Aquaponic Gardening

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Hi all! I'm from Portugal (not intending to going anywhere :P )

I'm starting out with "sorry!" big post... and it will grow as long as I have time and questions...

I live in the country side, I have some land to plant and grow all kind of vegetables, cereals, fruits,etc
but I came across a back problem on my payed job and I struggle to use the soil (and a good one it is...)

most of the vegetables that I want to grow (and eat) are hard to maintain since the weeds are strong here... I don't like to use any herbicides of pesticides but weeds are a pain to control...
my payed job does not leave much time to take care of the land everyday so I'm turning to aquaponics as a backup. I will still use the soil for bigger things but I won't need to care as much for the weeds on those crops.

I'm in the way of starting a small/medium aquaponics system (hopefully a modular one).

I need some information from more experienced aquaponists from around the world in order to reduce the problems, fish kills and so on.

I'm yet to add the sizes and pipes but I have a layout ready:

the growbeds are cut in half blue barrels (100Lt each 16 on a first phase - not all of them planted as the system needs to grow the bacteria and so on)

for a sump its a 1000Lt IBC
as for fish tanks I have more than one since adding them later would make have to change to many things around, so I'm starting with more fish tanks than I need (later on I will need only another sump to add more growbeds)

I'm going to make a radial flow filter with a 160Lt barrel

then a bio-filter with a 200LT barrel (since I'm not able to find a commercial bio-filter media locally. I'm going to fill it with leca (same as the grow beds)

since the leca won't swirl around much in the filter, I may have to add a couple of aquarium wave makers in order to force the leca around (plus some air stones in the filter)

for pumps: I want a 2 pump system (if one fails... the system goes on until replacement) and the DC backup water and air pumps (for the fish to survive :D)

at this stage I'm calculating a minimal 3300Lt/h pump about 4600Lt/h ideal (with extra oomph for system evolution)

the pumps would be in the sump tank (lower one on the system) as the example:

the fish tanks will drain to the radial filter then bio-filter then sump (all from gravity I hope)

I'm planning to have a bell siphon (with breather tube) for each growbed (I know it will be a pain to have them all working right but... its truly simpler on the build)

the outlets from the growbeds will be 1" draining into a half-cut pipe and then either directly to the sump or to the fish-tanks (actually, its a ready made rainfall collector for catching rainwater from the roofs) 

- could anyone tell me, is it better to drain into the fish tanks or to the sump? on the build side is just about the same maybe some differences but noting much)

the fish tanks drain/radial flow/bio-filter are 1-1/2" pipe (50mm) is is to little? 2" seems a bit to much and the uniseals I could get were 1-1/2" ones.

I'm hoping I can avoid 90º curves on all the pipes (except the siphons) in order to reduce the friction and optimize the flow.

for the output from the pumps I'm planning to use 1" poly tubing for the fish tanks and the main line of the grow beds (with all the valves needed)
then for the growbeds I will take taps for every growbed with a valve on each to control the flow on every growbed.

the media for the growbeds would be Leca also...
and I have the Sera aqua test kit on the way to me.

for fish I will be starting out with goldfish right after my system cycles and stabilizes but I would like to have some tilapia, wide mouth sea bass. maybe trout (depending on the temperature I get in the water since tilapia and trout are just about in the opposite temperature ranges...)

the space I have for the the system is not a greenhouse. its cosy and comfortable but it lacks some shelter (being planned at the same time as the system since the wood comes from the same place)
I still need to clean it out since its been storage for roof tiles and some bricks, etc.

I need opinions on what I'm planning wrong in order to correct it before its to late.

I have a "stupid" budget since I want this made and I like doing it. tools are not a problem (some parts are) money could be a issue... I'm about to loose my job since my back does not let me work like my boss wants (and I can't do more than I'm doing now, and even sometimes I get worse because I did something I should not have done at work...)

I'm tired of heavily poisoned (pesticides) vegetables from the supermarket and I'm hopping to be able to have some fresh vegetables all year long (maybe some artificial lighting later on)...

for now this is just about what I have. I'm trying to plan all parts of the system in a way that I could share and re-use on other systems later so as I go along I'll try to post the most information I could to help others (I don't care if the information is not perfect. that is a problem we all have to figure out by ourselves and adapt to our circumstances.)

