Aquaponic Gardening

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Size does matter! Or does it? How small can I go with the fish tank?

  • I read quite a bit about aquaponics lately, though still a newbie and it seems to me that most folks agree that one shouldn't go smaller than 1,000Lt for the fish tank. I would like to try something smaller, but at the same time, I don't want to ruin the experiment either. Have any of you gone smaller, say 200-300Lt and was it succesful? What were the problem areas? Please advise...

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If doing a little indoor thing with aquarium fish and some herbs under lights, you can go pretty darn small but you are not going to grow any plate size fish (unless you like eating off little girl's play tea party sets.)

If you are going for plate size fish.  You might be able to grow out a tilapia or bluegill in a 200 liter barrel (like a barrel ponics system) but you won't grow many and the temperature fluctuations could be a bit extreme for many types of fish depending on your climate.

I like to recommend about 1000 liters of fish tank just for the temp stability between day/night in subtropical/temperate climates.  Of course temperate climates have more to worry about for winter.

And I like to grow big fish and 300 gallons or about 1000 liters is the smallest tank I would want to put channel catfish to grow out.

I have a 100 liter system indoors with goldfish that is quite stable so it is possible to go small. I just keep my fish load small to avoid water chemistry issues. I use egg shells to balance my PH and I haven't had to touch it in months.

You can substitute these tropical plants with green leaf veggies. You can substitute fancy tropical fish with edible carp or layer the tank and raise crawdads, shrimp and/ or snails.

PS the smallest system I made (no pics) is one goldfish in fishbowl (1/2 liter) with one lettuce plant on top, suspended via a 3" net pot.

OK guys, thanks for the responses. In conclusion it seems to me that what you are saying is that small can work, but not for "plate fish"? Would you say that's a fair summation?

The main reason people say larger is that if you make a mistake, the larger your system is, the more cushion you have for absorbing the error. If you keep the input variables stable (water temp, food, buffering, air & light) the system should be stable - the smaller the system the harder that is to do.

Hi Richard, I did some work on really small systems to be used in classrooms and had systems running without any problems with as little as a 50 litre and a 13 litre fish tank.  You had to watch them carefully though as changes can happen really quickly.  Here is the YouTube video:

Micro Aquaponics System

 We have also recently installed a 200 litre system into a school and that is working really nicely as well.  The school will not be using fish to eat - but if you wanted to you could... but not very many at all.  Here is the link to that project (on the Japan Aquaponics website).

200 Litre Aquaponics System

All of these smaller systems work very well but you need to be a little more vigilant on checking pH and so forth.  Generally, I would say that they work best with ornamental fish - and all of the ones we have set up we have recommended goldfish or smaller koi for them.

Yes, fair summation.  Aquaponics can be done at any size but if you want to grow out bigger fish, you need a big enough tank for them (about 50 gallons would be a minimum for grow say a tilapia or bluegill, I'd go 300 gallons or 1000 liters for channel catfish or trout.)  The bigger systems are going to be more temperature stable and give you more reaction time to deal with water chemistry swings.  Leave the tiny fish bowl in the sun and you have goldfish soup instead of aquaponics.

Richard Joseph said:

OK guys, thanks for the responses. In conclusion it seems to me that what you are saying is that small can work, but not for "plate fish"? Would you say that's a fair summation?

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