Aquaponic Gardening

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Hello all, I am researching and planning to build my first aquaponics system. I have to say I am totally addicted already to the idea of aquaponics. I like to garden and have a 16' x 25' garden in my yard. (actually my neighbors yard as he is old and cannot take care of the land so he lets me use it). I am also very interested in the idea of self sustainment and eating organic, locally grown food. Well it doesn't get more local than my house! 

My first system will be a hybrid system. I am building it in my garage since I am unable to build a green house on my property. I will be using florescents to start off for light. I am building an insulated and heated area in my garage that will give me about 16' x 30' of space. The system will be composed of two IBC 275 gallon FT's plumbed together. These tanks will then feed through SLO into two 8' x 3'  x 1' grow beds with bell siphons for fill and drain. The GB's will each drain into an 8' x 4' x 1'  DWC raft system. The two rafts will be plumbed together with a bridge siphon and the raft closest to the FT will act as my sump with a pump and float switch.  I have 6 kids to feed so I wanted a decent size system. I also have hopes to buy some land and start a commercial operation in the next few years...but first things first. :) 

My big questions are this:

1) To plumb the two IBC FT together, do I just pump from the sump into one and SLO over to the other and feed the beds from the second?

2) Fish type. I am unsure what kind of fish. If I could choose I would pick tilapia, but how much would it cost to keep the water warm? While the space will be insulated and heated, it gets cold in NE during the winter, Will my heating bills be cost prohibitive? 

3) Is there anything I need to be aware of in using my DWC as a sump?

Any other thoughts??? 

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Also where do I get information on flow rates so I can size my plumbling?

shoot for turning over the volume of your fish tank about 1x/hour..

i'm in northeast ohio, 700 gallon ft in my basement, flourescent "shop" lights over growbeds, just harvested the last of my yellow perch and tilapia, so right now i just have rosy red minnows and marmokreb crayfish

i use half ibc's for growbeds (4) and 4 pairs of shoplights on each growbed

i kept tilapia down to 48f water before loosing a few, then adding heat, i kept the water at 52 or so the rest of the winter and had no issues..the tilapia were in the same tank as the yellow perch so the perch kept the breeding in check

gotta take a trip to stock on game fish soon

welcome to the adventure!


Thanks, Keith! Where do you source your fish from? What type of Tilapia did you use?
Keith Rowan said:

shoot for turning over the volume of your fish tank about 1x/hour..

i'm in northeast ohio, 700 gallon ft in my basement, flourescent "shop" lights over growbeds, just harvested the last of my yellow perch and tilapia, so right now i just have rosy red minnows and marmokreb crayfish

i use half ibc's for growbeds (4) and 4 pairs of shoplights on each growbed

i kept tilapia down to 48f water before loosing a few, then adding heat, i kept the water at 52 or so the rest of the winter and had no issues..the tilapia were in the same tank as the yellow perch so the perch kept the breeding in check

gotta take a trip to stock on game fish soon

welcome to the adventure!

i used blue tilapia i got from shelby fish farm, and nile tilapia i got from a guy in the cleveland area..

i got yellow perch from a few places over the years..

first time i got bluegill from a place near chardon

got yellow perch from finfarm near toledo, sugar creek fish farm, and shelby fish farm

i got my first marmokreb from aquabid, which quickly turned into hundreds of crayfish, fed lots to the yellow perch

i need a couple hundred yellow perch to restock pretty soon..

I began the build this weekend by cleaning out the space in my gararge, ripping down the old paneling to install white walls, and cleaning out my two IBC fish tanks. I am also paining the tanks blue. I am so excited to be started!!!

