You’re listening to Fish Grow Plants—A podcast all about practicing and sharing the love of aquaponics; hosted by Logan Schoolcraft.
Hello, and welcome to Fish Grow Plants, today’s episode is all about aquaponics stuff; meaning all the stuff you need to do aquaponics with…aka, system hardware and software.
I hate loaded questions.
At least when they are asked to me. (If I ask them, then it’s ok, and I kind of relish the resulting look of confusion.)
But, I have to say when someone asks me, “what do I need to do aquaponics with?” I cringe.
It’s a loaded question!
There is a myriad of options and ways to do aquaponics. So when that loaded question comes up, I immediately cut it short and have to redirect with some follow-up questions or dive into the purpose of one’s aquaponic adventures.
So, how about we avoid that all together today and have a nice, pleasant discussion about the ins and outs of what you need for aquaponics…in a broad, general overview sense of the question?
Ok. Here it goes. In the simplest verbiage I know, the stuff aquaponics requires is: fish, plants, water, and way to tie them all together.
There. I said it. Maybe an oversimplification, but the more I think about it, the more I think it’s true.
How? Well, think about this.
What is the smallest aquaponic anything you can think of?
Come on, I know you’ve seen some really creative things before. What do you have?
For me, it’s a small jar with a Beta fish in it and something like a mint plant growing out the top of it.
That’s pretty small, but it meets the fish, plant, water, and connectivity requirement I just mentioned.
Ok. What’s the largest aquaponic anything you can think of?
Honestly, and obviously, I’ve not seen it, but I hear tell of acres of aquaponic farms in China and the Middle East. Acres is a big thing to me and congers up thoughts of huge pumps, massive tanks, and plants as far as you can see. (I just hope they have a golf cart or something to get around.)
That sounds pretty large, but it still meets the fish, plant, water and connectivity requirement as well, doesn’t it?
Alright, what about the middle ground? The backyard hobbyists with unique filters, beds, and techno-wizardry to amaze and capture the imagination.
Sure, they do some really cool stuff (and you can see a lot of it on YouTube), but it meets the fish, plant, water, and connectivity requirement like the micro version and the mega version do.
Just to be clear, let’s break each part down a little more so we can see how open our options are when it comes the “stuff” we need for aquaponics.
I’m not a fish expert on any level, so this may sound odd, but the cheap-o goldfish have been the most productive and sturdy fish I’ve ever used in any system. They are cheap, pretty, and honestly, the hardiest fish (for the price) that I’ve had access too.
All that is to say you just need fish—if it has gills, lives in water, and will fit in your container, odds are, it will work!
So just get some fish—any kind—and get started!
The two systems I currently have running right now, got started using mint. Yep, I just dug up some of my mint from a container, rinsed it off really well, and stuck it in the edge of my plant trough and let it go!
Why mint? Because I didn’t have to wait for seeds to germinate, transplant the ones that made it, cull the dying ones, etc. Could I start with seeds? Yes. You can use almost anything, but you have to actually use it to see if it will thrive, let alone grow.
Try to think of your system in a year and a half from now. How will you be using it then? Me? I’m still going to be putting in swiss chard because I like it. But I’ll also be testing every seed I buy (literally) because I like doing that too. So, if I plan on doing that in a year and a half, I might as well do it now. And that’s my suggestion to you too—just start planting!
The first greenhouse I build had issues, but the one thing that’s been pretty good repeatedly is the rain catchment and cistern. It’s a manual pump, but the water is so much better than the hard well water in the area.
You need good water. If you won’t drink it, don’t think of using it. If you would drink it, make sure it’s free of chlorine, chloramine, and bromine and you’ve probably got a good start (there’s more depending on where you live, but these are the biggies to watch out for).
Get few test strips to verify your water is in shape for use. By the time you figure out the strips and testing, you’ll know what “good” water is much more quickly.
Tying it together
A pump is a pump is a pump, right?
Well, to tie things together a pump is handy and common, but you don’t have to have one. Remember the beta fish in a jar example from earlier?
Also, you could just have a “gravity pump” and water some plants in the dirt, or a container—this may be my favorite way to grow because I can get amazing okra to grow in a container (and it is so good with eggs…)
The main point in tying your fish, plants, and water together is knowing how to keep all three of them happy and healthy.
That could be a pump to recirculate the water from fish to plants, or pump it to a set of plants in a different location. Or it could be the gravity flow I just mentioned to some corn, okra, squash, or melon that loves your local soil conditions. Or, it could be that everything is already tied together—like the beta fish in a jar with the mint plant on top. Everything in one place, and everything very happy, healthy…and pretty to boot!
So, there you have it, in a nutshell, the “stuff” of aquaponics really does leave the door open for you. The options are many, and for most, it comes down to what you want.
My two-cent advice?
Just think about what you would be doing with your system in a year and half, and let that guide you for all the stuff you’ll need to make it happen!
Questions! Let me have them! Do you need clarification, more information, or maybe you just have a tangent thought—send all your thoughts my way. See the website fishgrowplants.com for episode details, or just fire off an email to email@example.com and I’ll get back to you.
So, was this episode good, bad, ugly, or other? Let me know! Comment, email, smoke-signals it doesn’t matter! I love to hear from you. Your feedback is immense, and I am always grateful for it. Likewise, thank you for taking the time to listen and share your thoughts. Have a wonderful day.
This has been another episode of Fish Grow Plants—the podcast all about practicing and sharing the love of aquaponics; hosted by Logan Schoolcraft.