Aquaponic Gardening

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Dear Friends,

I was told that it is better to start a discussion than sending an email to everyone. I want to start a small aqaponics unit for tribals in india but they have no access to electricity. I was wondering if we can use human powered pumps like these (see link below) to run an aquaponics unit.


Is it possible to run a system just by using the pumps only 2-3 times per day?



Robin Abraham

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You might want to get the book HOW TO GROW FISH IN THE MOUNTAINS is by Joe Richter, a missionary-biologist with FARMS in the Philippines.  This book tells how to grow fish via digging a pond, and using algae to give air to the fish.     This is not aquaponics, but I imagine that it would be a start, you could then take the water from this pond and use it to water plants via the hand pumps you mention.


The problem I see in India with the hand pumps is the high amount of sunlight you have there, I believe the grow beds would dry out and not get the amount of oxygen they need.     It does seem like an ideal place to have a solar driven pump to do the work, but I am also aware of the poverty that is in India so a pump may not be practicable with so much poverty.


The use of ponds to grow fish is the way the Chinese and Aztec did  it long ago.




Hi Robin,


The ideal is to have the volume of the fish tank run through the beds every hour. However, I turn my pump off at night. And I can envision a system where you have an elevated pond/water tower and a lower pond/sump so the treadle pump is transferring water from lower potential energy to higher potential energy. The water could then be throttled back so it flows from the higher pool to the lower pool across an extended time via the growbeds and fish tank (assuming you have a constant height of pond tank and don't make the fishes live with massively changing water depth).


This seriously messes with the "optimal" proportions of water to fish to growbed (10 liters per kilo(?) of fish per 20 liters of growbed), but it's better than saying "too bad, can't be done."


It looks like these pumps can transfer 60 liters (15+ gallons) per minute or 1000 gph, but I don't suppose folks would actually work the treadle for an entire hour...? Besides which, that means you'd have to have more than 1000 gallons (3600 liters) of water in play, so the fish had some water that was constant.


On the bright side, when the pumping system (an air lift) for my aquaponic windowfarms first stopped working, I kept the plants adequately happy by pouring a cup or two from the fish tank through the top of the system twice a day.


Do they have reliable access to wind? The system would be less onerous if the treadle was supplementing a windmill pump of water from the lower sump to the higher water tower.

I say wind would be the answer if there is enough. It can be translated mechanically to the pump.

Thanks for all the thoughtful responses. 

I think that wind mill is a good option. During my travels I had seen a bullock cart driven water pump which can pump 200L per minute from a borewell 100ft deep. 

Probably combining low density fish production with pumping from human power/animal power with wind mills is a good option. 

The windmill water pumps available (after quick internet search) are not suitable for small  aquaponics system. Does anyone know of small capacity windmill pumps?



Robin Abraham

If you have three water units (elevated water tank, sump, and constant height of pond fish tank) it would seem you could use the windmill to transfer water from the sump to the water tank. When the sump is dry, the windmill would spin free. As long as you had water in the elevated water tank, water could be flowing into the beds, siphoning into the fish tank, then overflowing out to the water tank.

I was intrigued by this small water-driven water wheel:



Seems it might be possible to modify this idea (many inlets versus the one) and get something to work sufficiently efficiently that it could be powered by the wind.


I also like this video of a home-made windmill (three blades, made from PVC pipe - awesome!) There's more detail at



You might want to check out Tiny Tech India.  They can help with the power issue.

Thanks Rick,

I will visit their website.


Robin Abraham


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