Feeding my addiction! I have been researching and dreaming about Aquaponics for months now. The chicken addiction has really distracted me from my others. Since a greenhouse isn’t in the budget yet and the backyard chickens aren’t passed, I decided to get serious about what I needed and start outside. I was window shopping on craig’s list when I found this super sonic awesome deal on IBC aquaponics. ‘I can’t afford not to buy it.’ Aquaponics is expensive to start up like most hobbies, but I can’t wait for the good eats. Dr. Wilson, who makes these with his dad said I will kill my garden this is so efficient. I’m doubtful, but I’ll be the judge of that!!! I’m justifying my purchase because it’s an investment for a better quality of food. In theory, (if I ever get chickens) I will be pretty much sustainable with my food.

What is AQUAPONICS?! Spell checker doesn’t even catch it. Well. I will tell you it’s where I will raise Tilapia (insert whatever fresh water fish here) and use the water to feed the plants that are growing in gravel that clean the water enough to put it right back in the fish tank. I’m told Aquaponic Gardening by Sylvia Bernstein is the Bible of Aquaponics.

This is what Wikipedia has to say about it:
Aquaponics (pronounced: /ˈækwəˈpɒnɨks/) is a sustainable food production system that combines a traditionalaquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fishcrayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics(cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. In the aquaculture, effluents accumulate in the water, increasing toxicity for the fish. This water is led to a hydroponic system where the by-products from the aquaculture are filtered out by the plants as vital nutrients, after which the cleansed water is recirculated back to the animals. The term aquaponics is a portmanteau of the terms aquaculture and hydroponic.

Aquaponic systems vary in size from small indoor or outdoor units to large commercial units, using the same technology. The systems usually contain fresh water, but salt water systems are plausible depending on the type of aquatic animal and which plants.[citation needed] Aquaponic science may still be considered to be at an early stage.
I suckered my good friend Steve along for this journey. I took a day to think through the purchase and made sure my truck was available. All systems go!

Dr. Wilson’s System

I visited Dr. Wilson’s Dad’s system and the system I was looking at purchasing. It was really nice to see an existing system running and what he did differently to the one I purchased. His dad had a really great backyard. Everything was included with my purchase except grow media, plants and fish and the super extras like a fish net and water test kit.

My Empty Grow Bed

The picture above is my empty grow bed without media (rocks). The pipe in the middle is the overflow,   the pipe with the elbow is the in-coming water from the fish tank and the pipe with holes has the drain piece inside. Not sure what the bottom pipe is, I think it’s the syphon that I took out.

Before getting home I picked up some expanded clay which is what I decided to use for my grow media. It’s pricy and hard to find! Getting everything completely set up had its challenges.

Steve was stung by a bee. A quick google search told me to put a baking soda paste on it. 
I have a syphon system and had the hardest time getting enough air in at the end of the suction cycle to get it to stop draining. I had to drill bigger holes at the bottom and made sure there was enough water being added to the grow bed to produce the suction. 
Creek water

Like any aquarium, they need a few weeks to get all the right bacteria growing before you can add fish. For a boost of bacteria I added two buckets of creek water and a bacteria booster given to me by Dr. Wilson. I want tilapia, but I think i’m going to make sure some cheap gold fish can stay alive first.

Adding plants was SO easy with the expanded clay since it’s so light. I didn’t get all of the dirt off the plants either. I pulled some extra plants from the garden as genia pigs. Good luck strawberries, bell pepper?, pumpkins?, fig cuttings and tomato plants. They are looking pretty good.

My aquaponics system
Cool things about my system: It only runs on a standard pond pump. All of the plumbing is interior in case of any leaks, it goes right back in the tank. I really like the lid. The valve between the pump and the grow bed is a nice feature so you don’t need air stones. I will also be able to add a trellis to the grow bed by removing the covers of the cage and bending pvc to each side. 
It takes about 3 minutes to fill the grow bed and almost 4 minutes to empty. They say you only need to cycle the water once an hour, so I think i’m ok. 

The video was painful to watch, but you get the idea. 

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