Episode-1976- Why I Switched to Aquaponics

A Simple Flood and Drain Bed Made With a 14 Gallon Mixing Tray

Right out of the gate “switched” may not be the best word here, but it certainly applies to my growing of annual vegetables.  It may have been a better title to have said, “Why I Changed My Mind About Aquaponics.  Today I want to take a new look at aquaponics and try to demystify it a bit so that it is a bit more approachable at the small end of the scale to anyone.

The reality though is until recently I always looked at aquaponics this way, “what a great thing, for other people to do”.  I wasn’t opposed to it, I just had my own ways and well they worked.  Well until I moved to this limestone ledge we call a farm.

I met a good friend named David and he told me how much food they were producing on their small property and together we designed the systems I now run on my property.  Today I will talk about them and give you some simple ways to get started for a few hundred dollars with 100% off the shelf prices.

Join Me Today to Discuss….

  • What is aquaponics in a nut shell
  • The three main grow beds and what they are best for
    • Ebb and Flow (aka flood and drain)
    • Deep Water Raft
    • Wicking Beds
  • Additional components
    • Choosing a Pump
    • What makes a bulkhead a good bulkhead
    • The basics of a bell siphon
  • A simple flood and drain system and a few options on building it
    • 100 Gallon Stock Tank with 4 Ebb and Flow Beds $310.00
    • 150 Gallon Stock Tank with 6 or more Ebb and Flow Beds $460.00
    • 3 x 100 Gallon Stock Tanks with 6 or more Ebb and Flow Beds $560.00
    • 300 Gallon Stock Tank with 6 or more Ebb and Flow Beds $570.00
    • Add $90.00 to the above prices for the larger pump
    • Incorporating deep water or wicking into these designs
  • The value of shade cloth or eastern sun and western shade
  • Some additional ideas and thoughts
    • Adding a duck weed biofilter bed
    • How to make an “aquarium siphon”
    • Protecting your pump with a bucket or a bag
    • When IBCs make a lot of sense
    • Lava Rock, Expanded Shale and Expanded Clay Pebbles
    • Plant propagation with ebb and flow
    • Replanting produce with ebb and flow
  • Final thoughts

Resources for today’s show…

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18 Responses to Episode-1976- Why I Switched to Aquaponics

  1. Guess what else Fred Savage was in?…..Princess Bride. 😛

  2. Jack, could you ask Steven Harris to evaluate your basic aquaponic system using solar/battery power? Not necessarily to replace the grid but for back up or supplemental power.

    Also, check out Osmobot (http://www.osmobot.com/) for automated capture of system metrics (i.e. water temp, air temp, pH, etc…).

    Or if you are knowledgeable, check out Raspberry Pi 3 electronics to add components like fans, lights, same metrics as osmobot.

    Raspberry Pi 3 Computer Board – $38
    32 GB MicroSD Card (for computer) – $14
    Raspberry Pi camera – $30
    Water level switches – $9
    Temp sensors (water) – $10
    Temp/Humidity/Pressure (air) – $12
    PH sensor – $40
    Relays for turning off pumps or lights, etc – $9
    12VDC to 5VDC power supply for the Raspberry Pi for $10
    5VDC 2.5A Power Supply – $10

    • Eddie,

      If it’s not too much trouble, could you put links to where all those components can be purchased? Did you research that these are best prices? Thanks!

  3. If you dont know how to program these Raspberry Pi’s contact Adam Allard (Adam.Allard@gmail.com). He is helping me program mine.

    Regarding the greenhouse controller… Here’s a rundown of what I would use to build that system:

    The base computer system consists of:
    * Raspberry Pi 3 Computer Board – $38 – https://www.amazon.com/Raspberry-Pi-RASPBERRYPI3-MODB-1GB-Model-Motherboard/dp/B01CD5VC92/ref=sr_1_2?s=pc&ie=UTF8&qid=1488416054&sr=1-2&keywords=raspberry+pi+3

    * 32 GB MicroSD Card (for computer) – $14 – https://www.amazon.com/SanDisk-microSDHC-Standard-Packaging-SDSQUNC-032G-GN6MA/dp/B010Q57T02/ref=pd_bxgy_147_img_3?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=S57R61EQKTN0Z4XNTBRM

    * 5VDC 2.5A Power Supply – $10 – https://www.amazon.com/CanaKit-Raspberry-Supply-Adapter-Charger/dp/B00MARDJZ4/ref=pd_sim_147_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=SCQJD26EWXJK0KHW3JRR

    * Raspberry Pi camera – $30 – https://www.amazon.com/Raspberry-Pi-Camera-Module-Megapixel/dp/B01ER2SKFS/ref=sr_1_1?s=pc&ie=UTF8&qid=1488416111&sr=1-1&keywords=raspberry+pi+camera

    On top of that is where we would add whatever sensors or controls that we want.

