Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

Hello everybody. I am very excited to find this great resource for aquaponics. We have 40 acres out near Grass Valley at 2400 ft and doing the self-sufficiency lifestyle out here. I just built my first aquaponics system and really excited bout the plants growth so far and the scientific curiosity of the whole thing.

One challenge for us is that we are off grid so my pump ( CHOP ) runs off two 6 volt Trojan batteries which get charged by the solar panels out side. So far I can run 24x7 w/o any issues bout only have about two days of charge to support the system when the sun goes away.

I've used a tote for the fish tank and used old watering troughs for the garden beds. The beds are on the ground so I use a sump tank to drain the beds and house the pump.

I got six large goldfish in there now but hope to move to Sacramento Perch when I'm comfortable with the whole thing.

I'm really excited about the system and look forward to keeping it going for a long time.

I have videos on YouTube of the whole operation and lots of other things on the farm here. Enjoy!

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Jason,  was wondering what size pump you run and how big are your beds? I have just started my system about a week ago and it is my goal to migrate from my electric pump to a DC pump such as some type of bilge type pump. I will most likely be using some type of deep cycle marine battery and solar panels. But just starting out I wanted to be sure that I would be successful at it before I spent the money to go solar. Thanks for info you can share.  

Hello Don.

I have a inexpensive 12v bilge pump, 600gph or 10gpm. Its a SeaHorse I think. I picked two of them up at the local auto parts store for $28 each. I have one on backup in case I lose one or it breaks. Now that I've been running this way for awhile, I can tell you that unless you have at least 300 watts of solar panels and probably 200 amp hours of battery storage you won't be able to run your pump 24x7. That pump runs 3amps. What I have been doing is running the pump during the day ( sun out ) and run aeroator only at night. Aeroator I have only draws 0.2 amps. The larger grow bed is 6' diameter circle and 20 cubic feet. The smaller grow bed is 5.6' and is 15.4 cubic foot. That is for media that is only about 10" deep. Using TCLynx's calcuation that should be good for about 35 fish ( when full grown ).

If you get your solar panels used then you can save some money. Sometimes batteries show up on craigs list. Either way though it does cost some money. You will need to invest more in power generation and power storage to be happy with it.

Hope that helps :)


What is your aerator (.2 amps)?  Thanks.

Its a keep alive bait pump I found on Amazon. I measured it with my multi meter.

I went with a 500 GPH Johnson Mayfair Pro-Line - rated at 2.0 amps but we'll see.  You can buy them at lots of places, including Amazon.  I'll run this continuously from my solar system for aeration while pumping tank to beds from grid, for the time being.

I've recently been trying to integrate my solar panel into my smaller system (100g fish tank).  Kill-o-watt says I use 52 watts + whatever the inverter is costing me.  At the moment I've just got a weenie little 5 watt panel and a cheap radio shack 350w inverter with a fan in it (stollen from the camping kit), however, it will run the pumps/air for at least a couple days.  I've been trying to spec out how much panel I'll eventually need to get but owms law is just beyond my mental reach.


Meanwhile, some thoughts for reducing energy for solar:


1. Does your design allow you to use a timer for the pumps?  I got to thinking that I'd just run the pumps for 15 minutes every 2 hours when its dark and a 1/2 hour per hour in daylight. Problems: Beds end up occasionally swamped when the pumps shut off and starting a pump repeately beats up the pump faster than leaving it on.


2. Heater is currently left on the grid power but thermostat is down to 65 degrees so it only has to turn on for cold nights.  300watts is a lot of watts but I want the fish to grow as fast as possible so I can harvest them before winter.  I doubt I can play solar exclusive when the fall comes.  Heck, I'll probably need to shut down in the winter but we'll see.

3. Air pump is off right now while the fish are small and the nights are cool.  I've got quite a bit of splash through bed discharge and pumps.  Might have to cross my fingers on this aspect as I don't have an o2 meter.  When it gets hot (and the fishies grow up) I'll put it back on the battery.  .2 watts are not a lot of watts but with my puny panel I need everything I can get.

Thanks Kirk. Great reply. I'm not sure what system is best for timed water pumps but I think it would be ok. My system has a sump, so as long as I don't over flow then I'm fine. The FT is highest and gravity feeds into the grow beds. Water in to the FT is water out the into the beds, so I don't think shutting the pumps off/on every so often would be an issue.

Anybody know of a good DC timer? 12v?

12 volt timers:  Search Amazon and you'll find one.  Perhaps Rob's timers will work with 12 volt - I don't know but check the shopping link on this site. 

Kirk:  My system requirements are much the same as yours and three 195 watt panels with 150 AH of battery aren't enough.  Possibly if I added another battery I could make it most of the time without plugging in a charger.  Of course, if I pumped less that would make a difference but I've chosen to pump continuously.  I'll pump a lot less and stop feeding if/when a power outage occurs.

3 panels at 195 watts each sounds like way more than I'd use for two little pumps.


and at $1.25 per watt for the panels, we're talking $731.25 too.


I'm all for going green but I'd like to keep some in my pocket!

Yes, I understand.  Solar easily doubled the cost of my system.  Batteries are another costly component.  I think it will work out for me - My primary goal with solar is to keep everything alive if grid power goes down for several days, which has happened here, twice. 

There is a DC timer available through the shop link on this site and it looks like a good one.  Depending on the outcome of my tests of 12-volt pumps, I may purchase one, eventually.

Kirk Ellern said:

I'm all for going green but I'd like to keep some in my pocket!

I'm stoked this morning. My off-grid aquaponics ran overnight without any issues on its own power. I had a charge controller problem and my batteries were not getting enough charge. After a couple days of charging with the new charge controller ( sometimes at 40amps ) my batteries were topped off nicely.

System was going strong all day, and I left the pump on last night. This morning voltages are still 12.6 even with the run all night long!

By the numbers I should have three days of run on the two batteries I have. Also when I measured my bilge pump it runs at only 2 amps now versus when it was new running at 3.5 amps.

As others have mentioned you need at least 350watts of solar panels 400amp hours of batteries and the most efficient pump possible to get these systems off grid.

Which controller did you go with? 

I just installed a new 12-volt pump with spray bar in my tank, for aeration only - Rule 24.  It pumps 360 GPH at no head (provided voltage is adequate), 260 at 3.5 feet (1 meter) and 190 at 6.7 feet (2 meters), according to the paperwork anyhow. 

Jason Eaton said:.

After a couple days of charging with the new charge controller ( sometimes at 40amps ) my batteries were topped off nicely.

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