10 Do’s and Don’ts of an Aquaponics Greenhouse

10 Do’s and Don’ts of an Aquaponics Greenhouse

From:

The Aquaponic Source

By: Kari-Lise Boyer

Aquaponics Greenhouse

There’s a multitude of resources on aquaponic growing, and on building a greenhouse. But what about using aquaponics in a greenhouse? What are the best practices, and things you need to watch out for? We’ve rounded up our top 10 recommendations for designing a year-round aquaponics greenhouse.

 

  1. Do Sketch out your Floor Plan

It cannot be overstated: creating a floor plan at the beginning is imperative. Space-

1. 920 sq. ft. gh floor plan
A 920 sq. ft. aquaponics greenhouse designed by Ceres Greenhouse Solutions and The Aquaponic Source.

efficiency is key in an aquaponics greenhouse, where fish tanks and equipment occupy floor space. Ensure all floor space is used efficiently, since this is space you pay to build and operate. Round fish tanks fit awkwardly in a rectangular greenhouse, leaving un-used space in the corners. Rectangular tanks may be a better choice for small greenhouses, though there is some debate about which is better for the fish.

If unsure where to start with your plan, we recommend first determining the size of growing beds. From there you can determine the necessary fish tank volume (see a book like Aquaponic Gardening for basic rules of thumb). Once you know the size of each of these elements, you can then lay them out on paper, and work backwards into the size and shape of a greenhouse. Use examples as inspiration, like the floor plans available at Ceres Greenhouse aquaponics page.

 

2. Don’t Place Fish Tanks in Direct Sunlight

Direct sun on fish tanks fosters algae growth and can overheat tanks. As a general rule, it is much easier to heat tanks than to cool them. There is a multitude of ways to heat water, but cooling it with chillers is very expensive. (Ideally, you don’t have to do much of either with an efficient greenhouse.)

To keep tanks out of direct light, you can shade them using a section of roof insulation. At Ceres Greenhouses, we locate fish tanks along an insulated North wall of the greenhouse; a partially insulated roof blocks intense summer light. They get some heat gain in the winter. This also helps keep tanks in the most stable temperature zone (furthest away from the glass or plastic glazing materials). Since fish have a narrower temperature range compared to plants this is best for both worlds. In large commercial aquaponics operations, we recommend using a separate insulated room for fish tanks.

 

3. Do Know Your Temperature Requirements

Three different biological systems occupy your aquaponics greenhouse and all have certain temperature requirements. Fish and plants temperature ranges varies based on the varieties you select (e.g. cold water v. warm water). The third element is the bio-filter, the bacteria and worms that convert fish waste to fertilizer. Bacteria thrive in warmer temperatures, between 70 and 90 F.

3 sage school
Despite their harsh winters, a large school greenhouse in Idaho grows year-round using only solar energy.

An important part of the greenhouse planning process is to identify these ranges, and then think about how your structure will maintain them. Unlike homes, easily controlled with a thermostat, greenhouses require more forethought. Before you invest in a structure, talk to greenhouse companies about your minimum temperatures and what heating / cooling equipment is needed. Ask them to forecast energy costs, or do this yourself using an online heat loss calculator.2. sage school

Methods for heating / cooling a greenhouse vary widely depending on your operation and climate. Propane or electric are most common, but energy-efficient and renewable systems are possible too. At Ceres we use a system that stores solar thermal energy in the soil underground. Called a GAHT system. It provides year-round heating and cooling for the greenhouse. Solar hot water systems provide both water and space heating for larger commercial greenhouses. The 2,400 sq. ft. aquaponics greenhouse at The Sage School in Sun Valley Idaho, for instance, is heated entirely with solar hot water. (You can learn more on integrating solar hot water in our recent book, The Year-Round Solar Greenhouse).

 

4. Don’t Skimp on a Greenhouse 

It’s likely that you’ve invested, or are about to invest, a good deal of time and money into your aquaponics system. It’s wise to protect this investment with a durable structure. Low-quality greenhouses are not engineered for wind or snow loads and will collapse under severe conditions. Plus, they are very inefficient energy-wise. Made with thin, low-quality materials, they require lots of heating and cooling to grow year-round in most climates.

For example, an aquaponic grower in Boulder, Colorado purchased a low-cost polycarbonate greenhouse kit from a hardware store. During a cold snap, his water heater broke, and the poorly insulated greenhouse quickly froze. Instead of a thriving aquaponics system, he had fish popsicles. The photo below shows a Colorado greenhouse kit that was torn down in high winds just a few months after it was built.

4 gh kit
Kit greenhouses are not usually rated for high snow or wind loads.

Ask greenhouse manufacturers, designers or builders about their warranties and the anticipated operating costs. Upgrading to a durable, energy-efficient greenhouse usually pays off within a couple years.

 

5. DInsulate!

At Ceres Greenhouses we build greenhouses with highly insulated walls and a quality polycarbonate roofing material to enable greenhouses to grow year-round even through  harsh winters. For our aquaponics clients, we also recommend insulating several other areas, namely anywhere water circulates. Water heating is usually the largest operating expense of a cold-climate aquaponics greenhouse. Insulating both fish tanks and plumbing can cut heating costs dramatically. For example, if your plumbing runs underground, simple pipe insulation prevents the cold soil from sapping heat from water. Malleable insulation like bubble wrap helps maintain fish tank temperatures.

 

6. Do Bury Tanks

 Below ground fish tanks at Growing Power, Milwaukee Wisconsin.
Below ground fish tanks at Growing Power, Milwaukee Wisconsin.

Another way to reduce water-heating costs is taking advantage of the natural

insulating properties of the soil. Burying fish or sump tanks not only helps keep the water temperatures more stable but saves space as well. This strategy depends on your aquaponic system design. In a basic flood and drain, such as the one shown at Growing Power below, fish tanks can be buried underground. If using a system that requires sump tanks, like the Constant Height One Pump (or CHOP) system, the sump tanks are often buried partially underground and the fish tanks left above ground.

 

 

 

7. Don’t Leave Plumbing to the End

When setting up your system, installing plumbing is often left to the end, after the fish tanks and beds have been installed. Keep in mind, though, that plumbing may have to cross the greenhouse. If you don’t want this on the floor it should be installed before flooring, buried underground. Also consider that you may want to access plumbing in case to fix a component or expand your system. Thus, we find a good flooring choice is brick pavers or flagstone. They create a level surface that can still be altered if needed.