I car get water hyacinths, 'salvinia' and duckweed.

I want to grow the fish food since the commercial ones have fish flour, chicken and some other stuff that I don't want to remotely be near... I might have "some" commercial feeding around for the start and the panic times but... not the main diet.

btw, if anyone feels that can help. hop on! you can reply to "just one" of my questions. all information is a must at any time :D

until my next 200 page post, see you around :D

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Hi Vlad!
I'm waiting on a reply from the manufacturer to see what is in there. I'm having trouble finding a suitable salt. I need it for Artemia (brine shrimp) and the system itself.

I'm not in Spain, I'm in Portugal, right by its side :P but don't worry on that detail. I've seen a lot of maps and information in the states and UK and most of the times, "its all Spain". its almost the same but we can speak a better English and the postage usually does not work as good as in Spain :P (pros and cons... )

I would really like to know more about that salt... along with the price and postage (bear in mind, I'm on a really tight budget... :( )

does it mess around with the PH ? I'm managing to have mine in about 7.5... with the fish doing their job :) (noting else)

I should get more fish but before that, I need to work on the backups (I have most of the parts... just little time lest with all things around... )

oh, I added some worms from my worm bin on a GB and trickle filter (the GB with strawberries... they have more old roots to be cleaned out) after some days I've checked them and they are still there and alive (don't know if they are healthy just yet... that I would only find out then I get to see some eggs and/or juvenile worms...) I hope they help out consuming the dead organic material and "clean up" the system a bit (the water is clear and I really intend to keep it that way :D)

I'll send you a PM about that salt :)

Vlad Jovanovic said:

Hi Xpim,

Sodium ferrocyanide (E535), and Potassium ferrocyanide (E536) are the most common anti-caking agents used by salt producers today. A looong time ago in the past Magnesium carbonate (E504) was used, but that has long since become 'too expensive' for salt producers. I'm not aware of Sodium bicarbonate being used in that capacity (at least certainly not as a common commercial/industrial anti-caking agent for use in salts)...

I've formulated, specifically for Aquaponics (not for aquaria, and not for hydroponics, but aquaponics) fish salts that are also plant beneficial, that Sylvia has shown interest in selling through her store. If you are interested, just let me know. Pool salt is mostly sodium salt (ok for aquariums, but isn't something you really need in aquaponics...not that it's necessarily bad for the fish, it is just not very helpful at all to the plants)...

Here are some of the things that my AP salts are designed to do...

- Promote healthy slime coat (glycocalyx) in fish

- Help mitigate nitrite poisoning in fish

- Aid in osmotic regulation in fish

 - Provides plant essential elements in good quantity...particularly essential for fruiting plants (both macro and secondary)

- Microbe friendly

- Can be a very good addition while cycling a new system

I know you are in Spain, but I ship things all over the world, and it's not really that expensive if you ship person to person (business to person is another story sometimes...with VAT and custom duties and all)...

It's good to see your system is progressing nicely btw...

Hi Xpim,

Sorry, I must have been thinking of Peter Wolf, he's over in Spain. My bad.

I can PM you with pricing and postage and more info.

No, it does not mess with the pH of the system.

Having back up systems in place before you start to stock heavily is  very wise idea.

Don't worry much about the worms, as long as they have something to eat, they'll self regulate their population accordingly. They really don't seem to like it if you disturb them too much. But it can be hard to resist the temptation to dig around and look for the eggs

Hi all!

I've been busy (as usual) & kinda stressed out...

Some fish started dyeing with little to no warning. I don't have temperature changes or any PH spikes, 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites and all the other nutrients are in the "safe area" for fish...

today I found another one showing sings of illness and i've isolated him. 6H later, he just stop swimming and tomorrow morning my best bet is he will be dead...

the only thing I could point out to is overfeeding... the koi carp are fine, the shubunkins either, only the comet goldfish (the smaller ones) are turning up dead.

