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This makes me want to try this even more. Since I may not get a garden in this year anyway it may push me more to try this.

What is the blue stuff you are caulking in the wood frame?

Thanks

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Originally Posted By: kenc
Brian, this is really neat. Is there anyway that you could do this and make money or is it just a good hobby.


Ken C,

For a number of years I have been loosely associated with, and volunteer at, a WVU research farm that includes a large aquaponics operation. At most times, there are about 30,000 trout in raceways supplied with water from a large spring. The water goes through a large aquaponic greenhouse and a large aquaponic high tunnel before going through filters and a settling pond that is filled with rafts. This is not a recirculating system.

I haven't been involved much in the last year, but I'd say the jury is still out on whether it can be profitable and practical, on a commercial scale, in this part of the US -- especially in places like VA and WV.

IMHO, a lot more research and development is required. Just one of many issues in large scale harvesting of edible vegetables includes e-coli in the water. It contact be allowed to contact the edible food without extensive cleansing measures.

Again IMHO, for small scale and home use it is great for people without adequate gardening facilities. Planting density is greatly increased over conventional gardening. Thus, someone with just a balcony can grow a pretty fair amount of vegetables with a system that takes up about 16 square feet. Those same vegetables would take up several hundred square feet in conventional earth gardening.

Especially in areas of the world where water is scarce, the recirculating systems are very valuable. In this country, it is practical for niche markets. My wife's family is friends with people in New York state who raise tilapia and vegetables for their high-end restaurant using aquaponics.

I believe it is an ever-increasingly more efficient method of raising food. Thirty to forty years ago, hydroponics was in its infancy, and niche markets made it successful. Aquaponics is that next major step, but with even better quality food.

Now, it is time for me to go plant my sweet potatoes, bird egg beans, squash, and cucumbers in the conventional organic garden. (This is kind of related to aquaponics -- I use a 2-inch semi-trash pump to pull irrigation water from one of my ponds for this 100' x 50' garden.)

Ken G.

P.S. -- Again, a thanks to Brian for starting this thread. It will help bring information to a lot of people on the fish side, in contrast to the aquaponics forums that primarily provide great info on the system and veggie side. I personally really appreciate what he has been posting.





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kenc,
I read your question and didnt initially reply while i compiled how i wanted to answer it. Ken has already hit some of my points but i am going ahead with my response as i planned it.

I have no experience with commercial aquaponics but my personal OPINION is that you would need higher food costs or a niche market to be economical viable...

Lots of people are already trying to make millions of dollars off of aquaponics. As best as i can tell, all of them require alternative methods of income weather that be from investors, the government/grants, or by teaching people how to do what they are doing.

With that said. Aquaponics is a new technology, that is still in it's infancy. It provides potential for growing a lot food in a relatively small footprint and demand for food increases as this planet's population approaches 8 trillion. Much of the information about aquaponics is from shoot from the hip, learn from mistakes, wild west aquaponics cowboys like myself. With only a couple of exceptions, educational institutions are just now starting to work with aquaponics as a technology and develop it in a more scientific way. Keep in mind that if we still farmed corn the same way we did 100 years ago, our nations food base would not be economically viable, either.


rmedgar,
theirs lots of ways to skin the cat, so to speak

mnfish,
thanks

MRHELLO ,
The blue stuff is insulating foam, styrofoam. The idea was to separate the pond liner from the screws to avoid any kind of deterioartion or leaks down the road and also serve as a bit of insulation. I am not sure if it worked on either account, but that grow bed is over 2 years old, was moved and is still in use today (not by me)



catmandoo,
word.

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" ...... as this planet's population approaches 8 trillion".

it sure seems that way when I'm at the drive-thru at Mickey Ds smile ...


Just do it...
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System 2.5

While putting together this next system information I realized that when talking about my first two systems I left out a very important detail.

My pumps were running on a timer. On 30 mins, off 30 mins. This was intended to make the grow beds flood and then drain (ebb and flow). Plant roots need oxygen and this helps aerate the grow bed. I tinkered with different time intervals and i cannot say one is better than the other. A constantly flooded grow bed is also an option as long as you 1) keep your dissolved oxygen (DO) up AND 2) don't have anaerobic zones.

I dont recommend pumps on timers but if someone wants to do it that way, it is a valid design and it works. If you asked me what intervals i recommended i would just say to try and make sure your fish tank volume turns over at least once an hour.