Concrete floors are also popular for aquaponic greenhouses. They create a smooth easy-to-clean floor, and make rolling equipment easy.  Keep in mind, though, that with concrete plumbing typically lays on top of the floor and creates a slight tripping hazard. For more on greenhouse flooring options see Ceres blog on the topic.

 

8. Do Cover Tanks (when possible)

The biggest surprise for most first time greenhouse growers is humidity. Greenhouses are naturally humid environments because plants evaporate water as they grow. Fish tanks and sump tanks increase humidity as water evaporates from their surfaces. High relative humidity can be problematic: it hinders plant growth and increases the risk of molds, mildews and pathogens. Thus, controlling humidity is a major challenge for aquaponic growers. It can be controlled with a number of methods, proper ventilation being the main one. Another tactic is to cover tanks so that they don’t constantly waft water into the air. Loose plastic sheeting or a more robust cover can be used to keep water in the tank, not the air. If covering fish tanks, you may need to supplement with an aerator to properly aerate the water. A cover can also help insulate tanks and reduce heat loss from evaporation, as on the Frosty Fish aquaponics blog.

 

9. Don’t Use Exposed Wood

Humidity also affects the materials in a greenhouse. One to stay away from: soft woods, like pine, and some wood composites like oriented strand board (OSB). Both can easily rot and deteriorate, and have very short lifespans in a greenhouse environment. We recommend metal and plastic materials that hold up better under moisture and condensation. If you do use wood, it should be well painted. We discuss how to choose durable materials for year-round growing in-depth in our webinars and courses on designing solar greenhouses.

 

10. Do Plan for Expansion

“You can never have too many outlets,” advises one of our aquaponics clients. Plan for your system now, but also think about how it may change if you expand, both the additional space needed and the added electric load. Designing this in from the start is much easier than retrofitting later. When wiring the greenhouse, talk to an electrician about your current electric load, and possible additional equipment. You may also want to plan some tolerance in case your current system doesn’t perform as expected… What if you need an extra water heater or aerator? As Donald Rumsfeld said, there are known unknowns and then there are unknown unknowns… We suggest planning some extra capacity. More on planning electric requirements in The Year-Round Solar Greenhouse.

 

Ceres Greenhouse Solutions is hosting a  full day course at The Aquaponic Source on Sunday, October 16 (can be combined with the Aquaponics Basics and Build Workshop on Saturday, October 15). Register here for the course!

For more information on Ceres’ greenhouses and consulting services, visit ceresgs.com.

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Grow Beds in Home Aquaponics System

Guest Post by Murray Hillam from Practical Aquaponics

Grow Beds in Home Aquaponics System
The GROW BED is the multi function centre of the Home Aquaponics System.

The Grow Bed performs several very important tasks, and if we were to try and describe those functions in a simple way, one suitable description would be, it is a Bio-Filter in which we grow plants.
A very happy and combination of duties. It is extremely convenient for our purposes, because as a Bio-Filter it collects and processes the ammonia and solid waste from the fish and returns the water to the fish tank clean, and by the growing of plants in the Bio-Filter (Grow Bed) we use up the nutrients and nitrates produced in the Bio-Filter (Grow Bed) producing excellent quality fresh veggies for our table.

Because the Grow Bed is such an important part of our total Aquaponics System we need to put some careful thought into it’s design. Materials used, dimensions and location relative to the fish tank are all considerations.
We strongly recommend the use of 300mm (one foot) deep grow beds in your Aquaponics system. Beds with less depth and therefore volume, will also work, but not nearly as well.

The Grow Bed needs to be of such a length and breadth to provide sufficient surface area for the plants and together with depth provide sufficient total volume to be an effective Bio Filter.
Overall volume of a grow bed is an important factor. The more volume the total system has, the more stability in the system , particularly in temperature and pH.

This stability has obvious flow on benefits for the health of the system inhabitants.

Fish, plants, worms, beneficial bacteria and microbes all function better in a stable environment.

In taking the decision to operate an Aquaponics system, we are desirous of producing the very best, healthy, nutrient rich and economical, plant and protein, for our family.
Aquaponics can deliver such produce by making use of natures wonderful interactive systems of worms, microbes and bacterium in a naturally balanced environment. It all works to its optimum when we provide it the best environment possible.

300mm (or more) deep grow beds will deliver optimum plant growth and health. They will provide optimum environment for the processing and delivery of nutrients to the plants, and the processing conversion of the ammonia given off by the fish, to nitrates.

In forming this opinion we have relied, not only on our own actual, very significant practical experience, but also on the experience of dozens of very experienced AP practitioners in Australia and around the world. Many of these people have accumulated a large body of experience in the use of 300mm deep (or deeper) grow beds as part of a well constructed Aquaponics system.

All of these people report exceptional healthy plant and fish growth using systems based on the 300mm deep grow bed principle. There is now a large body of actual evidence that strongly shows that this is a good working principle/method.

We have manufactured and delivered many hundreds of complete AP kits based on the 300mm deep grow bed, and hundreds of 300mm deep grow beds to persons who are constructing DIY Aquaponics systems.

Flood and Drain:
Together with a 300mm (one foot) grow bed depth, we strongly recommend using flood and drain cycle and 20mm drainage gravel or similar in your grow beds.
Flood and drain water movement system ensures the even distribution of water, nutrients and air (oxygen) throughout the system. This provides multiple benefits.
By the use of this method, dry or nutrient and oxygen areas are prevented from forming in the grow bed.

Nothing less than 20mm (3/4”) gravel should be used. This common gravel, by the way it rests together provides easy passage of water, solids, and worms throughout the bed.

Often folk cannot envisage plants growing in such a coarse media and they choose a finer media such as 5 or 10mm. This sized media will impede the action of the worms, the easy movement of solids and nutrients, and the Grow Bed will quickly suffer from partial or complete blockages.
Listed below are some of the reasons why 300mm or deeper grow beds are good….very, very good and highly recommended to deliver excellent results in your Aquaponics System.

Room for plant roots to develop and grow.
Some plant types such as lettuce do not require much depth (or nutrient) to grow successfully, but other garden plants such as tomato and corn, just to name two more common ones, do need depth space to put down good root systems. A given grow bed will have a variety of plants grown in it, so a grow bed depth bed depth that will accommodate a wide range of plant requirements is the way to go.

Depth and volume to process solid waste.

Solids passed by the fish, old roots, and other solid material is processed in the grow beds by those little wonder worms. Without going into detail here about the role of worms in AP, sufficient to say that the worms reduce solid waste by 60% or more and by their work and the action of flood and drain distribute the released minerals and nutrients throughout the grow bed/s. 300mm deep grow beds filled with 20mm drainage gravel with a good population of resident worms deliver an amazing plant growing habitat. (Not to mention excellent filtration for the fish tank.)

