Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

This topic was started due to the prompting of Kobus and TC Lynx. Aquaponics as it is, relies on high quality fish feed as the main nutrient source for fish and plant production. As we all know fish feed was developed mostly for farmed fish(aquaculture), and while we use it out of necessity today, we are becoming increasingly aware of its limit for the long term. Fish feed production, utilizing aquatic animals is simply not sustainable, and i believe it is a science like AP which will create overwhelming demand for a land produced equivalent to this, in the likes of Duckweed, BSLF, Red worms, Amino Acid producing algae. In the near future AP operations will call on the operator, be it backyard or commercial, to learn to produce his own feed and develop his own self sustaining AP. This information gives the operator the freedom to feed his AP with the inputs of his choosing, toward growing healthy fish and vegetables.

Apart from AP, the growing of duckweed, algae, worms etc. are disciplines within themselves and warrant separate discussion on the formulas, techniques and skills needed to successfully produce them. So how does each of us do it?.............................

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This could become a really big topic.  I know most people who are wanting to make aquaponics easy will continue using commercial feeds and commercial growers needing to push the growth rate to the max will also probably continue using the commercial pelleted feeds.....

 

But

 

The pioneers will be the "Aqua-permaculture-ists" who strive to produce as much as possible onsite.

 

Then again, there is already some big business going on trying to use algae to reduce carbon footprint of energy intensive operations while also producing a marketable product.  Algae from such operations is already in testing for things like bio-fuels and yes, fish meal replacement in fish feeds as well as for feed supplement in other animal feeds.

I hope we hear good things about this.

 

In the mean time, there are many things people can do to supplement feed.  With tilapia they will eat duckweed and moringa.  Most fish will take to some worms and BSF larva.  I know people who will even do the deed of hanging roadkill and feeding their fish the maggots that crawl out but most people find that distasteful.

 

Duckweed and algae cultures can be raised on things like dilute urine (again something that many will find distasteful but the fertilizing of a means to grow feed will have to come from somewhere and closing the nutrient cycle is the most sustainable way to do it.)  Look up Pee Ponics for more info on things like this.

 

I'm off to read up on growing algae.

Hi TC,

Great reply. Can we coin your phrase "Aqua-permaculture-ists"? I'm presently viewing suitable lands to start an AP farm(keeping my fingers crossed) and this information will be very helpful when the time comes, as it is my intention to experiment with growing worms and algae as a move toward more self sustaining AP. We can probably include worm bin building plans and suggest models for growing Algae for anyone interested in this. This is a great resource for growing Spirulina (Uploaded)

Attachments:

Here is a place that sells kits for growing spirulina as well as starter culture and nutrient mixes.

algae lab

I haven't done business with them but they could be a handy place to get starter culture for those in the USA.  I don't know if they are interested in shipping elsewhere.

One thing to start off with we need to really look at what our type fish eat in the wild.  I bet it isn't ground corn , or ground fish.  We love the fish we pull out of lakes and they eat a variety of foods.  That is where I would start.  I feed my Tilapia duckweed, azola, lettuce, wong bok cabbage , and other things.  Oh yes I feed some of them guppies.  I have an endless supply of guppies.

Harold, I think one of the underlying assumptions that need to be tested is that aquaponics work, in large part, because of the high quality feed that we feed the fish.  The food is properly formulated thus, we believe, the plants will be happy.  It will take some testing to see what shortcomings, if any, we have if me move to whole food diets for the fish. 

 

Tilapia is an excellent choice as it is a generalist omnivore with adaptations to eat anything from micro particles such as algae and detritus through to insects and small fish.

 

 

This is limited data I know, but it indicates how well wild tilapia (Mozambique) grew in ponds in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.  The diet would have been as described above, but I'm sure tilapia would grow well in warm water systems fed the diet we are talking about.  One thing that I think would be important though is to try this in media bed systems first to allow the excreted waste to be mineralized.

This is one of my targets to make the system run from everything on my property as much as possible., I am thinking of growing the food for the fish from the land around the aquaponics system, then taking the greens produced from the aquaponics system, and use that to make high quality compost to help the land produce more.

 

I am part way there with BSF, and making my own fish food in part, and running the system from solar power.

 

But, there are trade offs, is it really worth the effort to build your own pump to run the system, verses buying one from the store?    I guess one has to look at the time you invest verses the quality of product you get out.   This may differ depending on where we live and the resources that are around us. 

Wow! Great! I'm so glad there are people serious about this topic. So many people I talk to on a daily basis, have little to no clue as to why I go through all the trouble of doing all the things I do to produce food. They just don't get the simple concept that input equals output and that everything is a connected in a complex cycle.

 

Three cheers for you brave frontiersmen, pushing the boundaries of knowledge in an ever uphill battle.

 

For too long, mankind has been obnoxiously disrespectful of mother nature in his quest for the magic of science. I hope today marks the beginning of more reflective, respectful technologies. I know this is an AP forum but I would like to remind everyone NOT to look at things in their separate forms but rather as a whole. Yoda was right; Everything IS connected! By cheating nature, we only cheat ourselves in the long run, haven't we learned that from factory farms, feed lots and mono-culture farming?

 

Lets be rid of upside-down economics (poverty) and help our race have some hope for a future. Ecolonomics, permaculture/ hydro-organic- aquaponic culture and farmscaping to name a few, are things I think are important to solving the problem of world hunger...a sustainable future. Of course there are many many other factors but I can't help much with those. I've been learning for thirty years and still just barely scratched the surface. That's why I am so glad to find this site, with so many open minded diligent people with diverse backgrounds willing to share their findings openly.

 

Again three cheers!

Namaste Harold,

Nice and important discussion. 