I was using cheap submersible magnetic drive pumps and they were failing every year or so. After researching online the general consensus seemed to be that the motor is stressed more during startup than if it ran constantly. (credit: travis huey). So i wanted to redesign my system to run constant on and no longer stop/start pumps to improve pump longevity. My experience since has confirmed


Over time, the inside of the vinyl tubing would gum up with solid matter and negatively affect the water flow to the grow beds. I dont know if/how much this affects pump parts but I decided that I wanted to move the pumps to where the fish tank water goes through some filtration before it gets to them.


So i redesigned my system for the fish tank to overflow into the grow beds (made of barrel halves), the barrel halves drain into the sump. Due to my space restrictions i had to use two different pumps, one to pump back into the fish tank and one to pump into the outer wood growbeds. Not ideal for power efficiency, but it worked.

The barrel halves had working bell siphons that allowed them to flood and drain even with constant water input. I couldnt get bell siphons to work consistently on the wood beds so they worked as constant flood.




This is the middle of august. Some cold weather plants and the squash have died. The peppers and tomatoes have stopped growing and are drooopy but they lived and came back strong in september. I planted some cucumber seeds in the barrel halves to see how they would do.


Ghost peppers. I didnt know any better but the green are not yet ripe. I didnt have the gonads to taste them but my coworkers said the red ones were great! I also got a few lb's of jalapeno peppers and a few dozen small roma tomatoes. They were almost as small as cherry tomatoes, not sure if that was due to low P-K or just a bad choice of tomatoes for texas climate. I'm going to try some types that figure to do better in texas in the future. I also ended up getting a couple of harvests of cucumbers before a hail storm pummeled the plants in october.



Cauliflower picture taken in December. The picture doesnt do it justice, The head is over a foot in diameter! And the plant is closing in on 5'... massive.

I also got some brussel's sprouts from the other grow bed. I never got a good broccoli harvest, though.

brian

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Since my last update was not really a full new system, i'll give a little bit of bonus footage.

I did a lot of work with tilapia breeeding during this same time.

The tilapia were breeding in my stock tank but there was no fry cover to protect them and they would usually get eaten by bluegill or other tilapia almost immediately after leaving their mother's mouth.

Occasionally, i would see a few fry swimming at the surface near the side of the tank and i would be able to net out 10 or 12 and put them in an indoor aquarium to grow out.

During breading season the largest/dominant male's head turns red and they stake out their territory at the bottom of the tank. I put a lot of PVC pieces in my tank to segregate it and I ended up with 3 males that were able to make a nest/territory.

The rest of the tilpaia males and females just try to stay out of the way. You will have 3 males taking up 295 gallons and two dozen other fish taking up 5.

I moved 1 male and 3 females into an indoor 55 gallon tank(top). You can see some of the fingerlings i was able to save from the outside tank in the early days of spring. (bottom)


The male is very big for a 55 gallon tank. He thinks the whole tank is his territory and he constantly harasses the 3 females to get away. The largest female was ready before the others so her and the male teamed up to bully the other two. Overnight they shreaded the side fins of the second female and pecked at her until she no longer bothered to defend herself or run away. I removed the smallest female back to the outside tank and i moved the second bullied female to an isolation tank but she died a few days later.

When i came home from work that evening the male and female were finishing up. The female would lay a few eggs in the nest. The male would swim by and do his thing. The female would pick the eggs up into her mouth and lay a few more, rinse, repeat. Once they were done, the male changed and was very aggressive to the female and she was unable to get away. So i moved the male back into the outside tank and left the female there alone.


10 days later i came home to a few hundred fry and a proud momma tilapia. The female has not eaten in 10 days and while she shouldnt eat the fry immediately, eventually her motherly instincts wear off and her survival instincts come back, so i moved her outside and left the fry in the tank alone to grow.

Notice I was circulating water between the tanks with a pump and an overflow, but i had to stop this because the tiny fry were slipping through the overflow into the bottom tank where they became fingerling snacks.



Conclusion. I felt like my 55 gallon tank was too small to breed in. So I moved on to try another method which i will talk about below. However, i have since found out that a 55 gallon tank can be use you just need 5 or 6 females. They will school together for protection and the male tends to be less aggressive and damaging than when he can corner and isolate just one or two. The work required to move fish around in different stages was also a deterring factor. The risk of injuring the fish through handling is also worth considering.



Credit: The following technique was gleaned by reading "badflash"'s posts on the diy aquaponics forum. Not exactly his design but I wouldnt have gotten here without reading his work and information.

