Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

Is there a need for academic research on aquaponics? I think so.

Are you documenting your research? I know much of the information about aquaponic gardening can be found after an extensive online search of the open sources about aquaponics. Some of the information out there is however incorrect. This forum is a great resource for many to weed through the information and to see what other people are doing.

Sylvia's book on this subject is a great way to have all the current information out there in one place and saves loads of time in trying to figure this subject out on your own. I wish I could use the Aquaponic Gardening book as source for graduate level research. Yes, Im a graduate student now at HPU and I was not permitted to reference Sylvia's book. 

This technology has great potential for being an important part of solving some of the difficult issues that we face today with rising oil prices and the food prices which are tied to them.

This is a new blog thread is an attempt to bounce ideas around about the current voids of documented aquaponic research.  If you know of an organized effort that already exists, please let me know. I want to be apart of the effort to advance this important technology with graduate level research and development. I see aquaponics as one of many sustainable food production systems. For the interest of this site, however I want to focus on only academic research in aquaponic systems that have evolved into useful backyard food production systems.

I'm currently looking at this subject from the social sciences perspective. Please weigh in if you are aware of ongoing research efforts or data base's that I could reference and contribute to.

Thank you.


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Comment by Philip Vanderhoofven on May 2, 2012 at 1:12am

If the link doesnt work you can search the prezi website for my name or aquaponics gardening and find the presentation.

Comment by Philip Vanderhoofven on May 2, 2012 at 12:53am

All, thank you for your comments.

I did follow up on these links and included the material in my presentation tonight. I ran out of time to do the level of research on this that I had wanted to. And I dont think I have made any advancements for aquaponics. This presentation is very basic and barely scratches the surface. We have been reading Odum's works and this presentation related to his thinking and analysis of systems. I drew up all the diagrams to make the connection to the methodology of analysis popularized by Odum.  All these systems together comprise an ecosystem complete with several levels of hierarchies and energy flows. While I touched briefly on these, the assignment was to recommend policy towards sustainability. I'm an advocate of backyard food production with several systems including aquaponics.  My primary intent here was to contextualize aquaponics as part of a viable solution in the sustainability of our future by promoting Urban food production systems. And I begin with connecting the benefits of food production to People, Planet, & Profit. If you want to see the presentation it is posted on just follow the link. I will include my talking points below which go together with the presentation slide by slide. Aquaponic Gardening and associated ecosystems

Aquaponics and Supporting Systems Introduction.

Promoting Policy for Urban Food Production.




Presentation notes.


This presentation is on the technological advances in Urban Agriculture systems.


Slide 1. Last week the discussion was around information systems and motivating people toward sustainability. I’m an advocate for people growing a portion of their own diet and want to start out with the


(Take a deep breath and find your Zen - read slowly soothingly)

Mental benefits - listening to the gentle water cascading into a small fish pond as an alternative to Prozac.


Watching the fish swim around is therapeutic and lowers anxiety and may help cure depression. Feeding the fish daily could be the only reason for someone to get out of bed in the morning. What a better way to start your day then a moment of peace connecting with your environment.


The spiritual benefits from watching the fish over time as they get to know you or in an aquaponic system witnessing a plant bear fruit from a seed you planted gives an opportunity for self reflection and emotional growth. (Organic Gardening, 2012)


(Slide with the Turnips and cabbage which I cooked up for St. Patty's with corned beef)

Slide 2. The Top leading causes of Death in the United States are related to obesity and diet and are preventable. (Oliver) Growing a portion of your own food leads to Better nutrition choices.

Not only do you know where your food comes from but it helps you to become more aware of what you put into your body when you eat out. Better Nutrition leads to many Health benefits – Reduces obesity Lowers your risk for heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and other ills with aging like osteoporosis and dementia. Concider the physiological benefits. Gardening is exercise and helps reduce anxiety, helps to work out frustrations, calm agitation and leads to better restful sleep. (Main)


Slide 3. Think about the environmental benefits from buying local food. Many estimate that the world has already reached Peak oil (Pimentel, et al., 2009) Certainly we have reached peak oil in terms of sweet crude in the US. Our industrialized Agriculture is completely dependent upon petroleum (Young, 2010) And now we are turning our food into ethanol. The American diet travels an average of 1500 miles before reaching our plate. (CUESA) (Rauber, 2006)And yet as we struggle with these issues in our country we neglect the real issue of the effect on third world nations. Buying Local reduces food miles. Growing your own food can have a cumulative effect on reducing global hunger. (Rudel, 2011)



Slide 4. Economic Benefit – The average Gardener spends $70 on gardening supplies and yields $600 in vegetable production annually. (Phd, 2012) Before we get into the details of the Aquaponic system I think it is important to understand an basic gardening. Here is an example of a Square foot Garden. A methodology for gardening that I think represents a technological advance designed by retired civil engineer and systems analyst Mel Bartholemew. You can produce 100% of the vegetables of a traditional garden in 10% of the space utilizing Mel’s methodology of continuous harvest. (Bartholomew, 1985) This picture represents $40 worth of supplies that could easily produce $600 of vegetables. (Jason, 2008) This is how I would recommend starting out before jumping into Aquaponics. Learn to manage this system first.



