Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

Hello all,

I'm relieved to find an online community to bounce some ideas off of. I have been thinking about aquaponics since I discovered it a year ago on a PBS special. I took notes and started searching for simple design parameters. Such as how many fish will one person eat in a year. I know there is an answer out there but really its subjective to the person. I eat fish maybe every other week so thats maybe 23lbs of fish I'd eat in a year. Anyway, I went out to Olomana Gardens in Waimanalo, Oahu for a tour and have been thinking about designing and building a small home system ever since. Here is what I have come up with so far;


3 - 8X2 ft growing beds 12 inches deep (lava rock growing medium)

1 - 250 gallon fish tank

up to 48 lbs of fish at any one time.


Here's the twist - 3 - 8X2 ft rabbit cages under the growing beds.

And another twist - Make the fish tank look like a pond by burying most of it and have the return lines from the growing beds cascade as a water fall.


The rest of ideas that I want to incorporate are;


 3X bell syphons for the flood/drain growing beds.

maybe a smaller pond up higher for duck weed and breeding the replacement talapia.


Any helpful ideas are welcome.

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Comment by Philip Vanderhoofven on November 9, 2011 at 2:32pm


TCLynx good points for the shade cloth. Here is a my dog Toby curoius about what is in there. He doesnt know there is fish in there yet. But I know for a fact he does not like to go swimming


This will be the last picture I update for this blog chain. Anyone curious about the way I went about setting up my first aquaponics system will see several quirky decisions thought out and reconsidered over the course of seven weeks from this first blog entry to putting the fish into the system. I encourage you to go to the other end of the blog and start reading there if you have the time. If you have read all the way through it to here I want to say Thank you for your interest and please let me know if anything sparked a thought or if you think there is a better way to do this. I would like to hear what you think. Thanks again.

Comment by Philip Vanderhoofven on November 9, 2011 at 2:17pm


For those of you interested in the water quality of this start up method, I am taking daily tests measuring Temp, pH, Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, D.O. and I am loging any changes made to the system. Here you can see the center test is for Ammonia from this morning. It shows the first tinted water but still doesnt register as dark enough compared to the slide so I impute some quantity above zero based on the percentage of shade the water is comparative to the lowest slide.

Far left is the Nitrite test and you can clearly see a slight purple tinge but again like the ammonia test the taint is not dark enough to register comparative to the lowest slide so again I imput a quantity which I think is close to the actual value but the percision doesnt matter because the value is negligible.

The Nitrate levels are at zero as of this morning. But I'm not worried because the Nitrosommes or nitro bacter which ever is finally gets a meal of something it can work on from the fish effluent.

Comment by TCLynx on November 9, 2011 at 2:09pm

The surface algae isn't anything to worry about, it is only when the water is so green you can't see the bottom that you are really in trouble.  But yes, a good cover over the tank will be a good thing 1, to avoid the pea soup algae issue, 2, to keep debris, pets and small children out of the tank, and 3, to keep your fish in the tank since they jump.

Comment by Philip Vanderhoofven on November 9, 2011 at 2:05pm

I did a quick water test again and now the tilapia are swimming in thier new home. Check out the algea bloom all over the blue tank - I'm seriously going to have to get a denser shade protecting this from the hot hawaiian sunlight.

Comment by Philip Vanderhoofven on November 9, 2011 at 2:02pm

Okay all you may notice several beginner mistakes being made, since I haven't read Sylvia's book yet nor seen any of Murray's videos - they are in the mail. Even so, The local aquaponic shop, Wiamanalo Feed Supply, has advised me in the start up of my system using "Organic Digester" and to cycle with plants for two days and then add fish. The Organic Digester is needed out here manly to lower the Phosphate levels which rains down on us and is rather high in the fish tank. Since we have a volcano nearby constantly spewing gases into the air - anytime we get a wind from the south the air fills up with "VOG" Volcanic Fog. I havent checked this out yet but it sounds plausible. They looked at me like I was crazy wanting to add pure ammonia into my system and wait for a month for the Nitrates to naturally multiply out of the air. The guy at the shop, who is a premed student at UH, was like "I've started up close to 40 systems and this is how you do it." Cant argue with that! So, being adsent any other information save open source internet gouge I decided to press forward with the local way of starting up an aquaponic system.

I'm like hey - My aquaponics been fishless cycling for three days now and I'm ready to add the fish into it - I need 15 Fingerlings. And the guys like "you need more then that" I say "I only have one 2X8 grow bed set up and will eventually expand to three grow beds." He says "I'm going to give you 21 fish to get you started" Okay here they are. Easier to count when there is a freeze frame - check it out I think he gave me 24 fingerlings.

Comment by Philip Vanderhoofven on November 8, 2011 at 1:55pm

The Bell Siphon works as is. The system has cycled all day yesterday while I was away and continues to cycle without adding the snorkle. Yeah!


Comment by TCLynx on November 7, 2011 at 4:50pm
If you want to leave your system for the day and don't want the plant's to dry out, just remove the bell and let the bed run constant flood for the day.  (this can actually speed up cycling up a bio-filter too.)
Comment by Philip Vanderhoofven on November 7, 2011 at 4:48pm
Thanks TCLynx, I'll have to play with the valve before I snorkle my bell pipe. I turned the flow way down before leaving for work today but somehow I get the feeling that it hasnt broke the siphon all day in my absence. I check it first thing when I return home. And luckily I added a bypass right before I filled it up with water. You can see it in these pictures with my blue fish tank where the bypass T's into my drain pipe right near the end of the drain.
Comment by TCLynx on November 7, 2011 at 4:44pm
I've used the test before.  I usually get about 5-6 when I've bothered to do the test.
Comment by TCLynx on November 7, 2011 at 4:33pm
If you can adjust the inflow to your grow bed you may not need a snorkle for the siphon.  If the inflow to the bed is too fast the siphon may not cut off.  If the flow into the bed is too slow the siphon may not kick in.  Gotta get it just right but if you can't find the just right level then the snorkle or a restriction below the bed or both may be necessary.  To adjust the flow into the bed, you may need a bypass to send the excess water back to whatever tank the pump is in.  Basically a T with a ball valve to adjust how much flow is bypassed back to the tank.

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