I'm hoping people who have a set up or two join in to this conversation. It's aimed at helping those thinking about aquaponics.
So how hard is it? Do you have to be a chemist? Genius? Farmer? Fish keeper? Share your experience.
So let me start this conversation. I had a bit of trouble on the initial set up. Not a lot. I just found that I "under gunned" the whole set up. My beds were too small (fixed that easily later) and the pipe work should have been bigger (haven't bothered to fix that but I should eventually).
In terms of running the system, I find it pretty darn easy (although I am only now heading into my first winter). Plants grow really well (but benefit from the occasional dose of trace elements). Provided you pick a climate appropriate fish, they are pretty easy too - but you will need to test the water weekly for the first few months. I test every few months now unless something looks wrong.
I find the best answer is to leave the damn thing manage itself mostly. From what I've seen, people who are too picky and keen to add "adjustment" chemicals are headed for trouble. They seem to adjust their adjustments until the initial adjustment is fixed.
Any other aquaponists want to add to the discussion for the benefit of those tempted? Don't sugar coat it. Be honest. Maybe I've just been lucky?
After initially being very keen I attended some workshop sessions and was completely put off. Lots of technical talk, tools used and handyman expertise needed if creating from scratch - lots of expense if buying a pre-made set up.
At the sessions there was a lot of talk about pumps failing - along the line of not "if" they fail but "when" they fail. Having back-up pumps, and the cost of these, blah blah blah. My interest evaporated.
There are easier ways for a non handyman person to grow veg and harvest protein from my own yard.
Glen had very little difficulty putting a system together , we have three systems each one slightly different from the other, they all started with swirl filters but one collapsed it sprung- a leak and there was a mad rush to refill the tanks to save the fish, one death not bad, we learnt, less parts the better, which is good to hear for the not very handy person contemplating a system. Less is more. The growth of the plants are dependant on the amount of fish you have, as is the growth of the fish dependant on the growth and the amount of plants you have in the grow beds. I haven't checked the water for months the plants are growing, the fish seem happy. During the warmer months they were eating us out of house and home. But they do not eat much over the colder months unless you heat the water, we did when they were smaller but most are about 9 inches long now so we won't this winter. Fingers crossed they survive. The water level of the tanks have to be checked weekly for evaporation and topped up with tank water not town water unless it has sat for day or so to rid it of chemicals. The syphons have to be checked if to see that they are working properly that's easy, lift and put back, nothing clever about that. The pumps need to be of good quality and of adequate pumping ability or else they may fail. The fish will survive about an hour without sufficient air but they will not be happy. Lost about a dozen when this happened in two of the tanks at two separate times. The shape of the tank matters they like long tanks, for growth and a place to swim to, Ibc' s give them limited space as they get larger so don't have too many in this size system. Their food is not cheap especially if you have 250 fish as we have, but some eat duck weed and lettuce chopped finely and all love soldier fly larvae if you want to breed them too. Some systems are cheap to set up, keep it simple pump, tank, grow bed,fish and plants, you will always have something to eat, but this may also be dependant on whether the flying insects don't make too much of a mess of them, you can't spray them with insecticides. Also it is difficult to leave them as you worry that something may happen. Nothing does that is not quickly rectified and we always have someone home at some time during the day or night. But you can worry too much, everyone needs a hobby and what better than one that gives back. Have fun.
Oh Glen I was just about to make a comment about your comment, thinking it was my husband Glen. He is up in Blackbutt doing the self-sufficient thing living on 17acres, and has left me in charge of the aquaponics and I thought he was saying how easy it is for him, it is, but it certainly is when I am doing it for him. By the way you have a nice little setup.
Ha, that's funny Christine. I'm in the process of expanding mine with extra growbeds. But all my projects take a lot longer than i had planned.
As they do. but your garden looks very healthy. I made a mistake of planting a bean in mine that I thought was marvelous it took off like a rocket and before I knew it, it was making an Aladdins cave of my aquaponics system. Had to pull it down too much shade, noting else would grow, plants are looking better now....
I had a passionfruit in mine that never moved for about 6 months then quickly became a triffid that eventually started to block the growbed. The passionfruit were great, but it had to go. Currently eggplant are rampant. I'll think I'll stick to lettuce, watercress, parsley, coriander - the small leafy stuff. The rest can be in the wicking beds in future. I would like to try Kang Kong too. Do you eat the fish? Happy with them?
Like you we haven't eaten them yet not quite big enough Some are about 8inches long while others are smaller . The seem to be hiding a lot now, next year after the warm weather we will have a glut I am sure. My wicking beds are suffering from lack of water I have not had the time to attend to them as I have been working. Corn was doing well but now seems to have become dormant, cucumber did well until it rained heavily a while back leafy greens do very well until the bugs get to them.
I'm happy to report, no major tankastropies so far, although I have come close twice. Both fails were a case of water pumping out of the tank but not coming back in (one the grow bed decided to block up and the second was the pipe back into the tank fell off). The easy answer is to lift the pump so it will run dry and burn out before the tank is empty - but I've been too lazy and cocky to bother as yet. LOL.
I have taken to adding trace elements to the grow bed occasionally which the plants love, and it doesn't worry the fish. I threw a little heater into the fish tonight because I had a spare lying around (from my tropical fish days).
I have the equipment to move off-grid (panels, battery and inverter). I really want to do that but it needs some smarts applied in the building, so I've delayed as yet because I don't have many smarts.
Oops lost one nice size fish last night Probably the cold, do you think but it was only one.
I relented and added a 300 watt heater Christine. I figure I'll only need to run it for a few weeks a year.