Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

1st post.  Hello.    Been doing small basement aquaponics here in Indianapolis for just over a year. Started tiny and have grown into three 2'x3' grow beds (mason tubs) and just expanded from 30 gallon aquarium w/ 2 gold fish to 125g aquarium.

I use a light mover in a feeble attempt to save on electricity.  I am sure this system uses far more energy than I'd ever admit but it is very fun. Those 2 goldfish pump out serious amounts of waste and my nitrates have never been low.

I have 15 blue tilapia on order from Sylvia and can't wait till they arrive on Thursday.  I am slightly concerned about the bed/tank ratio but have fish filters I can run if the beds aren't keeping up.  I can also move the goldfish back to their 30 gallon home if I find ammonia levels spiking after adding the tilapia.  

I hope to be able to breed the tiliapia perhaps in a separate tank. 

The beds use bell siphons and drain into a sump.  Pump is constant on and I am still messing w/ the homemade overflow box that lifts from the bottom of the tank.  (see kitty litter pail.) 

In this photo, the pipe along the wall is not in use.  That was my original setup that was replaced by pipe running in front of the beds. 

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Wow very nice! Like the chair too!

Hmm, that's an interesting way to meter your water to the growbeds.

Neat setup! Wish I could look in through the sides on my fish tank...

Very cool setup!  I've been running my basement setup for about two years and still putting up with my fluorescent tubes.  It's a lettuce machine. Can't grow tomatoes like yours!  

Thanks!   The tomatoes are a dream not yet realized.  I feel they are the holy grail of basement gardening.    I started w/ lettuce, kale, basil, etc and all that was easy.   Some things I thought would be easy didn't do well, like peas, beans, and radishes. 

I recently added these 2 x  250w lights ( one hps, one mh), found a short variety of slicer tomato, and am hoping for the best.   Planted these right after Christmas and they are just starting to set fruit. The flowers aren't falling off so I am feeling good.  I'll post back if I get to harvest. 

Paul Letby said:

Very cool setup!  I've been running my basement setup for about two years and still putting up with my fluorescent tubes.  It's a lettuce machine. Can't grow tomatoes like yours!  

Hi John, I like your set up. Your chair is perfect for watching it all happen. Reminds me of how we love to sit and watch all the activity around our beehives in the Summer. When we were building our AP system we couldn't wait to start up and listen to everything functioning. Kind of a symphony going on all around us. That's the sound I want to hear when I walk into the GH in the morning to feed the fish or I immediately know something is wrong. Nice and continued luck.

Wanted to post a shot of an expansion in progress.   This hobby system has grown from a 10gallon fish tank and a little tupperware grow bed to 200gallons of water and  30 sq. feet of gb surface.    I need to clean up the planting and tie up the wiring but you get the idea.   Great fun in a room that used to be filled with junk and an old oil tank.  

I had upgraded to 1000w HPS and that was far more light than I needed for the 2'x6' grow beds.   I pulled the setup away from the wall and added 2 more GB's and may add a 3rd for a 6'x6' square. 

My White Nile Tilapia are 3 months old and growing like crazy.  They seem to be exhibiting spawning behavior but seems too early.  I have a separate tank ready to rescue some fry if they survive.  It is only 30 gallon tank so don't want to move a breeding set in there.  Maybe someday I'll get 55gal breeding tank. 

I have had great harvests of tomatoes which were a real treat in this cold winter.   My sweet peppers are coming along nicely with young 1" fruit so far.    Planted those from seed around end of Nov.    Get more basil and lettuce than you can shake a stick at.

Stay warm! 



Sounds like you're doing what I'm contemplating doing John. I have 2 IBC tanks in a small GH, 1 with Tilapia and 1 with just water and duckweed for now. I have a 55 gallon tank in my house with about 300 fry and a 5 gallon bucket with some smaller fry. Plan to put the fry in the duckweed tank soon. Been at this for about 9 months and love every minute but the cost of heating this set up is killing me here in Michigan. Was thinking of building a larger GH this summer but just came up with the idea of doing something in my basement instead for now. I was wondering how that might work but it looks like it works for you. I was thinking about 4- 55 gallon aquariums with different broods of Tilapia and whatever grow beds I would need to support them. Then in the spring I could move the fish outside for the grow out and some outside grow beds. Any special issues I might want to watch out for?

Hello from Noblesville, IN.  Nice looking indoor system. 

John, How did those Tilapia do for you? I can't seem to get vegetables to produce but the fish are multiplying pretty well.

The tilapia are doing great!    Under 4 months old and they still seem bigger every time I check on them.   They do the breeding maneuvers I read about but I haven't seen any eggs yet.      These fish are from     I think the blue tilapia I got from Sylvia were just as good but I had fungus and fish kill after 3 months through no fault of the supplier.   Long story, see my other thread in the water forum.   Sorry, Sylvia!  

I drained and started completely over 4 months ago.   These fish are healthy, very active, and I haven't lost any.   I feed them Tiliapia chow from       125 gallon aquarium plus 30 gallon sump and 30 gallon spare water tank.     I change out about 30 gallons a week as even with 5 grow beds, my nitrates will continue to creep up.     I have 25 fish.  

I like your post about the greenhouse.  That is my end goal, to move all of this outside and keep only a small breeder and fingerling tanks inside.       As for things to watch out for, I guess I would say the bell siphons are sort of a pain.   I really like them but perhaps would try a timer system next time.    They do take some fiddling with, perhaps once every few months, I have to take it out and reset it due to roots or rocks stopping the cycle.       I also like to keep the aquarium glass clean and that is a lot of up keep.  I use the magnet type cleaner.    Trying to grow too much at once is my biggest problem.   Things get into different heights which mess up the lighting and things get overgrown and crowded so quickly.      The tomatoes are hard to handle in a short space but worth every ounce of effort.     I keep the PH between 6.3-6.6.  Even with potassium bicarb buffer, mine drifts down quickly.  I don't mind though.  Everything is really healthy and vigorous.    The two new tubs in the picture above area already filled with basil and lettuce in just 5 weeks since posting that pic. 

fish splashing around for food.  feeding time is fun. 

Jeff S said:

John, How did those Tilapia do for you? I can't seem to get vegetables to produce but the fish are multiplying pretty well.

John, I finally gave up trying to keep my aquarium clean with all the fingerlings that were in it so I moved them to the duckweed IBC. What I thought were 300 fry turned out to be 824. That was just 2 litters and one was over 500. The duckweed covering the IBC was gone in 4 days. I don't even have any now. Have to get another starter batch. I'm no expert but your lower PH could have something to do with lack of eggs. I never saw eggs with mine. When the female stopped eating I moved her to a separate tank (a 30 gallon plastic tote) and in a few days there were little fry in there with her. After they are born start feeding the mother for a few days then get her out. She will eventually eat them if they stay with her. I found it easier to catch the fry in batches because she'll scoop them up when you try to catch her and you'll wind up putting them back in the tank with the other fish where they become dinner. Just wait til she lets them out to play and keep scooping them up until you think you have most or all of them. Then take her out and the tote can become the nursery tank.

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