Aquaponics to me is one part of the overall solution and by itself will be difficult to become a "self sustaining" system in my opinion. I am of a somewhat similar opinion to that expressed by TCLynx and just love her expresson "Aqua-permaculture-ists".

If you live in confined or small spaces (most Urban dwellers), Aquaponics provides an excellent means of growing food and is thus ideally suited for the small backyard or patio garden. One can grow enough of "some" food items for oneself and to share but not enough for Commercial purposes. Now if you have some land and no Governmental or Homeowners Association restraints, you can incorporate Aquaponics into a new way of life where you use multiple food growing means to support not only yourself but many others too. Here we start getting into the realms of Permaculture. Perhaps you are fortunate and lucky enough to have neighbors who share your way of life so now you can create some co-operation of specializing in areas, for example, some one keeps chickens & ducks etc. ,another keeps goats & lambs, while one grows local fruits. Here, the water ponds/lakes can be of some size so as to get as much of the natural oxygen and waterfalls plus water wide areas by using natural bog filters to clean the water. The fish would get their food from the lakes as well as areas where household surplus items that fish can eat are disposed off (cooked rice, vegetables, lentils & fruit). Nature here would work in a way to reduce our carbon footprint and we would each be individuals with our own growing styles yet able to share the fruits of labour without using too many external inputs as most of the fertilizer and food would be produced from the land as we are "Aqua-permaculture-ists".

 

There are some excellent videos that I have seen on permaculture which show some of what I dream of in practice. There is also one of my all time favourite videos that show a hidden garden, a way of life, in Japan where the Carp (domesticated ...Koi), are actually kept in each house and feed left over food, thus acting as the dish-washers / waste disposal fish. Try to watch this and let me know what you think :-)

 

Please note some of the links via Google search ...please search yourself for a better result :

 

http://docuwiki.net/index.php?title=Satoyama_II_Japan's_Secret_Water_Garden  or

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0483154/

 

Imagine a realm where the seasons' rhythms rule - where centuries of agriculture and fishing have re-shaped the land, yet where people and nature remain in harmony. Sangoro Tanaka lives in just such a paradise. At 83, he's a guardian of one of Japan's secret water gardens. Here - over a thousand years - towns and villages have developed a unique system to make springs and water part of their homes. From inside these homes, the streams pour into Japan's largest freshwater lake, Lake Biwa - an area 5 times the size of Paris - near the ancient capital of Kyoto. This is a habitat so precious the Japanese have a special word for it: "Satoyama" - villages where mountains give way to plains. They are exceptional environments essential to both the people who maintain them and to the wildlife that now share them

 

"Colourful fishes (carp) move about freely in the kitchen sink acting as nature's cleaning agent by scavenging on the remnants of the dinner plate. The canal water teem with life as the seasons change. The fishes caught in spring are fermented over many months to become part of a meal in November! Each shot has an artistic streak to it and a story to tell."

 

You may be able to download this from a torrent site.

 

God bless,

How about rather than raising Tilapia, catfish, Blue gil or other fish for human consumption, cultivating fish for feed?  Surely there is a feeder fish type of breed that can easily be bred for mass quantities of fish feed production.  Perhaps guppies or similiar?   This could be incorporated into a commercial venture and could be the primary fish product for an aquaponic farm instead of fish raised for human consumption.  

 

I do realize this is not in keeping with theories of trying to replicate what fish eat in their natural, wild habitats, however I have always thought that when we domesticate a wild animal, we can only partially replicate its natural feed at best.  It is no different then what we have to feed our other domesticated animals such as dogs or horses.  We can try to come close, but replicating mother nature in our man made bubble is nearly impossible.   Perhaps we are overlooking the obvious way to create that protein source to best feed domesticated fish populations.  

 

Anyone have any suggestions for a feeder fish crop?

What about bait fish? Mullet (in FL anyway), are a dime a dozen.  And they're ugly, not like guppies. Not sure what you would feed the fingerlings or fry, but this might work for larger fish in your system...  I know NOTHING about raising mullet, though, so not sure how easy it would be to breed in captivity.

 

What about supplementing them all sorts of things? A handful of duck weed, some bait fish fry, dead bugs, mosquito larvae, and worms.  Almost sounds gourmet. 



Gina Cavaliero said:

How about rather than raising Tilapia, catfish, Blue gil or other fish for human consumption, cultivating fish for feed?  Surely there is a feeder fish type of breed that can easily be bred for mass quantities of fish feed production.  Perhaps guppies or similiar?   This could be incorporated into a commercial venture and could be the primary fish product for an aquaponic farm instead of fish raised for human consumption.  

 

I do realize this is not in keeping with theories of trying to replicate what fish eat in their natural, wild habitats, however I have always thought that when we domesticate a wild animal, we can only partially replicate its natural feed at best.  It is no different then what we have to feed our other domesticated animals such as dogs or horses.  We can try to come close, but replicating mother nature in our man made bubble is nearly impossible.   Perhaps we are overlooking the obvious way to create that protein source to best feed domesticated fish populations.  

 

Anyone have any suggestions for a feeder fish crop?

Hmm, hadn't considered Mullet!   Depending on the level of labor intensivity, dehydrating may be an option so that it could then be ground up for fry or fingerlings. 

 

I was kind of thinking this could be a solution on a larger scale as well.  Produce enough to sell to  companies like Purina Mills that generate commercial feeds but currently rely on commercial fishing operations for their supply. 

The challenge with raising fish to feed your fish is what to feed the feeder fish?

Say that ten times fast.

Just raising enough feeder fish to provide feed for say 100 food fish could be a rather large operation.

Now how large an operation?  don't know yet.  I'm hoping to start raising some small detritivores (crusteations)  to provide some feed supplement for my catfish but I expect it could take me years to work up enough of a population to really make a dent in my commercial feed bill.

 

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