Aquaponic Gardening

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Portable Farms just announced a "Salmon Aquaponics System" - (portablefarm dot com slash farm2011 slash salmon-aquaponics).  I'm pretty surprised by this as I thought salmon were salt-water fish.  The entire web page just talks about dealing with temperature differentials.  Anyone have any idea what is going on here?  Why wouldn't you just call that a Trout System?

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thanks Carey, you are a gentleman.  Oh for a pair of waders, a fishing pole, and some peace and quiet!

...and you are right, if we don't try new things, and learn from our failures, then we will never progress.  (Let's just not sell our failures on to an unsuspecting public is all I ask!)

The guys down in OZ many of them grow Trout in aquaponics and in the cooler regions I would guess it's the favored aquaponic fish there with silver perch being the slower growing but usually survive year round in most climates fish and then the Jade perch and Barramundi being favored where the water can be kept warm.  There are some other fish and creatures our Friends in OZ like to raise too and Aquaponics for home use is very well established there.

We don't hear as much about raising trout in aquaponics here in the USA, I guess since so much of the climate is too extreme in winter so most of the aquaponics in in greenhouses so that people go for warm water fish year round but I think if people were to design to keep the water cooler instead of spending money to heat it that more people would probably do better with trout.  However the fact that tilapia are rather bomb proof and cold is the primary killer it seems, there is a tendency for people to build under filtered systems and pay to heat them to grow tilapia year round rather than building over filtered systems and just growing the trout for 9 months of the year.

But perhaps I shouldn't talk since I've never raised trout in my systems and I'm not going to since the water is too warm for them here probably 7 months of the year at least.  And well, we like catfish and they can grow well on even lower protein feed that tilapia and in my unheated fish tanks the catfish will grow out twice as big faster.

Anyway, I've heard of trout being raised on an algae based feed through the study I heard of was very short.  Hopefully more studies can be done on this and if it works for trout, I expect it can be made to work for salmon too, if so, I suspect this could really improve the situation around salmon farming  and if we can raise the algae to fee the salmon in salt water, that would make a salmon aquaponics system possible.

 Here's an idea:



The Sockeye Salmon is a Pacific Salmon Species (Oncorhynchus nerka) also known as Kokanee here in the PNW in its landlocked lifecycle.  They grow well up in the north, where it is cold. The Kokanee do tend to be smaller than their anadromous counterparts. Interestingly enough, while most adult pacific salmon feed on small fish, shrimp and squid, the sockeye feed on plankton that they filter through gill rakers (this is true for both migratory and land locked populations).  As juveniles they will eat insects. As adults they will also eat small aquatic organisms, but their diet is mostly zooplankton.  Those of you growing tanks of natural fish feed, here is an opportunity for you. Kokanee raised on a natural diet.  So why not grow kokanee and frozen vegetables together?  An awesome combination. A great idea for those of us living where it gets cold! Forget about feeding pelleted foods, or the changing of the water from fresh to salt to fresh....and Japan Aquaponics....sockeye salmon ranges to the islands of Japan - a natural for your systems! I am sure you could come up with another winner of a system like your Micro system-with-the-feeling-of-fishing-the-Scottish-Highlands. 


   This has been an enjoyable discussion.  Fun and thought provoking.

Hi All.  I apologize as well for jumping into the bashing party, (although I don't apologize for thoroughly enjoying Japan's excellent sense of humor!).  My intent in starting this post was not to bash but rather to truly start an inquiry about salmon, to which there have been many excellent posts and I, for one, am learning a ton!

I have attempted to raise trout, but I gave them away to a friend who had an outside system after a few months.  The problem I encountered is that I found that I was stressing out about how warm the water was getting in my greenhouse...and I was unwilling to invest what I probably would have needed in order to artificially cool it.  Cold water fish outdoors are also a conundrum with an aquaponics system (which may be why PF is creating such an elaborate cooling-heating-cooling system) because while the fish survive and even thrive in very cold water, the plants and bacteria aren't happy about it.  I think you might be able to get a spinach growing operation going for a while, but if you take a climate like mine where we hit zero F two nights ago most all the bacteria in the beds would be killed off, then when it hit 40F yesterday and things started to warm up the fish would have started metabolizing more...and there would be no bacteria in the system.  An outdoor system would spend entire winter cycling, then going dormant, then cycling, etc.  So outdoors doesn't seem to practical either.  Might be able to work in a less extreme climate...but you need to be sure that the temps would stay cool enough, long enough to successfully grow out the trout.  It sounds like in Oz, as TC said, that works...especially if you go with more mature fish to begin with, as I know Rupert has suggested in the past.

  Thanks for the input Sylvia....

    Hope you were not thinking I was bashing....I honestly enjoyed the post from Japan Aquaponics....but there REALLY is something to the kokanee salmon.....And the "frozen vegetable" connection  I made was to point out exactly what you mentioned about the  nitrification quandry.


  Here's "food for thought".  This would probably only work for us up north. Grow kokanee in tanks set into the ground, and a bit insulated if you are WAY up north.  The normal ground temps should make it easier to maintain the water temps closer to the kokanee's favored water temp. or 54 degrees.  ( Yes they can survive very cold temps. too).  AT this temperature the nitrification bacteria are still at work.  You can grow cold favoring being water cress, which is a commercially viable crop down to 50 degrees.   So you can have the cress in your green house above ground  keeping warm  (heat with compost or any one of the many ideas posted on this site) and the tanks sunk beneath....In the summer the ground will keep the water a cool temperature while you open your greenhouse to keep the air as cool or warm as your northern climate warms to....   Now give me a break... this is a idea in progess and subject to all kinds of flaws I am sure....and I know not nearly as entertaining as the  Japan Aquaponics masterpiece (I REALLY enjoyed that read!)  but there may be something to this salmon and aquaponics...