Bed Zones are established. (See attached illustration

Surface or dry zone. — # 1. The first 50mm is the light penetration and dry zone. Evaporation from the bed is minimised by the existence of a dry zone. Water waste minimisation is a very important principle in Aquaponics systems.

This dry zone also protects the plant base against collar rot. Additionally, by ensuring that this zone is kept dry, algae is prevented from forming on the surface of the grow bed media. Because this dry zone is present, moisture related plant diseases such as powdery mildew are minimised.

Root zone. — # 2. Most root growth and plant activity will occur in the next zone of approximately 150 – 200mm –in this zone, during the drain part of the flood and drain cycle, the water drains away completely, allowing for excellent and very efficient delivery of oxygen rich air to the roots, beneficial bacteria, soil microbes, and the resident earth/composting worms.

During the flood part of the cycle, the incoming water distributes moisture, nutrients and incoming solid fish waste particles throughout the growing zone. The worm population does most of its very important work in this zone, breaking down and reducing solid matter and thereby releasing nutrients and minerals to the system. ?Worm Tea”, as it is commonly known, will be evenly mixed and distributed during each flood and drain cycle. “Worm Tea” and the fish are entirely compatible, No possible harm can come to the fish by the distribution of this wonderful nutrient material throughout the Aquaponics System.

Solid collection and Mineralisation Zone – # 3.
This is the bottom 50plus mm of the grow bed. In this zone fish waste solids and worm castings are finally collected.

The solid material has been reduced by up to 60% by volume, by the action of the resident garden/composting worms, and microbial action.
During each flood and drain cycle, what is left of the solids perkolates down into this zone
Further and final mineralisation occurs in this area via bacterial and earth worm activity. Due to the excellent action of the flood and drain cycle, this bottom area is kept “fresh” and vital by the excellent delivery of oxygen rich water during the flood cycle.

Some water storage occurs in this bottom zone.
Should the flood and drain cycle stop for any reason, such as a mains power outage, the bed will slowly drain down and leave approx 50mm of water at the bottom of the grow bed.
The stored water provides a safety buffer in the event of power outage or pump failure… This stored water ensures that the plants will survive for very long periods without water flow.

This means that we can simplify our safety backup system to circulate only the water in the fish tank, by the use of low wattage water pumps and/or aerators. We can safely operate the system in backup mode (no main power supply) for very long periods of time–simply using an average size car battery as a power source.

This inbuilt water storage zone will supply the plants with water and nutrient should we need to isolate the fish tank for maintenance purposes, or treatment of the fish.

Happy Aquaponics

Murray Hallam.

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Aquaponics Tilapia Breeding

Aquaponics Tilapia Breeding

Guest Post by Sylvia Bernstein from The Aquaponic Source, on March 14th, 2011

Kellen and Sarah Wessenbach are the owners of White Brook Tilapia Farm, who supply the tilapia fingerlings we sell at The Aquaponic Source. They are extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of tilapia rearing (and other fish types), and are themselves aquaponic gardeners. When I saw a response Kellen gave to a question on Murray Hallam’s forum about how to manage fry population explosions in tanks with male and female fish I asked him to do a guest post on this subject. I think you will find this fascinating…

aquaponics tilapia fingerlings

Tilapia Breeding
by Kellen Wessenbach, White Brook Tilapia Farm

Tilapia will reproduce to the point of danger and even overwhelm the bio-filter if your adults are well fed, and the young can find any refuge in the tank. If hungry, the adults will often cannibalize to some degree, but rarely will they control their own population. They prefer a lot of other food items over their own young if they are readily available. Non-spawning adults do have a seemingly unsatisfiable appetite for eggs though. Just one female will typically produce about 200-1000 eggs per spawn, and she’ll spawn every 4-5 weeks or so if conditions are decent enough in the tank (“decent” is pretty easy for tilapia). Even with low survival, that’s still a lot of tilapia recruitment. So… in the average home system, even a single female could have a tank filled to the brim with young tilapia in no time at all… perhaps just a single spawn! Interestingly, the juveniles from previous spawns will actually be the most cannibalistic fish in the tank. Young tilapia have a huge appetite for high quality protein, and tilapia fry are a great source of protein in their eyes. They’ll eat any sibling they can fit in their mouth… something worth keeping in mind if you are actually trying to grow out some of them. Grading by size is literally a full time job at our hatchery.
You have many options when it comes to preventing excessive spawning and/or recruitment. Here are a few:

Increase adult fish density – Crowded tilapia rarely pull off successful spawns. Males prefer to have some room for their nest area. They will chase off anyone they consider intruders. In a heavily stocked tank, they are too busy chasing non-spawning fish away from their nest site to have much time to actually pull of a spawn. Further, even if they do manage to court a female and get her to release eggs in the nest site, the huge population of non-spawners will attempt to swoop in and eat the eggs… and they’ll do so with great success. Of course, you’ll need to increase bio-filtration capacity to suit any increase in fish density, and you still need to keep in mind that all tanks have a maximum carrying capacity at some point. High densities can be risky. A lot more risk for water quality parameters to turn south quickly.
Decrease their “tank” size without decreasing total water volume – One way to do this is to use fish cages in your tank with mesh bottoms. Another way is to reduce the size of your fish tank while maintaining an auxiliary tank or sump equal to the water volume you eliminated from the fish tank. No spawning area available means no spawning taking place.
Introduce a few predator fish. The right selection will not bother your adult tilapia, but they’ll keep the “herd” trimmed for you by eating most of the young. There are all sorts of fun predator fish you could keep with them. I have a research report that concluded largemouth bass and tilapia kept in a polyculture RAS improved growth rates substaintially, compared to the monoculture control tanks of bass only or tilapia only. Similar studies have produced similar results using catfish and tilapia in polyculture systems.
Separate the males and females. This obviously works, however, it can be pretty time-consuming in large systems, and only works as well as the person’s ability to correctly ID the sexes. In most home systems, it’s not a huge deal to handle 50-200 fish though.
Stock single sex fish – Stocking “all male” fish for instance. Just keep in mind that hormones are used to produce “all males” unless they come from a genetically male cross. Since most aquaponics folks are growing their own food to avoid hormone treated foods, this doesn’t usually jive with our goals.
Reduce light. Tilapia spawn less frequently and less successfully when provided with more dark hours than light hours.
Reduce temps slightly. Tilapia tend to spawn at optimal levels at temperatures between 78-84F degrees. At 72, most strains virtually stop spawning all together, though they also grow slower… so not really the best solution in most cases.

