Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

Hello All, 

I am new to the Aquaponics community, I am looking for some advice on building my first system. I have a few concerns about my plans and was hoping to get some advice. I have obtained some plans for a IBC aquaponics system by Nate Storey and it seems easy enough to put together, I guess my real concern is fish choice & climate control.

I have a small back yard that unfortunately is mostly paved, I can not tare out the patio. This means the IBC system will have to rest on top of the patio. I am concerned that in the summer it will get to hot for the fish and in the winter it will get to cold. So what are my option? Any help or suggestion would be appreciated. 

Elliot 

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Replies to This Discussion

Hi Elliot,

Welcome to aquaponics and congrats on finding this Sacramento group:  a good start, in my opinion!

You're right, climate control and fish choice are main issues to deal with around here.  Pavement in and of itself is not a problem for AP; which is one of AP's advantages over dirt gardening.  

IMHO actively heating and/or cooling water using some sort of fuel is a last resort, particularly for a hobby system and particularly in our climate.  There are many other factors you can focus on before turning to heaters or chillers, both of which are generally pretty costly to operate in terms of money and the environment.  (That said, some folks are doing stuff with rocket heaters, etc., that are more energy efficient.  Still, you don't absolutely need to do any of that here).  

Other climate control strategies:  choose fish that tolerate the natural temperature range here.  Goldfish and bluegill are some of my favorites.  Tilapia is not:  in addition to being prohibited here by the Department of Fish & Wildlife, there's no way around having to heat the water for a good chunk of the year.

Shade your fish tanks--situate them under growbeds, or erect some sort of shade structure, or block them with vines or other plants you're growing.  [I guess in your case you can't bury them].  Insulate your tanks.  You could have your FT's in a separate structure, even in your house, pumping the water back and forth to your growbeds outside.  

In the winter, if possible you can allow the sunlight to hit your fish tanks (not the water itself, but the tanks).  If your tanks are black, all the better.  Other solar hot water heating schemes should work for AP too in our locale.  During cold months at least, enclose your FT in some sort of greenhouse or shelter.  Some people include thermal mass on the north side of the interior of a greenhouse to absorb and store solar heat.  Some people (including myself) have experimented with putting compost in or around a greenhouse to warm it up.  This past winter Growing Power in Milwaukee was going to experiment with running plastic tubing in a closed loop between their fish tanks in a greenhouse and the interior of a giant compost pile outside the GH.  I haven't heard how that turned out.

None of this will keep your water temp at 70F throughout the winter, but it can keep your water several degrees warmer than ambient temperature, minimizing the time your fish stop eating because of the cold.  My goldfish and bluegill sure didn't eat much in Dec/Jan but the system didn't crash either; plants did keep growing somehow, and bacteria apparently didn't die off.

In summer, if you have a greenhouse,  you either have to vent real well and use things like blowers and swamp coolers, or get rid of the greenhouse covering altogether; and/or use provide shade with shade cloth or plants if it's still too hot in your growing area for your other plants.

That's what comes to mind off the top of my head.  Let's see what the fine minds of others in this group come up with.

Paul

Catfish are a good choice or you could go with bioponics and forget about fish.  Fish are not generally the main product of an AP system and growing without fish allows a lot of freedom. 

I have bucked Mother Nature and have a heated grow room.  It's fun, but way too expensive, 

My outdoor system produces better results by planting seasonal crops.   I have an open ended hoop house that I cover with plastic in the Winter to keep the rain off and shade cloth in the Summer to keep direct light off.   In our area it does not get so cold that freezing is a problem and my water gets down to low 50F.  It the Summer the water gets up to high 70's.

So I'd advise you to keep it simple.  Work with the seasons, and look into bioponics as an alternative to aquaponics.

