I cannot believe how hard it is to carve out just a few minutes just to post updates on our little suburban homestead. In retirement, I find I have less time than when I worked full-time+. Thinking back, I wonder how I ever found time to work a job? But that is not what this post is about, so let’s get on topic. I wanted to update the progress of the aquaponics systems since our greenhouse was completed.
We started our aquaponics adventure over 2 years ago with lots of research & development. If you read “Best laid plans-Our venture into aquaponics”, you had a chance to see our first attempt at building an AP tank from an IBC tote.
Our first attempt was pretty shabby to say the least, but it did work well enough for me to want to continue to develop the perfect tank for us. Over the past two years I have developed a very good working system that has become quite popular regionally. We have built 100’s of tanks now for several people in the mid-Atlantic states, which has given me great opportunity for R&D with trial application. Although it was not my intent to build tanks for others, it did afford me the opportunity to fund our greenhouse to completion, including our own tank systems.
The tanks I have been building use a “fill & drain” system, meaning that the grow bed is filled with a non-soil grow media (grow stone, expanded shale, clay pellets) and the water is pumped from the fish tank into the grow bed to filter through the media and plant roots. When the water reaches a certain height, the grow bed will then drain all the filtered water back into the fish tank. Then the cycle begins again, thus fill & drain.
Now that we are actually in the greenhouse, we have expanded to a
2 tank system. We are still growing only tilapia fish, even though we have discussed adding possibly catfish to the setup. I believe with the tanks we have and the education I have gained on tilapia it is best to stick with what we know works.
I am currently working to build a third. Because of the layout of the greenhouse and space consideration, the third tank has to be custom built to accommodate the “extra’s” I want to add on it.
The third tank will be a “constant height” system versus the fill & drain. No grow media is used in this tank, as the water will remain at a constant height always. A styrofoam raft will be used for plant placement which keeps plant roots in the water at all times. I will talk about this system more when I build it and have it in place.
This tank will be set in a corner that get’s less sun than the rest of
the greenhouse. Because of this, our plan is to only grow cooler, less sun exposure plants, primarily leafy greens. Lettuce, spinach, arugula, and mescaline will all lend well to this tank. Because of the location I have to put it in, I decided that it would also work well to feed my future “gutter garden”. I will post more on this later.
Still a lot to do, but we have come a long way since we started. Be sure to follow the blog, as in my next few posts I will be expanding on the raft system, gutter garden, and showing our new vertical gardens.