Sunday, March 18, 2012

Aquaponics 1

The thing about most of these projects is you can read about them until you turn gray(er), but the real education begins when you put your hand to it.

Aquaponics is a good example. In aquaponics, the edible fish you raise supply nutrients to your vegetables, which serve as a biofilter for your fish.

I love the idea of aquaponics, and I’ve been talking about it for a couple years now, reading a little here and there, debating about how big or small to go, and whether to use barrels or tubs or a timer or a bell siphon, and trying to create a mental picture of a working system that I could actually make that would allow us to grow more food.

Finally I decided to create the simplest, least expensive aquaponics system I could, just to try it for this upcoming season. I'd read of people using goldfish instead of edible fish, and just enjoying the abundant vegetables they grew. I was thinking of using the two old bathtubs left from the mobile home we took apart as grow beds and a small pump I’d bought at a garage sale awhile back to pull water from our big old goldfish pond, which is actually a little five by nine by four foot deep “swimming pool” I built when we moved into our home. That fish pond, though constructed of cement block, is these days as naturally self sufficient as any natural pond, and I didn’t think I’d upset its ecosystem by installing my grow beds. The pump would run on a timer and the tubs would be positioned with their drains above the pond. I had gravel for the grow beds on hand, so the price for this system seemed about right.


The first and biggest problem with this brilliant idea is that frogs have invaded that pond, and frogs carry salmonella. That bit of information killed the idea of my ultra simple, basically free aquaponics setup.

So then I decided to use one tub as a grow bed and the other as a fish tank, which was better, because I really want to grow fish we can eat anyway. I started playing around with the setup, and knew I’d have to construct some sort of shelter to keep rain and undesirable creatures out. By now I'd realized that an aquaponics set up needs to be a "closed system."

But that means we’re talking money for building materials, and I still want to build the least expensive system I can.

This is what that looks like so far. The PVC hoop house is pretty cheap. All the wood is recycled, as are some of the ¾ “ PVC pipes.

As you can see, we still have a bit to go before this system is functional. Hopefully I'll be putting the front and rear on the hoop house, making the cover for my fish tank, and working out my timer and drain during my next days off.

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