Aquaponic Gardening

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Hi all-

Even though we are just starting our summer here in the US, I always think of the winter.  I do not have an out building to house my system as I just started aquaponics, and was wondering if you can freeze the water in the grow beds and will this affect the bacteria therein.

  Our winters are 4-5 months long and get really cold, anywhere between 0°F and -40°F.  Thank you

White Bear

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Your system will need to "re-cycle up" each spring but the people I know who have done seasonal outdoor systems have found that the system seems to cycle up fairly easy each spring seeing as the fish are generally pretty slow in the cool water of spring anyway.  It's kinda like waking up an ornamental pond in the spring I guess.

 

The bacteria are affected by the cold but if there are no fish in and you are letting it go dormant and you will be letting things warm up naturally in spring it seems reasonable to me.

 

Biggest worry I would have is freezing water and media may tend to heave and expand which could be bad for your containers.  I wouldn't leave too much water in for the winter.  A small amount should be fine but I wouldn't try to leave it all full or flooded.  Make sure the fish tank barrel is drained down below the half way mark so when it expands it will be less likely to burst the barrel.

Thanks TC-

  I was planning on draining the reservoir and the fish aquarium and housing the fish in a spare room indoors.  I am not too concerned with the grow beds and I will be sure that they are also drained thouroughly.  I will not be removing the grow bed medium as it must weigh at least 600 lbs, my main concern was if the bacteria would survive in these temps or if I would have to re-inoculate the unit in the spring.  Thanks for your answer.  Be well

White Bear

TCLynx said:

Your system will need to "re-cycle up" each spring but the people I know who have done seasonal outdoor systems have found that the system seems to cycle up fairly easy each spring seeing as the fish are generally pretty slow in the cool water of spring anyway.  It's kinda like waking up an ornamental pond in the spring I guess.

 

The bacteria are affected by the cold but if there are no fish in and you are letting it go dormant and you will be letting things warm up naturally in spring it seems reasonable to me.

 

Biggest worry I would have is freezing water and media may tend to heave and expand which could be bad for your containers.  I wouldn't leave too much water in for the winter.  A small amount should be fine but I wouldn't try to leave it all full or flooded.  Make sure the fish tank barrel is drained down below the half way mark so when it expands it will be less likely to burst the barrel.

The bacteria will die back at these temperatures and you will have to go through a period of cycle up again.

Thanks TC-

  So what would be the best way to keep these little buggers.  Should a portion be kept in an aquarium along with the fish then applied to the grow bed in the spring, or should the unit be allowed to die off and be re-inoculated in the spring.

TCLynx said:

The bacteria will die back at these temperatures and you will have to go through a period of cycle up again.

I see TC is not around so perhaps, while you wait for her to comment, my thoughts on what I would do - If you are going to move the fish into an aquarium, you may as well take a small amount of the media with, and keep it going in the aquarium.  This, together with water from the aquarium, can be added to the AP system outside when it is time to start it up again.  I do not think that you will be going much faster than just starting the old beds up again, as these bacteria are pretty much everywhere and the system will cycle again whether you introduce "old" media and water or not.

 

Perhaps people who have actually seen snow will have a different response though, so I'll wait and see what the others say  

Leo White Bear said:

Thanks TC-

  So what would be the best way to keep these little buggers.  Should a portion be kept in an aquarium along with the fish then applied to the grow bed in the spring, or should the unit be allowed to die off and be re-inoculated in the spring.

TCLynx said:

The bacteria will die back at these temperatures and you will have to go through a period of cycle up again.

Spot on there Kobus.

 

I would perhaps have a bucket of media hooked to the system outside that you can bring in to hook to the aquarium for the winter and then take back out when the fish move to attach back tot he system.  The main system bacteria will start up slow but when it's cool the fish metabolism will be slow to so they should be able to ramp up together and the bucket filter should provide a good amount of traveling inoculation to help out.

 

Granted, I have not done an actual seasonal Aquaponics system in a snowy climate myself (other than an ornamental pond with only a small population of goldfish and only pond plants/waterfall filter to re-cycle up each season.)

So take my advise with the information that as soon as you go through one full season like this you will suddenly have 100% more seasonal shutdown aquaponics experience than I have. I'm currently living in Florida where we don't get that cold.

Thanks Kobus and TC-

  Thanks for the answers to my question of over-wintering the bacteria, now I have to think of an auxillary bio-filter.  It shouldn't be too difficult to figure out using a 3 gallon bucket and some fittings.  I appreciate your thoughts.

White Bear

I ran an indoor system using 5 gallon buckets and an aquarium.  And the aux filter could be as simple as netting stuffed into the bucket if you don't want to deal with gravel.  Of course the gravel could grow some plants.  Aloe is handy for indoors since it doesn't need much light.

TC-

  I have seen a few indoor AP systems that are very compact, I like the bucket and netting to suggest.  Even with gro-lights you could grow some herbs or decorative plants.  Thank you for a great site.

White Bear

TCLynx said:

I ran an indoor system using 5 gallon buckets and an aquarium.  And the aux filter could be as simple as netting stuffed into the bucket if you don't want to deal with gravel.  Of course the gravel could grow some plants.  Aloe is handy for indoors since it doesn't need much light.
Ah Sylvia is the one to thank for this site.  I just have both forms of Aquaponics addiction pretty bad so I'm around a lot to answer questions.

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