Aquaponics_and_Fishing_021

DIY Aquaponics

Our Newest Addition

Aquaponics, what is it? It is growing plants and vegetables using fish to supply the nutrients for growth. My wife and I have been growing vegetables in our backyard for the past eight years. We began gardening to have better control over the food we put in our bodies. I am sure, if you are reading this, you too must be looking for a way to provide better food than what is available in our stores. We constantly hear about all the chemicals that are used in our food. It’s kind of scary if you look too deep into what goes into the processing and growth of our food supply. Anyway, that’s not what this bit of information is about. It is about helping you grow your own food in your own backyard, porch, balcony, or inside a room not being used.

Living in sunny Florida can be a challenge when it comes to growing vegetables successfully. There are bugs, torrential rains, heat and sand instead of dirt… just to mention a few of the challenges! We have Earth Boxes, No-Dig gardens, Auto-Pots, Square Foot Gardening (raised beds) and Hydroponic systems. Each has their advantages and disadvantages and we will cover each of these in future posts.

Not having a 100% success rate with any of the above systems, I began to look for yet another way of growing food. This is when I came across Aquaponics. After doing a little research I decided to give Aquaponics a try. There is a wealth of information on the internet and several websites that have been very helpful. (I will list the links at the end of this article.) There are a number of reasons for giving this a try. However, know going in that there is a little more than just sticking a seed in and waiting for it to grow. By doing a little homework and reading, you can save yourself a bunch of headaches and failures.

Everything is thriving.

I suppose this is where you decide to either buy a system or build your own. I prefer to build my own for the same reasons I grow my own food, self sufficiency. I chose to begin with a small system, very basic and not a lot of expense. The construction part is probably the easiest part of Aquaponics. I put together my Aquaponic system with just a few tools and some parts which can be purchased at a local hardware (Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc.). Like anything – I guess you can jump right in and construct a big system or just try a small system to keep the learning curve short and not too expensive. Let’s get to the guts of the construction process.

First, I decided to go with a grow bed 2 feet by 3 feet by 8 inches deep which gives 6 square feet of growing space. Perfect for a patio salad garden! Those familiar with square foot gardening will appreciate this. As with a square foot garden, my research revealed that you can grow more plants in a smaller space with Aquaponics. I purchased a mixing tray from Lowe’s. Most of the research suggested a depth of at least 10 inches, but I couldn’t find one that met these measurements so I went with what was available. So far – no regrets with this tray.

The growing media for our tray is a mixture of Hydroton (expanded clay balls used in soil-less growing systems) and pea gravel. You can use lava rock as well. It is important to make sure the media you choose doesn’t have limestone in it, because it makes the Ph too high. You can test the grow media by placing a little of it in white vinegar – if it bubbles then there is limestone in the mix!

Next, you will need something for the fish. The system is on our patio, so I wanted something that was pleasing to the eye. I purchased a large planter pot which held about thirty gallons of water. PVC pipe and fittings round out the main components of our system. All that was left was to add a few gold fish, air stone, pond pump and presto – we were in business.

Everything is thriving.

This article is intended to give you a glance at our first system…please use the references below to further explore this grow method…

Yes, we are already planning a bigger one! With Tilapia…and solar power…and…ah, to dream…

Happy Growing,
~Jerry

RESOURCES:
http://aquaponicscommunity.com/ Great forum - knowledgeable and helpful growers.
http://www.aces.edu/dept/fisheries/education/documents/barrel-ponics.pdf Free eBook
http://www.backyardaquaponics.com Plenty of info on basics with people ready to help!

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