Welcome to our Aquaponic Family blog.
My wife and I, along with our two young children, are venturing into the relatively new world of aquaponics, and we have decided to share our experience with anyone interested in growing their own organic vegetables, fruit, prawn, and fish.
In this first post, we will explain what we have accomplished in the past couple of months and what we plan to do next.
In December 2011, we purchased the Aquaponic Micro System Plans and Manual from Tim and Susanne at Friendly Aquaponics. After studying their PDF manual, we decided to build two 4′ x 8′ (1.2 m x 2.4 m) raft grow beds on our 12′ x 27′ (3.7 m x 8.2 m) concrete patio. Frankly, we (especially my wife) would prefer to have it on the ground in our backyard so it doesn’t take up precious patio space, but I was injured at work a few years ago and now rely on a wheelchair to get around…and this thing does not do well in our yard. Fortunately, I have a very understanding and loving wife.
To begin our project, we purchased a 300 gallon (1136 L) Rubbermaid stock tank from Tractor Supply, wood and PVC pipes from Home Depot, DOW Styrofoam Square Edge Insulation (aka, DOW blue board) from Woolley & Company in Norcross, Georgia, 6′ x 50′ (1.8 m x 15.2 m) grow-bed liner from BuyPlasticNow.com, and a water pump, air pumps, air lines and air stones from AquaticEco.com.
Home Depot cut the plywood, two-by-fours, and one-by-twos to the appropriate lengths, and a dear friend we met in China almost ten years ago painted each piece for us and screwed the two-by-fours to the plywood (thank you Nate!).
Then the sides of the grow beds were screwed together and properly arranged on the patio next to the 300 gallon
stock fish tank. Bricks were evenly spaced on the concrete within the grow bed walls.
Then plywood was placed on top of the bricks and 2″ DOW blue boards were placed on top of the plywood. This raised the bottom of the trough 4.5″ (11.4 cm) above the concrete. Since the sides of the grow beds are 14″ (35.6 cm) tall, the trough will be about 9.5″ (24 cm) deep.
After it was all put together, we noticed that we were wasting about two feet of patio space between the two grow beds. So, off came the adjacent ends of the grow beds. They were modified slightly and re-installed as sides. Now, instead of having two 4′ x 8′ grow beds, we have one 4′ x 18′ grow bed. Not only will this modification allow us to grow more vegetables, it looks nicer too.
Next, we will add the blue board insulation to the inner sides, the liner will be stapled into place, and the plumbing will be installed.
While all of this construction was going on, we purchased 25 White Brook Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) fingerlings and setup a 55 gallon aquarium in our bedroom so we could watch them grow until April, or until the weather warms up. Notice how small they were when they arrived on January 13, 2012.
To our surprise, some of them have more than doubled, maybe even quadrupled, in size in the past four weeks. The following photo was taken on February 12, 2012.
Here they are at dinner time. They follow me as I approach the tank and then get so excited that they almost jump out of the water when I drop in the food.
We have also enjoyed watching how they interact with each other, especially when they kiss and twirl around each other as though they are dancing. Do you see the two tilapia kissing each other in the top right of the following photo?
We plan to add some video of them dancing and kissing in one of our upcoming posts, so check back soon.
One more thing. We have heard that we should not name any of the fish since we plan to eat them later, but we have ignored this advice and named the largest one. He is now officially called “Bacon,” because that’s what he’ll be wrapped in when we eat him in September. My mouth is already watering.
Well, that’s all for now. More updates coming soon.