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    Tell me about your dream system?



    It would be nice to have renewable energy powered system indoors. Something to porvide me with some fresh herbs when i cook as well as support a reasonable amount of houseplants.



    my dream setup is going to consist of 10 8 foot by 4 foot media beds 7 deep water culture beds of the same size 3 200 gallon tanks so i can separate the talapia and channel cats by sizes. under the deep water culture rafts i plan on putting either blue lobsters or crayfish to hopefully keep solid waste to a minimum. all this would be in an all weather double layered green house with a fan in between the levels to keep an extra thermal layer in the winter. i am trying to figure out a way to keep it cool in the summer as it gets quite humid here so i don’t want to use a swamp cooler. that’s all a dream right now as i only have space in the back yard for an 8ft x8ft greenhouse but its a start.



    I have thought that a system that is capable of producing a constant supply of 4 mature tilapia a week would be ideal. I’m thinking that this would consist of a “pond” (moat?) or series of ponds with parallel sides about 2 feet across, not more than two feet deep and about 30 feet long. (1000 gallons). The moat would be positioned at the bottom of a grade where the plantings were located, to recapture runoff from the plantings and from other rainfall on the hillside. The parallel sides would allow a square partition with appropriately sized holes to be used for separating larger fish from fry, inserting the partition at one end and moving it upstream toward the opposite end. Moving it and positioning it halfway would provide separation; moving it further would concentrate the adult fish in an area where they could be more easily scooped out for harvesting. The moat should be lined with black, light absorbing material and covered with a transparent cover. The water from the moat to be circulated into the hydroponic half using photovoltaic power from panels. The plantings would be elevated on a grade or on tables. The system would be heavily dependant on solar power: first to heat the water, then to circulate the water, and finally to grow the plants. The system could perhaps store water in a tank elevated higher than the rest of the operation during the day, and slowly release it during the hours of darkness, so there would have to be a lot of excess capacity for water in the moats to allow nightly and seasonal variations in the water level. Water running down from the hydroponic beds in daylight hours could be diverted to solar collectors to heat it before it returns to the tank, and the ingoing and outgoing water should be passed through a heat exchanger to conserve heat. Backup electricity from batteries or the grid would be needed in case of cloudy days or other needs. The mose difficult problem with my present setup using 50 gallon drums is the problem of oxygenation and the need for pumps to aerate the water. Several times I have incurred die-offs from electrical failures leading to stagnation of the water. That’s why a maximum water depth (a high surface area to volume ratio) has to be determined to allow enough oxygen exchange to support fish respiration even without power.

    This system could support both ebb-and-flow or constant (flooded tank) type setups at the same time. I live in Southern California and my challenges are gathering enough water and power, as well as finding suitable affordable land. But I don’t see why this whole setup couldn’t be built within a greenhouse enclosure in colder areas. I haven’t done the math to scale the plant-based side with the fish; but I have long had the thought that a self-sufficient garden would have problems providing enough high-quality protein and so have been tinkering with this for years now in my cramped space, looking forward to the day I can move to a place large enough to produce a significant portion of my food requirements.



    Beyond the need for oxygen, shallow water fully exposed to sunlight would encourage the growth of algae, which the tilapia can use for a part of their nutrition. Duckweed is another welcome supplement, but if the fish have unlimited access they will eat it all in a short time. Another reason for a partition, to allow duckweed to propagate separately. A float (like a 2×4) on the surface with a mesh below will block most duckweed from going downstream and fish from going upstream, except if the water is stirred up somehow. If it is growing in another moat upstream, it can be sent downstream in periodic controlled releases by allowing the upstream moat to flood and overflow into a pipe connected to the next moat.
    Also know that duckweed hangs on the surface of the water and reduces gas exchange with the air. So the O2 level will be something to watch.



    PS the purpose of having adult fish upstream is so that fry can be swept to safety downsteream through the mesh. Adults will eat them if they can, once they are released from incubation.



    I have a system under construction using 1/2 IBC tanks using local gravel as the grow bed media. At the moment is too hot, so working on the shading system. I have had wonderful growth of plants and it currently provides most of my plant based food. I have photographs of the system as I installed it. I have 20 tanks in 4 lots of 5 tanks separated by 1m walkway, draining into 10000l sump, and 3 1000l tanks.