Elliot and others:  a couple day ago I wrote here that tilapia are prohibited here by the Department of Fish & Wildlife.  Maybe it'd be more accurate to say that there is disagreement within the aquaponics community about whether or not the state prohibits tilapia here currently and on what basis, but there seems to be general agreement that DFW "policy" is very clearly anti-tilapia. Big topic, and hopefully there'll be more clarity & consistency on the subject before too long...

Paul & Bob, 

I appreciate your incite and suggestions and apologize for not responding sooner. My internet went out right after i joined the message board. 

Bob -  I like the idea of the open ended hoop over my garden, it is a simple solution that will adjust to the climate issues in both summer & winter. I appreciate the Bioponics suggestion I do want the option to harvest the fish if needed. 

Paul - I appreciate the heads up on the tilapia, I am not looking to get visits from the fish & wildlife agency. So I notice in some of your other threads that you raise Blue Gill, do you harvest them?  I guess all i can do at this point is put a system together and get it cycling. 

Thank You, 

Elliot

Hi Elliot,

In spite of the situation with tilapia and DFW, I'm pretty confident you wouldn't be getting visits from them.

Yep, sure do harvest the bluegills.  Yum yum.  They take a couple years to get to eating size though. 

In a lot of situations I'm a big fan of getting started even if you haven't figured out every detail in advance.  This is one such situation.  So I like your idea of putting a system together and getting it cycling.  Advice you'll hear elsewhere as well:  start small and work your way up from there...

Looking forward to hearing updates on your progress!

The idea of using the heat of compost to heat water has already been done! A friend (here in Sacramento) of mine built a 6' diameter, two' wide compost tumbler where he ran 200' of 3/4 pex. He connected domestic water supply for warm water showers in the back yard. I will see if I can get a photo of it. He was looking for a way to heat his outdoor (solar batch heater) shower during the winter even on stretches of cloudy days.

Reto

Paul Trudeau said:

Hi Elliot,

Welcome to aquaponics and congrats on finding this Sacramento group:  a good start, in my opinion!

You're right, climate control and fish choice are main issues to deal with around here.  Pavement in and of itself is not a problem for AP; which is one of AP's advantages over dirt gardening.  

IMHO actively heating and/or cooling water using some sort of fuel is a last resort, particularly for a hobby system and particularly in our climate.  There are many other factors you can focus on before turning to heaters or chillers, both of which are generally pretty costly to operate in terms of money and the environment.  (That said, some folks are doing stuff with rocket heaters, etc., that are more energy efficient.  Still, you don't absolutely need to do any of that here).  

Other climate control strategies:  choose fish that tolerate the natural temperature range here.  Goldfish and bluegill are some of my favorites.  Tilapia is not:  in addition to being prohibited here by the Department of Fish & Wildlife, there's no way around having to heat the water for a good chunk of the year.

Shade your fish tanks--situate them under growbeds, or erect some sort of shade structure, or block them with vines or other plants you're growing.  [I guess in your case you can't bury them].  Insulate your tanks.  You could have your FT's in a separate structure, even in your house, pumping the water back and forth to your growbeds outside.  

In the winter, if possible you can allow the sunlight to hit your fish tanks (not the water itself, but the tanks).  If your tanks are black, all the better.  Other solar hot water heating schemes should work for AP too in our locale.  During cold months at least, enclose your FT in some sort of greenhouse or shelter.  Some people include thermal mass on the north side of the interior of a greenhouse to absorb and store solar heat.  Some people (including myself) have experimented with putting compost in or around a greenhouse to warm it up.  This past winter Growing Power in Milwaukee was going to experiment with running plastic tubing in a closed loop between their fish tanks in a greenhouse and the interior of a giant compost pile outside the GH.  I haven't heard how that turned out.

None of this will keep your water temp at 70F throughout the winter, but it can keep your water several degrees warmer than ambient temperature, minimizing the time your fish stop eating because of the cold.  My goldfish and bluegill sure didn't eat much in Dec/Jan but the system didn't crash either; plants did keep growing somehow, and bacteria apparently didn't die off.

