoor, then likely the fish will stop eating at the same time the BSFL diminish, so no worries. And you can definitely stockpile frozen BSFL in the summer months to feed in the winter. My homemade bin will eat everything I can feed it, as long as you keep feeding it regularly.

@TCLynx - That is the plan! 

@Jon I appreciate the clarification on Carey's point, but I'm going to have to disagree with your first part. Dirt farming will eventually ruin the soil, then what do you do? It also wastes a ton of water, and requires work to weed and you are vulnerable to weather. I agree AP has it's drawbacks, but you can make AP more sustainable by taking advantage of solar/wind and other technologies that will lessen the problems (like power failures) with AP. Just like dirt, if you maintain your AP system properly, you can minimize or prevent big problems from happening. I'm not trying to be argumentative, just sharing the lens that I see thru. 

Like I say, it's not going to be perfect (nothing is, and with our population it never will be). The only thing we can do IMO is make sure we lessen our impact, and be as sustainable as we can be. Carey apparently has the space to do a kick ass job, but I don't. I'm trying to squeeze 100 ft of grow space, a 500 gal tank, duckweed, guppies and some dirt bins to grow potatoes, onions and garlic into a 187 sqft old garage. 

It's all about the execution. 

That's a good idea on the grass clippings. My yard is a decent size (wish I could use it) - didn't think of that as feed. 

Jon, just saw your other post: I've only got about 10ft vertical, but that's good news about getting enough in the summer to stockpile for the winter. I may be able to do that after all!



You have a lot wind where you live. I would try and work on a wind solution.


Jon, sorry to hear you have so much plastic in your system. I am trying everything I can to get the plastic out of my system. The tanks are easy, fiberglass. I'm looking at using stainless steel for some of the pipe work. It costs more but if the goal is to have food as pure and organic as we can it's worth it

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