White Brook Tilapia

Personally, I like the idea of using predator fish. It’s not a fail proof method by any means, but it works well enough to control the population, and it can be a lot of fun too. You are able to maintain optimal conditions for fast growth, while controlling the population. For our own home systems, I’ve used Largemouth Bass, Hybrid Striped Bass, Crappie, Yellow Perch, Catfish (they are far more piscivorous than most people realize), Oscars and Jack Dempseys… with varying results. The most successful were the Largemouth Bass, followed by Oscars and Jack Dempseys. The LMB results jive with several recent studies, but the Oscars and Jack Dempseys were purely from my own fairly non-scientific trials I did just “to see what would happen”. They worked great for me, but your results could be different than mine. The best predator fish to select are ones that have been raised entirely on live food and have never been pellet trained (you want them eating fry and small fingerlings, not pellets meant for your tilapia). That’s not always an easy fish to find.

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Starting your Aquaponics System Using Fishless Cycling

Guest Post by Sylvia Bernstein from The Aquaponic Source

Starting up your aquaponics system (cycling) is a straightforward process if you know what to look for and have a procedure to follow. In a nutshell, you add ammonia to your aquaponic environment, and over time naturally occurring nitrifying bacteria “find” your system, establish themselves, and proceed to convert the toxic ammonia first to nitrites and then to harmless nitrates.
Fish are the obvious source of ammonia since their waste is the eventual fuel that feeds any aquaponics system. Fish excrete ammonia through their gills during their respiratory process, which if left unchecked, will increase in concentration and will eventually poison the fish.

The alternative is called fishless cycling, i.e. getting ammonia into your system by some means other than from fish. This technique has a few major advantages. First, there is much less stress involved (for you and the fish) because you are not trying to keep anybody alive during the process. Because of this, you need be much less concerned about pH since the pH must only be kept in a range that facilitates cycling without consideration for the safety of the fish.

Second, because you can elevate the ammonia concentration to a much higher level than would be safe for fish, you can cycle your system in much less time (generally 10 days to 3 weeks versus 4 to 6 weeks when you cycle with fish) and end up with a more robust bacteria base once you are cycled. The practical result of this is that you can fully stock your tank once cycling is complete, versus gradually increasing the stocking levels as is recommended when cycling with fish. This is especially beneficial to those who are growing aggressive or carnivorous fish because they are less likely to attack each other if everyone is introduced to the tank at the same time.

Finally, you can more precisely control how much ammonia is added to your system during the process. For example, if you see that your ammonia level is creeping up to 10 ppm, but no nitrites have shown up yet, just stop adding ammonia for a few days and let the bacteria catch up. You can’t do this with fish!

There are several ways to add ammonia to your system, ranging from the obvious to the slightly bizarre. I will talk about the pros and cons of each, and you can decide for yourself which makes the most sense to you.

Liquid Ammonia
(AKA Clear Ammonia, Pure Ammonia, 100% Ammonia, or Pure Ammonium Hydroxide)

This is the old fashioned cleaning product your grandmother used to use that filled the room with the smell of ammonia. Only use it if you can find the pure form that is made strictly out of ammonia (usually 5 – 10% by weight) and water. Avoid anything with perfumes, colorants, soaps, surfactants or any other additives. Shake the bottle. If it foams or if it doesn’t list the ingredients or say “Clear Ammonia”, “Pure Ammonia”, “100% Ammonia”, or “Pure Ammonium Hydroxide”, leave it on the shelf.

The hardest part of cycling with pure ammonia can sometimes be finding the ammonia. Where I live, I can buy it at our locally owned McGuckins Hardware. Try your local hardware store, cleaning supply store or even well stocked super stores. If all else fails, you can order it online.

Pros – It is relatively inexpensive (approximately $20 for a gallon) and what you don’t use to cycle your aquaponics system can be used to clean your windows! Plus, you know exactly what you are adding to your system with this product – ammonia and water, nothing more, nothing less.

Cons – Can be hard to find if you don’t have a cleaning supply or a good hardware store nearby. I’m told that it is entirely unavailable in Australia since September 11th because of the remote association as a possible ingredient in bomb making.

Ammonium Chloride (crystallized ammonia)
This is the same concept as the Liquid Ammonia above, but you can find this through aquarium supply stores, soap supply stores, photography supply stores and chemical houses.

Pros – Because it is very concentrated and in dry form, it is inexpensive to ship. If you get the kind intended for aquariums, there will be little doubt that it is pure and will work in cycling.

Cons – There will be cost involved.

Human Urine
(AKA “Humonia” or “PeePonics”)

Sound gross? Well, when you think about it, human urine is actually an excellent source of ammonia just as the waste product from any animal would be. Human urine is just easier to capture. Here is the catch. In order to go from urea to ammonia, you should put it into a sealed bottle for a few weeks to “percolate”. Can you just urinate straight into the fish tank? Sure, but the problem is that since that urine will take a while to convert into ammonia you will have no way of telling just how much potential ammonia you have in there. The levels will read very low, and then all of a sudden one day they will explode. A final concern around “humonia” is that there may be bacteria or germs in your digestive system that could be harmful to the fish and / or the nitrifying bacteria. In general, the conversion to ammonia in that sealed container will destroy most of this. However, the “humonia” approach creates a more complex biological environment than pure, synthetic forms of ammonia and thus introduces some risk to the cycling process and the health of your system.

Pros – This is a free and readily available source of ammonia.

Cons –There is the “yuck” factor, the fact that you have to store the urine until it converts to ammonia, and the possibility that harmful bacteria or germs from your digestive system are transmitted to your aquaponics system.

Other sources of ammonia
As animal flesh decays it lets off ammonia. I saw a suggestion on a forum once for cycling your system using a bit of dead fish, but dismissed this concept as too bizarre. Then I was testing one of my fully established, rock solid tilapia systems with a group of people who had just taken a class from me and were learning about maintaining their system. Imagine my embarrassment when the ammonia reading was off the chart! Ends up a fish had died in the back corner of the tank and hadn’t floated to the surface.

Pros – This is another free and readily available source of ammonia.

Cons – Again, because other bacteria and chemical compounds are given off during the decay process there is a chance that you will introduce something undesirable to your aquaponics system, not to mention the chance of attracting flies or other insects that want to assist in the decomposition. The other issue is that it will be very difficult to control how much ammonia gets into your system with this method.