Slide 5. Odum describes parallels between the industrialization of commercial fishing and terrestrial agriculture into the fish farming and industrial farming we have today. (Odum, 2007)

It didn’t take long before the basic nutrients required for plant growth were discovered and plants could be grown with out soil Hydroponically (Hydroponics) These need to be dumped every three weeks to keep from killing the plants. Similarly in the Aquaculture system the effluent needs to be dumped as sewage to keep from killing the Fish. (Jones, 1999) Dr. James Rakocy, Director of the University of the Virgin Islands Agricultural Experiment Station studied the recycling of Fish waste into the Nutrient required for Vegetable leaf production. (Rakocy J. , The Status of Aquaponics 2010 by Dr. James Rakocy, 2010)


Slide 6. Aquaponics is combining hydroponic vegetables growing with aquaculture fish effluent waste together in a closed loop for the benefit of both system. (Picture of the Tilapia is from today 1 May 2012)

Full disclosure these plants came out of my Square foot garden.


Slide 7. Aquaponic’s is the combination of Aquaculture and Hydroponics systems diagram.


Slide 8. Aquaponics works better for growing leafy greens. Here is an example of Fish effluent being cycled into the Black cinder bio-filtration where bacteria transform the waste ammonia and transform it into nitrates readily absorbed by the roots. (Bernstein, 2011)


Slide 9. The Bell Siphon floods and drains the grow bed. (I explained how the Bell Siphon works)


Slide 10. Overview of a simple system – 100 gallon fish tank with a 2 foot by 6 foot grow bed. Being leveled. Fish waste is cycled through the growing medium and the ammonia is transformed into Nitrates by unseen bacteria.


Slide 11. Here is a diagram of my overall system of capturing waste streams the transforming them into nutrients for food production.


Slide 12. Food Supply can be supplemented with raising your own Larvae to feed to the fish. ( I went into great detail about the BSF – I didn’t tell them that I haven’t figured it out yet though)


Slide 13. Worms are the secret Weapon of the aquaponic system. (Hallam, 2011)


Slide 14. Vermicomposting makes good sense to anyone looking to garden. An analysis of Vermicast - (Chaoui)Here are two different worm bin models the Worm Factory 360 and the Can of Worms. I recommend starting out with a small flow through bin that you could make yourself for pretty cheap. And start building up your worm population so that you will have enough to supply your aquaponic system once you make the transition.


Slide 15. Meat Rabbit Production was added to capture leafs garden waste and to provide a consistent input to my vermicompost.

One of the greatest benefits for mainland greenhouses with an aquaponic system is for C02 production and heating. (Ardeng Rabbit Meat)

(We talked about caloric requirements and varied diet possibilities – click on the slide down near the bottom for more data points)


(Slide showing Annabelle below the grow bed on one side and how the Hawaiian chili pepper exploded on the left)

Slide 16.  Meat Rabbit System Diagram. Again capturing waste streams and transforming them into a benefit at different levels of the ecosystem hierarchy.


Slide 17. There are excess leafy greens from the Square foot garden to provide for rabbit consumption.


Slide 18. View of Aquaponic grow bed with rabbit cages under.


Slide 19. This shows a significant investment of materials plumbing and structural support. Built in very limited space. And still in progress. This comprises my sustainable living laboratory


Slide 20. References

Last slide is what I ate for lunch 1 May 2012.

Thanks for checking it out. As I said very basic and barely scratched the surface of Aquaponics. Thanks again and maybe I'll dive in deeper next time. Cheers.

Comment by Food Safety Guy on March 29, 2012 at 3:13pm

I 100% agree with you.

It would be great to get Universities like Hawaii, UC Davis, Cal Poly SLO, or Cornell to do studies on Food Safety and Quality as well. 

What are potential risks and what industry practices should be adopted to minimize them?  Due to the organic nutrients, are the plants healthier, with more nutrients and better flavor?  Etc?

Comment by Courtney Edwards on March 14, 2012 at 3:08pm

I am also a grad student (working on sustainable ecological aquaculture) and I wholeheartedly agree that there is very little peer-reviewed science on the topic of aquaponics. For someone writing in academia things like websites, conference proceedings and even sometimes books do not make the cut for a thesis or peer-reviewed publication. Compounding this issue is that much of the non-scientific information that does exist is often anecdotal, bordering on self-righteous dogma.

However, other disciplines (e.g. horticulture science, hydroponics and recirculating aquaculture, integrated aquaculture, and permaculture) all have long and prolific histories in terms of well replicated, peer-reviewed, scientific research. Organic biofilters have a long history and variety of applications, the only thing that is different now is that we're interested in eating the things that grow in them.

A problem that I see with the current fascination with aquaponics is that people are trying to re-invent the wheel. Aquaponics is not new, it is a natural (and awesome!) progression; one that should take into consideration previous work done by others in related disciplines. 


Comment by Eric Warwick on March 10, 2012 at 10:38am

Yeah UVI is a great resource and a trick I like to use is search for "integrated recirculating aquaculture systems" instead of aquaponics.

Comment by Vlad Jovanovic on March 9, 2012 at 11:48am

This may be of some least you could pilfer some of the sources if nothing else...But there is quite a bit of good stuff in there, seems like it might be right up your ally...

Comment by matthew ferrell on March 9, 2012 at 10:42am

Arg, I read some more into your question.  The UVI system is the closet thing I think you'll find from acedemics to backyard.  At this point though, it has been so modified that is is being to look a lot different.

Comment by matthew ferrell on March 9, 2012 at 10:41am

FYI I am waiting on a grant that will explore backyard system potentials and document the results in a paper. 

Comment by matthew ferrell on March 9, 2012 at 10:40am

Nate started the college aquaponics thread.  But there is quite a bit of primary literature out there.  You just have to dig.

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