Our Aquaponics Set Up

October 2013 my family traveled to visit my parents and my siblings.  There I got to chat with a younger brother whom I loved while he was a child but after I moved out, I had little opportunity to get to know as a teenager.  Turning 19, he was heading out on a two year mission for our church and we were all gathering for his farewell.  Aquaponics2

He is an interesting man. His ideas are really cool.  He introduced me and my husband to the idea of hydroponics and upon researching further, we learned about aquaponics. His goal at the time was to have a thriving hydroponics business, to find ways to improve the system and to make his mark on the agricultural world.

Well, being a more thrifty sort, my husband and I looked into how aquaponics could be added into our small homestead.  After months of researching and asking questions of the local aquaponic fanatics, we made the plunge.

The back tank is a fish tank, the middle is a grow bed, and the bottom is a sump tank, where the pump sits to push the water back into the fish tank.
The back tank is a fish tank, the middle is a grow bed, and the bottom is a sump tank, where the pump sits to push the water back into the fish tank.

So, what is aquaponics?  The concept is pretty simple.  You have fish in a fish tank. The water filters from that tank into a garden, or a grow bed, where the plants use the fish waste as a fertilizer.  Then the water is pumped back into the fish tank, filtered and cleaned for the fish to continue using.  (Hydroponics use a similar concept, without the fish, where the gardener then adds the proper fertilizers to the water and keeps it in balance).

The plants grow faster, bigger, and tastier because of the fresh supply of water and nutrients and the fish grow off the daily ration of food given to them. This way of gardening is also supposed to use a fraction of the amount of water as most traditional gardens because the water isn’t being soaked into the ground but recycled instead.  Some tanks simply have gold fish but many tanks have fish that can be harvested as well, like Tilapia.  This fairly simple system then produces vegetables, fruits, and fish.

We started out a garden with one grow bed and forty

We planted on the left a zucchini, the right is a cantaloupe plant, in the back is a tomato plant and there are also strawberries you can't see.
We planted on the left a zucchini, the right is a cantaloupe plant, in the back is a tomato plant and there are also strawberries you can’t see.

Tilapia.  Throughout the year we harvested many cantaloupe, several tomatoes, a few strawberries, zucchini, and a bunch of lettuce.  Unfortunately our baby chickens got to our bressel sprouts, beans and peas before we could enjoy them! But then we harvested the fish and have enjoyed those tremendously over the last several months.

Since Tilapia are a warm water fish, our garden pretty much went dormant from mid-December until now. And now?  We are expanding!  I’m really excited for this expansion. We are going from one grow bed to 7! And we are hoping to harvest over 100 Tilapia this fall. Mmmm… fresh veggies, fresh fish… could it get any better?  Probably not.

Follow my posts because I’ll be adding updates as we go along!

3 thoughts on “Our Aquaponics Set Up

  1. So, out of each IBC you get two grow beds?

    Can you use one as the third tank – and one as a grow bed such that you only need to buy two tanks for the whole process to start with?

    Could I use something else as a grow bed and just use the IBCs as the two water tanks? (Cheaper lol! )

    I’ve heard that the plants grow in rock but it looks like yours is dirt – is there a difference or am I seeing wrong?

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    • Yes, out of each IBC you can get two grow beds. For our first system we bought two IBCs, cut the very top off of one to make a fish tank and the other in half for one grow bed and one sump tank. You can use pretty much anything for the grow bed, as long as it holds water. IBCs are popular because they last for years before breaking down.
      We actually use lava rock as our grow medium but I can see why you though you saw dirt. Lava rock, small river rock, hydroton and coconut fibers are all popular mediums and what you use can depend on cost and availability for the most part.

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