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My System

Do you want to know more about my personal aquaponic system? Well, today’s episode covers a little bit of how I ended up with the system I have and the parts that make it up.

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! In today’s episode I’m going to tell you about my current aquaponic setup and how it came to be.

2020 was filled with surprises (I feel I should just put a long awkward pause in here…). Anyway, one of those surprises for me was getting a new job—like moving states kind of new job. Don’t get me wrong, I was grateful, but also sad at the same time. I was grateful for an opportunity when a lot of people didn’t have many, but sad because I’d have to leave the aquaponic system I had built and worked on for months (as well as the little system that had been running for over a year). And it was late spring—prime growing conditions for much of the country.

I thought, no problem! I can pack up my stuff, pot as many plants as I can and be back up and running in a matter of weeks—tops!

Well…let’s just say that I should have said months, not weeks. Google Maps and Google Earth are great to get an idea of where you are going to be, but until you are there and really FEEL the impact a change in elevation, sun exposure, wind, grading, etc. all have on a place, you’ll never really know.

That was me.

Essentially all those parameters changed on me—literally overnight!

So, I decided I had to go back to the drawing board and become a student again (even more than I currently am). I had to spend some time outside to determine even if I could set up an aquaponic system, let alone one like I had just left behind.

I thought of a lot of crazy ideas:

Use the driveway (but it was too lumpy and sloped badly)

Work under the deck and make it a modified greenhouse (but there wasn’t enough sunlight there)

Use the deck and put a tiny greenhouse on it (but the wind howled there and it wasn’t in great shape to hold much weight)

Then I went off my rocker and thought of something I had not even contemplated in the past: What if I just have a small system IN the house?

This off-the-wall, not normal thinking (for me) produced the best idea I had. Sort of…

When I realized growing indoors was an option, my mind started racing trying to figure out a ton of things all at once. I’d never seen any aquaponic system in a house before. Sure I’d seen and had aquariums before. And sure, potted house plants abound, but an aquaponic system inside?…

What about light?

What about air flow?

What about temperature regulation?

What about moisture build-up?

What about leaks? (I’m renting after all.)

Well, I hope those questions paint the picture running through my head at the time.

To set up my system inside, I’d have to answer, or solve, most, if not all of these questions to be partially successful. And I would essentially be starting from scratch since this was shaping up to be a project only a small percentage, in size, of what I’d left behind. Things would have to be different.

Wow! I’m gong to stop with the memories now and dive into my system as it is and try to touch on how it solves or deals with most of the questions and issues I was worried about. And if I’m lucky, you may have a similar question that gets answered too!

So here we go!

I have two mini systems in a spare bedroom. They are not identical, physically, but in process and dimensions, they are.

My fish tanks are just 30-gallon trash cans with the drain at the top. This provides me insurance that there will be no leaks on the floor beneath while not being too heavy, or ugly.

I regulate the water temperature with simple aquarium heaters rated for at least a 60-gallon tank.

The grow beds are a deep water culture type about two feet by four feet with simple Styrofoam rafts.

There is one small water pump in the end of the grow bed that returns the water to the fish tank. In this configuration, I practically eliminate an “overflow” situation if power is lost, or the pump dies.

A couple of small air pumps are nearby that oxygenate both the fish tank trash can and the grow bed.

Since I got started in fall, I wasn’t getting enough light for my little plants, so I splurged and bought LED lights that hang over the grow beds. They are controlled by a simple timer to mimic sunrise and sunset closely (and not bother the neighbors either).

I placed an oscillating fan in the far corner of the room to run for half an hour, every hour to maintain airflow and minimize any moisture build-up.

Ok, I know that doesn’t seem like much, but that’s because it’s not! At least in terms of the major components that most people talk about. So, let’s go over the “other stuff” that I have in the room that makes my setup work.

In no particular order, I’m going to start with the spare buckets I keep along the wall. I have a few spare buckets in varying sizes that I keep empty, or with various things such as water, coco-vermiculite mix, dead plants, etc. These buckets are handier than I would have thought. I can quickly grab one in an emergency or have things readily on hand that I would normally have to mix or prepare first.

Then there is the big SAMS box. Yup, that big box serves a very specific purpose. It holds the trays of flats I’ve started. I normally use a 98 cell flat for my seed starting and this box works great to hold things near the light, and still let me water and inspect them.

Ok, I’m going to ignore the lemon tree on the tray, since it’s not part of the system, even though it gets fish water…

Since I mentioned the SAMS box, I have to mention the bed box and the tower of boxes. Yes, this is just a strange as it sounds. I have a large bed box and a stack of boxes that serve another specific purpose. (Can’t you tell I had just moved and a surplus of boxes!) These two box configurations hold my air pumps up above the water level so in the event of a failure, the water doesn’t fill the pump, nor does it siphon out the water!

Next is the shelf rack. Where would I be without this thing? In a mess pile, probably. This shelf unit is the all-plastic, quick assembly kind from Home Depot, but holds most everything else I need and want to run my system with. Fish food, spare parts, seeds, books, catalogs, tools, and probably stuff I’ve forgotten about but will be grateful it’s there when I need it! It is perhaps one of the most important “hardware” items I have—especially in a small enclosed area, such as my spare bedroom.

Alright! That’s it in a nutshell, going around the room. Sadly, being a podcast, you only get my lovely voice to describe this too you. But if you have a great imagination, then all of this has to be beautiful! (In my mind it is!)

But those of you who want to see the real, raw version as it is, just find this episode, aka post, on the blog (fishgrowplant.com) and I’ll have a few photos posted so your imagination doesn’t have to work too hard.

FGP_Episode6-Pic-MySystem1
My system as of May 2021. (Pic 1 of 2)
FGP_Episode6-Pic-MySystem2
My system as of May 2021. (Pic 2 of 2)

QUESTIONS/FEEDBACK:

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 fishgrowplants@loganschoolcraft.com and I’ll get back to you.

THANK YOU’S/GRATITUDE:

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

https://fishgrowplants.libsyn.com/my-system

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