Aquaponic Gardening

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Hey all, im in the process of building my system which consists of, 200 gal of fish tank, 120 gal sump tank, 4x8' growbed, 88 ft of 5" nft channels folowing that, 1 drip bucket for tomatoes or green tea tree, and a 4 tier e+f seedling system.  Im about 3 days out from completing as im waiting for some supplies to come in to from local hydro store.  Ill share the pics that i have so far and will keep everyone updated as the system progresses. Im planning on growing tilapia in this system. There is one window in the room for supplemental light; for the rest of the plant lighting, i will have 1 1000W dimmable HID on a light mover, 1 400W dimmable HID on a light mover, and some T5 single strip lights for more supplemental lighting. The last picture shows that all the sides r zippered and velcro-ed for roll up walls (needed in order to plant and harvest nft channels.  Thanks for checking my future system; ill update when i put in the nft channels going vert.up the walls.  :)   Also any suggestions are always gr8!


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Thanks for the info molly.  Yeah we're still interested in some blue spice, that was some very interesting basil id love to give it a try!

Molly Stanek said:

I wouldn't be surprised if you were even able to squeeze a third or fourth harvest out of your basil once your system matures, as long as you don't cut it down more than 2/3 of the way each harvest.  


If you can get away with selling basil leaves (and not stems) your plants will regrow incredibly quickly.  Of course, it's more labor intensive and produces less weight to harvest just the leaves.


BTW, I still have a packet of Blue Spice Basil for you two if you are at all interested... 

My system is finished, i started fish-less cycling two day ago (which i will start a separate discussion for that).  I put plants in because i added maxicrop, earth nectar/ambrosia and i had baseline Nitrate levels of 10PPM so i figured that would give em enough juice till i got some fishies after the cycle.  My finished system includes a 120gal sump, 2 95gal fish tanks, 2'x4'x 6" deep DWC that holds 20gal, 1 drip-bucket, a 4'x8'x 12" deep media e+f bed, 4 2'x4'x 6" deep media e+f beds, 88' of NFT channels that holds about 20gal, a 4 shelf media based e+f each shelf 2'x4'x 4" deep with 36 3.75" net pots.  Here are the pictures...


Got it goin on AJ! Sweet lookin AP farmer! You sure invested a lot into this and from the looks of it you'll do very well. Can't wait to see it a couple months from now.

So i made this cost/profit analysis of my system.  It shows my system being costs beneficial, but it is all estimates.  In due time i will record actual harvest weights.  To me it looks like the most profitable AP setups are small setups where the family thats grows it eats as much as they can from it.  This way you get to make, for example, $5 if you eat the salad because you would have to buy it at consumer price, but if you sell it you must sell that salad for $2.50 at wholesale. So what im saying is small systems may be able to drastically reduce a family's food costs if they eat alot of fresh foods.  My life partner and I eat 2 salads a day equivalent to 1/2-3/4 of the meal at lunch and dinner that we eat.  For people like us a small system really money wise.  Tell me what you all think.


Hi AJ,

Interesting slant on looking at savings on personal consumption of produce.You sure won't have to gas the car to get to the grocery either.Would the heating be a recurrent expenditure?(over the whole 12 mths). Although you may have to wait for about 6 weeks for the initial crop and 6-8 months for the fish, i like the way you've done this estimate.You gave me an angle to include in mine.Thanks.

Harold, to me alot of the food I eat should be on those credit card commercials "priceless".  But for the sake of reality i estimated the value of OG produce at the store (which is not nearly as local as my basement). 

For heating i really dont know yet whether or not it will be year round, it might be though, becuase even in the dead of summer last year the max temp was like 68 F.  My basement is just cold (which is a bonus for plant growing b/c lights are hot).  Either way i wanted to do the MAX costs, over-estimate.  For example, the heating may not be needed all the time as you said, also in the lighting Watts i have a 1000W HID that is dim-able, and i normally run it on 750W, but i may bump it up to 1000W if i see a yield increase once things get rolling.  The first year of any operation is always hard because of initial investment, and start-up time.  But i am patient :)   Thanks for your input Harold

It's always weird for me when you guys mention heating and grow lights etc.The weather here is usually between 76 F - 87 F average annually, which has it's own drawbacks just the same. Hope i get to see your progress in the various stages as you go along.

Got some new pictures to update.  I am 2 weeks into the cycling process, and everything seems to be going good.  The plants are growing fairly well w/out fish so far.  There are some minor deficiencies but not to bad for basically just maxicrop and ammonium chloride.  The genovese basil has really started to take off.