In summer, if you have a greenhouse,  you either have to vent real well and use things like blowers and swamp coolers, or get rid of the greenhouse covering altogether; and/or use provide shade with shade cloth or plants if it's still too hot in your growing area for your other plants.

That's what comes to mind off the top of my head.  Let's see what the fine minds of others in this group come up with.

Paul

way cool to hear what your friend did with compost.  That's just what they were going to do @ Growing Power last winter, using pex thru compost to heat fish tanks.  I didn't hear how it turned out there.  I presume your friend's experiment was successful?

Reto Schaerli said:

The idea of using the heat of compost to heat water has already been done! A friend (here in Sacramento) of mine built a 6' diameter, two' wide compost tumbler where he ran 200' of 3/4 pex. He connected domestic water supply for warm water showers in the back yard. I will see if I can get a photo of it. He was looking for a way to heat his outdoor (solar batch heater) shower during the winter even on stretches of cloudy days.

Reto

Paul Trudeau said:

Hi Elliot,

Welcome to aquaponics and congrats on finding this Sacramento group:  a good start, in my opinion!

You're right, climate control and fish choice are main issues to deal with around here.  Pavement in and of itself is not a problem for AP; which is one of AP's advantages over dirt gardening.  

IMHO actively heating and/or cooling water using some sort of fuel is a last resort, particularly for a hobby system and particularly in our climate.  There are many other factors you can focus on before turning to heaters or chillers, both of which are generally pretty costly to operate in terms of money and the environment.  (That said, some folks are doing stuff with rocket heaters, etc., that are more energy efficient.  Still, you don't absolutely need to do any of that here).  

Other climate control strategies:  choose fish that tolerate the natural temperature range here.  Goldfish and bluegill are some of my favorites.  Tilapia is not:  in addition to being prohibited here by the Department of Fish & Wildlife, there's no way around having to heat the water for a good chunk of the year.

Shade your fish tanks--situate them under growbeds, or erect some sort of shade structure, or block them with vines or other plants you're growing.  [I guess in your case you can't bury them].  Insulate your tanks.  You could have your FT's in a separate structure, even in your house, pumping the water back and forth to your growbeds outside.  

In the winter, if possible you can allow the sunlight to hit your fish tanks (not the water itself, but the tanks).  If your tanks are black, all the better.  Other solar hot water heating schemes should work for AP too in our locale.  During cold months at least, enclose your FT in some sort of greenhouse or shelter.  Some people include thermal mass on the north side of the interior of a greenhouse to absorb and store solar heat.  Some people (including myself) have experimented with putting compost in or around a greenhouse to warm it up.  This past winter Growing Power in Milwaukee was going to experiment with running plastic tubing in a closed loop between their fish tanks in a greenhouse and the interior of a giant compost pile outside the GH.  I haven't heard how that turned out.

None of this will keep your water temp at 70F throughout the winter, but it can keep your water several degrees warmer than ambient temperature, minimizing the time your fish stop eating because of the cold.  My goldfish and bluegill sure didn't eat much in Dec/Jan but the system didn't crash either; plants did keep growing somehow, and bacteria apparently didn't die off.

In summer, if you have a greenhouse,  you either have to vent real well and use things like blowers and swamp coolers, or get rid of the greenhouse covering altogether; and/or use provide shade with shade cloth or plants if it's still too hot in your growing area for your other plants.

That's what comes to mind off the top of my head.  Let's see what the fine minds of others in this group come up with.

Paul

blue gill all the way bro. can handle both highs and lows in our area.  I'm actually in Patterson, ca. next to tracy. i used a submersible fish tank heater in the winter and kept the water around 55-60 degrees and shut pump off at night on the coldest nights.  Summer i've completely covered my fish tank and have shade over my four ibc grow beds and one floating raft and on 90 degree days i haven't seen water temps above 80 in the fish tank.  Fish all doing fine.

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