Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

Greetings all,

Being new to the whole aquaponic idea of farming food and fish has peaked my interest in getting started. I have been doing my homework but have so many questions.

From what I have read so far, keeping the water at the right PH seems to be a major issue. From other things I have read the system itself should sustain a proper balance ... so which is right?

Also, once I get my system built and running, I plan on using some basic cast net bait fish in my system before investing in tilapia or some other edible fish for my system. This I feel will insure that in fact my system is healthy and will support consumable fish. Do you think this is a good idea?

I am planning on starting with a small 250 gallon system strictly for our consumption (2 people) and wondered about fish to gallon ratios? Is there a chart or guide for this kind of information.

What is the recommended gallons per minute/hour flow rate for a system? Would a solar powered fountain pump with battery backup work for this kind of system? Must the water be circulating 24/7? Do you use any other kind of filtration besides the plants?

In some articles I have read people have used clay balls or soil for their planting medium, while others seem to be using a floating sort of mushy stuff that the roots of the plants stick out of the bottom. What can you tell me about that stuff?

I think that is enough to get us started.

Thanks in advance for any guidence or help in this new adventure,

Bob
Miami Florida

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You have a bunch of questions that are answered in the book Aquaponic Gardening: A Step by Step Guide to Growing Fish and Vegetables Together.  Just click on "Shop" at the top of this page or search for it on Amazon.com.  

The Rules of thumb page would help you with some of those questions.

And here is a link to one of my blog posts that might help

I might urge you to perhaps go closer to 300 gallons for the fish tank or if using only a 250 gallon fish tank, add a sump tank to the system to get more water and stability in temperatures.

Wild caught fish may bring with them more chance of parasites to the system but that can even happen when you buy fish so not that big a danger.  Some wild caught fish are actually picky eaters and might be hard to feed and they are not necessarily a good gauge of if the system will keep fish alive because if the wild caught fish are traumatized by getting caught and not having their normal feed they may not survive any better than some goldfish or tilapia.  I'm not saying it won't work but it is not necessarily the cheaper/easier way to go either.

It is not so much the fish to gallon ratio that you need to worry about but your fish to filtration ratio.  You need to make sure your system has enough filtration to support the amount of fish you stock and then you need enough plants to use the nutrients from the fish and you want enough fish to support the amount of plants.  It is all about finding a balance, the links provided should give you an idea of getting that balance with a media based system.

I do gravel beds or media (gravel) based aquaponics mostly.  I don't have much experience with raft based systems which are the ones where they put plants in the holes in the foam rafts floating on troughs of water with air stones under them.  Raft systems generally need additional filtration since the raft beds themselves don't provide solids filtration the way gravel beds do.

One thing I want to mention and then I'll go away. HYDROPONICS/AQUAPONICS IS SOILESS!!! There got that out of my system. Could you explain the soil medium thing or where you found it? In hydroponics we provide the nutrients rather than the soil. In aquaponics plants provide the nutrients. 

Eric my friend, you must have had a long day.  It is the fish effluence in the APsystem that provide nutrients to the plants.

There are many different medium used in AP growbeds, from hydroton, to lava rock, various gravels, and even sand (being tested by some members).

Actually Teresa, sand was one of the very fist mediums used in AP culture research dating way back in the 1980's. Research done at NCSU by Mark McMurtry Doug Sanders et al. used exclusively sand beds. This was before UVI even... Sand is being 'tested' in as much as hydroton, lava rock, or gravel is...Shredded plastic bottle caps as media, now there's a 'test' :) (that's been done too btw)...I'm interested in the 'grow stones' as a possible AP media that Averan has dug up, and am curious to see how that pans out after some long term use. 

Eric must have been hungry when he wrote that 

Oops, I meant fish provide the nutrients for the plants that clean the water. 

Do you mean the glass type? 