I stopped trying to move breeders into my internal tank and just started watching the fish in my outdoor tank. When a female has a brood she will isolate herself. her jaw starts to get bigger and she will not open her mouth. In later stages of brooding, her color changes to dark black vertical stripes that are easy to pick out.

I would net the brooding mother and drop her in a half filed 5 gallon bucket. She is usually scared and will either spit out the eggs, swallow them or (in most cases) a little of both. Once she's in the 5 gallon bucket i pick her with my hands, open her mouth to rinse the rest of the eggs out and then i set her free.




I then incubated the egg's in DIY egg tumblers powered by air stones. (This is my first tumbler design, it's improved some since) The weaknesses of this design is that the air stone is not secured [if something moves the air hose or the tumbler you could send all of the eggs into the aquarium to their eventual deaths] and the base is not stable, it wants to move/float.




A closer look. The very new eggs are white. As they get older, they will start to turn brown-orange. Then a couple of dots shows up in the brown that will eventually be eyes. Shortly thereafter a tail sticks out of the egg. The last stage looks like a tiny fish with a big ball on his belly which will get absorbed over the last couple of days.

If the eggs are still white after 3 days they are unfertilized or dead. They will start growing mold/funguses or be food for the fry that do hatch.





It's a blurry picture because the camera doesnt know what to focus on but you can see a school of fry in the middle (they came from the left tumbler). On the right side, you can see that those eggs were a a day or two behind because those fry still have egg sacks on their bellies.


Tilapia typically breed every 4-6 weeks. I found that if you strip the eggs from the mother early she doesnt seem to use all of her stored energy and she will reproduce again in closer to 2 weeks time. I think one case it was as quickly as 7 days.

brian

Last edited by bcotton; 05/30/13 04:10 AM.
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This is all very encouraging and is giving me a boost to plant veggies in my floating island/raft. The raft is filled with potting soil about 4 inches deep and draws constant water from the pond with wicking ropes in the bottom, but just the holes w/o ropes may wick by themselves. It grew Petunias really well last year in my vegetated pond, which produces oxygenated water and is stocked with minnows, tadpoles and bluegill that fertilize the water. I can see no reason to fertilize the soil and just plant.

I can see bull frogs and bluegill being a food source by-product protein part of the system, and the frogs and bluegills keeping bugs fattening them while helping to keep the produce somewhat free of bugs. Last year once the island was planted there was no other work involved and expense free. My dog Dollie probably has taken enough bullfrogs out of the pond to fill my freezer and the bluegills I see look fat. It does seem too simple doesn't it.

Last edited by John Monroe; 05/30/13 05:10 AM.

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John,

I completely expect vegetables to work well in your island. I am pretty sure this is similar to what the aztecs used to make the "floating gardens" near what is today mexico city.

Wicking is something I see a lot of people adding to their aquaponics systems these days. I have not yet worked with the strategy, personally.

I have thought about trying to attract bugs to my system for extra fish food. Something that was recently talked about on one of the aquaponics forums i read was talking about shining a light on the top of your fish tank at dusk. I am considering trying it in my next system.


brian

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Very good information. I have Tilapia and plan to do a small aquaphonics system. Thanks.

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bcotton:

I don't know if it would be cost effective, or if your plumbing is set up in a way that it would work, but you might be able to find selenoid operated valves that you could hook up to a timer. Leave the pump running all the time, an open/close valves going to different beds to make the ebb and flow instead of turning the pump on and off. You could probably get away with using a smaller pump that way too.

While I am not doing any aquaponics, I find your thread very informative. I am reading and learning! Thanks.


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Brian,

The tilapia breeding information is invaluable.

I really want to get some tilapia, but nobody in WV has them, and they are not legal in VA. If anybody knows of a source in WV, VA, western MD, or Southern PA, please let me know. If I ever get some, the breeding info will really help.

Ken


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This relates to catmandoos post

It was my understanding that fish do not carry e- coli

The pathogen must be introduced from an outside source (dirty humans )
Just like soil based agriculture

Anyone?

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True.

In non-recirculating systems, the water can easily be contaminated before it gets to the raceways. Usually it is contaminated from cattle or other agricultural sources.


