Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

Over a period of several years we have developed a large fish pond area on our land (we are now building a sustainable community on this land- http://lasenda-ecovillage.blogspot.com/) We have what seems like a almost ideal opportunity to tie together the existing pond structure with a protected growing tray area that could create with solar pumping of fish pond water  a beautiful model of what aquaponics can be.

Our request is that thru discussion we can learn which is the best approach for us to create a model of what aquaponic gardening can accomplish. 

Our hope is to create a model of what a sustainable community effort would look like, and its potential to use aquaponics. Please help us to avoid costly mistakes and achieve our goals.

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Get a test kit and see if there is ample nutrients already in the "established pond" to support veggie growing.  If there is you could simply start by pumping some water through a filter and to some sort of plant growing method and add plants until the nutrients run out.

If the stocking is low and there are not enough nutrients to go round, you will have to make sure that you provide enough circulation, aeration and filtration to support a heavier fish load and more fish feeding since simply adding for fish and fish feed could result in a crash and pond full of dead fish if aeration/filtration and circulation are not increased enough to keep the water quality good.

If you were to simply add the plant part to a pond without ample nutrients available, you might spend much money only to find the plant growth is poor.  Aquaponics requires finding a balance to get the ecosystem to work.  Natural or established pond systems often work because they already have a balance between fish and algae and plankton that works with the currently available aeration or natural circulation.  To try to add veggies to such an operation one must keep in mind the need to maintain a balance.

Thanks for the comments..Have been reading up on all things AP-no-more correct would be have been trying to..Been admiring Will Allens efforts for sometime now but never connected the dots that led to aquaponics..Happy to have found a 'home' away from home with the 'APCommunity'.

We believe in community- and look forward to the day when lots more folks are aware of aquaponics and what it has to offer. Part of our goal is to help the extended community around us to learn  ways that will improve their lives. And we learn from them- they are real american indians whose families have lived in the canyon for over a thousand years. When it comes to corn, beans and squash they have much to teach us.

The river next to us is usually flowing a foot higher than this year- climate change screwy- so our ponds which are fed underground and for years have been a foot higher and allowing us a better flow- the river drops 4 feet from the top of our land to the bottom- so we have less flow this year.

Just today we checked PH (do human saliva/urine test strips work for pond water?) and  got 6.5..

Suppose because of less flow we have a bit more algae than usual so can't do much of a fish count-but some of our workers say they have seen hundreds.

Also was pleased to see today that quite a bit of greens are growing in the ponds- what is maybe duckweed, other greens that seem to grow in ponds here- so between the fish that we have and the greens seeding themselves we hopefully are edging towards a balance of sorts.

Will be visiting a tilapia fish farm tomorrow morning looking to learn more about water, feeding -and where to get a test kit.

The Indian farmers that live along the river pump water directly from the river and get excellent crops from it- so suspect it has some nutrient value but we shall see.

We purchased 30 trays last week-24"long,12" deep, 16"wide- good solid plastic well reinforced. Our plan is to take advantage of a incline behind our buildings which will allow us eventually 4 rows descending on welded racks -2 across-at 32" a easy reach for tending- with a aisle between the four trays. With stand pipes set for 8-9" for floats that should eventually give us enough lettuce/ green leaf to keep our vegetarians happy. Excess lettuce we are thinking of trading to a restaurant in town in exchange for soft compost to feed our worm farm.

Was reading just this morning re 'hybred' being the best way to go and agree- tho confused and have lots to learn re the flood/ drain cycle thing. Since we have good compost available and tons of fish water  thinking maybe we'll do some raised beds with worms and  drip feed, and learn more about the other systems before getting into that.

Agree totally- its all about balance. And sustainability- which is a balanced system.

