Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners


I'm Scott from Rhode Island.  I've been interested in aquaponics for years, since seeing it on display at Disney's EPCOT.

This past fall, I finally took some time to research the concept, and was pleased to learn that aquaponics is not rocket science.

I have created a very basic system consisting of three grow beds and a 100g fish tank. My fish of choice are Brown Bullhead Catfish.  Found locally, they are hardy, easy to keep, and best of all, free. 

My grow bins have assorted lettuce, chives, mint, basil, parsley, swiss chard, tomatoes, cukes, zucchini, and peppers.

I look forward to learning from all of your experiences, thanks for having me here!

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Hi Scott,

Yes, sounds like new system/low nutrients. I also use grid style irrigation arrangements as i find it distributes nutrient evenly and seems to make a more robust biofilter of the bed. I particularly like the idea you have of a suspended grid. The only setback i have, is that as i run high density fish populations, so pipes need a weekly minimal maintenance to prevent poo buildup/clogging. I usually like to start new systems with leafy veggies/non fruiters for the first 3 months before i plant the big boys(tomatoes etc.)

BTW have you added any iron supplement?

No supplements yet Harold. I am sure I am lean on the nutrient end.  I started the system with RO/DI water, which is void of  nutrients. I have two young of year catfish (approx 4" in length) for a 100g tank.

I have since been topping off with well water that has a noticeable iron and sulfur content. There has been some improvement, but very slow improvement.  I hope to add fish within the next month, after my source opens to fishing again (trout waters are closed until second saturday in April) My hope is to add up to 10 more fingerlings by June 1st.

Do you suggest I pull my fruiters until things are more balanced?  Also, would you consider swiss chard a plant of high nutrient demand? Those have been slow growing as well.


Hi Scott,

From you reply I can see that you have a firm grasp on AP knowledge! I am not aware of your growing conditions (temps,ammonia, nitrates, lighting,water turnover, aeration,system ratios etc.) enough to answer the question, however, in a low system, plants grow more slowly, but they grow nonetheless. If your aim is to harvest regularly then leafy veggies are the way to go. If your not so particular on regular harvesting then your AP is doing just fine.

Hi Harold,

I do not have exact temps to provide, but the system is in my basement, which is unfinished and w/o heat.  Air temp has been in the 50's, but is climbing with the warmer weather.  Water temp is in the 70's, my heater is set to 76. I have a 100g fish tank that seems to stay around 75-80g although I try to keep it topped off as much as possible. of my 3 grow bins, only 2 are in use.  A 20g shallow rectangle for lettuce and herbs, and a 40g oval for taller plants/flowering plants. The pump is set to 2x 15min floods per hour, 8 hrs/day. Bell siphon and gravity drainage for the return.  Aeration is solely on the return, the downspout is tipped with 3/4" to 1" union to assist in suction and add some velocity to the water returning to the tank.

I just did a test strip on my FT, readings are: pH 7.2, Alk 120, Hardness 120, Nitrite 1.0, Nitrate 0

Lighting is T5 flourescent. 4x 4ft for top two beds, 2x 4ft for bottom. Lighting is on 14hrs/day. Bulbs less than 6mo old.

I am ok with the slow yield for now, but would really like to see the plants take off, so that by the fall, I can have harvestable plants to carry me though the winter months. 

Hi Scott,

You do have some limiting factors in temps, light, aeration. Nitrifying bacteria populations will expand with your soon warming temperatures, this will give you more nitrates and allow you to feed the fish more(speed up the systems metabolism). The rule of thumb is to turnover FT volume once every hour(this takes care of the aeration at the same time). Fish ratio is a maximum of 1 lb to every cu. ft. of grow bed. BTW Your PH is excellent. Please keep an eye on the Nitrites though.

As it gets warmer you'll pick up and grow more.

Thanks Harold,

I never knew about the 1lb/ cu ft ratio on my fish.  Right now I have about 1/2lb of fish to roughly 24 cu/ft bed, so I need to stock more ASAP.

With my recent pest issue, some of the plants did not make through the wash/replant, so there will be less demand on the limited nutrients.

Will keep you posted. :)

Hi Scott,

So that would be a maximum of 12 lbs fish for you. Twelve 1 oz Tilapia will grow out to 12 lbs of fish in approx. six months. So, for example, i can stock 24 fish x 1 oz each and remove 12 fish at 3 months, or i can initially stock just the 12 fish and start culling from the sixth month onward. Please see this also,

Look forward to hearing from you soon.

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