Aquaponic Gardening

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A word on how I deal with solids removal.

Recently several friends have suggested that I begin to share some of my successes and failures over the years. I can’t imagine anything I do is new or different. Aquaculture has been employed as a means of food production since nearly 6000BC.

That bring said, my system is a bit of a hybrid Aquaculture/Aquaponic/Earth based system.  In addition to perennial plants, fish, fresh water lobsters, freshwater shrimp, worms, soldier fly, duckweed, crickets, lady bugs, beneficial nematodes, biochar, and vegetables, I grow my most important crop, soil.

Like many others, I have gravel beds (hydroton) with red wigglers in my aquaponics system. Before any water ever reaches these beds it travels up an air lift to a settlement tray. Using the science of physics and the power of gravity, solids fall on the tray surface as the water continues to a bioreactor filled with nitrobactor bacteria before being sent to the beds. The entire system can be separated and run on the bioreactor alone. It allows me to over winter fish if I decide not to keep the vegetables going. Fish such as yellow perch and walleye can be overwintered in an unheated garage in my Pennsylvania climate. These temperatures would normally be much too cold to encourage vigorous plant growth.

What do I do with all these solids? I squeegee the tray daily and remove all bulk solids. I transport the solids to my worm farm using a pool skimmer. I cover the solids with shredded paper (newspaper, recycled paper/mail, cardboard). This provides additional material for the worms and reduces the moisture in the bin.  I am creating worm castings, worm tea, worms, and soil.  I have done all this on a small scale. I have never produced more than 300 pounds of fish at any one time and plan on really pushing the envelope this spring.

My family prefers root vegetables. I use a wicking bed for most of them and float sweet potatoes in rafts for the rich potato leaves that make an excellent fish feed. I do plan to communicate more regularly with the community. I hope I can learn from all of you and I am always willing to share anything that works (or for that matter doesn’t) with you all.

Special thanks to my wife for logging on and liking my post. I have edited this post to allow comments and questions. I received one by email which I will try to address today.

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