The last two pictures show my attempt to filter some of the solids out.  I will rinse this however often it is needed (possibly daily).  I think some form of solids filtration is beneficial (especially since i have NFT channels), so ill give this a try and see how it goes.  It wont be anything like a clarifier and a mineralization tank, but it should do something.

Hi AJ,

Another AP've got fantastic growth here.........and i know exactly how it feels, congratulations this far. Oh, i know you can manage these sponge type filters for now but later with fish! that's another story altogether. I think you are beds then to NFT right? If so beds will provide your filtration. You'll need the solids to stay in the beds long enough to allow for efficient mineralization especially if you'll be growing fruiting plants and the like. If you're going toward fast crops then solids removal depending on you component ratios may not be so much an issue(lower nitrate demand).If you are going to stick with this terminal entry filtration why not reserve these positions with a container the depth of the bed lined with filter material to hold more solids and increase cleaning cycle times? BTW did i tell you congratulations?

ooooo Basil ... $200 a month on fish food? How many fish do you have? 1lb of fish food for $10 seems ridiculous, feed them your excess plants when you get them :) Or maybe go with black soldier fly farm >:)


As for post filtering to the grow beds why are you doing this, isn't the point to get the solids in the GB's to help break them down and farther feed the plants / worms? or is this bed specifically going to your NFT pipes and this is why you are more careful?


Might be able to do a sediment filter before the flow hits the NFT pipes :)

Thanks for the input Burton.  Yeah the basil is going crazy i just harvested some of the genovese and took it to the local coop.  They gave me $17/lb for it. 

The fish feed ended up being around $8/lb.  Its certified OG, so i have to pay for that one.  I am going to experiment as much as i can with alternative feeds, but at the beginning i want to have a pellet.  I have never cultivated edible fish before, so i dont want to jump into producing their food before i learn a little more about them and their habits.  Also, though it is expensive, it is still much cheaper than purchasing and using hydroponic nutrients for the same amount of plants i am growing, plus i get fish 2 eat :) 


Honestly i am looking into filtering mainly because i have NFT channels.  Also, i would love to have homegrown fertilizer for my soil plants.  But i also personally believe all systems ,including, media based GB would do better with filtration.  Its just my opinion.  For hobby/home system why bother with the filters, but i would want my system to run smoothly for a while, so i would try to limit excess build-up of solids.  Most solids are actually suspended, meaning that much of the nutrients are in the water not in the actual solid gunk. The gunk robs the system of O2.  Bacteria break down the solids, and those bacteria use O2 in the process.  Plants nor worms actually consume the solids, bacteria do, which then it turn feed the plants and worms.  Another reason i am looking into filtering is that i want to keep my fish as healthy as i can .  I love growing plants in the AP system, but for me this is mainly for growing fish.  I have a soil greenhouse, so i have unlimited fresh plant food already (much more than i can eat), what i dont have is homegrown fish.  So i would choose to improve the fishes health over the plants.  Fish will most definitely do better with some sort of filtration.  Each person has their own goals/desires for their AP system. To each his own.  I just want the healthiest fish possible, and why not get some plants too; regular aquaculture just seemed a little boring to me :)

I have no room for any large filters (it was an error in my design) all the space is taken by GB, FT, and Sump tanks.  So ill just have to c how things go. 


Don't think you would need a "large" filter, you could take a 4" pvc pipe and use it as a small swirl filter where the solids collect on the bottom before the water hits your your GB.


Example, I am assuming based on your photos above you are using the overflow on the FT's to fill the GB. So you take the overflow pipe and run it at an angle down (like 45 T) into a larger pipe which rests on the ground. Where the water comes in is not important as it will fill up near the bottom first and settle most sediment on the bottom. Then near the top of the pipe you have the outflow going to your GB where the opening is an overflow itself.

You could even place filter medium in there to help reduce or keep the solids at the bottom. You could place the 4" pipe between FT1/2 and between FT1/wall. Or you could even do a similar setup at lower level UNDER the FT's with another container made to fit the task.


I have labeled parts of the drawing below so its easier to discus options with an image.

Pipe A goes to the GB but it could be mounted, using the uni-seal, much lower like in pipe D as long as the intake is above the 45 angle C terminal. You could even take that pipe to the ceiling given the pipe B is tall enough lol

Pipe D is where all the magic will happen, the longer the better, and if you take D into another 90degree and run it UNDER your FT you have given yourself even more room for solids to gather.


I didn't know how big your pipe was but this is to scale, B C D E are all 4" and the other pipe is 2" obviously the ball valve is 2" as well.

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