Aquaponic Gardening

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I know some of you have already seen my posts on the VPA website about the system we've created in our Dining room, but in case you haven't here is a photo of it last Sunday and the links to read more about it (I also posted briefly about it here on this website in the System Introduction area).

This system uses 4" PVC grow towers, simple florescent lights, 45 and 55 gallon tanks and currently has 2 tiny goldfish, 6 guppies, 1 pleco and a few cherry shrimp.

---------------------------  UPDATE May 2013 -------------------------------------------------

Hi All,

Well an update is well overdue.  The big question "would I do it all over again" is yes, this mini system is producing and is actually a lot of fun to have in the house.  A few of my favorite things about it are:

  • Fresh lettuce.  A LOT of fresh lettuce!  This was actually the main reason we built the system in the first place
  • Fish are fun to watch
  • Added humidity to the house - feels nice

Lessons Learned (I know this is what you all really want to know):

Not enough light.  Even with an extra large solar tube and 8 - 4' florescent bulbs the lettuce grows somewhat leggy, telling me there just isn't enough light for even these low light plants.  We are thinking about adding in more fixtures, but really I just want to build a bigger system outside to augment this system.  Can't beat free sunlight for growing things.

PESTS!!!  You would think that by growing my lettuce in my dining room, I would be free of pests, but noooooooo!  I've had to deal with aphids, spider mites, white flies and fungus gnats.  It is difficult to spray the leaves with any solutions that would help get rid of infestations as the electrical lights are under a foot away on the wall, so I've released many predatory insects in my house - most recently ladybugs which made my toddler very happy  :)  I love Arbico Organics.

Too many Fish.  Yes, I knew I was overstocking my aquarium tanks but thought I would have an outdoor system going before my fish outgrew it.  Right.  I know, dumb.  Not to worry, my friend Rachel of Rachel's Tiny Farm was happy to take all but 4 tilapia off my hands.  So now the system is much easier to balance.  During one especially large water quality spike, I lost my original two goldfish, but the tilapia seemed unphased.  Tilapia are amazing fish (these 4 that are left practically let me pet them, they are so friendly to me).  I've since hit on a routine that works really well and helps supply nutrient to my gardens outside.  Since I don't have enough plants in the system to take up all the fish wastes.  Once or twice a month I'll do a partial water change and use this lower pH and high nutrient water on my container gardens outside.  Everyone is happy and it helps cut down on the fertilizing needed for the outdoor plants. Now if I could figure out how to hook my hose up to it so I didn't have to carry buckets...

NOTES about the photo:

Sorry the spice job is rough.  I can't get the light to balance enough to photo the whole thing while the grow lights are on, so two photos mashed together is the best I can do for now.

The center grow tower is down for replanting, it is working fine also.  Luckily they really are easy to take down and replant if you have a nice big tupperware to catch the clay balls.  I've found an under bed long storage box is a great size to help quickly replant the towers.  I don't start seeds in the towers, they need to have light within a couple inches, so it's better to plant out starts.

I've added a lot of water plants to the top tank to help soak up more nutrients.  It's like a jungle in there.  In contrast, the bottom tank has fake plants in it cause the tilapia eat everything!  There are also a few pieces of lettuce for them to snack on.

The odd-ball plants resting on the center of the top tank are a couple gifts to a friend (Mexican oregano & Valerian), some watercress waiting to be planted out in one of the bowls in the top tank and a piece of comfrey root that took off and has actually started to flower!

The tub on the ground is full of water ready to take outside for the garden, I let the siphon from the top tank empty into the tub.  There are currently toddler toys floating in it - wonder why?  I can't keep the boy from the tanks, he absolutely LOVES them.

I put aluminum foil up along the side of the cabinet next to the system.  This serves two purposes, 1. reflects light 2. protects from minor water splashes.

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Replies to This Discussion

Very cool Guys!  Keep us in the loop regarding output please!

I'm curious about the cherry shrimp;  Where did you get them and do they replicate?



I got the shrimp at Aquatouch, a fantastic aquarium shop on Cactus and the 51.  Their supplier only ships them females though, so I'll have to find some males in order to breed them for the tank.  It's my understanding that it is possible to get them to have fry, but the tank needs adequate cover and food for the tiny little things.  I was told that Java moss is one such nursery plant for them.

how's this coming? Any updates?


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