Aquaponic Gardening

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Well, a trip to the hydroponic store left me bummed.  I excitedly explained my aquaponic system to the salesman (as he was trying to understand the application of my purchases).  He then spent half an hour using colorful language to explain that my venture is stupid and a waste of money.  He then told me growing in dirt is better than aquaponic and hydroponic with nutrients would blow my system away.  After explaining there are many people with successful systems, he explained these systems are the best way to go in countries that don't have easy access to liquid nutrients.  Since we are in the US, the nutrients are made here, giving us easy access. 

 

I left pretty discouraged. Just need to hear I am on the right path...

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Lonnie-

  I am new to aquaponics but I can tell you that if ANY sales person tells you that what you are doing is "stupid" just turn around and walk away, just like you did.

  These people are trying to sway you away from your venture, anything that does not include added nutrients is totally ORGANIC, and you then know what you are eating and feeding to your family (if this is applicable).  I am not saying that hydroponics is not organic, I know very little pertaining to the subject,  I do know that you will be defeating the problem of soil-borne diseases, bending to plant (if you have raised grow-beds) and harvesting and a much faster growth rate much like hydroponics with the added benefit of being able to harvest you fish (can't do that with hydroponics HA).  The nutrients are all there without adding anything once your system is is up and running correctly.  Don't be bummed, be happy that you probably just got the intrest of another by explaining what you are doing.  Be well

White Bear

Ya know, hydroponics often does blow aquaponics away during the first season.  But figure hydroponics has to start fresh with their nutrients like every three weeks!!!!!!!  They gotta dump the water and mix up a fresh tank, not easy if you are dealing with city water or hard water!!!!!

 

With aquaponics you may have a slow start up since the first six weeks of a system's operation it is just cycling up it's natural bio-filter, but each year an aquaponics system gets better while most hydroponics systems get abandoned after a few years because sterilizing them and buying the nutrient mixes for them is such a pain.

 

Now there are kinda bio-ponic systems out there (these would be the more or less organic nutrient source hydroponics that in truth probably act more like aquaponics but minus the fish) but many people struggle with them since they may try to operate some more like hydroponics by sterilizing and not allowing the bio-filter to get going long term.  Others would be like the vermiponics, pee ponics, or I suppose you could do something like compost ponics.  Of course all these will have their own methods to keep them working best.

 

You are on the right track though, most hydroponics people don't understand aquaponics and if aquaponics is not well explained or if the hydroponics person is not open to hearing the idea, then to them it doesn't work.  I believe many have probably tried hooking a fish tank to a bunch of NFT pipes and experienced the failure from NO BIOFILTER or solids filter and have had to clean up the stinking mess and hence their insistence that aquaponics doesn't work.  (I have seen way to many people explain aquaponics as plants and fish and totally leave out the bacteria and filtration.  And then I have seen many people try this by simply putting plants in pipes hooked to a pump in a fish tank and suffer dismal failures until they realize how much filtration needs to be involved.)

Well said, Leo.

I came from the hydroponic side of the aquaponic equation.  I was the Director of Plant Products, and ultimately the VP of Marketing and New Product Development for AeroGrow International (the makers of the AeroGarden) and one of the things that I did in that role was establish and manage a hydroponic plant grow lab for many years.  The reason why aquaponics was exciting enough for me to quit that job and start my own aquaponics business was that it works!  I've spoken at Progessive Gardening Trade Association (hydroponic trade industry) conferences twice now, and the last time was about why hydro stores should consider learning about and selling aquaponics to their customers.  The response from these guys generally falls into one of two camps.  Either they HATE it because they make most of their money on plant nutrients and supplements so they view it as a threat to their business or the think it is a very interesting expansion of their market into folks that want to grow their own food (vs. pot in most cases) and are focused on organics and sustainability.  My advice is to keep going to different hydro stores until you find one with this more progressive attitude!

You and Leo might find a blog post I wrote about how hydroponics and aquaponics differ interesting - http://theaquaponicsource.com/2011/04/25/12-ways-aquaponics-differs... 

I have been talking about aquaponics to anyone that will listen.  Sylvia, it makes sense for the hydro stores not to be interested in this.  Once someone has there system up and running, there isn't much money for them to make.  Of course they could get into selling fish food.  There probably isn't as nice of a profit margin there.  He told me a system my size would only cost $70 per year in nutrients.  I doubt that is true.  I wish I would have thought about all the extra work a hydroponic system would be. 