Instructions for Fishless Cycling
Once you have identified your source of ammonia you are ready to start the cycling process. Just follow these simple instructions.

Add the ammonia to the tank a little at a time until you obtain a reading from your ammonia kit of ~5 ppm.
Record the amount of ammonia that this took, and then add that amount daily until the nitrite appears (0.5 ppm)
Once nitrites appear, cut back the daily dose of ammonia to half the original volume.
Once nitrates appear (5 – 10 ppm), and the nitrites have dropped to zero, you can add your fish.
Couldn’t be much simpler, or more stress-free.


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What do I need to get started in Aquaponics ?

Written by Murray Hallam of Practical Aquaponics

What do I need to get started in Aquaponics ?.

It is a bit difficult to know where to start when tackling your first Aquaponics project, but here is a list that might give you a few ideas.

1. Find out all you can about Aquaponics.
There is lots information on the web. Conduct a search on Google for “Aquaponics” , and you will turn up a lot of reading material. There is a lot of good information, but a word of advice. Take note if the person giving the advice is actually doing Aquaponics, and is not some “armchair” aquaponics expert.

Our DVD “Aquaponics Made Easy” is a good place to start. It presents in an easy to follow format with 90 minutes of viewing.

Another source of good information is the Practical Aquaponics Forum. There you will meet people who are starting out , and some that are actually running successful systems. The “Practical Aquaponics Forum” is like a Knowledge Base” , ask questions and get answers.

2. Decide how big your new Aquaponics system should be.
Two questions need to be answered here. One, how much money can I realistically afford to purchase equipment? And two, Where can I put my system?

A mini starter system can cost as little as a few hundred dollars, or a good sized domestic system can cost up to seven thousand dollars. It may be better to start with a smaller project that is manageable both in money terms and in physical size/space. Once you have the small system running well, then it is not too hard to upsize. Make sure you can manage the system you decide to start.

I started with a 230 litre tank as my fish tank, and I built a vertical tower from 90mm pvc pipe as a grow bed that produced a nice crop of strawberries. Looking back now I am very glad I started with a small system even though at the time, I wanted to rush out and buy a big tank and really get stuck into a big scale project. There’s heaps to learn in the early stages and I strongly recommend starting small.

Later, when you have mastered the small system you can then better decide just how big you really want to go, and the small sized equipment will not go to waste you will find. It is easily sold or passed on to someone else.

Whatever you decide, make sure there is room for expansion. Once you experience the amazing growth of the vegetables and see the fish growing, you will want more….Aquaponics is adictive !!

3. New or second hand equipment?
A good way to get started is to invest in a factory made Aquaponics kit. The good part about a ready made kit is that everything has been worked out in advance. You can be sure that you will have good results first up. The kit manufacturer has thought out and tested each model of kit to ensure that everything about the kit is balanced. The pump and pipe work , tanks and grow beds will all work together as intended. You will also enjoy lots of backup advices and warranty on the hardware.

It is also possible to get a system going using recycled materials.

Fish Tank:- IBC’s are available in most places in Australia. An IBC in good condition can usually be obtained for a couple of hundred dollars. An IBC is 1M x 1M x1M which has a total capacity of 1000 litres. Make sure the IBC has not been used to transport some dangerous chemical.

An IBC is an ideal size for a domestic sized Aquaponics system fish tank. Fibreglass fish tanks are available from our website. Fibreglass is very strong, long lasting and food safe.

Poly rainwater tanks are made in all parts of Australia. Many people purchase a suitably sized rainwater tank and cut the top out of it to make a fish tank. Some Poly Tank manufacturers in rural areas make poly cattle watering troughs, and some of these are made to a suitable size. Remember the fish are much more comfortable with a bit of water depth. Tanks that are too shallow are not conducive to fish happiness. It is good to have a water depth of at least 550mm.

Suitable Grow Beds are a little less common to source, and suitable products harder to find.

Grow Beds:-
We have fibreglass Grow Beds at www,aquaponics.net.au if desired.
If you wish to use recycled materials, old bath tubs are ideal for grow beds. A friend of mine placed an advert in the local paper asking for old bath tubs and he had more than he needed. Picking them up and getting them home was the hardest part.
See our article regarding Grow Beds.

Pumps:-
It is ultimately false economy to buy under-capacity and low quality pumps. I have seen people short change themselves by buying a low quality pump. If you feel you want to go down that road, buy two and have one on standby. Pump failure can spell disaster for your fish.

Pumps obtained on internet auction sites can be good, but more than likely they are a no-brand pump with minimum warranty, fitted with plastic bearings that will flog out early. By purchasing a good quality pump with one or two years warranty, with ceramic bearings, your money is not wasted, even if it turns out that the pump is too small as your system expands. You will always find a use for that pump, perhaps on a mini test system or on a Nursery Tank .

The last word on equipment….Whatever you decide to do, make sure you do it very well. Purchase the best equipment you can afford and assemble it in a tradesman like manner. A shoddily built system will inevitably lead to disappointment and failure.

4. Which species of fish will I use?

In Australia we are blessed with wonderful native species that are very suitable for tank culture. Possibly the easiest and most forgiving species is Silver Perch.

These are available from Fish Hatcheries all around Australia and can be purchased in small quantities (say 20 fingerlings upwards) from most hatcheries for around $1.00 + GST per fingerling. Quantities below 100 fingerlings may cost a little more

A list of east coast fish hatcheries can be found on our website in the FAQ section..

In the US and Europe the most common species in use in Aquaponics systems is Tilapia .There are several variants to this species, but enough to say that the fish is very suited to tank culture and is good to eat.

Raise a fish species that is suitable to your local area, one that will most likely not need an excess of heating or cooling as the seasons change. The cost of heating can become a problem to the economics of home systems.

Contact your state Fisheries Authority for information regarding suitable fish species for your area.

A typical IBC. Be sure to protect the IBC from direct sunlight. Many of them quickly degrade from exposure to UV.

__________________

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How to get started in Aquaponics – Rules-of-Thumb.

How to get started in Aquaponics – Rules-of-Thumb.
Posted on November 19, 2010 by Murray
It is often pointed out that it would be a good idea to have some basic rules-of-thumb for Aquaponics gardening. Why? Because they will help in getting started without needing to spend weeks researching. The finer points can be studied and implemented as the project goes along.

Sylvia Bernstein of The Aquaponic Source collaborated with Dr. Wilson Lennard from Australia to formulate the guidelines that follow below. Dr. Lennard has earned one of the few PhDs in aquaponics in the world. These guidelines have also been reviewed and endorsed by Murray Hallam of Practical Aquaponics, and the “Aquaponics Made Easy” and “Aquaponics Secrets” videos, and TCLynx and Kobus from the Aquaponic Source community site.

