Aquaponic Gardening

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As a novice to AP and with about 2 years to go to early retirement and a serious desire to live as much off the grid as possible, AP has caught my attention in a serious way as a means to an end to self-sustainable farming. My problem is that there is an overabundance of information on the web, as well as on this site as to the dos and don’ts of starting up AP systems. Its hard sifting through the quagmire of info, not knowing who is actually posting worthwhile info and who is posting info (on the web) as a means to an end in order to sell you garbage that either doesn’t work or works way less efficiently/effectively than something else out there.

2 weeks into reading what’s out there has brought me to the conclusion that unless I plan on spending the next 2 years reading everything I can, and taking what’s repeated continuously to be the gospel in AP, that I am in need of advice. No, my intent is not to repeat the many times repeated questions that are already on the forums that by now many of the older members have gotten sick of answering (and ironically this might just be one of those questions) My intent is asking just 1 simple question, what single book, pdf or any other written document has been the single most important book for you in your AP endeavours? (Ask 100 people and expect 99 different answers? No worries, it should take less time to read through the 99 different books than it would to sift through the bull on the web)

So far in 3 days I have started on page 1 of the “Start Here” forum and got to page 21 of the “Basic and Useful Info” topic with another 100+ odd pages to go just on that topic, not to mention every other topic and group discussion that there is going. This far, I have found lot of useful info, a lot of useless info (due to geographical location) and a lot less spam than I was expecting (which is always nice) and intend on finishing what is on the forums, but due to not having access to the web at work and having 3-5 hrs a day there that could be spent ‘studying’, could you please throw me a lifeline as to what book you found most valuable or what author/s you would give as essential reading.

 

Thanks in advance

Sean

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Hiya George,

Yes, even beyond mitigating nitrite toxicity issues (though that is the biggie) there can be benefits for the fish. The way I've been doing it (for about 3 years now), the salting benefits the plants as well. 

Salts are simple compounds consisting of an anion (negatively charged) and a cation (positively charged). Most folks just use common table salt (sodium chloride) since it is the cheapest chloride salt available

I use a blend of 4 different chloride salts (K, Mg, Ca, Na) in which I balance out the cations in a ratio most beneficial to plants, while the fish still garner all the benefits that chloride salts brings them.

Chloride (the anion) is the portion of the salt that the fish benefit from, if using common table salt, the added sodium (the cation) is pretty useless for the plants and of limited use to the fish. The cations of the salts that I use are potassium, magnesium, calcium, and lastly just a little bit sodium (listed in order of predominance by weight). Those things are quite beneficial to the plants as well (with the exception of the sodium). 

Here is a somewhat more complete explanation... http://stores.atriaaquagardens.com/blog/asc-fish-and-plant-benefici...

Hope that helps a bit 



George said:

Vlad

In the absence of a nitrite problem, do you consider salting beneficial?  Thanks for the links.

Vlad Jovanovic said:

I feel that these might be worth a read...and pretty easy to understand...the second one may be of interest to you, as it deals with salts for fish health.

Way too much research for me to get into at this point or any point for that matter until I get the basics of running a small and then medium scale AP System running (end game is approx. 10k x 6 tanks, not counting anything else), just out of curiosity how long have you been in this field Vlad?

What you have said in the blog makes sense, any links to a chart that shows what the 16 essential elements are? I've found 12... N, P, K, Ca, Mg, S, B, Cu, Fe Mn, Mo and Zn.... Quantities needed are another thing entirely.  

About 20 years or so...but only became interested enough in aquaponics to build out a 2,100 sq.ft system about 4-5 years ago.

Yeah, there can be a lot to take in at times, but well worth it...since it seems like the success or failure of growing in these small commercial/hobby farm AP systems/businesses is almost wholly dependent upon the knowledge base and skill of the operator. That will be 100% of the determining factor...(provided you have all the "business-y" side of things down). 

For small systems I weigh out the salts blend them, and package them in two sizes. They come in sizes appropriate for either 100 gallon or 300 gallon systems. It comes to about $10 to treat 100 gallons, and your good for about 6 mos to 1 year. For clients with larger systems (water volume) I'll weigh up and blend the 4 salts for their particular system and work out some price break for volume.

People are more than welcome to do these things themselves, in fact I've openly written about the technical aspects of how to do so (weights, measurements, calculations, percentages by weight etc...) many times over the years. Complete with all the math to boot! (molar mass, atomic weights, mg/L, ppm's) the whole 'kit and kaboodle'... 

