Aquaponic Gardening

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Hello Everyone,

I live in Virginia and the winter get pretty cool and the summers get pretty warm. During the spring and fall if you dont like the weather just wait a couple of hours. I am looking to expand my system in my garage. I have a 250g Ft (IBC) and a 4x4 gb. I am looking at putting up 16-32 5ft towers over top a wide bin that will grow duckweed, guppies, and/or a floating raft. I will be using 6500k Induction lighting for the plants.  I am looking for fish that grow a little quicker. I like that with Trout I would not have to heat the water as much and they are fast growers. Down fall is the water condition has to be pristine and they are hard to find online. I Have not had an issue with my catfish except when i forgot to re-plug in my aerator. But my water might be clean enough with all of the bio media in the towers plus i supplement in minerals as Nate Storey does. I like that with Tilapia they grow large fast, they eat almost anything, and they are pretty resilient. Their down fall is the price to heat the garage. I am going to insulate my garage either way because I saw how much the winter slowed down my catfish and I have a cast iron natural gas heater my parents gave to me. Just have to get my neighbor to run some gas line around my house unless I put some extra duct in the garage from my hvac. I really wouldn't mind trout but everyone seems to just go tilapia. Are they really that much easier after you get the heating situated. Oh and I don't have enough yard to do a green house and the wife cant say what I do with the garage.

Thank you for your time and remember,

Don't grow far from your roots.  

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It's easier (and cheaper) to heat water than it is to cool water. We really wanted to do trout, and live in a much colder environment than Virginia but after talking with the local hatcheries, and visiting their facilities, we came to the conclusion that as hobbyists, there was no way could we affordably get the water cold enough for trout. We'll be doing perch instead; they like cool water but they're not the swimming ice cubes that trout are.

Chilling the water for trout actually takes very little more energy and for as short a period of time in the hottest part of the year as heating does for tilapia during the coldest. I use 3 - 5 watts per gallon for heating and 4 watts per gallon for chilling. Both with a 20 deg. differential from ambient or room temp. This must be calculated using total system gallons not just the fish tank size.

 I also keep the trout out doors during winter, and indoor in summer. Opposite for some of the plants really.

I think what might drive a lot of folks away is the cost of the chiller vs. heater.  There are often deals to be found for used and rebuilt. And of course building our own is possible from found parts. 

Yes, Glenn, that initial expense was the deal breaker for us. We could buy scads of tanks heaters for the cost of one chiller, and nobody for hundreds of miles had anything used. We'd have to chill the water from about mid-March to mid-November. As a hobbyist, I couldn't justify it.

I like the idea of having two living zones for the trout, keeping them in a cooled room in the summer, if you have the space for that. Or, alternating warm fish in summer and cool fish in winter, but that would depend on the growth rate of the fish. A lot of intricacies there and too many points of failure for me, at least, as a backyard grower.

Now, if someone comes up with a viable way to grow walleye in captivity, I may be converting the garage into a big, chilly room.  I would love to get some tips on a build-your-own chiller, if you have them. Please do post.

I thank everyone for their reply. 

Been doing trout here in NE TN for 2 years and they have been far easier than cats or BGs. They will tolerate up to 75F (80F is considered fatal) and seem perfectly happy. We have hit a low of 45F in Winter when we are -20 outside. We have a hatchery 40 min away and pay .70 each for 4-5" fingerlings.

I built our GH with a separated N side insulated fish room (6'x24') with about 20% white plastic 8' roof panels (3 in 24') and the rest metal. The 5 IBC FTs are insulated and I simply run the cold 55F artesian well water into the buried 275G sump should they need cooling. Forgot I had it running the other night and the temp of the 2400g system dropped from 74F to 62F overnight. I also keep 4 one gal jugs of water in the freezer and place one in each of the 2 trout tanks should the system temp get up to say 74F. The iceburgs for trout thing is over rated. Do what I did and try 3 or 4 species and see what works out for you. For us the trout have been the overall winners. And then there is the flavor! YUM

You can also get a large used chest freezer and convert that to a chiller FT by replacing the T-stat with a room temp stat. Just be sure and run the freezer with the lid open and mark where the freon pipes are before drilling for your SLO (they will frost right up). In an insulated garage it should be easy to do trout. Vent the heat from the grow lights outside during the Summer and inside during Winter as well. I would do the same for the chiller.

Probably easier to insulate the fish tank than garage.  Use a bucket heater and temperature controller to maintain minimum temperature.  I vote for tilapia.  Bland taste, but nice filet's.  Tilapia are very hardy fish.

Bucket heater -

Controller -

WOW thank you guys

Has anyone considered using the bladder from the 5 liter wine box? You can pulled the spigot out and fill them with water and plug it back up and then freeze the bags. You can easily reuse them

I would say it is easier to insulate the garage. If you only insulate the tank than all the cold /heat is getting lost in grow beds, tanks,pipes and sumps and you still would have to have insulated covers.

Selecting the breed of tilapia can dictate the temperature needed for the water.

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