My sister sent me a link to a website that explains and documents one family’s DIY aquaponics project. She knows that aquaponics is on my very long list of things to try someday, which is why she thought of me. She was right, I thought it was a great idea. Basically, the McClung family bought a house in Arizona that had a run-down old swimming pool in the backyard. Rather than spend ridiculous amounts of money to restore the pool, they decided to turn it into a greenhouse with a tilapia pool in the deep end and growing area in the shallow end. There are also some things growing over the pond. If you’re interested take a look!
They’ve posted a video as well as some diagrams and a 360-degree moving picture.
I realize this might be trickier in our Canadian climate. They can grow 365 days a year down there (so jealous!) and we can only do that if we want to pay a fortune to heat and light the plants. But still, if I ever buy a house with a run-down swimming pool, you know what I’ll be doing! This or some version of it.
And if not, well, I’ll have to look into building some other system that will hold fish and plants. Aquaponics is like hydroponics, except you’re using the natural waste from the fish to feed the plants instead of feeding synthetic fertilizers to the plants. It’s like a mini-ecosystem. You’ve got fish tanks large enough to grow tilapia or other fish for eating, and you’ve got grow trays for plants, filled with an inert substance that holds the roots of the plants. Every so often, water from the fish tank is pumped into the grow beds to flood them and water the plants. The plants take the nutrients, which are actually waste and toxic to the fish, and so filter the water. When the water is returned to the tank it’s cleaner and this creates a better growing environment for the fish. Another key to this system is having a good balance of healthy microflora, or bacteria. Plants grow amazingly fast (I learned this at a conference, from a real scientist!) when there’s a good population of microflora. Great flavour in the plants and the fish, too, apparently. I really can’t wait to try this!
Aquaponics is truly a backyard system. Some people are working on how to make it feasible economically, and it’s proving to be difficult in terms of economizing BOTH the fish and the plants. When I spoke to a professor at the University of Guelph, he told me that you really have to focus on one or the other in a commercial setting. The best systems are those that a person would set up in their backyard for their own use. And really, that’s what I’m passionate about. Everybody growing stuff in their own backyards. Why not some fish too??!!