 

TC, thanks for all your help in this process.

 

Sylvia, thanks for this website.  It's awesome.

 

Lonny

Hi Lonny!  Don't be bummed by a bad salesman.  He just wanted to talk you into a hydro system so he could sell it to you!  He just wanted to convice you so he can sell more chemicals.  So keep rockin with the AP and don't listen to the haters!

I live in a rural area of hard core old family tradition farmers - as in cattle, pigs, chickens, cotton, etc.  small town, don't even have a pet store.   If I were to mention either hydroponics or aquaponics to any of the locals they would think I'm an alien.  I am not from this area, though I love the location - peaceful, forest, rivers and streams, clean air!  So I will be counting on forums and various blogs to help me explore and survive this adventure in healthier sustainable living. 

You know, people once thought it was impossible and crazy talk to suggest we would ever go to the moon, lol. 

Aparently growshop people are completly stupid and narrow minded or they just fear what aquaponics will do to hydroponics. I had several similar bad experiences at the growshop in my area as well. I could have wasted alot of money on lighting I didn't really need but their unfriendly demeanor made it easy to walk away and seek cheaper alternatives to what I need. I really get rubbed the wrong way when people are nay saying and down play the importance of aquaponics and food production. I don't need over priced nutrients and lights! I got T8's and fish waste!!!

Yes, I have experienced the same at some of the larger hydroponic stores in my area. Most just want to talk about growing medicinal plants (wink, wink). When I mention food and vegetables, most aren't interested at all.

I found a small one that is actually "local" to me. He's just starting up and is eager for traffic of any kind in the store. He has a $900 grow room kit that contains some mylar, a $300 grow light with fan, five gallon buckets you can buy for $4 or less almost anywhere, a $59 air pump, five $5 air stones, and some inexpensive plastic tubing. He is using the kit to demo the possibilities for basement gardening. I built a similar system for less than $150 from easy to find DIY stuff from Lowes and Home Depot, but I did buy his $59 air pump and $5 air stones for 4 ten gallon deep water culture bins ($7 each at Lowes) lighted by T8 flourescent fixtures I bought for $25 total .  I told him I was copying his system. He did not care. He helped me a lot with tips on light cycles, etc. He never once said anything negative to me. I also told him I do aquaponics and was actually encouraging. I say all this to point out that people that are negative don't get my business and those that are nice get my money. I've been buying nutrient from him regularly and he now gives me a 10% discount. He recognizes a regular customer when he sees one :-) And...I can buy a lot of nutrients and T8 bulbs for the $800 savings.

BTW...my lettuce, collards, kale, and spinach are growing just fine under the T8 lights lowered to within 1 inch of the vegetation. Actually, the lettuce and spinach are phenomenal with an 18 hour light cycle and constant air pump bubbling. I do turn the pump off for 30 minutes per day to let it cool down. I know it's not necessary, but it makes me feel better.

 

I agree Brian with "people that are negative don't get my business and people that are nice get my money". I don't have much money so if I do want to spend some don't discoruage me!

Lonny,

 

how goes it since your original post in May?  Where are you at with your idea? My DH and are still reading and researching. We had a similar experience at a local DIY type store, but the fellow genuinely wanted to help. No matter how we tried to explain, he just couldn't get his head around what we were wanting to do with various items. We weren't asking him about AP, just uses for various parts. He would keep asking us what we were going to do with them, and we gladly attempted to explain.

I'm hoping to hear you feel better about your ideas and plans. Hoping to hear if you've constructed / set up anything.

Wow, what a sad experience! I hope you've been able to find a different vendor and are still in aquaponics.

As for that vendor, opinions are opinions; unfortunately many people count their own opinions as fact. I guess I can see why hydro salepeople would dis aqua systems, but really they're only killing their own sales. I'd go to a different store if you have one around. The hydroponics stores around our area have been very supportive and encouraging to us, and only one that we've visited has been geared toward the medicinal (wink, wink) vegetation.

The truth is, most Hydroponic systems are a bit small to really be turned to Aquaponics unless you are really just wanting to grow some plants from the aquarium.

While the Hydro shop may have some parts that could be very useful to aquaponics, if you do a little research, you can find most of those parts online for cheaper and most of the other parts for the systems can be gotten from Big box stores and Tractor supply.

Of course the smart Hydro stores are studying what they can about aquaponics so they can expand their customer base.

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