Aquaponics

What skills to learn, what tools to get
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Noob
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Post by Noob » Sun Jan 06, 2013 6:03 am

Has anyone here ever tried aquaponics? For those that don't know it's a cross between aquafarming and hydroponics. Basically you raise fish to eat and grow plants. The fish feed off the droppings from the plants, and in return the fish poo fertilizes the plants. That's the basics. It's a little more complicated than that, but in general that's how it works. So you get meat and plants at the same time. It seems that it's really big in Australia, but relatively new in the last decade or so here in the US.


C-Dawg
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Post by C-Dawg » Mon Jan 07, 2013 6:12 pm

I'm intrigued by the subject and have read a decent amount about it. I met with a guy who teaches classes on it locally about starting a commercial aquaponics set up (I came to the conclusion that its probably a very poor investment vehicle).
I haven't done a real set up of my own as I plan on putting my house on the market soon and don't want to add anything else that will need to be moved.
It seems to make the most sense in places where land and/or fresh water is scarce as that is what it is using efficiently. So - if you had a small amount of property but still wanted to try to grow a decent amount of your own food - it might be a good set up.


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jennypenny
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Post by jennypenny » Tue Jan 08, 2013 8:49 pm

Cool 11-minute video from faircompanies.com about a smaller aquaponics system.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBspR2p0YYM
They show a small apartment-sized setup near the end.


Phayen
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Post by Phayen » Tue Jan 08, 2013 9:33 pm

Jenny, this is pretty amazing. I've been looking into small scale farming / sustainability mostly cause I like fresh produce, but don't want to pay for organic. I've looked into aquaponics, and like Noob mentioned, most setups are from Australia. I think conceptually this should be easy to build / maintain. Obviously mine wouldn't be automated, but still something I'm looking into building once we settle down.


Spartan_Warrior
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Post by Spartan_Warrior » Wed Jan 09, 2013 1:46 am

I have heard of this before and I must say I'm more interested after seeing that video. However, I do wonder about what that guy must have spent to set up that automated greenhouse. His system also wasn't raising edible fish, which would be important to me. I'll have to look into this more. The thought of some home-raised tilapia along with organic veggies sounds pretty appealing.


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m741
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Post by m741 » Wed Jan 09, 2013 3:09 am

The greenhouse was $700 and I'd guess the whole setup was probably $1500. I think it would take a long time to pay for itself. But, it's a cool hobby and I'm willing to bet with some ingenuity you could construct that setup for $500-$1000.
Something about automated Arduino/electronic grow systems seems awesome to me. I really want to experiment with it - once I have a house/yard.


Noob
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Post by Noob » Wed Jan 09, 2013 12:40 pm

I have a larger yard. Just a little over an acre. So the previous owners had a small garden. I'm planning on putting my greenhouse there. Might have to think about location though. Although I'm pretty quick with jerry rigging things up so one of these systems wouldn't be too hard or expensive if done right. The most expensive part should be the fish. Well I mean other than the greenhouse. I'm not really wanting to do this for profit so much as do this for myself. I think in the US if you even tried to sell anything out of your own system that the authorities would come down on you fairly quick. I just watched a documentary on these little girls that were fined for selling lemonade in their front yard. Things are getting really fine toothed at home and you have to be careful. But for yourself.. this is an excellent idea.
Also to note.. you could just put up a pole barn, install some solar panels and put lights inside to do a 24/7 grow house.


Spartan_Warrior
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Post by Spartan_Warrior » Fri Jan 11, 2013 5:51 am

Found this video on a basic, small system. I still find it a little lacking in enough detail for me to implement based on it but it's interesting:
http://www.videojug.com/film/how-to-bui ... s-system-4
I've also requested this book via interlibrary loan:
http://www.amazon.com/Aquaponic-Gardeni ... roduct_top
It seems to have mostly solid reviews (although there are a few critics). I'll report back.


