Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

Hello everybody,

I've been reading for hours and hours about all of your systems and questions.  I have been interested in aquaponics for a couple years now but never really knew where to start.  I read Sylvia's book, which I got for my birthday, over the last week.  I just HAD to get started after reading.  So I got myself a bunch of hydroton and a 600 watt HPS yesterday.  I'm having an IBC delivered hopefully Sunday.  I'll be setting up in my garage, because unfortunately I live in a Quadplex with almost no yard and crippling HOA style regulations.  I'm planning on simply cutting the top foot of my IBC off for a grow bed.  I'm pretty set on a simple flood and drain system mainly because I cant afford to damage the garage should something fail.  So I went with the simplest design which will simply drain back into the fish tank should my pump fail.

Anyway I have a couple questions that I would love to hear some input on; 

1. Are tilapia going to be too difficult to keep warm in a 1 car garage near Denver?  I will have the 600 watt HPS running in there.  I talked to the housing office here and they want me to ventilate by opening the garage for like 20 mins or so everyday. Am I gonna be fighting a difficult battle with tilapia?  I am certainly willing to get a tank heater but I don't really want to be running it all the time.  I am definitely trying to come up with ideas to insulate the tank too.

2.  I read in the book that a mag drive pump is ideal.  I have been looking at pumps and I just don't really know what exactly differentiates some from others.  Are some better for pumping solids like fish waste that I should be looking for?  Also I understand oversizing the pump because I will need to pump the water up to the grow bed, but does the vertical distance start at the top of the water or would it be down where the pump is on the floor of the tank? Say around 5ft versus 2ft or so.

Thank you all so much for providing such helpful content I feel like I've already learned dozens of lessons in the past week or so I've been lurking here.

Daniel McElhattan

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I'm all set up with gravel and everything but I have an inconsistent bell siphon.  It will work usually three or 4 times in a row but then it will just reach an equilibrium low in the grow bed.  I have already massively diverted the water coming from the pump.  Its to the point that it takes about 24 mins to fill the grow bed and 3 to empty it.  I'm already not going to be pushing through a whole lot of water. grow bed is about a hundred gallons total and my fish tank is something like 150.  Has anyone dealt with anything like this before.  I have only read about peoples siphons working or not working.  Not working 75-80 percent of the time.

Have a pic of what you made ..some dimensions..?

I shortened the horizontal pipe of the siphon on the underside of my grow bed by about 5 out of 13 inches and the siphon hasn't failed once since I have altered it.  It has made 12 cycles so far. I'm going to bed with my fingers crossed, hoping to not wake up to some equilibrium.   I'll put up some pics when I can.  My spirits are up again, as I was thinking about damage control earlier today.  I was trying to figure out the best way to convert my system into timed ebb and flow or constant flood.  Fingers crossed.

Hey Daniel-

Good to hear about another Colorado Aquapon getting up and running. You should be able to keep tilapia in your tank in the garage, but yes you will also have to heat the water. You could try blue gill, bass or even trout in the colder months, but then likely all your bacteria and plants will be slower to grow or could even stop if the temps get too cold. We run trout, blue gill and koi in the fall, winter and spring at the GrowHaus without much heat inputs. Insulating the tank will be helpful and putting a cover over the top (whatever part is open after the growbed sits on top), will also help with both reducing the heat loss as well as keeping the moisture in the room down. In Colorado humidity isn't much of an issue, but in the winter have warm water and cold air definitely makes for condensation issues. 

Water pumps designed for ponds will do the job just fine, although both Beckett and Little Giant do well most of the time, there are instances where they burn out quickly. Head height is from the pump to the top of the growbed (or towers if you choose to add them into the design), so keep that in mind when choosing your pump. 

We are running a hands on aquaponics system construction workshop on May 20th at the GrowHaus, 4751 York St in Denver. Check out the website for more information and hope to see you there.

Siphon has been running stably for over 24 hours.  Did my first water test PH is reading bottomed out at 6.0.  Should I be raising this somehow?  I am cycling with 15 small goldfish.  Ammonia read .25 ppm. I'll be adding a few plants tomorrow most likely.  The goldfish have been in since Friday night.  I didn't test nitrates tonight.  When Do you think I should start testing for nitrates.  I am cycling from scratch.  I have been feeding every few days so far a little bit cause I don't want the ammonia to get out of control.

Here's a couple pics

The piping is kind of a mess.  I just needed to make it work before I start cleaning it up.  The last picture is the frame I built out of PVC to hold my grow light which will probably be installed tomorrow night.  Things are moving along.  I'll be really excited until the next challenge comes along !


I would test the nitrates just so you know the baseline of your water before you get too far along.

During cycle up I would test ammonia and nitrite every day along with pH.

I would probably add some calcium carbonate and/or potassium bicarbonate to buffer your pH up into a readable range, like 6.5 just so you know it isn't way low, either that or get a pH test that will tell you what the pH really is when it's below 6.

Got my light up. put in a tomato plant.  I will post some pics when I can. Work has been really busy lately.

Looks like you are off to a really good start. Good luck.


Is it just me or is the surface of the media getting wet during your normal water cycle?  Now if it's just because those were pictures taken with brand new wet washed media, the ok.  but if the surface of the media is staying wet all the time or getting wet during the flood cycle, you either a-need more media so the top inch or so is above the high water level so the top surface stays dry or b-you need to lower your flood height so the top inch or so stays above the flood height so the top surface stays dry.

I just added more media last night, it is starting to dry now.  I didn't have enough before.  In addition, the pump water was splattering all over the top but that's under control now too. Good eye though.

So, My PH is still bottomed out on my tank, reading 6.0.  I just tested my tap water cause I was curious as to what I started with.  It read at the very top, 7.6.  So I'm wondering if anyone has any idea how it got so low.  I'm using PLANT!T clay media.  It says it PH stable. The only other stuff in there is fish, plants, my pump w/some flexible black tubing.  Anyone have any ideas?  I have some egg shells in there And I'm starting to add potassium carbonate 3 TSP's at a time.

So, I have some eggshells in there and Ive been adding 4 TSP of potassium every couple days and I still haven't been able to budge my ph.  Every time I've ever tested I get 6.0 ph .25 ppm ammonia 0 nitrite 0 nitrate.  I left like 3 dead goldfish in their to hopefully make ammonia.  But so far nothing I've ever done has affected anything.  If anybody has any ideas please let me know.  I'm thinking I'm probably gonna have to do  a fairly massive water change.  But I'm stuck making no progress and my plants are starting to yellow from lack of nitrates I would guess.  Sigh.

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