Aquaponic Gardening

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Hi all, I'm a complete newbie who's fascinated with the idea of aquaponics.  I plan to build a system in my basement. I live in Colorado and like the idea of a stable climate indoors.

My plan is to build the system using three plastic 55 gallon barrels. One for the fish tank, one sliced in half to make two grow beds, and one as a sump with the pump in it.  Basically, I plan to build this setup:

http://www.aquaponics.net.au/Chops.html

My basement is real dark, so I was thinking I would supply light using fluorescent shop lights directly above the grow beds (placing so the fish tank wouldn't catch the light).

In the beds I was thinking I would plant veggies that grow at similar heights to keep the lights low and close to all plants.  I'm thinking lettuce, mache, spinach, and the like.

For the fish tank, for this first setup, just small ornamentals like gold fish.  My hope is that if this system is a success, then when I move to a larger property in the next couple years where I plan to start a hobby farm, I can put a larger AP system in a green house and run it all year using edible fish.

So, does anyone see any problems with this plan?  Am I crazy to try and do this in the basement? Should I really be doing it outside?  I'd appreciate any and all input.  This is a great forum!  Thanks so much.

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Hi tim, and welcome, look's good, The best advice i could give you [as im also a newbie] is just go for it, an air pump in the fish thank will help things along, best of luck, keep us posted as to how your getting on.
My basement system has been running about 6 months Tim. I live in Aurora, almost neigbors. You can see pictures on my page here. I have been eating lettuce, tomatoes, basil, some radishes and even a carrot using a 400 watt halide light.
Flourescents will do great for the crops you mentioned and you will be suprised how sweet the lettuce tastes when grown under those nice cool tubes.

Welcome to the group :)
Just expect that you will probably need twice as much light as you initially plan and you will probably need to run a dehumidifier to avoid moisture problems in the house. But it can be done.
No dehumidifier needed really, our relative humidity was 8% today!
But what is the humidity inside? And inside a basement could compound it. At least get a hygrometer to keep in the room with the aquaponics system to let you know if the humidity is getting over 50% and likely to leave condensation on the walls that could grow mold. I know a far more common problem where I live and humidifiers are far more common where you live.

Richard Wyman said:
No dehumidifier needed really, our relative humidity was 8% today!
TC, in past winters we have had to use a humidifier to get some moisture in the air. It acually would get so dry it got hard on our throats to breathe. I have no hygrometer, but we have had no issues breathing and got to skip the humidifier for the first winter since living in Colorado. We have no mold issues, no condensation, and don't even use the fan when we shower.

I know its hard to believe, but the humidity in the house makes it feel alot better. We are not lizards :)

P.S. Come visit us Coloradons some time Aleece, when you feel you need to dry out some lol.
I've been there, I know it can get really dry. Will be interesting to see if a fish room in the basement has a bit effect on the indoor humidity.

It is actually really funny when we get outrageously low humidity for here, I realize that what we think is dry would actually feel uncomfortably balmy to you. If the Relative Humidity gets down near 30% people around here are freaking out it is so dry.
Hi all,

Richard, as a fellow Coloradan I'm with you about the benefits of adding humidity to the house! That said, I'm with TC that Tim should at least have a hygrometer down there to monitor it because depending on the size of the room vs the amount of water, and how well ventilated it is it could get pretty rain-forest like in there. My greenhouse was regularly at 90 - 95% humidity in the morning, but there were 700 gallons of water in there. What would be truly fab would be to be able to pull that humidity through the rest of the house....hmmmm...new idea for whole house systems based on AP! I also wanted to comment on the lights, Tim. You will get decent results with shop lights, but you will get better results with T5 fluorescents because they are more geared at the right light spectrum for plants. You will get your best results with HID lights, however, if you can afford it. Gives you total flexibility (just in case you decide to go for fruiting plant types later on) and will go deeper than 18" into your plant canopy. All are available at The Aquaponic Source (shameless plug), including the hygrometer. We look forward to seeing pictures soon!
Thanks for the comments everyone. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't completely off course before I spent any money.

Thanks for the input on humidity and lighting. I'll put at least T5 lights in there. As for humidity, it will be in an open, unfinished 1000 sq ft basement. I'll have to keep an eye on the humidity. I'll have to keep even more of an eye on the cats :-)

Hoping I can get all the parts and put this thing together in the next week or two. With two little ones and countless other projects, it will be a battle to find the time!

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