Some people may (or may not) find that it is less expensive (in terms of money) to buy such things from us, since I custom blend high quality fertilizers for use in different fields of agriculture (mostly wine grape growers, vegetable greenhouse growers, hydroponic, aquaponic, and soil)...So we buy reagents in 50lb sacks by the pallet. So it is much cheaper for us to buy these things in bulk than some aquapon buying 1 lb of this salt, 2 lbs of that salt off of the internet...Then of course you have to be interested enough in what you are doing to have learned to how to mix up and apply those salts. Some folks love (learning/doing) that kind of stuff, while others have neither the time nor the will for it, and would happily pay for a ready to use pre-packaged product...to each their own :)

Shane I built my system based on information from Murry Hallem and TC Links three years ago, have not had any problems. Lettuce seems to start out slow, but takes off and grows out in 70 days in FWC, but not in gow beds, to hot in summer time in Fl to grow anything but hot peppers to keep the system going until fall. Grow bed med. is river gravel 1 1/2 " nitrate levels are always good.

I installed shade cloth a couple of months back - should have done it five years ago.  Visiting a commercial operation that was growing romaine lettuce year round in North Florida was an eye opener for me.  

Jack Rife said:

 to hot in summer time in Fl to grow anything but hot peppers to keep the system going until fall. 

Hi George: I have always used shade cloth, (40 - 75 %) my problem with summer time lettuce is water temp above 74 degrees. 

Living in Michigan high water temps have never been a problem but I've often wondered why in hotter climates you couldn't pump the water 5-6' underground to cool it.



Vlad Jovanovic said:

About 20 years or so...but only became interested enough in aquaponics to build out a 2,100 sq.ft system about 4-5 years ago.

Yeah, there can be a lot to take in at times, but well worth it...since it seems like the success or failure of growing in these small commercial/hobby farm AP systems/businesses is almost wholly dependent upon the knowledge base and skill of the operator. That will be 100% of the determining factor...(provided you have all the "business-y" side of things down). 

For small systems I weigh out the salts blend them, and package them in two sizes. They come in sizes appropriate for either 100 gallon or 300 gallon systems. It comes to about $10 to treat 100 gallons, and your good for about 6 mos to 1 year. For clients with larger systems (water volume) I'll weigh up and blend the 4 salts for their particular system and work out some price break for volume.

People are more than welcome to do these things themselves, in fact I've openly written about the technical aspects of how to do so (weights, measurements, calculations, percentages by weight etc...) many times over the years. Complete with all the math to boot! (molar mass, atomic weights, mg/L, ppm's) the whole 'kit and kaboodle'... 

Some people may (or may not) find that it is less expensive (in terms of money) to buy such things from us, since I custom blend high quality fertilizers for use in different fields of agriculture (mostly wine grape growers, vegetable greenhouse growers, hydroponic, aquaponic, and soil)...So we buy reagents in 50lb sacks by the pallet. So it is much cheaper for us to buy these things in bulk than some aquapon buying 1 lb of this salt, 2 lbs of that salt off of the internet...Then of course you have to be interested enough in what you are doing to have learned to how to mix up and apply those salts. Some folks love (learning/doing) that kind of stuff, while others have neither the time nor the will for it, and would happily pay for a ready to use pre-packaged product...to each their own :)

Hi Vlad and George chech out a product named Azomite, natural product from volcanic rock, has 70 plus trace elements and salts, I use in my aqua. sys.as well as my olive orchard with great results.


Thanks.  I've used it.


Jack Rife said:

Hi Vlad and George chech out a product named Azomite, natural product from volcanic rock, has 70 plus trace elements and salts, I use in my aqua. sys.as well as my olive orchard with great results.

I believe cool water was the key ingredient of the commercial operation I visited.  The fish tanks and filtering were in an air conditioned building with the rafts in an adjoining greenhouse.

I'll find out next summer how much shade cloth extends my kale growing.


Jack Rife said:

Hi George: I have always used shade cloth, (40 - 75 %) my problem with summer time lettuce is water temp above 74 degrees. 

Here in North Florida, our ground temp is 72F.  My tank is in the ground so I don't know how much more benefit would be gained by pumping water underground.  Gravel beds act as a heat sink, quickly warming the water.  DWC probably has less warming effect, especially if the water is circulated through the beds rather quickly.  It is an idea worth exploring.  One issue here is high ground water, which can lift a tank out of the ground, if it is not full.  I once had my fish tank lift out of the ground and it broke loose the plumbing, which was very bad.  Possibly it could be done by simply piping the water underground but it would require that the water be underground a sufficient amount of time to cool the water.  Interesting idea, especially for northern systems.

Jeff S said:

Living in Michigan high water temps have never been a problem but I've often wondered why in hotter climates you couldn't pump the water 5-6' underground to cool it.

George, I've had the same issue with the tank rising out of the ground but it's my sump so I can't fill it all the way up. I installed a pipe down beside the tank that I can hook a pump to if we have heavy rains and just pump the water into the tank until it equalizes. As for cooling underground you could run a coil or two of 1/2" irrigation tubing and possibly cool the water. I've heard that ground temp everywhere is around 55 at 6-8 feet. Even if there is a high water line you could still bury the line.

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