Nothing listed below is set in stone and there are exceptions to almost every one of the listed rules-of-thumb given certain conditions. However, they do offer a set of generally accepted principles that, if adhered to, will put you on the path towards successful aquaponic gardening.
One final caveat. These rules are intended for media-based backyard or hobby systems only. If you are intending to get into aquaponics commercially, then please seek a professional training course that will help you design an optimal system that has a chance to generate a profit.

Rules-of Thumb…….

System type – Media bed is recommended for new, Hobby growers.

A media bed performs three (3) filtering functions;
1 mechanical (solids removal)
2 mineralisation (solids breakdown and return to the water)
3 bio-filtration

Because the media bed also acts as the place for plant growth, it basically does everything all in one component – making it all simple.
Media also provides better plant support and is more closely related to traditional soil gardening because there is a media to plant into.
The cost of building the system is lower because there are fewer components.
It is easier to understand and learn.

Grow Bed
The industry standard is to be at least 12″ (300 mm) deep to allow for growing the widest variety of plants and to provide complete filtration.
Must be made of food safe materials and should not alter the pH of your system (again, beware of concrete).

Fish tank
If you have flexibility here, 250 gallons (1000 litres) or larger seems to create the most stable Aquaponics system. Larger volumes are better for beginners because they allow more room for error; things happen more slowly at larger volumes.
Must be made of food safe materials and should not alter the pH of your system (beware of concrete, for example).

Stocking Density
1 pound of fish per 5 to 7 gallons of water about 40 to 50 lb. of fish per 250 gal. (1000 ltrs.) This is a very safe stocking density for new systems.
(see my next artical on stocking density)

Steps for Planning your System
Determine the total grow bed area in square meters.
From grow bed area, determine the fish weight required (lbs) using the ratio rule 1 lb. (.5k) of fish for every square foot (.1 sq. m) of grow bed surface area, assuming the beds are at least 12″ (300mm) deep. Determine fish tank volume from the stocking density rule above.
For example, if you plan to have 2 2′ x 4′ (1 sqm) grow beds, total of 16 sq. ft. (2 sqm) of growing area. Plan to stock so you have a mature weight of 16 lb. (10kg) of fish which will require 80-112 gal.(500 litre) fish tank.

Media
Must be inert – i.e won’t decompose or alter the pH of the system.
LECA (Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate, AKA Hydroton or CANNA clay), Lava Rock, and Gravel are the most widely used media types. If you choose gravel, understand it’s source and avoid limestone and marble as they could affect your pH.

Water Flow
You should flood, then drain your grow beds. The draining action pulls oxygen through the grow beds.
If you are operating your system with a timer you should run it for 15 minutes on, and 45 minutes off. If you are running auto siphons, they will determine the time of the flood and drain cycle.
You want to flow the entire volume of your fish tank through your grow beds every hour if possible. A 100 gallon tank would need a 400 gallon per hour pump to cycle every 15 min. Now consider the “head” or how far against gravity you need to move that water and use the sliding scale that is on the pump packaging to see how much more pump capacity you need.

Starting you System or “Cycling”
See article here for cycling

Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates – after cycling,
Ammonia and Nitrite levels should be less than .75 ppm
If you see Ammonia levels rise suddenly, you may have a dead fish in your tank.
If you see Nitrite levels rise you may have damaged the bacteria environment in your system.

If either of the above circumstances occur, stop feeding your fish until the levels stabilise, and, in extreme cases, do a 1/3 water exchange to dilute the existing solution. Nitrates can rise as high as 150 ppm without causing a problem, but much above that, you should consider adding another grow bed to your system.

Oxygen
Be sure there is plenty of oxygen in your fish tank. You can do this through the use of a separate aeration device and by diverting part of the water from flooding and draining your grow beds directly into your fish tank. The only way you can have too much oxygen in a fish tank is if you are literally blowing your fish out of the tank. If you don’t have enough oxygen being infused into your tank your fish will be gasping for air at the water surface, but if you reach this stage you may have done permanent damage to your fish’s respiratory system.

When to add plants
As soon as you start cycling your system, but accept that they may not grow well for the few weeks required for cycling to occur.
If you add Maxicrop Liquid Seaweed to your tank when planting or Seasol at the rate of 1 qt. per 250 gallons (½ litre per 1000 litres), your plants will establish themselves much more quickly. (then at the rate of one CAP full per day until system is established)

When to add fish if you are using a Fishless Cycling technique
Add fish once nitrates are present and the ammonia and nitrite levels have peaked and declined below 1.0 ppm. (see again instructions on cycling)

Feeding Rate
As much as your fish will eat in 5 minutes, 1 – 3 times per day. As soon as the fish start to loose interest in feeding. Stop feeding. An adult fish will eat approximately 1% of its bodyweight per day. Fish fry (babies) will eat as much as 7%. Be careful not to over feed your fish.
If your fish aren’t eating they are probably stressed, outside of their optimal temperature range, or they don’t have enough oxygen.

Worms
Add a handful of composting red worms to each grow bed once your system is fully cycled and fish have been added. Red wrigglers are most favoured.

pH
Target a pH of neutral, or 7.0, in your Aquaponics system. This is a compromise between the optimal ranges of the fish, the plants, and the bacteria. For fish, this is a pH of around 6.5 to 8.0. For plants, this is a pH of around 5.0 to 7.0 and for bacteria it is a pH of 6.0 to 8.0.
Test pH at least weekly, and as frequently as 3 – 4 times per week. During cycling pH will tend to rise.

After cycling your systems, pH will probably drop below 7.0 on a regular basis and require being buffered up. If you need to lower pH it is generally because of the water source (such as hard ground water) or because you have a base buffer in your system (egg shells, oyster shell, shell grit, incorrect media).

Best method for raising (buffering) pH if it drops below 6.6
Calcium hydroxide – “hydrated lime” or “builder’s lime”.
Potassium carbonate (or bicarbonate) or potassium hydroxide (“pearlash” or “potash”). If possible, alternate between these two each time your system needs the pH raised. These also add calcium and potassium, which your plants will appreciate. While they work, be cautious about using natural Calcium Carbonate products (egg shells, snail shells, sea shells). They don’t do any harm, but they take a long time to dissolve and affect the pH. So, you add it, check pH two hours later and nothing has changed, so you add more. Then suddenly, the pH spikes because you have added so much.

