Mini Aquaponics

A lot of homesteaders have likely heard about aquaponics over the years. Aquaponics is the practice of raising fish and plants in a symbiotic system. Basically, you raise the fish, and the fish food is the primary nutrient “intake”. Fish eat the food, and excrete waste into the water. The water is pumped into a garden bed, allowing the plants to use the nutrients (and solids) in the water as fertilizer.

Some systems can be extremely complex. Others are contained in a single 55-gallon barrel, and rely on a traditional aquarium style filter to manage the wastes.

In theory, this decreases water usage over traditional gardening, while permitting the micro-farming of fish for household consumption. Naturally, one doesn’t have to eat any fish, or even any plants out of the system. But for a homesteader, being able to raise a modest amount of farmed fish is a tantalizing thought. There are limitations to the basic aquaponics system, which can be a lack of boron to permit flowering plants, such as tomatoes, grow properly. Leafy green things and herbs are supposed to grow exceptionally well.

I have looked into the concept for years. A few years back, I finally decided, I’d make a tiny little set up, using the 29 gallon tank plus guppies or similar, and give it a shot. Life intervened, and the tub, pump, net baskets, and piping have sat gathering dust since.

This past week, I got a bit angry about that, and finally set aside enough time to work on it bit by bit. Here it is, perched precariously on the back edge of the aquarium.

Starter Aquaponics

It took a bit of effort to get the pipes to cooperate with me, and the pump + piping are still at an awkward angle down in the tank. It was a bit touchy getting the intake flow to be sufficient to keep the water level high enough to reach the net baskets, but low enough to not cause problems. The pump is WAY too strong for this particular setup.

I let it run without filled net baskets for a day, and then added filled net baskets.

The net baskets are lined with coffee filters (at my husband’s suggestion) and filled with coconut “peat”. That seems to wick a reasonably amount of water while not getting too soggy. I let those sit in the system for a day or two before I planted them, to get a feeling for how they would work out.

I currently have a pineapple top I’m trying to sprout (the other one failed) and a few herbs (chives, oregano, and spearmint) planted in the baskets.

Off to the side, not in this picture, I’ve spun the LED Ultra Aerogardens back up. One is configured as a 7 pod herb garden, and the other has the 50 spot seed starter plat in it. I need to get the seed starter up and running on starting seeds.

I started chives, oregano, and spearmint in the herb garden Aerogarden on the same day as I spun up the mini aquaponics setup. The Aerogarden also has two types of basil, which does phenomenally well in a hydroponics setup, and I’ve heard also aquaponics.

It will be interesting to see which set of herbs do better.