Aquaponic Gardening

Aquaponics is the marriage of organic hydroponics and aquaculture. Fish waste becomes organic plant food; the plants filter the water for the fish. Interested in learning more?

Members: 87
Latest Activity: Jul 30, 2016

What is Aquaponics?

Aquaponics is the marriage of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (the soilless growing of plants) that grows fish and plants together in one integrated system. The fish waste provides an organic food source for the growing plants and the plants provide a natural filter for the water the fish live in. The third participant is the microbes (nitrifying bacteria) that thrive in the growing media. They do the job of converting the ammonia from the fish waste first into nitrites, then into nitrates that is food for the plants.
In combining both systems aquaponics capitalizes on the benefits and eliminates the drawbacks of each.

How Aquaponics Changes the Game

- Waist-high aquaponic gardening eliminates weeds, back strain and animal access to your garden.
- Reuse resources currently considered “waste”. There is no more toxic run-off from either hydroponics or aquaculture.
- Uses only 1/10th of the water of soil-based gardening, and even less water than recirculating aquaculture.
- Watering is integral to the system. You can’t under-water or over-water.
- Fertilizing is also integral to the system. You can’t over-fertilize or under-fertilize.
- Gardening chores are cut down dramatically or eliminated. The aquaponic grower only does the enjoyable tasks of feeding the fish and tending and harvesting the plants.
- Instead of using dirt or toxic chemical solutions to grow plants, aquaponics uses highly nutritious fish effluent that contains almost all the required nutrients for optimum plant growth. Instead of discharging water, aquaponics uses the plants and the media in which they grow to clean and purify the water, after which it is returned to the fish tank. This water can be reused indefinitely and will only need to be replaced when it is lost through transpiration and evaporation.

Discussion Forum

Would you like to become an aquaponic gardener? 12 Replies

Tips and advice on where to find resources and how to set up your first aquaponics system.  It's not that hard once you follow a few simple rules...

Tags: instructions, howto, aquaponics

Started by Sylvia Bernstein. Last reply by Teiny Winehausen May 28, 2013.

Are you an aquaponic gardener already? 1 Reply

If you already have an aquaponic garden, tell us about it!Mine is currently in my 12' x 20' greenhouse that is being entirely run by the "waste efforts" of about 120 voracious tilapia.  You can see…Continue

Tags: greenhouse, aquaponics

Started by Sylvia Bernstein. Last reply by Stephan Neff Jan 9, 2013.

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Comment by Sylvia Bernstein on April 30, 2010 at 12:54am
Thanks for the heads up, Fredd. Good to know. Sarah, I have heard of people having amphibians in their aquaponic systems but there are concerns about bacteria from the waste being more closely related to mammals than fish, therefore having harmful bacteria that require a more intense composting process to break down. Fish waste contains no e-coli or salmonella, and is broken down almost instantly by nitrifying bacteria. Make sense?
Comment by David Rojas Elbirt on April 29, 2010 at 11:00pm
Sylvia, we are interested in aquaponics at a commercial scale for Bolivia (it's a small country, and tilapia is new). We've seen the Virgin Islands University technology. My father has read their handbooks (lot of detail, but little info on alternative kits, scales, and business models). Now he is seeking for options within aquaponics.
I'd like to know what options are there. Since it would imply importing key components and features that can't be built here in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
What options are there? What's the most suitable aquaponic set if we want to easily install it, learn the basics and take it to a commercial scale later (start small and grow from there)? Is there something like that available?
Comment by David Rojas Elbirt on April 29, 2010 at 10:48pm
At my father's farm we have tilapia and Pacú Tambaquí. Tilapia has grown slow here, 600 grams per year (wrong feed management, learning through trial and error). Pacú Tambaquí, is a variety of Pacú that resists a bit more cold weather. At my father's farm, it has grown 1 kilo in 6 to 8 months.
Comment by Sarah Walsh on April 29, 2010 at 8:02pm
Can you use turtles for this? I have a turtle in an indoor tank who is going to need to move to an outdoor pond soon...
Comment by Fredd Marshall on April 29, 2010 at 3:48pm
I wouldn't recommend Koi or Catfish as they are pests in New Zealand. Catfish are becoming quite a problem in some rivers in the North Island.
Comment by Sylvia Bernstein on April 29, 2010 at 3:34pm
Just posted new aquaponics resources on the "would you like to become an aquaponic gardener" forum. Actually, they are my own...enjoy!
Comment by Sylvia Bernstein on April 29, 2010 at 3:08pm
Nice to meet you as well, Dave. Tilapia are often considered the ideal fish for aquaponics - I'm delighted to hear you are considering switching over to aquaponics! Might as well make something useful out of all that fish waste.

Steve, your questions show that you are thinking about your fish selection exactly right - considering climate should be the first criteria. The best bit of advice I've heard in this regard is to find out what local aquaculture businesses are raising in your area already. Are there any nearby that you can contact? Because heating and cooling is so very expensive they will have already asked and answered this question for your particular climate. That's the theory, anyway... Also consider that it is cheaper to heat water than it is to cool it. By a lot.

I'm also glad you are considering veg scraps, which means you should go with an omnivorous fish. Here that usually means tilapia (an excellent fish for aquaponics because it tolerates an wide range of water quality and oxygen levels. Very hardy), catfish, and perch. Also koi and goldfish work very well if you aren't interested in eating them (I wrote a blog post about this dilemma called "to eat or not to eat" Another option is Pacu, which I"m told is a vegetarian piranha, grows to a huge size (a meter or so) and is a fishey garbage disposal. Apparently they also love to be pet. I'm growing one now. Hope this helps.
Comment by steve on April 28, 2010 at 6:56pm
What fish do you recommend for auckland climate? and will like our veg scraps?
Comment by David Rojas Elbirt on April 28, 2010 at 9:27am
Hello, I'm from Bolivia. My father has a small tilapia fishfarm, and we are seriously looking to shift towards aquaponics. Sylvia, nice to meet you.
Comment by Sylvia Bernstein on April 28, 2010 at 2:20am
Steve, you can absolutely use trout - I started with some trout in my greenhouse this winter. A few cautions... trout don't like water temps above 60 degrees F, or 15.5 C but they are good all the way down to an ice covered tank if you keep a hole in the ice. Second, they like a LOT of oxygen (makes sense with their natural environment being flowing streams), and finally they are straight carnivores so they aren't going to be very interested in duckweed or your veggie scraps - strictly commercial feed. I ended up giving mine away to a friend who was also growing trout...and his ate mine for dinner.

Hi Theresa. Sounds like you are an experienced grower...glad to have you here! The BYAP people are a top notch group, aren't they? I'd love to hear more and see some photos of your experiment...

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