Aquaponics /ˈækwəˈpɒnɨks/, is a food production system that combines conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. In normal aquaculture, excretions from the animals being raised can accumulate in the water, increasing toxicity. In an aquaponic system, water from an aquaculture system is fed to a hydroponic system where the by-products are broken down by nitrogen-fixing bacteria into nitrates and nitrites, which are utilized by the plants as nutrients. The water is then recirculated back to the aquaculture system.
As existing hydroponic and aquaculture farming techniques form the basis for all aquaponics systems, the size, complexity, and types of foods grown in an aquaponics system can vary as much as any system found in either distinct farming discipline.

So we have been thinking of this aquaponics system for sometime now but never had a good place for it.  Now we have a small aquaponics system up and running and hopes of a larger system that could feed many people if we needed to.   So from start up to today this is our trial run of aquaponics.

 We started with an ibc tote to use as a fish tank

Then G-pa came to help us set up the barrel system he made for his system  

The garden looked like a construction zone.

 All the lettuce that my girls and I had started from seed went into the first aquaponics grow bed. 

 Another growing pain.  We had a very windy night and for some odd reason the door on the green house had blown off and I couldn't get it back on.  So the broom held it in there until hubby got home.  LOL

 This photo above is an example of our growing pains.  LOL  came out one morning and we had lost a ton of water through the night and thank goodness it wasn't very cold or these guys would have been belly up.  I bet they started getting worried as the water level kept going down.  :)

We started with 35 larger fish in the ibc tote and 110 smaller fish in the shop in little tanks.  

So after getting the water to flow out of these 4 barrels into the fish tank and over to the swirl filter, it was decided that we needed another key element to help keep things in order and a bit cleaner so we added a sump tank. 
Many trips to Lowe's and Home Depot.  On this specific occasion we brought the Troops with us for the shopping.  That in itself is a Great Adventure. Our kids know how to have fun anywhere we go.  

Remember the lettuce that wasn't looking so good in the first photos?   Well look at it here.  It took off like crazy! This is twelve days after the other photo.  
Yep we added worms!!  And we had to move all of the rocks into a different grow bed not to long ago and the worms were still alive and working!!!!   Water, fish, worms, & sunlight that's what these plants survive on.  :) 
So we started out with smaller grow beds made from small concrete mixing tubs but they drained and filled up to fast because they were too shallow.  So we upgraded on this side of the greenhouse to large concrete mixing tubs for our grow beds.  I love how green things started to fill up the beds and my greenhouse.  Here I am planting all those beautiful things in the grow beds so the fish can start benefiting from the plants. 
I started out with a lot of lettuce, kale and cilantro.  Everything did really well.  The growth was so amazing.  In that Styrofoam cup is a lemon tree someone gave us to try to grow in the system as well.  

 The Sump tank is the barrel that is half burried in the ground at the bottom right of this photo above.  
This is inside the tank Sorry I forgot to flip it.  the water from the fish tanks were flowing into this small filter then the sump pump pulled the water up into the swirl filter.  The water that's gushing in this photo is the overflow on the swirl filter tank.  

It took us a while to adjust the levels of the water and realize everything needed an overflow.  Also the pipes we started with were a little too small.  We ended up going with 1 1/2 inch pipe.  In the photo above you will notice a drain on the top of the pipe to keep the fish out because they were still pretty small, however that drain slowed down the natural vacuum that was keeping the water level at a good place,  once we removed that the flow was better but adding the larger pipe solved a lot of problems and we now have overflow pipes on there too all leading back to the sump.  I did find that your pipe really needs to be as low in the water as you can get it without touching the bottom of the tank.  We lost about 6 fish due to them getting into the sump tank through this pipe and getting beat up in the process, the filter was made with an air filter for your furnace and it scratched them up beyond repair.  
This is the breeding tank.  I have added some pvc since we placed the fish in this tank.  There is one male and 4 females.  I started with 6 females one male but we took a smaller one out, and lost one.

 I started carrots from seeds and they started popping up.  I really didn't think about the seeds coming up.  I imagined they would get washed down in between the rocks but I was wrong  they must have seated themselves in and stayed close because they are there and I have a recent photo to show later of how well they are doing.
This photo shows the breeding tank with the pvc pipe and a bucket for the males nest.  He likes to try to get the females to lay eggs in his nest so he can fertilize the eggs.  It's an interesting process.  Loads of youtube videos on it.
 May 15th, 2014

May 15th 2014
We swiched the pipes coming from the swirl filter into the grow beds for larger ones that would give us a better flow.  We also had to empty one of the grow beds and work on the siphon because were were having problems.  
 A tomato and a pepper plant are taking off well in here too. 
 The cilantro started to bolt the greek basil started to flower and seed out.  The lettuce is all going to seed. 
 Aquaponics life is going well in this greenhouse. 