Vlad Jovanovic said:

Actually Teresa, sand was one of the very fist mediums used in AP culture research dating way back in the 1980's. Research done at NCSU by Mark McMurtry Doug Sanders et al. used exclusively sand beds. This was before UVI even... Sand is being 'tested' in as much as hydroton, lava rock, or gravel is...Shredded plastic bottle caps as media, now there's a 'test' (that's been done too btw)...I'm interested in the 'grow stones' as a possible AP media that Averan has dug up, and am curious to see how that pans out after some long term use. 

Eric must have been hungry when he wrote that 

WOW Thanks for all of the useful info and links. Now my head hurts :-) I took someones advice and deleted my similar post to keep the confusion to a minimum.

Thanks again and keep those comments coming.

Bob

GOSH! Now I am reading about worms in systems?

Is this for feeding the fish or for the growth of vegetables? What do I feed the tilapia if that is my fish of choice?

Once the system is up and running, others have written that the fish feed the plants and the plants feed the fish
with nothing else needed or added?

Does this sound right to you all who have experience with aquaponics?

Sorry for so many questions but it is confusing to a newbie.

Regards,

Bob

Here you go Bob..... http://aquaponicscommunity.com/forum/topics/worms-1?id=4778851%3ATo... 

Pay special attention to Converse when he chimes in on page 8 or 9. There are a gazzilion other threads on the topic. (Type 'worms' in the search field on the upper right hand corner of ever page on this site). Basically though, worms in the grow beds help mineralize and break up solids (fish poo, uneaten food etc... and make the essential elements that are locked up in those solids plant available, and help keep your beds from clogging avoiding anaerobic zones)...

I think you will be disappointed when reality steps in to 'do it's thing', as far as a self-perpetuating AP system (or ANY other such 'perpetual motion machine' fantasy that man has ever dreamt up. You will need inputs from without the system, whether that comes in the form of mass produced commercial fish feed, or energy that is expended elsewhere to produce a food source for your fish (home made feeds, a nutritionally complete feed, and not a 'snack' item like worms) is another question.

The other answer is... if you are really crafty and are not taking out any of the plants to consume yourself, and have a whole host of other organisms/animals working in the system, AND ALOT OF SPACE...you could with such a system get closer to that ideal...(but still no cigar) ...But that then would not be AP. More like bio-dynamic sustainable organic farming where AP is but one technique of the much larger and integrated whole. 

The worms are for breaking down solid fish waste. I don't think it would be for feeding fish though.

I'd say that you should not feed the plants to the fish, unless it's scraps. This is  because of the laws of physics won't  allow a system to keep mass ordered enough. Sorry no perpetual motion machine today.

Don't worry it took me several months sort of understand this. It can get confusing with older members blabbering away.
(well looks like Vlad beat me to it)
Bob Vento said:

GOSH! Now I am reading about worms in systems?

Is this for feeding the fish or for the growth of vegetables? What do I feed the tilapia if that is my fish of choice?

Once the system is up and running, others have written that the fish feed the plants and the plants feed the fish
with nothing else needed or added?

Does this sound right to you all who have experience with aquaponics?

Sorry for so many questions but it is confusing to a newbie.

Regards,

Bob

OK ... so the worms are for the breakdown of fish waste that is being circulated in the water to the plants? Does that mean I need to introduce worms into my growing area medium or do these occur naturally?  Are these earthworms or another kind of worm? I am planning on using the clay balls as a medium for plant growth.

Thanks again,

Bob

Eric Warwick said:

The worms are for breaking down solid fish waste. I don't think it would be for feeding fish though.

I'd say that you should not feed the plants to the fish, unless it's scraps. This is  because of the laws of physics won't  allow a system to keep mass ordered enough. Sorry no perpetual motion machine today.

Don't worry it took me several months sort of understand this. It can get confusing with older members blabbering away.
(well looks like Vlad beat me to it)
Bob Vento said:

GOSH! Now I am reading about worms in systems?

Is this for feeding the fish or for the growth of vegetables? What do I feed the tilapia if that is my fish of choice?

Once the system is up and running, others have written that the fish feed the plants and the plants feed the fish
with nothing else needed or added?

Does this sound right to you all who have experience with aquaponics?

Sorry for so many questions but it is confusing to a newbie.

Regards,

Bob

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