Aquaponic Gardening

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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? 

Thoughts?

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Yes we do Todd, in fact we had about 40mph yesterday, today is mild so far, I'd say 15 or so. I heard they have wind turbines for about $2000. Not in my budget right now, but I would love to do that and solar and be totally off grid.If I only had a well for my water.

I'm an AP farmer too, fellas, and didn't mean to come off as negative Nancy. And I didnt imply that AP cannot be sustainable, but it isn't easy to make a functioning, productive AP garden off grid. I've gone to great lengths of researching to eliminate plastics, like bamboo rafts, sealed wood or concrete tanks, and so on. But my point is that most systems are made of ibc's, blue barrels, pond liners, and PVC. Plastic has it's use, certainly for cost and convenience and longevity, and I'm ok with that. It is certainly nice to look at my dirt garden with nothing but veggies and soil, no pumps or windmills or solar panels or plastic, no bottled nutes or supplements, or acid

When I first started AP, I was so sold on the concept that I figured I'd never plant in dirt again. I still love the concepts, and will always have AP gardens, but dirt farming won't be replaced anytime soon. I read that AP uses 90% less water. BS. I am fortunate enough to live in Cali, and we grow garden produce every day of the year outdoors. For about 9 months per year, absolutely no water is used. And if you practice dry farming techniques, meaning plants started deep and not too close together, then very little water is used during the other three months. In contrast, my AP sucks about 50 gallons per day every day of the year. Perhaps if I were growing rice in the arid sands of Australia, then AP would use 90% less. And dirt farming doesn't destroy the soil! That's ridiculous. Every year we ammend our garden with organic yard compost and manure from our animals, and it gets better every year. I really want my AP produce to outperform my dirt garden. I really do. And I've made a lot of excuses for why my wife's dirt produce was better tasting than my AP produce, especially tomatoes. I now have to admit that dirt just tastes better. Results may vary, I'm sure.

And as far as weather goes, dirt farming should not be confused with outdoor farming. Both AP and dirt can be done indoor or outdoor.

Just my opinion, and that opinion has evolved substantially over the last year. I have an 8' x 20' GH with 800' gallons of FT built into an insulated floor, both heat and electricity are off-grid powered by a wood gasifier using local tree service wood chips. Outdoor, I have 4) 1000 gallon tanks in progress that will be cycled thru a swirl filter (solids end up in a biodigester and nutrients return back to the FT) then a biofilter, and garden will be watered from these tanks, so not entirely AP there. The feed for everything is raised on-site, although to be fair, my wife brings home about 50 gallons of kitchen scraps per week from a local diner. The kitchen scraps get fed to the chickens first, and whatever is left over the following day (including the chicken shit) goes to BSFL, which directly feed bluegill, crappie, green sunfish and Sac perch. Grass clippings and brush are fed to rabbits, and the rabbit berries are rinsed and vac dried with solar heat to destroy pathogens and enable long term storage. Rabbit berries are to be fed to tilapia, so long as I'm convinced the drying process does indeed kill the germs. Not sure yet how to tell, but I'm assuming a local lab can run a test for e coli and salmonella.

Hey Jon, didn't take your post in a negative way, and nobody said this was easy (especially for us newbies). I don't want to get into a debate on which is better, I think both have their place and value and can actually work quite well together. You bring up some very good points about dirt. 

I lived in So cal for longer than I care to admit, and it was pretty dry there. I'm curious about your dry farming (never heard of that before). 

My plan is to use all wood and cinderblocks (for the tank). I do plan on using plastic liner tho (can't see a way around that). I'm also using plastic for my worm bins and temp duckweed "ponds". I was thinking of using plastic bins for "container gardening" but I read last night that most food grade plastic contains BPA, so now I'm rethinking that. 

We've come so far down the road of unsustainability as a society that moving away from it is almost impossible cold turkey. Plastic is nearly unavoidable, but we can lessen it. 

Dry farming, at least the method we use, is to grow tall lanky starters in the greenhouse. Dig a deep hole with a post digger, as in 4-5'. Backfill with compost, and plant seedlings all the way to the top leaves. The fresh hole accumulates moisture, and the roots will easily grow clear to the bottom, and any stalk covered with soil will also grow roots. This let's the plant build a deep enough root structure to rarely need any water. Makes killer tasting tomatoes. Works for peppers too.

At first glance, that looks fun, interesting and AP useful. But  do I really wanna eat it? We'll see.

Jon Parr said:

Jon, that is pretty cool. I wonder how easy that stuff is to get - and the price. Thanks for sharing that. 

Now, the dry gardening is pretty sweet as well. I may have to try that next year and see how it goes. I'm a big tomato and pepper (especially the hot ones) fan! 

Hi Phil, I agree with TC, just get it started and make improvements as you can. In time you will understand where I'm coming from. PS If fish aren't what you are after, you may consider pee-ponics and save a lot of hassle. 

@ Jon P: Thanks for your input...That Magnesium Oxide Cement thing looks pretty amazing. I can't wait to get my hands on some and give it a whack. I see all sorts of applications.

Hope y'all have a great weekend...cheers

Hey Carey - It's not that I'm not after fish, it's just that I can only raise so much. From a product POV, I'm going to get a whole lot more veggies than fish. I don't eat fish because of where it comes from (just like I don't eat chickens or pigs or cows in the grocery store, I get those local from grass fed/organic farmers). 

But you and TC are right, the real learning is once you dive in, straight into the deep end. 

You have a good weekend too!

Algae, plankton, and ditritus are all food to Tilapia.

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