I don't really know what is going on. it can't all be "bad genes" and if it is bacterial infections they should show some physical signs... they feed, then drop to the bottom and stand still, 6H later they don't swim and some time later, belly up :(

I really don't know what else to do... the tilapias are just perfectly fine, all the other fish seem perfectly active.

part from the fish havoc, I guess this is going alright. I managed to keep the temperature at 20ºC dropping to 19ºC during the night (cold days that is. on a better day I connect the temporary passive solar collector and I get about 21 or 22ºC when the sun is shinning)

I left the "2000W" heater on during the one of these days to test if the temp would rise a bit more so I noticed it would only rise to 20ºC so I measured the power taken by the heater and, should be 2000W and its putting out 1670W so I recalculated the power costs so I could actually use it for a few more cold months with "little" impact.

I just disconnected the dehumidifier in the bathroom, cleaned the refrigerator and freezer (the dissipation grids in the back - condensers if you are familiar with industrial terms) so I can cope with the power taken on the aquaponics during the winter.

to further reduce the power... I set the thermostat to 20ºC with a differential of 1ºC so it will start at 19ºC and stop at 20ºC.

after testing, it stops for about 3H before the temp lowers 1ºC.

Part from that: I got the black irrigation tubing to build the passive solar collector I just have to find the time to build it and connect it. (soon I hope)

I'm having a bit of a polar cold front dropping here... I'll have about 4ºC during the night (still to be measured in practice). I had 14ºC normally... so dropping 10ºC on ambient temperature could lower the systems water temp. I'll check later about that and report back.

here is a graphic from a "real time" thermometer I have outside and in the system:

(10sec pooling, hours on the X axis, temp (C) on the Y axis)

the yellow line is the system's water temp. the pink/purple is the ambient temperature under the roof.

on other details: here comes a photo of the beans, brassicas and some other:

most of the plants are going really good! the strawberry's are putting out new and perfect leaves (still need to cut out the old damaged ones)

I even have new flowers coming, and one strawberry ripening! I can't wait to test the flavor of it!

I also have found a really good number of caterpillars munching on my plants. some of them are really hard to find...

2 of them managed to munch down almost all my parsley... its a pain but I have to get them before they grind all my plants :P

this is how it is now... I'm hopping I get my head in place to start doing real work around here... I'm going to slow with some worries in and out of the system... it will get better :)


the fish issues seem to be controlled!
the 3 I have in isolation (2 comets and 1 koi) seem to be alright.
only the koi was in worse shape... it is now swimming around and he is responsive :)

all the other seem to be fine :) I have little done today... I've managed to remove most of the junk I had on a old trailer, now parked on the side of the sump tank, shading it and protecting a little from the wind.

I do have to work on it... its very degraded, even the floor needs some work... but I want it to be:
- a storage house for items I need for the system
- housing for quarantine tanks
- live fish food cultures
- the air-pump and back-ups are going to be there

- if I manage to use the space: I'll grow some soy bean sprout (and other) because we like to use sprouts with our food, reducing on the rice or potatoes :)

I'm yet to decide if I buy ready made shelves or I build them myself...
since the money is short for now... I might not do much work on shelving up the trailer... (and I do need to have it fixed before I start to fill it up with things)

hopefully tomorrow I'll finally wire-up the well water control system! (or at least start it...) It has some parts... but it is easy to solve if any problems/malfunctions arise.

some of the protections I need to make are not going to be installed tomorrow... so I will control the well manually until I make and instal the protections. the last thing I need is a flood in house due to a malfunction on the well pump control...

on the temperature side: the lowest temp at night was higher than expected... meaning I managed to keep the water at 19ºC during the night. :) during the day. even with the improvised solar collector, I only recovered half a degree... no worry. I'll just spend about another € on power tonight... (actually should be less than that)

I'll report back when I have something new about the system itself :)

Hi all!

I've isolated the problem with my goldfish! unfortunately I've lost another fish before I realized the problem... :(

it is not overfeeding directly: its to high of a protein content in the fish-food. both on my home made and on the store bought one... I'm sorting it out to have a food more suitable for the goldfish & koi before I loose any more fish!

it was not a productive week... I got stressed out when I started to have fish problems so I kinda panic and all things were delayed until further notice (or until today I've found the food problem...)

on the other hand: I was running out of space to temporarily house my live fish food cultures so I had to make some changes... since I'm not going to have the trailer ready really soon (needs lots of work...) I made a bookshelf to place on one of the kitchen windowsill.

