It's been just over 5 years since we started our aquaponics project. In retrospect, I'm glad we did it but I'm not honestly sure of it's value in a sustainable system. These are the challenges I've struggled with over the time we've had the system.
Forums and email lists
Backyard aquaponics forum
If you are interested in adding an aquaponics system, I'd recommend spending some time on this forum. The people on the list are extremely helpful and have a great sense of humor. Be prepared to disappear into the site for long periods of time. The site is based out of Australia but there are members from all over the world.
55 gallon blue barrels buckle
They seem to be an inexpensive way to build a system, however, they have challenges. The buckling means you need to build a good structure to hold them.
55 gallon blue barrels are round
I know, duh! We went in knowing they were round but not realizing how difficult building siphons would be with a round bottom. We've made it work but they are a bit more fussy than systems with flat bottoms.
Aquaponics is truly an ecosystem
I spent the afternoon in the greenhouse making some changes to our aquaponics system. When we initially setup the system, we put two beds above the others. These beds were dedicated to raising duckweed and are setup to be a constant height of water with no other media in the bed. We have had to clean the beds several times since water comes in directly from the fish tank and then settles out in the bed leaving a lot of fish waste in the bottom of the tank. We also have a fingerling tank that is fed directly from the main fish tank and has similar issues.
Two years ago we built a solar greenhouse. The beauty of the greenhouse has been fresh tomatoes in January, a quiet place to escape and a learning space about gardening and nature. This year we decided we would add an aquaponics system to the greenhouse.
February 3 - February 14, 2008
When we finished installing the fishtank, we emptied the water from our water barrels into the tank. Over the next 11 days, we continued to add water whenever it rained. By the time we turned on the system on the 14th, the fish tank was almost full. Starting the system used about two thirds of the volume of water in the tank. This water would have gone into the growbeds and plumbing.
February 14, 2008
Plumbing an aquaponics system is based on a large number of factors and very few systems have identical plumbing. I will describe what we did and how we came to the decisions we did. Over time, if we find we need to make adjustments we will include those as well.
Our first step was to dismantle the grow bed we had in the greenhouse and clear out all of the plants. The plants have found a temporary home in our dining room. I dug out the two broccoli plants that were still happily growing in and potted them. They will eventually end up in the new aquaponics system. The huge tomato had to go. There was no easy way to move the tomato but I'm sure it will be replaced by an equally huge one in the new system.