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I should specify that i have only worked with mozambique tilapia. I expect the breading to be similar with all species but the colors probably wont be.


john kelsey,
word.

esshup,
an interesting idea. Bell siphons work, but are fickle. I am going to test hose siphone soon to see if i can build it more reliable. I'd prefer as few electrical or moving parts as possible.


catmandoo,
if it's legal in your locale and you dont mind paying ~$100 for overnight shipping there's sources that will mail you tilapia fry. I tend to think it's silly to pay $100 to ship $20 in fish but if they live and you are able to bread them it's a once per 4-5 year cost. I figure I pay half that in gas driving to overton's and It doesnt kill half of your day.

brian

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System 4

In late october it started to get too cold for tilapia outdoors. I harvested all of the fish from the apartment system. They ranged from 1.25-1.75 lbs. I have only about 100 tilpaia left from all the fry I spawned. I chose some due to fast growth, some due to color and some randomly. The others were usually grown to minnow size and released into my main system as "a treat".



The next system is an garage system designed only to keep my tilapia alive over the winter. It's not designed to run permanently or year round. I did water changes with my outdoor system every couple of weeks to keep nitrates down.

I didnt use any insulation because I knew this would only be a one winter thing and then I would be moving, again. I was able to make the winter without any deaths using 1kw of aquarium heating elements. It wasnt enough heat to maintain 70 degrees but it would keep the water "high enough". I didnt run the heaters constantly, only when it started to get too cold.


Hind sight it would have been nice if i had a day to day chart of the water temperatures but I did not do that.

In texas, most winter days are around 60 degrees. We get cold fronts that come through and freeze but they usually only last a few days. The water temperature did get into the mid 40's at least once, but for no longer than a 24 hour period. Since mozambique tilapia are supposed to be be mortal at 55 degrees, i thought this was interesting information and worth sharing.




a compact system, The fish tank overflows into two 55 gallon barrels which are full of expanded shale. The "filters" emptied out of the bottom and gravity pushes the water into the 55 gallon barrel sump. A pump lifts the water from the sump in to the "grow bed" which has no substrate and only grows duckweed under a $10 T8 shop light w/ 1 "daylight" and 1 "sunlight" bulb to provide spectrum. The "grow bed" overflowed back into the tank.

I am keeping 3-4 dozen 3-6" tilapia in the IBC tote and countless smaller 0-2" fingerlings in the sump tank.





red wigglers (placed intentionally) and snails (not so intentionally) helped break down solids and uneaten food particles.



Drain out the bottom to try to avoid anaerobic zones.



sump with 600 gph ecoplus. It probably only got 300 gph at the 4 ft head height.




Tilapia do eat duckweed but in this case i am not growing it to feed. I remove the duckweed whenever I can to remove nitrates from the system. You may see chunks of pvc in the "growbed" and those are for hides, i started experimenting with raising marbled crayfish (Marmorkrebs) with the intention to try them as a supplemental fish food source.

Often new people to aquaponics believe they can grow a bunch of duckweed and not need to buy fish food. Duckweed is high in omega-3 and high in protein. It is a good supplement. But keep in mind that the actual plant is 98% water so it take a LOT of duckweed to GROW a fish. I believe it may be possible to go off commercial feed with a diverse food strategy that includes duckweed but never with duckweed alone. I have seen people say on forums that too much duckweed makes the tilapia taste like duckweed. I cannot confirm/deny that statement and have no plans to try.

brian








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I did plant cabbages yesterday on the island. I sprinkled Preem on the medium to stifle any weeds. Last year I didn't do this because I had new planting medium. I didn't fertilize because I want the pond water to be the complete nutrient supplier in a plant and forget operation. I am also going to plant one cabbage on the island in pond muck and see how that works.



I mentioned that frogs might be a natural bug eliminator on the produce without the use of chemicals. While I was planting the island in my chest waders I looked down and this frog was looking at me two feet away so this seems more then a possibility. I had the camera so I got the picture. If this works out as I envision then the next food growing island would be full sized 4x8 feet Styrofoam sheets, maybe 2 inches thick, a 2 x 2 inch rim around the outside edge to hold in the growing medium and aluminum corner trim glued on the outside edge to eliminate turtle damage. No ropes for wicking but inch holes spaced every 6 inches for wicking through the medium itself.



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the marmokrebs should do well for your..
i've got several hundred at the moment, and they handle a good range of temps.. mine haven't been above 80, but from what i've read, they can handle it..
from my first "hatch" i left several in multiple glass tanks, and have been feeding a dozen or two to the pool every week or so
i've put close to 40 larger ones into the pool, several of those were berried..it took a while to get to that point, but now it's pretty steady..
i use sponge filters in all my glass tanks so the baby marms don't get sucked into a filter
i'm really thinking hard about getting some gsh this weekend, feed all my rosy reds to the pool, and use the single tote for the gsh..

