Best Laid Plans-Our Venture into Aquaponics

Chickens, bees, rabbits, dogs, and cats; How much more can you add to a 1/5 acre lot in the suburbs of a major metropolitan area? Living on a corner lot in a major sub-division of our suburban town tends to make it a little more difficult to homestead the way I would like. Too many regulations and  a couple of neighbors with nothing better to do than worry about what anyone else is doing.!

Sheep, goats, pigs are not WP_001445allowed, but there is no regulation regarding fish! So I guess fish it is, tilapia fish to be exact. An African Cichlid that many believe is the fish that Jesus fed the multitudes just outside Capernaum.

Using Tilapia as our tank fish for the grow beds  for aquaponics just made sense. They proliferate quickly, they do their job very well in adding nutrients to the grow beds, and they taste great when they become too big for the tanks!

This part of getting the Aquaponics system together was probably the easiest choice, but there are drawbacks. These fish are from a very warm climate and cannot live in water below 60 degrees. Actually everyone I talk with says the water temp should be constant between 80 & 90 degrees. So no matter where we have our tanks in our area (Mid-Atlantic U.S.) the tanks will have to be heated. We will work around that hurdle as we need, but for now it is Tilapia.

We started the fish in our house in a standard 55WP_001439 gallon tank. We bought 25 fingerlings from a breeder and started our fish family about 9 months ago. We let these 25 grow to about 6 months of age and then allowed them to breed, then moving mama into a breeder tank to take care of the babies when they dropped from her mouth.

Our plan was to have our greenhouse built and 4-300 gallon tanks installed to handle the babies which were bred. We should have been done around Thanksgiving 2013 which would have been good timing for the fish to move to the larger tanks. Unfortunately, we hit a snag with local zoning and ended up in court until Christmas. Refer back to the last line of the first paragraph.

Anyway, we did get everything passed and gained approval for our permits. We hadWP_001412 about a week to work before this long drawn out winter hit the east coast hard and stopped our work. So the greenhouse has been under tarp for several months. As soon as the weather breaks, we will return to our work on it.

So back to the fish! When we had our plans and started getting material for greenhouse, we went ahead and an allowed some “breeding” to happen. Since Greenhouse construction would only take a few weeks, when we were done, we would have fish ready to go into the four 300 gallon tanks.  BUT……

I was not expecting that our first pairing would yield over 300 fish. Not that it really mattered at the time, but once we realized the greenhouse was going to be delayed until spring, we had to make other arrangements. We only had 2-55 gallon tanks inside, which was not near enough for 300 babies and 25 adults.

Thank God for craigslist and Amazon! We were able to quickly put together WP_001438another 30 Gallon and a 125 gallon tank, plus I quickly put together a 275 gallon aquaponics tank in our basement. All with heaters, filters, & pumps.

I had to cut the tank and grow bed from an IBC tank outside and then try to fit it through a 30″ door, so I hacked it up pretty bad. But for a quick makeshift tank, it works. I have 4 other IBC tanks to use when the greenhouse is finished and I will do a much better job on them!

Well hopefully soon the weather will break here and I can get back to work.  I will update on the greenhouse soon, but at least for now we have plenty of fish for the new tanks when it’s done!

Aquaponics-the adventure continues

Gutter Garden

Greenhouse-Completion Phase I

19 thoughts on “Best Laid Plans-Our Venture into Aquaponics”

    1. Thanks. It can be as expensive as you want to make it. Be patient, find things on craigslist for giveaway or cheap. As far as space-again its all in how big you want to go. A 300 gallon IBC tote is about 4′ x 4′ and the grow bed would be offset on the top. Basically will take up a 4’x6′ space. When our GH is complete, we should be able to easily fit 4 tanks in it.

      If you buy new materials, the IBC tank will run you $75 – $125 just make sure its food grade or had NO chemicals in it. You might be able to get one from your local water treatment plant that held water purification liquid. The residue from this is ok and not harmful to fish.
      The pump, pvc, & materials about $75. Our biggest cost was in the heater and the grow bed media.

      Tried several heaters and most failed or could not handle the 300 gallon capacity-tried two heaters which worked ok, but they burnt out within weeks. Finally got a 1000w true-temp from JBJ and it has worked beautifully. but the cost is around $200. If you use a colder tolerant fish, such as catfish, you may not even need to heat depending on your location and where tank is located.

      The grow bed media was around $200, which was for grow stone. Not as good-or as expensive-as hydroton, but still does a very nice job. Do some research, there are other things you can use but you must make sure that it does not add anything to water to harm fish and that it is pH neutral.

      Thanks for stopping by.


      1. Ok, cool, thanks for all that and interesting for others to know. I now have information to use on my husband 🙂 Brilliant idea. I am in small town New Zealand so sourcing would be different but further research is needed. many thanks for that.


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