Welcome Chris. Sounds like you have a pretty good grasp on what you want and how to do it. I was going to quadruple my 8x10 GH this fall but decided to just double it instead. The plan was to have 2 separate IBC FTs, each with 2 IBC GBs, a DWC, and 2 in ground sumps. As winter approached I opted to just do a single system. One reason I was going to separate the systems is that if there was a major issue with one system (pump failure, disease, etc.) the other wouldn't be affected. As long as you have a floating raft I see no reason to need a sump provided your tank is large enough to supply the FTs. Wish I had thought about that. I would suggest to build one system and get it operating before you duplicate your mistakes with a second system. I was just evaluating the lighting I want to use this year. I was considering florescent but for the wattage you would use you could go with MH/HPS and get a better spectrum and also utilize the heat generated by those bulbs. I bought one last year, 400 watt came with both bulbs, and was quite happy with it. http://www.amazon.com/Apollo-Horticulture-GLK400GW19-Digital-Dimmab....  I have Blue Tilapia and find they are very forgiving fish. My water is almost always out of whack and they seem to thrive. I'm in the Detroit area so we're in a similar climate. If you want to do a road trip I'd be happy to give some fish to get you started.

Hey Jeff, 

Thanks for the response. After further investigation I, too, decided to skip the florescents. In sizing out my grow area it was actually CHEAPER to go HID. I can cover the area with 3 1000w HID. According the virtual sun website the 1000 w lights in their "Cool Tube" design provide full coverage for an 8x8 area.

A road trip would be tough, as I said I have 6 kids, but I do now and then get up to Detroit for work. If that happens I might take you up on that offer! I still have a lot work to do. I need to frame out the walls, start electrical, and I am still trying to figure out exhaust. I wish I could do a green house. Oh well I will save that for my commerical operation someday :) 


Jeff S said:

Welcome Chris. Sounds like you have a pretty good grasp on what you want and how to do it. I was going to quadruple my 8x10 GH this fall but decided to just double it instead. The plan was to have 2 separate IBC FTs, each with 2 IBC GBs, a DWC, and 2 in ground sumps. As winter approached I opted to just do a single system. One reason I was going to separate the systems is that if there was a major issue with one system (pump failure, disease, etc.) the other wouldn't be affected. As long as you have a floating raft I see no reason to need a sump provided your tank is large enough to supply the FTs. Wish I had thought about that. I would suggest to build one system and get it operating before you duplicate your mistakes with a second system. I was just evaluating the lighting I want to use this year. I was considering florescent but for the wattage you would use you could go with MH/HPS and get a better spectrum and also utilize the heat generated by those bulbs. I bought one last year, 400 watt came with both bulbs, and was quite happy with it. http://www.amazon.com/Apollo-Horticulture-GLK400GW19-Digital-Dimmab....  I have Blue Tilapia and find they are very forgiving fish. My water is almost always out of whack and they seem to thrive. I'm in the Detroit area so we're in a similar climate. If you want to do a road trip I'd be happy to give some fish to get you started.

I'm no lighting expert but in my opinion (4)  400watt lights would give you enough performance to handle the 2 8' GBs while allowing for more variable height adjustment for different plants. It would also cut your electric usage by half. I used a single 400watt over my IBC GB last year and it was more than sufficient.

I just asked in the Lighting group. Thanks Jeff!

Ok, the answer I got for the lighting changes my whole design (at least for electrical and exhaust!). I will be running 3 600W over the GB and 3 400W over the DWC. I will also need to upgrade my exhaust to cool that many lights. Ugh. This gets more expensive by the minute! :)  I don't care, but the wife may not be that happy!

Chris, I don't know where you got your info but I would never invest that much money in equipment and pay continuously for all that power unless I was growing a money crop (marijuana) lol. You said you want to economically feed your family but it takes a lot of veggies and fish to cover that investment. I would start cheap and add on as needed. You shouldn't need any cooling in your garage in your area. In the summer open the door and turn on a fan.

No money crop here, other than my prize winning lettuce that I will grow :) 

I may not install all the cooling to start, but at the same time while I am installing everything I would want to make electrical changes NOW while the studs are open. As well as install the ducting ports so that if I need them I don't need to go rip apart the grow room to install them. So I want to have my dream system planned out. Most of the exhaust information I have gotten from Just4Growers, as they seem to have the most comprehensive tutorials on the subject. 

Jeff S said:

Chris, I don't know where you got your info but I would never invest that much money in equipment and pay continuously for all that power unless I was growing a money crop (marijuana) lol. You said you want to economically feed your family but it takes a lot of veggies and fish to cover that investment. I would start cheap and add on as needed. You shouldn't need any cooling in your garage in your area. In the summer open the door and turn on a fan.

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