Aquaponic Gardening

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Hello Aquaponic World,

I hope someone might take a moment and remind me why I'm doing this....

I have now had plants growing since last October in the the AP system and the volunteers growing in the yard are doing better than my AP plants. I am about 25 fish away from going Hydroponic... Here's why.

Last October I built the system.  Since then I have had 35-40 large (4-8") goldfish in the system.  Not a single dead fish.  Not much growth.   

250 Gal IBC (Fish tank)

4'x16'x10" gravel grow bed

4'x8'x8" DWC

60 +/- sump

32- 4 gal Dutch buckets

Water from well ph 6   correction PH is 7

System water  ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, 0.0  & PH sits around 8.0

Lots of aquatic snails

8-10 baby goldfish now 2" :)

Growth has always been super slow.  

Kale and mint doing great.

Lettuce/spinach/ bitter and slow growing.

health lettuce started in grow cubes declines in DWC

Conclusion was not enough waste (nutrition) in system.  
Bought 100 Channel Cat and replaced goldfish with cats.  

Day one hour one 15 dead

Day 2 15 more dead

on day 7 now.  Down to less than 35 fish.  

Next purchase at this point is going to be a sack of fertilizer and some beer batter to cook the last fish and give up on the AQUAPONICs.

I had no idea there would be so much information out there yet no one able to help.  Been to every greenhouse "Garden" Supplier around.  Even went to the local bait and tackle shop to talk fish yesterday.  

I would love some assistance.

Thanks guys

I have pictures of my system and plants on my page.


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My greenhouse is pretty close to your size 20x24 and I will be running 3 fish tanks for a total of 750 gals(I have two more empty tanks for the 2nd greenhouse expansion).  The biggest difference between my system and yours is I am using exclusively DWC beds instead of media filled grow beds.  But I have operated media beds for the past 3 years and they work well but are quite a bit more labor intensive as you scale up.

I'd love to see some pictures of your system.  How many #'s of fish would you estimate you have vs how many sq ft of actively growing plants

Thanks MT Mind.  how many #'s of fish per Sq Ft of Plant Growth can you generate???

At the end of the day, it isn't that efficient.  I have a 250 gal fish pond that has 50-60 large goldfish and a 2'x3' gravel bed keeps it clean and balanced.  Looks to me that you would need to be more interested in fish than produce.  What needs to be developed is a scale able "ORGANIC" digestor for a truely organic hydro system.  AP is clever and intriguing, but far more complicated than people are letting on.

Yes aquaponics is very complex due to all the knowledge/disciplines needed to fully optimize the system (botany, chemistry, hydrology, etc.).  I don't think that is a secret though.  A lot of it really depends on your source water - some folks are very lucky and they don't have to do much and their systems perform great.  My opinion is that in order to succeed at aquaponics/hydroponics, you need to test your source water and system water on a regular basis and start to understand the dynamics involved (beyond just the Freshwater API kit or EC meters).

And don't get my started about the organic argument...

No arguments with any of what you have said MT Mind.  I am not sure about the more concentrated nutrient supply claim - unless are implying that you can run more fish with a given amount of sand bed, which would make sense due to higher surface area of sand vs most other media.

Under lab conditions, I could see the pH staying neutral, however most backyarders don't keep their plants/fish in the sweet spot to obtain that.  That would be a challenge for any aquaponic or iAVS system.  Plants at different ages take up different amounts of ammonium and nitrates for plant food.  Dr. Nick Savidov has said his aquaponic systems performs like this as well but it does take time to get the balances right.

It could be argued that most media beds turn into a soil based system over time due to the organics being constantly added - along with rock/clay and microorganisms.  I personally don't see a lot of difference between iAVS and aquaponic media beds other than a difference in media type.

Makes sense to me.  Thanks for the productive discussion!

I appreciate the dialogue this is interesting however I am surprised that nobody is putting forth ideas that they have personally firsthand done

I have run 3 small systems - each holding about 300 gallons of water.  Each one was media bed based using clay balls.  Once I got my pH down into the proper range and added iron/potassium/cal-mag then I have had great growth on all plants including some amazing squash and eggplants.  My current running system in the basement is almost 2 years old and I have been growing lettuce, pak choy, spinach,rosemary, thyme, basil and a few other herbs I am forgetting at the moment.  It is powered by 2 modest koi that provide plenty of nitrates and ammonium for the plants.

I am currently building a semi-commercial sized system that is completely based on DWC beds.  It has properly sized filtration setup for the fish as well as a separate mbbr for housing the bacteria.  I hope to have more info for you firsthand when the system comes online in Sept.

Cool. How big will your system be? Did you look at the pictures I have on my account

The complete system is sized for two greenhouses (20x25').  Each greenhouse will contain 4 - 4'x20' DWC troughs (1 outside and 3 inside).  The fish house is a 15x24' building that I am almost finished with installing 4" foam insulation in the walls and ceiling.  There are 5 IBC totes for fish tanks, 2 - 330 gallon sump tanks (1 for fish and 1 for plants in case I want to do decoupled).  Anything else you want to know?

Yeah I love your greenhouse looking building.  I assume that's wood framing the hoops in?

Will you use a filter media or some type of bed to breakdown fish waste?   My system was always super clean water.  Sounds like your ratio of fish/plants will be more like I imagine you would need.  Are you thinking around 300-350# of fish?n what kind?

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