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    Thread: Aquaponics, sure, why not

    1. #1
      kimini is online now Senior Member
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      Aquaponics, sure, why not

      Had a left-over IBC - check.
      Have the koi pond, so a ready source of fish poop/ammonia/nitrate - check.
      Had a bunch of expanded clay pellets (from back when the "experts" said it was the bio-filter media of choice) - check.

      We'll see what happens. The most fussy part of the project turns out out to be the siphon - seen at center. There's all sorts of drama surrounding these seemingly-simple devices, each being presented as much better than the others, yet I've tried three different designs and none "just work", sometimes stalling out, so I'm still playing with that. Anyway, as a first try, there's tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, and cantaloupe. I'll try to post weekly pictures to show the results, good or bad. The plants were planted several hours ago and already the watermelon doesn't look happy but we'll see how it turns out. Those of you with your fancy shower filters and no-nitrate water can just move along, nothing to see here!
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      Last edited by kimini; 08-22-2017 at 01:22 PM.

    2. #2
      BWG is offline Senior Member
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      Looks like an enjoyable project.

    3. #3
      kimini is online now Senior Member
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      There's a ton of information out there on aquaponics with a lot of people selling gear (or bad-mouthing the competition). Retailers being who they are, they "sell the dream" of having free vegetables and fish but don't mention the associated costs and maintenance. I wonder if anyone's done the math on a system and the operating costs (like fish food) over several years, weighed against buying the vegetables and fish from the market. I get it that some people just do it for fun, but retailers push them as a sort of magic garden generating free food. Speaking of that, it's kinda funny how many of the containers shown in the Youtube videos only seem to contain a few sad and ratty looking plants.

      Anyway, I had the bits and pieces, so we'll see how it goes. Finally got the siphon working reliably so we'll see.
      Last edited by kimini; 07-31-2017 at 05:39 PM.

    4. #4
      kevin32 is online now CKK in training
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      what does the siphon do? just curious. I did some hydronics and the bugs got most of my "goodies"

    5. #5
      kimini is online now Senior Member
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      People figured out that they couldn't keep the grow beds full of water because it drowns the plant roots. Someone came up with the idea of using a small pump to constantly add water to the container, and when it gets about 2" below the top of the media, the siphon quickly drains the water out. As the water level drops, it sucks air into the grow media, ensuring the roots are exposed to air in the "soil". The expanded clay holds water long enough to keep the roots happy until the next cycle, though some people use simple gravel because of the much lower price ($500 for clay versus about $30 for plain gravel).
      Last edited by kimini; 08-22-2017 at 01:23 PM.

    6. #6
      kevin32 is online now CKK in training
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      Quote Originally Posted by kimini View Post
      People figured out that they couldn't keep the grow beds full of water because it drowns the plant roots. Someone came up with the idea of using a small pump to constantly add water to the container, and when it gets about 2" below the surface the media, the siphon dumps all the water out in short order. As the water drops, it sucks air into the grow media, ensuring the roots are exposed to some air in the "soil". The expanded clay holds water long enough to keep the roots happy until the next cycle, though some people use simple gravel because of the much lower price.
      i see. i used coco containers with grow rocks and hydroton and like a coco coir fiber. was lots of fun until the spider mites and other critters took over.

    7. #7
      kimini is online now Senior Member
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      The marketing makes it look like they avoid all the problems associated with growing vegetables, like birds, caterpillars, rabbits, aphids, etc. People seem to ignore that the systems just provide a different way to water and fertilize plants; they don't prevent any of the above yet users are surprised and disappointed when their vegetables get eaten. I think industrial -ponics setups are typically indoors which helps avoid many of the above issues (yet even that's not perfect because it ignores lighting expenses).
      Last edited by kimini; 07-31-2017 at 10:29 AM.

    8. #8
      kevin32 is online now CKK in training
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      Quote Originally Posted by kimini View Post
      The marketing makes it look like they avoid all the problems associated with growing vegetables, like birds, caterpillars, rabbits, aphids, etc. People seem to ignore that the systems just provide a different way to water and fertilize plants; they don't prevent any of the above yet users are surprised and disappointed when their vegetables get eaten. I think industrial -ponics setups are typically indoors which helps avoid many of the above issues (yet even that's not perfect because it ignores lighting expenses).
      yeah I had 2 1000 watt bulbs going. exhaust fans for the lights. dehumidifier. got my pg&e bill and it was about $450.