Best methods for lowering pH, in order of preference, if it goes above 7.6
pH Down for Hydroponics- (be careful of using the aquarium version as this has sodium that is unhealthy for plants).
Other hydroponic acids like nitric or phosphoric as the plants can use the nitrate or phosphate produced.
Other acids, such as vinegar (weak), hydrochloric (strong), and sulphuric (strong) – last resort as directly adding these acids to your system could be stressful for your fish.

Use caution when adding anything to your system containing sodium as it could build-up over time and cause harm to your plants.

Do not use citric acid as this is anti-bacterial and will kill the bacteria in your bio-filter.

Happy Gardening!

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What is Aquaponics ?

Aquaponics:
What is it ?
Aquaponics is the creation of a complete cycle of symbiotic relationships where the fish help plants and the plants help fish. It uses no chemicals, requires one tenth of the water needed for field plant production and only a fraction of the water that is used for fish culture. (Aquaculture)
This is truly a remarkable system, because it works so well. The fish actually supply nutrients to a bed of plants, (called Grow Beds) and plants clean up the water that the fish live in, making a mutual beneficial environment for both. The only external input to the system is food for the fish. The plants grow in a Grow Bed

Both Aquaponics systems compliment each other as a single unit, not as separate units. The fish water is pumped to the Grow Beds, and is evenly distributed by a simple system of pipes. The fish water feeds the plants, such as tomato’s, cucumbers, lettuce and other green leafy vegetables, then filters through the grow bed that is filled with gravel / round river stones, finally returning to the fish tank by gravity or by pump. The water is returned to the fish tank cleaned ready for use by the fish, and so the cycle continues.

So an Aquaponics system is made up of a tank containing the fish of choice, and a series of Grow Beds for vegetable production.

Aquaponics is suitable for ornamental fish, Barramundi, Bass, Jade Perch, Golden Perch, Silver Perch, Murray Cod. In Australia we are blessed with a wide choice of Native Fish Species (some listed above) that are perfectly suitable for Aquaponics and are wonderful eating as well.

What is amazing in Aquaponics, once the system is initialised, it works really well, just as it should being a natural system.

The water is basically recycled, with a small amount of water added weekly to compensate for what is lost by evaporation, and transpiration by the vegetables. Therefore Aquaponics uses only about 10% of the water required for traditional gardening or fish farming. Aquaponics is the future of home gardening and commercial fresh food production for a dry land like Australia.

Aquaponics is a balanced, self-contained eco system that works!! No chemicals are added what so ever. It istotally organic. In fact, chemicals cannot be sprayed or added to the vegetable part of the system, because if that happens, the fish will die. Garden pests are kept to a minimum by housing the system in a green house and eventually a natural balance is achieved.

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Oceanside Tilapia Aquaponics

I started my recent trip to the USA at Oceanside California.   We participated in an Aquaponics seminar there organised by Richard Fox.   It is a bit of a trek getting to the USA from Brisbane. After 15 hours sitting in aeroplanes I arrived at LAX.
Going through Customs is not good when flights from Korea, Germany and Italy arrive at the same time.  The queues were long and very slow moving because interpeters were needed to process the incoming non English speaking travellers.  Then the Customs take everyone’s fingerprints !!!!
Richard was circling outside in the pick up zone in his bright yellow GMC pickup.  We were soon crawling along the 8 lanes each direction free way (clogged way) to Oceanside.

Here is a shot of Richard and myself.

Richard and myself at John Wayne Airport on my way to Denver.

He proudly drives around the streets of Oceanside in his 1952 Chevrolet Belair two door

Richards 1952 Chevrolet Belair two door DeLuxe Hardtop

DeLuxe Hardtop powered by a 270 Chevie straight 6.
It does 80 mph along the freeway (speed limit is 55 but no one is doing that)
His work truck is big GMC powered by a heavy sounding Diesel

Next day visited with some very interesting people , particularly Ronald Pecoff who is carrying out some important work on home grown nutritionally balanced fish food.   The biggest duckweed tanks I have ever seen and along one side of the greenhouse there were clear algae growing tubes.  The tubes were approx 300mm in diameter and the full length of the greenhouse.  A heap of algae growing in there.
Ronald is combining duckweed and algae and a couple of other plant derived ingredients to make up his fish food formula.
Very important work into the future. Wild fish stocks are diminishing, and therefore available fish meal,  the need for a high quality land derived fish food will be more important than ever.
 
That evening I dined on Tilapia for the first time.

Tilapia dinner partly demolished. Very tasty indeed.

Very tasty indeed.
I have to report that it was a delicious meal prepared by a chef at a seafood place in Oceanside.

The Tilapia were from Richards 3 Bed Balcony Kit.

On to the seminar which was fully booked.   A really nice group of people.  We covered all the basics of how to get a home Aquaponics system up and running, and engaged in a

healthy Q&A session (or two).
There were folk there from as far away as Pennsylvania, Arkansas and the locals from Oceanside.  They made sure the coffee and refreshments kept coming and had the name tags handouts and other material at the ready.

Tilapia in Richards 3 Bed Balcony Kit.

I get a real buzz out of conducting seminars.    It is just wonderful to see people so interested in providing quality chemical free food for themselves and their families.

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Aquaponics CHOP Mark 2 Operating System.

CHOP or Constant Height One Pump has been adapted by Aquaponics enthusiasts around the world now for the last few years since we coined the term.  The other variant Chift Pist runs in a similar way.  I noticed a problem with water levels whilst working on a small commercial CHOP system we were commissioning just over a year ago.  We needed to refine the process for our client,  so we came up with a solution that we’ve been trialling now for over a year.

CHOP Mark 2

It runs so beautifully. I’m very excited by it.

I am so certain this is a better way to run your aquaponics system that we have adopted CHOP2 into all our new larger Aquaponics kits that we design and build.

So what is CHOP Mark2 and why should you consider using it?

Operating the old CHOP method water is pumped up from the sump to the fish tank and from the fish tank runs back to the grow bed and sump by gravity. This system works very well but it requires that the grow beds be perfectly level to function properly. With CHOP Mark2 there are a number of advantages you can study if you watch and play the accompanying animation.

See Animation HERE

With CHOP2 you will notice that the pump sends the water to the grow bed as well as the main fish tank simultaneously. The water from the fish tank and grow beds runs back to the central sump.

It’s kind of like a double loop water flow with the sump as the central mixing point. It works extremely well.

So what are the advantages of modifying your system to CHOP Mark2?