The jalapenos are getting blooms on them.  May 13th, 2014

JUNE 4th, 2014
So as of today I pulled all the lettuce that was going to seed (It was taking over the world) And what you are looking at in this photo is a cilantro plan t(center that looks dead) going to seed.  Far right carrots growing beautifully.  Right behind the cilantro is a Greek Basil (dried some last year and it has amazing flavor)  And then along the back are 3 giant tomato plants that took to the system so well that they already have blooms on them.  There are also about 4 different types of pepper plants that are looking pretty good.  One is starting to yellow a bit but that might be shock from me pulling so many different varieties of lettuce out from around them.  There is also a small patch of oregano in these beds and thyme.  The thyme actually flowered out but it's behind the basil so you can't see it.  Yesterday the basil was twice this size but I cut the flowers all off of it so It will keep growing.  It is a very pretty plant. 
  The photo doesn't do this tomato plant justice.  This plant is a good 4 feet tall and has reached the roof of the greenhouse.  Dennis put a trellis behind it to help support it.  It has gone wild.   I also have some onions in this bed but when I'm messing with the other plants the onions get damaged quickly and flop over.  We will see if they end up growing or not.  In the front by the valve is a mint plant that Connie (my sweet mother in law) gave me.  And the light green plant near the side of the bed is a lime basil and I have to say I love the smell of the lime basil the best.  I still haven't tried it in a recipe but soon I will be adding it to my crock pot fajita recipe.  YUMMMMM!

This is the first jalapeno plant I put into the grow beds.  I have peppers!!!!!!  I have been so tempted to pick these from the second I saw them.  I can't wait to taste them.
In front of this jalapeno pepper is a small bell pepper plant that I had planted in my garden.  It was struggling so I planted it here to chart the difference between in and the others that are in my garden.  Fingers crossed they all take off quickly.
This is a view of the other side of our greenhouse.  In the grow beds you can see the tallest plant in the background...well that is a yellow cherry tomato plant that had reseeded itself in my garden from last year (I only use heirloom seeds so if a plant drops seeds then they will likely take root) and so Dennis mentioned tossing it in the grow beds to see what it would do.  Well it started smaller than all those tomatoes sitting in pots in front of the bed and once planted in the system it took off and has become massive.  I also have a cyanne pepper plant that has started to bloom and I noticed some tiny little peppers on it today too.  It was a first as well.  I forgot to take a pic of it though.  Maybe tomorrow.

JUNE 5th, 2014

Fish..............  So far I have been feeding our tilapia with pellets that I know are not high quality but all things must be done in order. ;)  And today I ordered some high quality fish food for our tilapia through "Premium Fish Food" online.  It's quite expensive to have it delivered and we had some things to do in Kansas City so we opted to pick up our order from their storehouse in Smithville, Mo which is close to KC.  You can find their website here  And if you order use
I'm excited to see if the change in diet produces some breeding in my breeding tank.  Premium Fish Food Company has a specific food for breeding your tilapia, and I'm wondering if this is why I haven't seen any breeding done yet.  According to all that I've read on the subject this is the one area I think I'm failing at.  So fingers crossed we will see a change in water quality and a desire for breeding once we get the proper diet going on in our tanks.

JUNE 26th, 2014

 Aquaponics Bell Pepper has arrived and looks pretty good if I do say so myself. 
 This Cherry tomato plant is from last years garden. In fact I didn't even plant this seed, it reseeded itself and came up in one of my garden beds.  My husband mentioned putting it in the grow beds so I added it to see what would happen  and now I have cherry tomatoes in my grow beds.  LOVE IT!  
 This is one of those Chinese 5 Peppers I can tell because of the purple buds.  It has struggled though.  This was a very week plant in the beginning and I didn't know if it would make it so I thought by putting it in the aquaponics system it might have a better chance.  It still doesn't look strong but It has blooms so something is going right.  :)
 Greek Basil.  I hate cutting beautiful plants but I know it must be done.  

 It's a tomato  But don't ask me what kind.  I pulled a silly mistake and forgot to mark down what I was planting where in my aquaponics system.  It could be a beefsteak?  It could be a homestead?  Not sure so we will wait and see. 
Oh look another tomato!  Yay.  I'm ready for a home grown tomato there is nothing in the world like it. 

Aquaponics JULY 2014

 If I had to quess the size of these tomato plants I would say 7-9 feet.  One is closer to 7 and the other has to be 9 feet tall.   So something is working right.  However, I'm trippng with the filtering.  I'm not loving the cleaning process right now so I am researching a few changes right now.  I will keep you posted on this.  I have a lot of build up and sludge that I'm dealing with.  
This is a snapshot from a video I was taking trying to get a look into this fishes mouth.  LOL  See those white dots in her mouth.....?  Those are eggs.  We have successfully had two female blue tilapia with eggs in their mouth.  The first one made it two days before I noticed she no longer had them and the 2nd one made it 3-4 days before I noticed she was no longer "HOLDING".   Sooo we are doing something right and might be doing something wrong.  LOL  We know that they are laying eggs so conditions are good for that, however I'm not sure if they are eating them or loosing them, if they are stressed out or just learning the process.  This is a first for any of these females so we will continue to press forward and see how things go. 

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