    Fish Food?
    What outside food is needed to feed the fish in an aquaponics system? I’m interested in aquaponics to farm vegetables. I have interest in the fish only to provide fertilizer. Has anyone tried feeding the fish with locally available foods like naturally dead bees from beehives placed over the pond or bugs from composting? What other sources of food are available for the fish and how much do they eat?



    Ryan, we use duckweed. One of the most nutritious, natural feeds available. Once you get it started it takes a life on it’s on and cost you nothing.

    Abdul Rahman



    Ryan, I live in Australia so not sure if this will be a fit for your system but I use vegetable scraps to breed Black Soldier Fly larva (Hermetia illucens) they are ravenous eaters and breeders. Fish and chickens love them, I breed them in my wormfarm but you can get a specific breeding pod that allows the grubs to self harvest.


    Don III

    Great insight on the design and special considerations. I have been studying agroforestry and permaculture much more than aquaponics as of late, only because its more practical for my current situation. But I will definitely write your comments into my aquaponics notes. Cheers.


    karl friedl

    My dream system (still dreaming) has the pond built into the floor of an earthship designed home. The ponds shape is in a large V wedge and the floor opens up and you are able to stand in your pond easy cleaning LOTS of water. The beds will compost wood and other composting materials going into its own flow form swirl filters with a dam valve to drain the sediment. The sediment is also used in supplementing mushroom spawn with already broken down wood minerals and materials more easily available to the mycelium. I don’t eat meat so I would go for a more beautiful variety of fish then just tilapia and have minimal fish. Lots of extra nutrients come into my tank from the special composting beds as well as a sump from the mushroom grow room that gets misted and sprayed down. The room itself will be half buried green house with a southern window seen in earth ship designs for best solar gain. The aquaponics will also be attached to my earthship style home because it smells wonderful and cleans the air! The size is only as big as you can imagine and the labor that you put in when using earth materials as your build and lots of recycling. Right now I just have a 20 ft green house and working on 2 ten foot beds with an in ground tank recycled poly tank 🙂 The other space will be used for algae growing and mushroom production. This is my first post and Im very excited about the web site and all it offers nice to meet you all! Have a wonderful day!


    Nathan Storm

    My dream system (today) is a micro-aquaponics cloning pond.

    The desire is for shrimp?, fish and plants in a compact environment living in relative balance, with enough abundance that I can introduce up to 30 herb cutting or hardwood clones in water that is a healthy, nutrient rich start for sending newly propagated plants out into the woods and meadows.

    The current technology in water bubblers and cloning tanks is for external nutrients, water and bleaching/sterilizing agents applied and flushed every few days: a linear system of inputs and outputs. I know nature can do better than that, I just haven’t learned how yet 🙂



    Wow so many cool ideas! I love it!

    My big “experiment” is creating a permaculture greenhouse.

    I’ve used railway ties as the wall foundations. Pallets are what makes up the north wall, and the lower third of the rest of the walls. I’m building in the rest of the walls with antique wood framed windows and doors.

    Inside I have one large IBC tote for my aquaponic fish. I plan to use pallets to build the supports for the grow tables. I haven’t totally decided what to use for the grow tables yet, or if I’ll use media or float beds.

    I want to also use either gutters or PVC with holes drilled for growing things like strawberries and other “hanging” food plants. Everything will drain back into the main tank.

    My biggest obstacle will likely be the winter temps. But I want to look into implementing a rocket stove perhaps with a tank to keep the water warm thereby keeping the whole greenhouse warm.

    I don’t know if I can get tiger prawn here in canada, but I’m thinking of just utilizing what we have here, which is a common brown crayfish. I’m sure they will do a similarly good job of cleaning the roots. 😉

    I want to learn more about solar energy. Do I really have to shell out hundreds of dollars to buy solar panels? Is there something I can do that is cheaper?


    Nathan Storm


    The most affordable solar energy for a greenhouse is a long structure oriented east west, insulated on 3 sides with south facing sun entering the greenhouse for heat. Sunlight landing on large thermal masses(floor, knee wall, maybe the north wall.) an overhang facing south to prevent overheating in the summer. For the extremes of Canada maybe double or triple clear walls for insulation.

    So basically, build yourself a passive solar home/greenhouse.

    Since it is an outbuilding, you may do many cool things without worrying about building codes.
    One example, underground or half underground.

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