The main point is that grow beds do not need to be perfectly level to function properly.  A crucial point if you are running a number of them on uneven ground and have encountered problems with your auto siphons. Because each grow bed has an independent ball valve, the water flow can be regulated with greater control than gravity fed flow under the old CHOP system.
Recently we commissioned an 18 bed system utilising two of our large commercial fish tanks.  To facilitate good water flow we used CHOP Mark2 together with sequencing valves.

Because each Fish Tank also now has its own ball valve it means water flow to the fish tank/s can now also be regulated as well.

If you need to harvest your fish and control the water depth or do any maintenance at all, you now have complete control to stop water flowing to your main fish tank or even drain it,  but not stop the flow to your other grow beds.

More control for the aquaponics enthusiast also means more control over winter temperatures as the mercury plummets.

In colder climes operators can turn off their grow beds at night but still have their main fish tank running as normal.  This is a great boost for owners who complained that their grow beds were acting as a heat sink at night, plunging their water temperature down a number of degrees.

A side benefit for users who will modify their system to CHOP Mark2 is that should they decide to change their system from a gravel based media to floating raft, CHOP Mark2 will accommodate their design shift.

If a combination media and raft system were to be built,  Swirl filters or regular filters can be fitted easily into the fish tank to raft section, then we can allow the rafts to drain back to the sump.

An elegant solution.

But what are the disadvantages of running this system?

The critics will say that the sump pumps half the water back to the fish tank. Surely this can’t be good for the fish, as solids are returned back to the main tank?

Logically this may seem to be the case, but over a year of trialling this system with hundreds of fish we have discovered that the sump itself acts as a settling tank for solids, something that we didn’t expect to see and something that has never happened under the old CHOP system.

You will need to clean your sump occasionally as the solids will be noticeable around the sides of the sump.  This is a good thing and it is not hard to do.

What about fish nutrients?  Aren’t you halving the number of fish nutrients by returning the flow back to the main fish tank?

Some may think that the nutrients from the fish tank will be diluted as the sump water is pumped partly back to the fish tank and partly to the grow beds.  In just over 12 months of running we see no reduction in nutrient to the grow beds.
Conversely,  some may think that the nutrient level may be too high and perhaps there will not be enough filtration or bacterial action because some of the water that has just arrived in the sump from the fish tank will be returned directly back to the fish tank.

We initially felt some of these fears ourselves, but with 12 solid months of field trials behind we see the systems running exceptionally well.

We see CHOP2 as a definite improvement for the Aquaponics community around the world.  Come back in 12 months time as see how many users have modified their system to CHOP Mark2.
People always vote with their feet. They know when they’re onto a good thing.

The next generation of CHOP.   CHOP Mark2

Summary:-
Advantages:
1  Grow beds do not have to be exactly level with each other as they do for CHOP mark 1
2  Flow to the grow beds can more easily be regulated than with a gravity flow.
3  Fish tank can easily be isolated if required for whatever reason.  We regularly switch off the fish tank to pump it down to do a fish count or capture and the grow beds are still left running.
4  Grow beds can easily be isolated if winter night time shut down of the flow to the grow beds is required while fish tank still enjoys excellent water exchange.
5  If a combination media and raft system were to be built, swirl filters or regular filters can be fitted easily into the fish tank to raft section then rafts drain back to the sump.

Happy Aquaponics
Murray
____________________________________________________________

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Filters for Home Aquaponics Systems.

When do I need to add a particulate filter to my Aquaponics system?

The first question I would ask is,
Are you operating a Home media based system or a commercial system?
Home based Aquaponics systems are usually configured using media based grow beds.  The grow beds are filled with ¾” / 19mm gravel or clay pebbles or similar.
Commercial style systems are operated with a different set of criteria which we can discuss in a later newsletter.

An external filter of some sort may be needed if you are intending to add or operate with,
NFT channels,
Deep Water Troughs,
or, your Aquaponics system is
Overstocked with fish,
there is not enough media based grow beds.

Home based Aquaponics systems are almost always consist of a fish tank with media based grow beds as an integral part of the system.

If you run a domestic style AP system with enough grow beds attached, which, in my opinion is how a domestic system should be configured, then you do not need additional mechanical filtration.
More grow beds means more vegetables and a balanced system.

Aquaponics Grow Beds

You can add more grow beds that you may think - a mature system has loads of nutrient available for the plants.

I have been running such systems now for close to five years, sold and installed hundreds of kits across Australia and now into the USA. My kits are highly successful. Clients enjoy a very high degree of satisfaction and enjoyment.
I am totally confident in what I say based on solid verifiable experience.

Aquaponics is very attractive because of the synergy between the fish and the plants.  Aquaponics is a balanced ECO system.  The relationship between the role that the fish play in the Aquaponics ECO system and role of the plants must therefore remain in balance and be complementary.
A well found Aquaponics system will be in balance, each element playing its part.

If you want to go outside that balance and push for more fish production and actually turn your AP system into a half baked Aquaculture system, then you need to start adding aquaculture like equipment such as moving bed filters, swirl filters and so on.

There are some that promote the addition of external filters. They are usually trying to push fish production way beyond what a home based AP system should attempt.
By going in the aquaculture direction, the beauty of the simplicity of a well balanced Aquaponics system is lost and it becomes ever more complicated to maintain and run.

This may be the deliberate choice of some operators of home systems.
If you want to have an aquaculture system, then go for it….have fun….knock yourself out, add a couple, or three filter systems.

There is an element amongst the Aquaponics Do-It-Yourself world that enjoy tinkering. For those people, build yourself at least one of every kind of filter you can think of and …enjoy.   Tinker away till your heart is contented, but decide early what it is you are trying to achieve.  If fish production is your main interest, then don’t kid yourself.  Think of what you’re doing as an Aquaculture system and treat it as such.
Some home Aquaponics practitioners are heavily influenced by Aquaculture people and have a strong aquaculture bent. They have lost sight of the beautiful thing about home AP, and that is …it is an ECO system. It is NOT Aquaculture and it is NOT Hydroponics. It is Aquaponics.

The great majority of home system owners, especially those that have purchased a ready made premium kit are not interested in additional complications in running a system. They are very attracted to the beauty of the ECO system. It fits well into their idea/desire to move towards a greener more sustainable lifestyle.
Aquaponics systems operated using media based grow beds are a sheer delight.  They require minimal effort to achieve amazing organic vegetable production and in time, wonderful, clean, chemical free fish.

Please take note….we are talking about HOME Aquaponics systems.

Please further take note, if we were to build a full blown Commercial system we would approach the design with a different set of parameters for a different set of reasons.

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