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John,
Looks great man

Keith,
Word, i used to follow your basement thread on DIY and still do on backyard. I think we started working with marbles about the same time, but mine havent done very well because they dont always have a tank to themselves (small goldfish and minnows will eat baby marbs, who knew?) and i killed a few when i moved. I do have a big one like you do. She's massive, I will try to get a pic when i get to my current system.


Marbles are omnivore and eat most green things. I typically feed them algae waffers but they will also eat plant roots which makes them a terrible choice for DWC (raft systems). They also seem to be decent at snail control.



brian

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Thanks for sharing, bcotton.

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Yeah, Thanks Brian!

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Bcotton,

I hope you don't mind but I posed this same question to Keith in his thread to get as much information and viewpoints as possible.

Finally assembling an aquaponics system outside next to a raised garden. I've built four recirculating systems now with good success so I've got the fish part down pat. I will also be using a moving bed bioreator I kept in standby mode by adding ammonia after selling the fish that went with the system.


What method do you prefer to determine plant surface area output vs. fish pounds or amount of fish feed fed daily in raft culture? UVI says about 7.1 ratio of surface area of plants to fish tank surface area. Another text I have is more specific and says 60 grams of feed per day per square meter of the raft for nonfruiting plants to 100 grams per day of fish feed fed for one square meter of the raft for fruiting plants. Seems to be quite a difference.

My raft is about 3 square meters. (4'X 8') and 1' deep with a divider in the middle. Flow goes to the end on one side of the divider and cuts over and comes back where it dumps back into the fish tank via gravity. Preceding that is an upflow clarifer tank and an outside standpipe that removes suspended and settleable solids respectfully. Before flow drops into the raft it's treated with the moving bed bioreactor (mbbr).

Circular fish tank is 5.16 feet in diameter and has surface are of 20.90 ft2. Water volume is 286.1 gallons.

Just now assembling outside. Probably going with 3 to 5 inch tilapia only because these fish -- for a change -- will be for the table.

Thoughts? I'm new to aquaponics but I'm excited! Probably going with lettuce and tomatoes.

Last edited by Cecil Baird1; 06/09/13 04:07 AM.

If pigs could fly bacon would be harder to come by and there would be a lot of damaged trees.






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BCotton, I truly enjoy your posts! I see you mentioned "badflash" from DIY aquaponics and caution you to carefully dissect his "advice". When I was a member on that forum, I challenged most of his theories as being simply wrong with relation to tilapia, as did many others, and hope he has stopped giving out his very bad advice.

Before my volume of fingerling sales got too large for me to handle at home, I stopped harvesting eggs and harvested only after they hatched, increasing survival by 90%. Now, brood stock is in a 5 acre pond fed by 80 degree water at 500gpm and all natural...fry by the millions are there whenever needed.

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Cecil, I will offer you what I am told by many customers....A 7.5:1 ratio of plants to fish has worked reliably. Start you seedlings/fingerlings at the same time. Stock your grow tank/beds with the intended harvest weights in mind and not the starting weights (for example, if harvesting fish at 1# and a stocking density of 1# per gallon water, stock 100 fingerlings {similar ratios for plants times 7.5 of fish harvest weight}) Your "node" will grow in sync and several "nodes" are required for constant harvesting. Fish reproduction should be avoided in your "grow-out" tanks.

As to the "amount" to feed the fish (and the species), this will always be determined by weight of fish at every stage of growth if you want to be that precise. In practice, you feed the fish all they can eat, without overfeeding, for rapid growth and plants will increase growth rates to compensate for the "extra" available nutrient...it seems to balance out well and can easily be tweaked for individual and changing goals.

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Thanks Rex that's pretty much my thinking -- just wanted to see what bcotton's take was on it.

Hope to preclude reproduction by having all males.


If pigs could fly bacon would be harder to come by and there would be a lot of damaged trees.






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Got this info from Glynn Barber of Redke, Indiana that builds and designs aquaponics systems and grows aquaponic plants for a living along with redclaws. Thought I'd pass it on. Thanks Glynn!

Regarding raft culture (DWC)

.25-.5 lbs. tilapia per gallon of water in fish tank equals 3/4 sq ft plants per pound.

3-11 lbs. leafy veggies per pound of fish.

12-25lbs fruiting plants per pound of fish.

Tomatoes 20-25 lbs because they are mostly water.


Some good reading on the subject:

http://www.aquaponic.com.au/Fish%20t...t%20ratios.pdf



Last edited by Cecil Baird1; 06/11/13 03:19 PM.

If pigs could fly bacon would be harder to come by and there would be a lot of damaged trees.






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