Well, the proverbial ball is definitely rolling. I have my three IBC tanks. I have my water pump. I have plenty of PVC lying around for the plumbing. What I don't have is growing media.
I must admit that I hadn't given much thought to the sheer amount of media I'd need. After working out some rough calculations, I am sure that I can't afford to use Hydroton as I had first intended.
So what the cheapest alternative for Central Florida? What should I use and where can I source it?
I heard of people using pea gravel.
That is what I was going to suggest. Just check the rock first with some vinegar to insure there is no limestone or shell in it.
If you are going vertical, then coconut chips is an excellent option.
I am currently using pea gravel in my experimental system. I like it cause it is cheap, but my ph tends to run high. I placed some of the gravel in vinegar and I got some bubbles at first but then they stopped so not sure if limestone was present or not. I have not tried putting the gravel in distilled water to see if it changes the ph or not over a few days. I think when I make a bigger system I will use expanded clay or shale. Not looking forward to the price of the stuff that is for sure.
hey Edwin i used black clean lava rock comes in two sizes, 3/4 inch or 3 inch this rock works wonders one because its light two it will hold tons of good bacteria needed for nitration and i got over 100 lbs like $80, i got it from a rock suppler in my area i would suggest what ever you get rinse it first before you use it .Hope that helps
Sounds good Wil. Where is your area? How can I get in touch with your supplier?
I am in Naples Florida i used a company called Superior Stone (239) 566-1345 not sure that helps but if you are in need of say a truck load im sure they would deliver with in reasonable distance and cost.I hope that helps you
if i remeber it was like .19 cents a lb
Locally the smallest I can locate is 1" river rock. That seems too large to be used effectively - anyone feel otherwise?
Well since we live in FL cracked gravel or pea gravel is very cheap compared to the more popular grow mediums and depending on where you get it cracked gravel also has awesome surface area. But if you are really on a budget (like me) and still want the wicking/ease of use of hydroton you could use blue metal (Basalt pebbles). Just remember as with most media make sure to wash it good before putting it in your system.
Reading above comments Wil Miles is correct.
Beware that the cheapest "pea gravel" in Florida is more often than not, limestone. YOU DON'T WANT TO USE LIMESTONE gravel in an aquaponics system.
1/2" brown river rock was the least $ appropriate stuff I was ever able to find. Granite and basalt are heavy and usually have to be trucked in from much further away so cost more.
I've found 3/4" brown river rock also but it costs a bit more. 1" might be a bit big but would probably be ok for the bottom of the grow bed than put some of the lighter stuff over it for the best of both worlds.
I've read that the best media is a combination of rock (I'm going to use lava rock from Lowes because it's cheap and still has plenty of surface area) and hydroton mixed in or topping it. The rock gives your plant roots stability, while hydroton does its thing.