Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

this is a site for the aspiring aquapon to post their questions and have them answered by the more experienced members.  No question is too basic!  This is a great opportunity to tap into advice from some of the most experienced growers in the country.  Go for it!

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Sorry for any duplication, as I'm not familiar with the editing process, or discussion sites for that matter, Thanks again!
These are the two books referred to for possible purchase, any input from someone familiar with either of these two books would be appreciated, as they do cost!

https://www.was.org/shopping/shopexd.asp?ID=427, https://www.was.org/shopping/shopexd.asp?ID=421
These are the two books referred to as being possible purchases, for further study, any input from someone familiar with either of these two books would be appreciated, as they do cost!

"Recirculating Aquaculture" "Tilapia"
https://www.was.org/shopping/shopexd.asp?ID=427, https://www.was.org/shopping/shopexd.asp?ID=421
Hi Eric. I had no idea my "why styrofoam" would elicit such an eloquent response, but I appreciate you taking the time to answer in such depth. I agree with you completely about the environmental impact of Styrofoam (and frankly I think adding paint around your system is an even worse idea), although TC makes an excellent point as well about the need to use some man-made materials no matter what we are doing (unless, I guess, you are doing pure organic soil gardening, but the tradeoff there is the extra water usage...but I digress). At the risk of causing you more writer's cramp, I truly am wondering why you are feeling the need to go with a raft based system at all? You seem to have an ample supply of clean, graded aggregate available that could be inexpensively used in a media system, which requires less maintenance and will give you more flexibility in your plant choices. Are you planning on growing commercially? Just curious...

Eric J. Friesen said:
In answer to your question Sylvia, "why Styrofoam", meaning why bring up the subject? In my case it was a sheer reaction to seeing Styrofoam raft materials used in so many existing setups, and being promoted in training packages and so forth, including use as plant containers and trays of various types. Coming from an age of 'converting' the fast food movement away from Styrofoam, being one who can taste the Styrofoam in a cup of coffee, or on a plate of food, someone who is aware that styrene has spread into the bodies of all living things on earth, and that our oceans and shores are being plugged with plastics that don't go away, the particles only getting smaller and more insidious; I was amazed at the acceptance of it's use and incorporation in systems that are touted as organic and wholesome - only that -- a simple reaction!

My recent, (and short) learning curve, with aquaponics, is due to the fact that I will have about six months worth of time to work on a system in a third world situation, starting Oct/Nov of this year, and a raft system is a definite possibility, if not this year, possibly next, and have the better part of a half acre of land to work with, as well as local labor. Being in Central America, there is a supply of clean graded volcanic rock, and also clean graded granite rock available for use in trenches, ditches, trays, or other form of grow beds - leaving the question of cleaning the materials some time further down the road - again the question of raft systems arises - and of course the use of Styrofoam, - because it is available, - but it is not meant to be in the sun - (or near food?)

The "thin flexible mats" seen in many of the excellent videos, designed to hold plants, shade the water against algae, and allow for the raising of (some) shrimp in raft systems; are likely made of unicellular foam (plastic), similar to what is used in construction sites to - separate wood from concrete (1/8" thick); - also used in a thicker form (3/8" to 1/2") to cover and insulate swimming pools. Some of these products are actually designed to be in the sun full time, therefor would not break done as rapidly as styrofoam, even though the Styrofoam could be painted, as suggested in some of the 'package instructions' promoted in some the aquaponics media. These (higher quality) mats would of course need to be ordered from specialty suppliers, are not as readily available at the corner lumber yard, meaning costs would need to be figured out, including shipping.

Seeing as how the property in question for a system has a drop in elevation of about 30", dividing it at the 1/3 mark (of about a 1/4 acre total space), there is an option of a bed system at the lower level, and a raft system (eventually) at the higher level - as a possibility. Because it is in Central America, - money is an object, - wood rots rapidly, and is enjoyed by termites, - as well as (my) long history working with concrete, most of the parts and pieces would (eventually) be made with (reinforced - ferro) concrete for tanks, later for beds as well, using plastic (yuck!) lined ditches to start with - "yuck" - because any reasoning to do with Styrofoam also applies to plastic sheets, including sun exposure - as well as being readily available at the corner store, therefor easy to get.

The learning curve with aquaponics began with two assistants wishing to continue their (temporary) employment, and a vague idea of 'raising fish' - therefor a twelve (or so) foot diameter hole in the ground, four feet deep developed at about the breaking point in the elevation of the land, making it possible to consider draining the (upper) beds directly back into this 'tank' - which could end up (now) being the last one built! The learning curve so far has included reading virtually everything on this site, and every other thing and site available on the net even remotely connected to aquaponics - meaning I'm just beginning to learn; - a long history of gardening, and raising ornamental tropical fish also fits in there somewhere

At the moment am considering the purchase of two reference books, one "Recirculating Aquaculture", the other "Tilpapia", but in trying to find the sources, realize there is a huge body of free info not yet read. -- Normally not very verbose, I am simply responding to the question of "why styrofoam" - any further input is much appreciated
My understanding is that Recirculating Aquaculture is excellent (although I haven't sprung for it yet myself). I'm not familiar with the Tilapia book.

Eric J. Friesen said:
These are the two books referred to as being possible purchases, for further study, any input from someone familiar with either of these two books would be appreciated, as they do cost!