feel free to order one for yourself :D I'm unemployed right now so I could use the money :P this one I had the glass "in stock" so I went to my local carpenter to get the wood and cut-it to length (I don't have good tools for precision woodwork).

the wood board was uneven and had markings I had to remove with a electric sander. if the carpenter would calibrate this wood, it would be to thin for my plans so didn't wanted him to "fix it"

a few hours of sanding, perfecting the notches (were the glass sits) and it is done and doing its purpose!

hopefully tomorrow I'll have more seeds starting on it :)

(I never started on the well water control circuits... with the fish, finding a job and other issues, it got on paper, got the parts together but I'm yet to start... sometime soon I'll get it done)

I've taken a photo of my watercress! (it can't all be about other things - now, the system! )

about the fish (again) unfortunately I could not do anything for them when they start acting strange... they die within 6 hours! but stop responding after 2 or 3... its to quick for me to act against... I'll see tomorrow how it goes... the tilapa are just fine... just the goldfish are (were!!) having problems.

I'll report back when I find the time...

have a great weekend!

Just passing through and saw all that you've accomplished. I especially like that bookcase that you made! Besides being so functional - it's very nice looking. :) You're lucky to have a window right there, too. 

Anyway, good luck with your mysterious fish issue. Hope you can resolve that soon.


tank you, I like the bookcase ^^ since we are kinda low on money right now, I've gave it to my mother as a early Christmas present :P she loved it, and I'm using it along with her flowers :D

I have the ostracods and amphipod cultures and some seeds starting in a heated tray.

on the fish, I've found the issue... to much protein in the feed: hence, overfeeding by force with little food... since I was cutting down on the amount, but not in the contents... now, I've found out, feed the goldfish & Koi with a different recipe from the tilapias and all seems to be going well! I did loose some fish... some cute ones... :( I still have a sick coi but he seems to be getting better. I did not have any coi deaths so far (happily!). the ones that died were 1 shunbunkin and "a few" comet goldfish... ( I say a few cos 2 is more than enough and I've lost more...)

it all should get better soon :) when I find the money, I'll get some more tilapias and/or fish, right after I install the back-up pumps and system...

I have more news that I'll post tomorrow at the end of the day (I guess...) tomorrow I have to "go shopping" for the house... we still need food :P I'm yet to produce for our monthly usage (I doubt I can get there any soon...) and I do hope I could get to never have to buy vegetables again... and even sell some or a lot! :D

good night! :) need to sleep.

Reg. R. said:

Just passing through and saw all that you've accomplished. I especially like that bookcase that you made! Besides being so functional - it's very nice looking. :) You're lucky to have a window right there, too. 

Anyway, good luck with your mysterious fish issue. Hope you can resolve that soon.


Hi al!

fish problems seem to be sorted out! changes the food recipe, the healing koi carp got better (now she's in the tank with the others, feeding normally :) ) and all the other ones seem to be just fine :D

its been really cold around here! (on my standards at least...) but the system's water is still good :D drooped 1 or 2ºC since we had no sun to help out these days...

O got some seed starting in-house and some other directly in the GB's. most of them are coming up but I have a few that are taking a bit longer... with little to no sun I can understand they could take longer so I'm waiting a few more days before I panic. I should take a few of those seeds and place them in the starter tray in the kitchen... maybe tomorrow :D

I've placed some vertical flower pots in the system! and took a photo before cleaning and installing the drains on them.

maybe tomorrow I'll have the feed line installed on them and take another photo. I'm going to fill them only with leca (simpler, lighter...)

I intend to place flowers on them. maybe some veggies like soya beans or others like it...

I have a few chrysanthemum clippings rooting on the system. they all have gained roots quicker than the ones inside the house... I know having flowers on the system could be a waste of the nutrients, but we do have to feed the bees and other pollinators! even if they don't make anything on my system, they do in the world! :)

I intend to have as many flower species as I want veggies... (its insane, I want to try them all! even if it takes a lifetime!)

I have to speed up the compost soon... (make more...) since I will be needing it really soon for all the flowers that are on the list.

here is a photo from the better-looking side of the system :D

oh, and about the flower pots, they are hooked to a chain that is fixed to the roof and the GB stand. so with little effort, they remain just about how I want them :D tilted a bit forward.

is these method comes up to be workable, I'll make the same on the back wall to have strawberries! maybe not on a chain but on 2 wood supports.