C-Dawg
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Post by C-Dawg » Fri Jan 11, 2013 7:20 pm

Thought I'd post some links that I sent myself when I was looking into this (both for personal use and as a potential business to run post semi-FI) in case anyone is interested.
http://www.backyardaquaponics.com/Travi ... Manual.pdf

http://www.aces.edu/dept/fisheries/educ ... system.pdf

http://www.freshwaterinstitute.org/site ... uide_0.pdf
Business Plans

http://api.ning.com/files/Ac56Ltyeqobnt ... rfarms.pdf
http://aquaponicscommunity.com/group/coastview
http://api.ning.com/files/v3fPjAL4yNQiq ... icsInc.pdf
http://www.scribd.com/doc/48151485/Aqua ... iness-Plan
http://www.epa.gov/brownfields/urbanag/ ... s_plan.pdf
Forum with links

http://aquaponicscommunity.com/forum/to ... 4#comments
Sylvia's 10 things to consider before taking the plunge into Commercial Aquaponics:

http://theaquaponicsource.com/2010/10/1 ... quaponics/

Backyard Aquaponics information page which is a complete gold mine of information:

http://www.backyardaquaponics.com/infor ... links.html

A specific report off of that list which includes a massive amount of data including a cost/benifit analysis:

http://www.backyardaquaponics.com/Travi ... Report.pdf


Noob
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Post by Noob » Thu Jan 17, 2013 5:14 am

@SpartanWarrior.. It's a really simple design. The only parts I am having trouble finding information on are about planting the actual plants. There's a special formula of like coconut shells and something else to plant your stuff in, but the right mixture, and what depth to put them at above the water is the question.
@JohnGalt.. Great name by the way. I'll be digging through your resources over the next few days. Thanks.


Spartan_Warrior
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Post by Spartan_Warrior » Thu Jan 17, 2013 5:35 am

Yeah, I'm also going to dig into this. Thanks for the links John Galt. I found a great PDF at the Backyard Aquaponics forums about using IBC containers for the set up (which I believe is what's shown in the video I posted), but the containers seem to be a little north of $100 on craigslist, which is kinda expensive IMO. I'm looking for other options, especially for just starting out. Maybe one of these links will help. Should provide some good reading for an extra-long lunch break at work. :)
@Noob: Would you mind sharing a little more about your set up? Like, materials, cost, how you're putting it together, etc. Sadly I'm still working on my DIY/craftsmen skills and I'm still at the stage where this stuff needs to be spoonfed.


C-Dawg
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Post by C-Dawg » Thu Jan 17, 2013 5:45 pm

@Spartan_Warrior: I've seen the IBC containers for sale on CL in my area for a wide range of prices - sometimes as low as $25 each. I'd keep an eye on it and jump on a deal if one pops up. I've also seen several examples that were just built using 2x4 and pond liner. That should be fairly inexpensive and would let you customize it to whatever space you have available.
@Noob: The material is called expanded shale I believe. It's expensive - but not a requirement. Crushed granite is also used in a lot of examples. Cheap gravel would probably be fine too as long as you can clean it well enough. It just needs to be something non-toxic that can support the root structure of whatever you are growing while allowing water to fill and drain. For things like lettuce - you don't even need a material, you just need something that floats with a hole cut in it for the roots to grow into the water.
I found a local guy that runs classes every few weeks for $30. He'll show you his set up, talk about different options, answer questions, and may even help you put yours together. You might be able to find someone similar in your area. I would check out some of the forums or look for a meetup group.


Spartan_Warrior
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Post by Spartan_Warrior » Thu Jan 17, 2013 8:53 pm

@John Galt: Had a chance to look through some of the articles you posted. Very helpful, and answered a lot more of my questions. I particularly liked the cost-benefit analysis in the final report.
I think I want to seriously try this, although I do have some lingering questions. Perhaps they would be best asked in a forum devoted to the subject, but I'll throw this one out there anyway:
Is it feasible to create a system like this indoors, in, say, an unfinished basement? Or is the smell/leak potential too much?
If the answer is no, which I suspect, I probably have to build an outdoor shed to house it which greatly increases the initial input costs... and complicates the whole thing for my non-DIY self. Ah, well. Gotta learn some time.