    9. #9
      BWG is offline Senior Member
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      Grow some hydroponic ganja with the waste water and the koi pond will pay all your utility costs. ☺️

    10. #10
      BWG is offline Senior Member
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      Just kidding ya know.

      Dave's not here!
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    11. #11
      kevin32 is online now CKK in training
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      Quote Originally Posted by BWG View Post
      Grow some hydroponic ganja with the waste water and the koi pond will pay all your utility costs. ☺️
      next year.

      omg. that is the best movie ever.

    12. #12
      kimini is online now Senior Member
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      I still remember that scene when they opened the car door to get out, and the smoke was so thick you could hardly see them - but I digress.

      yeah I had 2 1000 watt bulbs going, exhaust fans for the lights. dehumidifier. got my PG&E bill and it was about $450.
      See, this is where fantasy meets reality, where when it's all said and done, it's cheaper to just buy vegies at the supermarket. The systems are sold under the pretense that it's to raise healthy vegetables and be self-supporting, and it is, but certainly isn't cheap (just the expanded clay pellets are $500 to fill an IBC to 12").

      I guess it's a bit like owning a $100,000 boat to use for fishing - it's more about the doing and the experience rather than the economics.
      Last edited by kimini; 09-08-2017 at 07:36 PM.

    13. #13
      Paultergeist is offline Senior Member
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      Looks like fun; keep us posted. I previously tried aquaponics in conjunction with my pond. I actually found that the birds ate all of the tender shoots off of most of what I was attempting to grow -- finally killing the plants in the process. If I was ever going to try it again on a more serious level (unlikely), I would probably try to run the water through a small greenhouse type of enclosure.

    14. #14
      kimini is online now Senior Member
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      Week one: Added yam cuttings, cucumbers and peppers. New growth is dark green so there's apparently enough nitrate to keep them happy. The little weenie 5gpm pump was sourcing water straight from the pond and getting clogged with algae; it was changed to source water from the sand/gravel filters - much cleaner.
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      Last edited by kimini; 08-06-2017 at 07:55 PM.

    15. #15
      kimini is online now Senior Member
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      Week 2: wasn't going to add anything else but since we bought green onions it was easy to plop a few root-ends into the bed around the siphon cover. In 24 hrs they've already grown about 1/2"
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      Last edited by kimini; 08-22-2017 at 01:25 PM.

    16. #16
      kevin32 is online now CKK in training
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      they look great man. they have a nice home. that is a lot of.media and the roots should thrive

    17. #17
      kimini is online now Senior Member
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      Week 3:

      It's pretty nuts how fast the green onions are growing - though to be objective, it's unclear whether they'd have grown just as fast in the soil.

      Anyway, right now I'm kind of of "meh" on the experiment. New growth looks great, but older leaves, those down toward the ground, are turning brown and crinkly. I don't know enough about plants to know what's causing it. The only thing I've been adding to the pond water is sodium thiosulfate to eliminate chlorine and that small amount shouldn't be the cause. The peppers and onions are doing well though; both have small peppers on them, so I'm just going to let it be and see how it goes.
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      Last edited by kimini; 08-22-2017 at 01:27 PM.

    18. #18
      jnegr is offline Junior Member
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      Nice, I'm thinking of doing some small aquaponics just for the experience.

    19. #19
      gray cat's Avatar
      gray cat is offline Administrator ~ WWKC BOD ~ Facebook Administrator
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      I would think as long as they are growing well, the older leaves are just aging and falling off the plant. Looks like fun to watch.
      Nancy



      Koiphen 2012 Koi Person of the Year!

    20. #20
      kimini is online now Senior Member
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      Week 4:

      One of the pepper plants and all the green onions are doing great; the watermelon died, and the others, meh. I included some close-up pictures of the leaves. Since there's a very limited number of variables, I decreased how frequently the planter bed cycles, thinking that maybe the plants are stressing due to overly-wet roots. Right now I don't think it's bugs or disease, though I don't know enough to state that as fact.
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