Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

Hello all,

I am new to the Aquaponics Gardening Community and new to aquaponics as well.  I recently purchased a comerrical sized greenhouse which I will be errecting in the springtime.  I am looking for advice on alternative ways to heat it.  I plan on dedicating 1/3 of the sq footage to aquaponics and was hoping to get some advice on what type of system to build.  I am planning on using IBC totes.  I have been researching designs and have noticed some have sump tanks some don't.  I have seen others both with and without biofilters.  I am confused and not sure what I need and what I don't need.  What is the purpose of a sump tank?  Is it necessary? 


I currently am building a small barrel ponics sytem as a test run.


Thanks for all your help.


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Sump tanks enable your fish tank to remain at a constant level, as opposed to fluctuating up and down. Makes it a little less stressful for fish. Depending on your system, the use of a biofilter can be overkill, but also a good safety precaution, especially for a commercial system. Just remember that the plants are your biofilter and you definitely want to try and get as many plants as possible out of your fish waste.

Thanks that is what I thought about the biofilter.  My system will not be a commercial system.  It is just just going to be in a big commercial greenhouse.  Someday I may decide to expand it but for not I want to start small.  I thought a biofilter would be redundant because the plants act as a biofilter but I wasn't sure if I was missing something.  I thought maybe it filtered something the plants do not. 


What temperature do you try and keep the water at?  If I use a big enough water tank will the ambient heat from the water keep the greenhouse above freezing in the winter or will I need a supplemental heat source?  I thought about walling off a section of the greenhouse for the aquaponics that way I don't have to heat the entire greenhouse.

By the way does anybody know a good cheap source for IBC totes in the Western Illinois area?

I am still getting familiar with this web site and just found and read the aquaponics glossary terms and rules of thumb. Very good info and answered a lot of my questions.  I still would like info on heating the water and the greenhouse.  Thanks 

Cliff I recommend that you attend the workshop at Nelson & Pade which is north of Madison, WI. John Pade is an expert when it comes to green houses and how to heat & insulate them, not to mention they have a lot of experience with setting up commercial systems.

What kind of fish are you raising? That is going to be the deciding factor for what the temperature of your water will be. Or it could be the other way around. Whatever temperature you find it easiest to keep the water in your greenhouse at will decide what fish you can raise. If you are heating your water, that should be enough to warm the air in the greenhouse.

I am planning on heating the water.  I had hoped that would be enough to heat the air but I wasn't sure.  I am not sure what kind of fish I will be raising.  I was thinking of tilapia or trout.  I will be using common gold fish for my test run with the barrels.  Is there any reason I couldn't raise more than one type of fish in seperate tanks on the same system?


  I did check out Nelson & Pade  The workshop is really pricey.  They want $995 for a 3 day workshop.  That's a little out of my range right now.   

Cliff, If you heat just the water, and it is warmer than the air, expect LOTS of the winter time the inside of your greenhouse will be like walking through a rain cloud. Wet surfaces everywhere (electrical, notebooks, glass etc...) and all that condensation can do goofy stuff when it freeze the door shut, locking you out of the GH. That has not happened to me personally (thankfully), but apparently it does happen. So you might want to heat the air as well.

Talipia seem wholly and totally inappropriate for IL. Be prepared to spend lots and lots of cash on equipment and energy to keep them warm and happy enough to be eating and biologically active. Forget what you read about "this or that type of tilapia can survive down to 59F" Key word being "survive". They won't be eating and wont be they wont be producing the plant essential elements that your plants and system need (unless you maintain proper temps). IMO you should choose a (local perhaps) more appropriate fish, or move to the tropics and set your system up there 

Thanks for the advice.  I hadn't thought about the condensation.  I will keep that in mind.  Your probably right about the fish.  I was thinking the same thing.  I figured it would be easier to maintain water temperature with a variety that can tolerate cooler temps.  That being said how can I keep the water from getting to warm in the summertime?  I am assuming in a greenhouse the water will get pretty warm during July and August.  We routinely get temps in the high 90's and even 100's. 

Yeah, I was going to mention that. You and I both live in Illinois, and you're right. Temperatures, especially this last summer, do get pretty high. We lost a couple of chickens to heat exhaustion this year. I monitored my water temperature as I was cycling my system and noticed that the temperature was too high for something like perch or trout, and that was in a sheltered garage. Generally, it's more efficient and easier to heat your water than to cool it. Plus, with a higher temperature, you get more crop diversity, as opposed to limiting yourself to just greens (not that there's anything wrong with that, I love greens!) In a greenhouse, I personally think its going to be better to use alternate methods of heating to try and cut your heating expenses, and let your fish get a little sluggish in the dead of winter if absolutely necessary, than have them die in the heat of the summer. Unless somebody has an energy efficient method of cooling water that is also cost effective.

Where in Illinois do you live?  What kind of fish do you raise?  Did you loose fish due to heat this past summer?

How big is your greenhouse? I live way south of you in AR and I have greenhouse that is 20'X60', I am using a conventional natural gas heater, and after a couple of months of horrendous gas bills, I too am look at alternatives. I have lowered the thermostat to 55F and that keeps the tank water from going below 60F without any sort of water heating. I have tilapia in my around 500 gallon system and Vlad is right they survive at 60 but they don't eat much and my nitrates have really dropped off since I lowered the temp. I plan on building a rocket mass heater to supplement the gas heater, but with a commercial size greenhouse any heating system will have to be substantial. You may want to think about raising catfish, they have a much wider temperature range than tilapia.

Yeah, yeah I know...but "you Americans" (un-called for European snottiness I know :)   should really, objectively and honestly re-evaluate Carp. Forget all the government propaganda you've been raised on...invasive species, garbage fish, and all that...I grew up in the States and thought all that stuff as well...Until I actually tried Carp. It is absolutely no better, nor any worse tasting than say, tilapia. and like anything else, largely depends on who cooked it, and how it was cooked.

They'll do well at very low temps (kinda like trout), yet high tilapia type temps don't phase them either...yeah i know that psychologically it might be a difficult barrier to overcome (kind of like legalizing marijuana after all those decades of zero tolerance), but if you think about it (in AP terms) rationally and objectively (and actually bother to taste a decently prepared piece of carp) certain species of carp seem like a  very, very attractive temperate climate AP species...

Alex is right. Heating water is generally easier and cheaper than cooling it.

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