"Recirculating Aquaculture" "Tilapia"
https://www.was.org/shopping/shopexd.asp?ID=427, https://www.was.org/shopping/shopexd.asp?ID=421
I agree with Sylvia about going with the media based system if you have appropriate ample gravel of some sort. Truly the flood and drain media systems can run with far less daily maintenance and are appropriate to a wider variety of plants, especially in a tropical location. Rafts are most appropriate to a commercial operation where you want to be harvesting a certain number of "lettuces" or other compact plant on a weekly basis. I love the gravel beds for growing large tropical plants like banana and papaya and I'm sure many others would be great in a more tropical climate than mine (I'm really only sub-tropical here, gets too hot and too cold.)

Can't say anything about the books as I've not read them myself.

If doing gravel and concrete beds and concrete tank, you could reduce the plastics to a rather minimal amount. Probably just some drinking water pipe and the seals for installing them and the fittings and pumps.
'Lo Sylvia, and TCLinks, regarding the raft based system, I am considering the input of a local (as in geographical) aquaculturalist, who at the moment doesn't have beds, but whose face dropped noticeably when i mentioned using lava, "How will you clean it?" was the reply that got me thinking, and looking further (UVI, and many others). While I realize a well balanced media based system, properly designed with clarifiers and filters will not need cleaning for a very long time - that task would still remain to be done sometime.

That said, any startup system will be media based using either the lava/granite combination, or straight lava if it is available, whether starting with a barrel setup, or going straight into making a (6' dia. ?) concrete tank for the fish, partially in the ground, tapered bottom, with water being taken from the low point, and over the side, this could also later serve as a clarifier; and into media based beds at a slightly lower level - not sure yet.

Commercial? Not really, this is in a very depressed area, and one of my concerns is not affecting the local enterprise efforts, while still providing a demonstration site, as well as providing my needs as well as friends, acquaintances, and neighbors. It is very harsh in the dry season, and water is at a premium, as well as innumerable pests, in the ground as well as above. This will be very experimental, and yes, there will be (dwarf) papaya, melons, and everything else that strikes the fancy - thanks again for the input.
When he asked "how will you clean it?" Was he meaning the initial washing of the gravel? Or did he mean cleaning as in maintenance?

In a media bed system, provided you put in twice as much media bed volume as you have fish tank volume, and don't over stock the fish tank. The media beds should never need "cleaning"
Clairifiers and filters not required in a media bed system so long as you have enough media beds to handle the solids. The flood and drain action provides the aeration needed to take care of the mineralization and composting worms help with that. So long as your gravel is large enough, clogging is not an issue.
(Now if you go cascading the beds so that the top bed gets all the flow from the fish tank and then feeds the next bed, the top bed will get too much solids and may need cleaning out, I recommend that each bed get it's flow from the fish tank so they can all enjoy the expanded nutrients from the mineralization of the solids.)
While if you go with a raft system, some one needs to clean the clairifier daily if it is a heavily stocked system or if you want to avoid all that, you need to go with an extremely low stocking level of something like 9 fish per 4 x 8 raft and those beds will need to be cleaned out occasionally.

Good Luck on the research.
Sounds like you are embarking on some great work, Eric...good for you for all that you are doing!

Just wanted to clear up what I think are a couple misconceptions. First, there is no need for clarifiers and filters in a media based system - only in a raft system. The media itself acts as the filter, and solids are pumped directly into the bed. Second, there is no need to ever clean out a media based system, assuming that it is being loaded with the proper amount of fish waste (I noticed another great conversation about this very topic going on in here earlier), it is at least 12" deep, and composting red worms are introduced to process the accumulated solids into lovely vermicompost. I haven't ever cleaned out my beds, and I know that TCL and RupertofOz were just saying on another forum topic here that they haven't either, and they know of many people on the BYAP forum who also haven't. Once you get this balance right the media just keeps getting better and better, like a fine wine. Cleaning would only disrupt that (not to mention be an unnecessary pain ;-). It just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it?

I just wrote a blog post about this you might want to check out in the AquaponicGardeningBlog tab above.
funny! TC, I think you and I were typing the same thing at the same time....

TCLynx said:
When he asked "how will you clean it?" Was he meaning the initial washing of the gravel? Or did he mean cleaning as in maintenance?

In a media bed system, provided you put in twice as much media bed volume as you have fish tank volume, and don't over stock the fish tank. The media beds should never need "cleaning"
Clairifiers and filters not required in a media bed system so long as you have enough media beds to handle the solids. The flood and drain action provides the aeration needed to take care of the mineralization and composting worms help with that. So long as your gravel is large enough, clogging is not an issue.
(Now if you go cascading the beds so that the top bed gets all the flow from the fish tank and then feeds the next bed, the top bed will get too much solids and may need cleaning out, I recommend that each bed get it's flow from the fish tank so they can all enjoy the expanded nutrients from the mineralization of the solids.)
While if you go with a raft system, some one needs to clean the clairifier daily if it is a heavily stocked system or if you want to avoid all that, you need to go with an extremely low stocking level of something like 9 fish per 4 x 8 raft and those beds will need to be cleaned out occasionally.

Good Luck on the research.
He was referring to the 'later on , down the line' cleaning, but I have looked into it enough to agree that a good media bed system should be fairly maintenance free, even in the long haul, with good worms being a very important part of that. It is likely I would feel better allowing for some form of clarifier, as stocking levels may eventually be fairly high at times.

Just got your latest Sylvia, so yes, we all seem to be heading in the same direction, and I may rethink the clarifier, next question will be: how to make long concrete beds, and still get them to hold water, seeing as all concrete there is handmixed, so far on the ground, one bag at a time. BYAP had a forum reference to a 'brushon tar' waterproofing which wa compatable with plants and fish once it had enough time to dry. I can see the plants already!
You have some real challenges you are facing, Eric, but you are well on your way. I'm looking forward to seeing the pics and hearing about your set up someday!

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