Aquaponic Gardening

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Hello! I am a complete newbie here. I haven't even set up an aquaponics system yet. My first step (I think) since I live in Michigan is to get a greenhouse set up, then do our aquaponic system. I have read Sylvia's book and a couple of the recommended reading books in the back of her book on greehouses but I really wanted to run this by the experts here to see if what I am thinking is even feasible.

We heat with wood and our house is exceptionally warm in the winter :) I mean like 70's and 80's most the time and I was thinking an attached greenhouse would the perfect thing to expel some of that extra heat. The more I think about it, the more it may be more of an attached sun room because I think I would want it insulated with good double hung windows because where I am thinking would be the best place to put it on our house would also get pretty warm in the summer because it is in the direct sunlight and I would have to be able to open it up pretty well to ventilate in the summer, yet close it up pretty tightly to keep it relatively warm in the winter. This spot gets so hot and dry in the summer the grass there drys right up.

I am going to try to attach a picture of my house I just shot the other day on a snowy but sunny day so you can see what I am talking about. This picture is taken from the south side, so I am thinking the best place to put the greenhouse/sun room is to the far left (looking at it) or to the West. We would lose the small round window and one of our bedroom windows (I don't think I can talk hubby into both of them! LOL so hopefully that will be big enough) and put some kind of door to access it inside of the house of course. 

I would appreciate any thoughts anyone would have on this. Am I crazy thinking I can attach it to my house? Any problems I am not foreseeing? I figure if people can grow in their basement, this should work.



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do lots of research into greenhouses since there is lots of good info out there.

Keep in mind that the fish tank is only a small part of the aquaponics system and the grow beds need more space than the fish tank.

We have an attached greenhouse and it does help heat our little apt. in the winter. Be aware that if it heats in the winter unless it's shaded or covered in the summer it will get unbearably HOT!  Vents are a must (automatic solars are great) as well as vents at the bottom edge of the room to pull in cooler air. Add me as a friend and I'll be happy to share everything I know - we just enlarged our 8x24 to 20x24 this summer and added a floating raft system as well as an IBC chop 2 system. 

We live in western Colorado where we have lots of sun but also frigid temps - our greenhouse got down to 16 one night and the only thing that bit the dust was the Basil - to be expected!  Your idea is definitely doable but as TCLynx suggested - research-research-research!!  Good Luck!! 

I'm from MI also. Just about to expand beyond the IBC concept.  The biggest issue I'm having is during the winter time.  I can put my fish in the basement, but I want to grow all year round.

As new to AP as I am, here are a couple of points to consider.  Wet, Wet and Wet.  Our first two systems are in a 12X23 room we set up inside the garage.  We are also in Western Colorado where humidity is very low even in the winter but everything is wet.  Can't imagine what MI would be like.  The second suggestion, and I've read it over and over again....start small, and grow into the big.  Adding an addition to your house is a big project in itself.  I'd consider an inexpensive greenhouse to start with and then see where your passions lead you!  Like TC's the least expensive method to accomplish your goal!

Rob Torcellini is in new england and has done a system in a harbor freight greenhouse.  Might be worth it to go read through some of his threads or go see some of his videos on you tube.

Of course in general, when you build a greenhouse, you want to build as big as you can since the more space in it, the better chance you have of retaining a little heat.  However in the extremely cold climates of snow from Thanksgiving through Easter and beyond, well you need a little more than just a cold frame.

How much time and attention will you give to the greenhouse?  Might you be up to opening and closing insulating panels or covers so you can retain heat overnight?

(Hay Rick, are you heating the water but not the garage?  If the water temp is warmer than the air temp, the evaporation will tend to be far more extreme and then cool walls will get condensation causing wet problems.  Such things are even more extreme in a greenhouse, like to the point of frosting over all the glass/plastic and blocking out more light and even freezing doors/windows shut.  Water may be a great thermal mass and a handy way to store heat but there are some drawbacks.)

Thank you all for the comments so far! I know there is sooo much to consider, that is why I posted to get some more ideas.

Kou, I was thinking about starting with a "cheaper" IBC system too but what stops me is our winters and not having a place to move them too. I don't have a basement :( but I do have a garage which unfortunately is not attached to the house and unheated. I wonder if maybe I should insulate the garage, figure out a way to heat it and make room in there to move into in the winter? I had hoped to be able to raise Talapia to eat but with our weather here I may just be dreaming....

Like Rick said... wet... that is another reason I was wondering if it even made it possible to add this to our house.

Thanks again, TCLynx, I have watched Rob's videos about his greenhouse. I was hoping to have something warmer but maybe I could do a cheaper greenhouse and figure out a way to heat it some. I remember watching his videos then checking out the prices of the harbor freight greenhouses.

Sheesh, so many things to to research some more....

Thanks to all again!


Skip the tilapia, if you want fish you can eat, chose a fish that will survive your seasons.  Like perhaps Bluegill, perch, or Catfish.  Or if you can keep the water cool for summer, maybe trout.


I'm going to expand my Aquaponic curiosity this year, and will let you know. The summer month is not a concern to me, but our cold climate is what I'm still doing experiment on, especially fish.  I tried blue Tilapia ( supposed to be able to handle the coldest temp of all Tilapia), it's a failure. Koi fish is very good, but you have to keep them under 3.5" feet during the cold months like now. This year, I'm going to test out catfish and trout and see how it does, as well as some other systems, such as NFT, Vertical Towers, and DWC  Also will be monitoring temps, humidity and etc...

Hi Tammy and others, looks like you are doing the same thing we plan on doing.. And since I am lazy and hate reading, I will just visit your page and see what you all decide... lol, just kidding! I want to suggest a Solarium type greenhouse as it will add to the decor of your lovely home... Better RV value with the right glass and less likely to yellow using the commercial polyvinyl crap. Look around builders lots for business, homes, stores getting ready for demolition and ask to have the GLASS windows.. They can easily be formed into a picture-frame type system and easily connected (you can even add hinge-plate to vent out)... Anyhoo, Best of Luck and let you know!! Max and Cammy

I'm on Maui and always interested in in expensive way to go, wondering about frames and using painter plastic to cover it.

Beware that some "inexpensive" ways to go will actually cost you more over time.  Painter plastic probably won't even last one season since it doesn't have any UV stabilization and will get brittle and start breaking quickly.  Greenhouse film with UV stabilization will have a year rating with it to give you an idea how many years it will last out in the sun before you need to replace it.

But on Maui, do you really need a full greenhouse?

Hi Tammy

I got my first greenhouse 2 years ago of those 6'x8' green steel frame jobs, with plastic panels.  I've only use it for starting my seedlings here in California.  I would plant seedlings about April 15 to go in the ground about May 1st. (I live in the desert here in california so a little colder than near the coast).

Anyway, As Darlene said above...the biggest suprise to me wasn't how to heat the was that I had to cool it.  When the sun is up and the temp outside is 50'snot uncommon to have it be 30 degrees hotter inside the greenhouse.  I have a system of thermostat controlled heater for the night /cold time and separate thermostat with exh fans for the warm days. I also had to put shade cloth over the roof, once the outside temp gets to about 65 degrees or so.

I'm just learning about aquaponics, but I grow vegetables very sucessfully for my family now for 3 years. If the system I'm thinking about building works in spring and summer...then I'll think about greenhousing over it after the fact.



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