C-Dawg
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Post by C-Dawg » Fri Jan 18, 2013 1:24 am

@Spartan_Warrior: I've just researched and tinkered a little with this stuff so take anything I say with a grain of salt since I haven't actually done anything more than build a proto type using a couple trash cans.
That said - from what I've read - it should definitely be feasible to do this in a basement provided you're willing to run UV lights. It's very similar to a hydroponic set up in that regard. As far as the smell goes - the idea is that it is self cleaning so it shouldn't smell much more than any other indoor aquarium. Leak potential might be my biggest concern - but should be avoidable with proper planning / construction.
For outdoors - I don't think a full shed is necessary. A green house should do it and I'd imagine you could find either a kit for one or a used one. If you're in a particularly cold environment - that may dictate what kind of fish you use - but I read about some examples of people using heaters. A few examples involved putting the fish in a garage/small shed with heaters and just plumbing to the outdoor plants (avoids the need for UV lights).


Noob
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Post by Noob » Sun Jan 20, 2013 5:33 am

@Ayn Rand(haha).. John Galt, I was trying to track down what I was reading before, but I think I confused what I was reading on hydro with aquaponics. What I was referring to wasn't the gravel bed underneath, but the actual portion that the plants are put to bed in. I had read that it was some sort of cocunut shell mixture with soil and something else.. That way you don't get that muddy runoff into your water. But I can't find where I was reading it now. But, the setups I was looking at also were directly above each other.
@SW.. I saw one guy in CA had a setup on his balcony(not ideal for you in a cold climate like me..BUT..) he was just using some recycled wooden barrels for his fish, and a couple of old window planters that he got from a dump somewhere. I haven't started on this setup YET. Only because I've still got a few months before I go ER and have all the time in the world to play around with projects like this. But this is the direction I want to go I think.
I'm just not sure if when I get back I might want to build on a greenhouse to my patio. Just not sure how to go about it. I have a wooden deck above my cement patio and both run the length of the house on the south side where the most light comes in. I want to build a greenhouse under the wooden deck, which I know will hamper some of the lighting, but mainly just use it as a grow room. The problem is building the roof of this grow room so that it incorporates well with my house so as not to P-O the neighbors ;p and at the same time be functional and being under the wooden deck I'm not sure how I want to engineer the roof of the grow room for water runoff. I'm thinking adobe roof style water draining into some pipes that run along the front glassed wall and then into storage units for later use.


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jennypenny
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Re: Aquaponics

Post by jennypenny » Sun Oct 20, 2013 8:46 am

viewtopic.php?f=6&t=3131&hilit=aquaponics

I like that he found unused space in an industrial complex for his set-up.

thebbqguy
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Re: Aquaponics

Post by thebbqguy » Sun Oct 20, 2013 9:04 am

I have researched aquaponics extensively and toured 10 aquaponics farms ranging from basic backyard hobby systems to full scale commercial operations.

In my opinion, a small system is not really worth the effort because it will never provide enough fish or the wide variety of produce to fulfill my expectations.

I made my own system for roughly $1,200 from two 100 gallon Rubbermaid stock tanks and a 200 gallon plastic fish tank purchased from a commercial fish supplier. It worked great in Florida, but it is not feasible in Michigan.

In my opinion, a media system with four 75 gallon tanks for the media (gravel) paired with a 300 gallon fish tank (Rubbermaid makes one that works perfectly). Catfish are much better than tilapia based on my findings. They are much more tolerant of temperature swings and they grow much larger to provide significant protein.

I also think it's better to make it yourself instead of buying a system. It forces you to learn how everything works so when it breaks or you kill all your fish you'll know exactly why it happened and how to fix it. I'd suggest you start with cheap feeder goldfish in the begining because when you kill your fish the first time you won't have much money invested. That may sound harsh, but believe me it will happen. Even the professionals who have been doing it for years have trouble with dying fish occasionally.

Here's a link that might help: http://www.aquaponiclynx.com/

susswein
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Re: Aquaponics

Post by susswein » Sun Oct 20, 2013 1:58 pm

An aquaponics system like this is an integral part of the earthship concept. You can learn more about it by googling "earthship".

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