I guess this is all for now... its been a un-productive weekend on the aquaponics side... but we did get my brother-in-law tattoo studio almost ready for action! (opening in the beginning of the year) I took care of the lighting/electricity and fixing "stuff" to the wall :D (like a fire extinguisher that is mandatory even if your store is selling ball-point pens)

after the studio, we all gone out and did some beerponics :) I did need to clear up a little bit...

back to aquaponics:

tomorrow its time for nutrient control (testing and adding only iron if needed)... all the other nutrients should be OK and if not I'll wait to see if any plant shows up any deficiency...

and getting the flower pots finished... at the very least! part from that, I have plenty of things to do around the system... little workable hours... its cold :(

til' tomorrow! :D

p.s.: I forgot to say all the flower pots were recycled :D we had them around to use on another side of the house... and never did... some of the pots we did before :) had to choose from a bunch the ones without cracks and holes... soon we will have them filled with flowers. I have year-round flowers and some others :D we'll see :D

I was getting to bed but I had to share something... just letting it out:

I'm currently unemployed. I got the papers from the social security with the value I'll get and for how long...

for that I have to be finding a job, keeping copy's of my attempts to find a job (and so on, back & forth, bla bla bla)

I could also try to create my own business (hence, starting to pay taxes xD) I have to make a protect of a work idea, detailed in every way (and so on... bla bla bla) and if approved, they would give me a financial help to start (related to my monthly value (and so on...) either as a loan or as a price.

so, they send me job offers that I have to attend... and they send me all sorts of information... but last night I got one with a good tittle, bad taste :(

I got yesterday an email for a "contest" to have financial help for a project or idea that I would want to make it come true (simply to have a job...) but... that "contest" had a time limit to send the ideas... ended 3 days ago!

so I can't run to that contest... and I cannot use that financial help to make a project...

I was planning to work on agriculture, now with aquaponics also... build a greenhouse (blablabla) now I'm really planning on that same things... and I would need some money to start on that (part from the agriculture that I can start right now, but its hard on my back and It's not been easy.) if only I had this system running for the last 2 years... by now I would know almost exactly the cost of running it and knowing if it would be profitable to sell vegetables from this small space... so I would (obviously) scale up the system in a proper greenhouse with details I do not have on this system now.

by now, it seems I'm going to "enjoy" being unemployed to start collecting some data about all "this" and getting some work in & out of the house done :D

I did level out, connected the feed and drain lines, filled up, the flowerpots! (yesterday most of this) they have been running water for more than 24H and they seem to not have any problem, leaks or other.

I'm going to place seeds in them really soon (like tomorrow) and most of them will be flowers :)

I don't care how useless they are, its gonna look wonderful when seen from the kitchen making my mom happier :)

(and some of them the seeds are used in food and bread so some of them I will actually use :D

I'm going to bed,

I need to regulate my sleep cycles :( its been havoc around here!)

p.s.: I took a picture but it did not came out right and I did not notice... its off-focus and we can't see anything "new" than the last one.

Projects always take longer than planned. You should see my "To Do" list.  Phew!  Btw, I'm glad you're growing all of those flowers, too. In fact, I love how (cut) flowers here brighten the wintry days.

As for sleep, I use Melatonin - a lot! LOL

Anyway, wishing you good luck. I hope the New Year brings great opportunities for you!



Happy new year!

to help out with my sleep cycles I only add magnesium... either in the food or with "a shoot glass" of magnesium cloride diluted in water.

my main problem with the sleep cycles is mainly my own fault... I oversleep whenever I have a bad night of sleep. from there on its a mess until I'm back on a good timing :P

all my projects take longer than expected... I always add "a little margin for error" and even if I almost double the time I should need to have a project done... and even so I can brake the time goal! haahhahhahah

so "I'll get it done" comes up... and eventually I'll get it done :D

Reg. R. said:

Projects always take longer than planned. You should see my "To Do" list.  Phew!  Btw, I'm glad you're growing all of those flowers, too. In fact, I love how (cut) flowers here brighten the wintry days.

As for sleep, I use Melatonin - a lot! LOL

Anyway, wishing you good luck. I hope the New Year brings great opportunities for you!


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