    Water level switches – $9 – https://www.amazon.com/Copapa-Horizontal-Liquid-Switch-Sensor/dp/B00AKW29U2/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1488416014&sr=8-3&keywords=water+level+switch

    Temp sensors (water) – $10 – https://www.amazon.com/Gikfun-DS18B20-Temperature-Waterproof-EK1083x3/dp/B00Q9YBIJI/ref=sr_1_5?s=pc&ie=UTF8&qid=1488416155&sr=1-5&keywords=raspberry+pi+temperature+sensor

    Temp/Humidity/Pressure (air) – $12 – https://www.amazon.com/Seeedstudio-Grove-Barometer-Sensor-BME280/dp/B01GEIE35O/ref=sr_1_5?s=pc&ie=UTF8&qid=1488416210&sr=1-5&keywords=raspberry+pi+humidity

    PH sensor – $40 – https://www.amazon.com/Seeedstudio-Grove-Barometer-Sensor-BME280/dp/B01GEIE35O/ref=sr_1_5?s=pc&ie=UTF8&qid=1488416210&sr=1-5&keywords=raspberry+pi+humidity

    Relays for turning off pumps or lights, etc – $9 – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00IWI5RZ0/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    You could power all this with a deep cycle 12V battery (like for a boat) and then trickle charge that batter with solar.

    We would need a 12VDC to 5VDC power supply for the Raspberry Pi for $10 – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00O6RJLQC/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o07_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    You’ll need to calculate how many things you want to turn on/off and multiply the number of Relays ($9/ea) that you’ll need.

  4. John M Rosalia

    One thing i remember from 1976(i was 8) was my grandmother giving me some bicentennial quarters with the ” little drummer boy” on the back. She told me I should hold onto them, as they were special. But like any 8year old, I spent them.

    • Modern Survival

      It would be nice to have them since your grandmother gave them to you but today they are worth exactly 25 cents.

      • John M Rosalia

        I agree. Luckily though i was smart enough to save to Morgan dollars she also gave me. They are safely stored away along with my TSP ant silver and other silver rounds. 🙂

  5. 1976, I was in 2nd grade but really spent the bulk of the school year in the hospital with cancer…yep, that was a long time ago.

  6. I use an IBC system and have had good results as it has run non-stop for the last 4 years. For medium I used pea gravel (which was against most recommendations) because I wanted to mimic a stream bed. I clean out the sediment build up in the grow beds every couple years and use it as fertilizer in my outside garden beds. I have also thrown in worms and they have reproduced nicely in the system. The one thing I plan to change is to put it outside instead of in the green house because insect pests seem to get in but the predator insects don’t. The following things grow surprisingly well in this system: Celery, Jerusalem Artichokes, and Potato(as long as the start is planted above the water line). The gravel is nice to put potted plants in as a temporary holding place till planting in the ground as well.

  7. Is the smaller pump you recommend overkill for a system using a 55 gallon fish tank and a 16L cement mixing tub like you recommend for an ebb & flow bed?

  8. Obiwan Kentucky

    Looking at Tractor Supply, the cost for the Rubbermaid 100 gal stock tank is actually cheaper than the 50 gal stock tanks right now, at least in my area; there’s a $15 sale on the 100 gal ones, so it’s 69.99 for them vs 74.99 for the 50 gal ones.
    I live in Central Kentucky, as a reference point for where they’re selling them for this price.

  9. Jack, just wondering about using cinder locks and pond liner for the holding tank? Digging it into the ground a few feet and lining it would give me something a little more attractive to help convince the boss, and it would allow me to better fit it to some unusual shapes in my area of installation. Any thoughts?

  10. Was looking at aquaponics and notices duck ponics. Now i know you have use in the food forest for the nutriant. But if you had need to replace the fish it looks like you can sub in some ducks. Might be a winning combonation.

    • Modern Survival

      Duck Ponics is a cute idea if you have a VERY SMALL NUMBER OF DUCKS. It isn’t scalable and it isn’t practical at any meaningful scale.

  11. Brad Millar

    1976 boston releases their debut album.

  12. Could you use light colored sand or rock dust, which is free, in the bottom to better see the fish and gage water quality? Does muck build up on the bottom to quickly make it impractical?