Thank you Converse for the info on the kokanee salmon, I had a vague idea that there were landlocked types of salmon but I don't know much about them myself other than what I pick up from my Uncles fishing stories.

I suspect that you are right, with seasonal cold frames over the operation for the winter and being opened up or getting shade cloth for the summer, year round trout/salmon systems could be possible.  Trick is keeping the water temperature stable enough that you are not killing the bacteria every few days which might mean constant flood through the grow beds through the more extreme times of year and flood and drain only when the season is mild or if trying to cool water at night or warm it during the day during the extreme seasons.  Kale, broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, collards, and many more in addition to the water cress like cool weather.  My best season for broccoli was the year I was finding ice on the plants in the morning.

And that info about salmon being filter feeders, wow I had no idea that it might be possible to do green water culture with salmon!!!! Cool.  Hum, not sure that is going to make it too much easier for the cook to convince me to move to a cooler climate though.  I do so enjoy NOT using a greenhouse.

I have caught and eaten the kokanee in freshwater lakes. It will also spawn from freshwater lake to stream. The fish is very good to eat. It makes perfect sense that this would be a viable variety similar to trout. The feed ratios might be the drawback but in small aquaponics systems it is really not an issue since most dont monitor feed to weight gain anyway. Most just eat them when they are big enough. This fish will go to 18 inches in two years in the wild. I think it is very probable this will be a alternative for northern growers in cooler climates. I have backed off this site because there is always a smart ass who doesnt know jackshit about the topic but berates someone anyway. If you have a tidbit of practical or usefull information then pitch in and propell the discussion. If you dont then shut your pie hole and learn something. I thought the tongue and cheek was hilarious.

The Kokanee sound interesting... I have a friend here in Japan who is involved in the fish industry and so will ask him if it possible to get hold of some of them.  We were considering one option of running two sets of fish... one during the summer months and one during the winter months, and bringing them into the systems when they were slightly larger and then just growing them out.

I have a question though... growing "frozen vegetables".  This sounds like something I would likely say as a joke, but you seem to be serious?  Can someone enlighten me.... or is it actually a joke?!

To Answer the Question about "frozen vegetables", from Japan AP : Did I add that as a joke?

Yes, and no.

Out where I live, in the past two years local farmers (both conventional and organic) have had a very rough  growing season and lost crops due to cold snaps early and late Spring, and lack of long warm summer days expected.  This was very evident while I was at the Famers' Markets each week throughout the season.  On our farm, we started joking about raising frozen vegetables to lighten the mood.  Encorporating AP in the whole mix (with a greenhouse)  does work out here...but there is a lot of fine tuning we are having to do.  We are searching for a way to do this sustainably and off grid.  On the west slope of the crest of the Cascade Range, we deal with cold temps in the winter, wet, and not a lot of sun (clouds and trees). Heavy wet snow is a consideration for needing a good design for a sturdy greenhouse, and we want it to operate year round.  Asking too much?  Well, now do all this on budget that could be described as a very frayed shoe-string budget.     (this describes a lot of people I am sure, not just us)  

    So when we researched and decided we would go with tilapia  for ability to sustain its own population and we have the feed on-farm for them, and the quick turn-over rate of generations...but we are also searching for the "perfect fish' to use in aquaponics for our region.  It needs to tolerate cold, and not need commercial feeds.  So it has to be something we can support by growing the food for the fish on our farm ( a type of 'Green water' culture works here).  Then we had to consider the temperature needs for the "perfect fish", which had to be high enough to be within the low end of the range for the nitrifiying bacteria to be able to function at least....What do you grow in those "frigid' conditions?  'Frozen vegetables', of course.   Crops that will do decently in those temperatures, anyway.    In swims the kokanee.  The landlocked 'vesion" of the anadromous pacific salmon species known as Sockeye Salmon.  I'd like to grow 'frozen peas and carrots", but it looks like it will be the tradtional cold weather crops with these guys.    

     Let me know how things go for you, if you decide to go with kokanee.  We are working on this idea for here.....but without the swim gym. Still  in the  idea stage for us.

If I had a piece of dirt to install an AP system on, I'd definitely lay down a couple hundred feet or so of coiled pipe underground and another coil in a solar collector on a roof so that I could circulate water through either one to cool or heat as needed. I'd also be looking into ground-coupled heat exchangers to heat/cool the air in the greenhouse:

Another two cents: I would like to remind you folks that root zone heating is far more important than heating the air inside a greenhouse. I also believe that any supplemental heating would benefit any system by supplementing electrical heating cost. The third factor I would like to remind folks about is the importance of insulation, no matter if you are trying to grow/raise in the heat of summer or the cold of winter.

 At this point heating is in the form of  passive solar, with the warmth of the day being collected in a dark green trough of water. Not really very warm in there, but I still have  some flowering going on in the greenhouse! Compost pile heating is our other form of heat.   We are preparing to connect to our compost heating by piping through the piles and into the areas needing heat.   Because of our situation, we have access to the matter to sustain the large piles....then the redworms get the stuff from these piles when it cools.

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