Spoke with our solar guy recently about a pump between the ponds and the holding tanks on the hill behind us-about 85 yards and 20' up from fish pond water level. Think he said his recommendation was a 1/2" Aquatec- think he said its about 4 gallons a minute ?? not sure on that. Does that seem OK for our system? The holding tanks are 3,300 liters which we can gravity feed from down to the trays and growing beds.

Since we are solar pumping can we trickle feed from the tanks at nite thru the trays and not use our batteries?

The return flow to the fish ponds will be areated for sure -so suspect/hope  that you are correct when you say.."Natural or established pond systems often work because they already have a balance between fish and algae and plankton that works with the currently available aeration or natural circulation." That appears to be the case with our ponds.

Read last week that tilapia have a special filter in their gill structure that allows them to feed off algae in the water..True? Wondering what density of algae is acceptable / too much? In some parts of our ponds the water is quite clear- in the deeper parts where the fish seem to spend most of their time it has perhaps 12" of visability. Is that good/bad news?

Our drought is broken!! Pouring down rain outside..Yeah for many reasons.!!

We plan to edge gently into this..Finding our way into a balanced situation- and as near as possible to 100% sustainability- with comfort-  is our goal.

Appreciate any and all comments / feedback at this stage - we see this as a golden opportunity to benefit both ourselves and the community at large. 

Mil gracias- and another 'mil' to all those responsible for making this such a great learning curve..

in normal extensive pond culture, algae is often encouraged (to a point) to feed fish, however there may be drawbacks to this in a system where you wan the nutrients to feed veggies.

What you are describing doesn't sound like anything anyone has actually run that I know about so you will be testing new territory.  For DWC troughs you will need additional aeration beyond just the water flow.  You will need to research power for air pumping.

I couldn't log onto your link but from your three pictures I see potential. Please post more pics, GPS location and any drawings (architectural, topographical etc, would help us, to help you. Which pic is of your pond?

From your description, I think you have a flow-through pond. Most of the time when we think of ponds, we think of creek or spring fed ponds that hold water via a nonporous, muddy bottom; not affected by nearby ground water levels.

The downside to a flow-through pit-pond is that its difficult to contain nutrients as well as prevent contamination from upstream sources. So normal Ap rules may not apply.

I'm not sure what time of year these pics were taken but the surrounding area seems to indicate semi-arid with possibly poorer soil. Sorry, just guessing. Anyway, I'd love to hear more about your project.

Cheers

Hola..Thanks for commenting..Just checked the link above- seems to be working but here it is again..

http://lasenda-ecovillage.blogspot.com/     All pics are of our ponds. Top, middle and lower end (where we just did some backhoe work last week thus the raw earth ) Yep flow-through it is- wanted it that way for cleaner water..and yes at the upper end its equal to ground-water level- with outlets set at lower end high enough to hold more water but keep a decent flow-rate happening.

Googlemaps/ San Miquel de Allende/ out far enough to see the 10 mile long water catchment dam to the west- at the bottom end you can see the dam and the canyon the river/ discharge runs down- will send you the co-ordinates later. (Have a ten man workcrew to deal with shortly)

Most recent pic was taken at end of dry season- our soil is actually close to sandy-loam- good with enough water as it is. With compost and worms added we can grow just about anything with 325 days a year of sunny skies and mild climate.

Never been commerically farmed- just the three sisters- corn,beans & squash.

The beauty of a flow-thru pond system is that we can draw down during the day and the water table will return to established levels usually overnite. We also have a well with great house water-very clean- that has a very high recharge rate. Most of it comes from the mountain to our north it seems.

Hope you can have a browse of our blog- lots of pics there. Actually copy & paste into google should also get you there.

Lots to learn but hey whats this cycle about if it ain't learning...

Cheers.. (I have a Kiwi passport..)

I admire your dream and hope it'll come true.

I still can't get on that site but will keep trying and will try to find you on google map. best if you could copy and paste to me with outline of property but sounds like you have a wonderful piece of propperty. I'll be in Hong Kong for a week so get back to you after I return.

Cheers my friend.

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