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 would love to do that but It is definitely not an option.  Not only is my bedroom above the garage but also I am renting.  I am restricted to almost completely artificial conditions for growing.  The best I can do is open the garage during warm days.  There won't be any direct sun from that because I will have to have the system back from the rails for the garage door to maximize my growth height.  There are no windows either.  So basically all I can do is somewhat temperature regulate and ventilate by opening the garage.  This may be very useful in the summer I'm thinking.

Jon Nose said:

"In my opinion" grow enough talapia that you and you close associates will consume ... figure on a 7 month grow cycle )..about 1 - 1 1/2 lbs per fish (unproven at this point) Plan to keep inside you stock fish (breeders) for the following year. Run some carp (koi) or goldfish to the 50 degree level (lowest) .. to keep system going ... heating will be required eventually ...

until energy is not to expensive

Since you will be in your garage you could set up a reflective grow tent enclosure for your system to insulate it. Run the light at night when the temperature is lower and that should be enough heat for an IBC footprint. Get a tank heater just in case. I have been using the ECO Plus mag drive pumps, they are submersible or you can run them inline out of the water. They are super cheap too so you can buy a second for a backup. The most important thing is get yourself a GFI adapter to run the system. It never hurts to be safe... I dropped a small florescent light in to the fish tank and the fish didn't even notice!

And yes you want the pump sucking from the bottom to vacuum up the waste.

The grow tent or perhaps some insulation and cheap reflective mylar emergency blankets would be good.

You don't have to grow tilapia, I think bluegill or goldfish would be just fine to run your system through the first year while you find out how much it would cost to heat the water or not.  I think tilapia are over rated anyway and with only about 12 cubic feet of grow bed, you should really only be doing about 12 fish intended to grow to 1 lb (of course bluegill are often harvested at 6-8 oz so you might do more of them but I wouldn't recommend more than say 12-15 fish for the first season anyway.)

Do what you can.

There is wrap on pipe/tank Heat Trace cable (ZHeat tape) that can keep small volumes within temperature ranges fairly easy. There are several kinds but you can lay or tape the cablle to the sides of pipe then insulate to direct heat inwards. It comes in several wattages but 3 or 7 watts per foot is normal. a pre measured kit can also be used to just keep pipes in garages etc. from freezing/rupturing. there are a good range of thermostats that come with them so pick one that operates inside your particular specs. Available at all home improvement and hardware stores.

 This link discribes it better


Made some decisions today.  I'm gonna go with a constant pumped bell siphon draining design.  Because I'm terrified that the siphon will fail I'm going to make sure to have a some extra room on the wall of the grow bed where I'm going to drill holes over the fish tank as a fail-safe.  I borrowed my neighbors angle grinder and cut the steel cage today but got interrupted before I could get any further.  Still have to find out if they treat the water here with chloramines or not, but I feel good about finally reconciling my concerns and wants finally.  My design was changing daily in my head.

Hay Daniel, instead of simply drilling holes, I recommend installing an extra plumbing fitting and and overflow so you can direct the water.  If you just let it trickle down through holes in the side of the IBC it might not fall in the fish tank very well due to surface tension with the side of the IBC.  You can simply install a second stand pipe somewhere without a bell and if the water gets to that height it will go down the top of it, just make sure it is a little higher than the bell siphon high water level so that it won't interfere with the function of the siphon when the siphon is functioning properly.

So I finished cutting my IBC in half tonight. Didn't really consider the difficulty of putting a stand pipe through this cap.

Anyway my wife came up with an idea that I'm really taking to and would like to hear some opinions on.  It was a way to avoid messing with this cap.

It seems to me that this would minimize dead zones for such a simple set up.  The alternative I'm thinking of is putting the bell siphon in the middle of the cap and  having the incoming water distributed around the perimeter of the grow bed by a PVC square with holes drilled in it.  I'd love to hear some thoughts.  Here's a pic of the separated halves for fun.


That lid is proving to be a bit of a a stinker. Ive tried sealing it twice, but it was still leaking today.  I took out the lid inside the lid out and that seems to be the problem.  I'm going to lowe's tonight to see If a standard pvc clean out cap will fit in there. I ripped all of my silicone out and I'm going to let the grow bed dry until tomorrow, when I'll go at it again fresh with a focus and determination that will be unrivaled so far in my project.  The process of sealing the grow bed has been agonizing, I just can't wait to get cycing.  Sigh. Wish me luck.

Water in at one corner and the siphon over in the other corner works for me.  I've only once actually made a distrobution grid.

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