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 will cover the good, the bad, and the ugly of indoor aquaponics.
Have you ever thought you had an awesome idea?
Ever regretted or doubted that awesome idea later? Or just really had to question it so hard because you weren’t sure it was great anymore?
And if you’re like me, did you have one moment—one incident—that changed your mind about that idea?
If you’re nodding your head yes, then thank you, because you’ll understand where I’m coming from with my story. Honestly, it’s a bit embarrassing and probably a bit obvious what my problems were, but it’s been growth for me and I’d like to share it with you.
If you listened to an earlier episode of Fish Grow Plants, you heard me talk about my indoor aquaponic system and how I’ve been learning with it. Well, let’s just say the learning, thinking, and experience knob got turned up a LOT higher after that episode aired.
To jump right to it, that week—Saturday morning—I walked into the spare bedroom where I have my systems and I felt wet carpet under my feet!
Instant gut drop.
I began looking for some massive leak or broken plumbing part, but I couldn’t find one. I searched and searched but could find no smoking gun. Finally, I re-traced the path of the water as best I could to find that apparently the watercress had somehow grown in such a way that it was essentially wicking water over the edge of the grow bed and onto my secondary containment (a layer of plastic film). And, since I thought my system setup was foolproof without the secondary containment, I let it fall by the wayside—in essence, the containment was just there, not in place like it should have been—so it too failed!
Ouch—double failure all in one morning! Ouch! Ouch!
Needless to say, I had to consolidate my fish to one system, then move, harvest, and toss plants, then get the whole area cleaned up and dry.
It took all weekend!
That’s why I’ve decided to share my experiences, thus far, with indoor aquaponics. That is—inside your lovely home or apartment—not a warehouse!
So let’s look at all sides—the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Bear in mind these are my experiences. Some will be opposites for you or not apply at all. With most comparisons, it usually is adult diapers—it depends—on what one considers good, bad, or ugly.
So here we go:
- Air temperature is regulated. Most houses and apartments come with central heat and air, so you don’t have to worry about an extreme of temperature on your system.
- Sunny windows. I’m assuming if you’re growing stuff, you’ve noticed if you have windows with good sunshine, or not. For me, they’re good—for plants and my mood!
- Inside is a good location for grow lights because you don’t have to worry about them getting rained on or dealing with the weather at all.
- It’s a great location—no need to commute, or even leave the house. What could be easier?
- Easy access, depending on where inside your house you put it, you could check it while your making dinner or relaxing in the evening.
- Fun at home. Seriously, this is a good thing!
- Adds humidity to a dry room/house. This is one of those opposites here. For me, I live in a dry location, so this helps. If it’s wet where you are, then this might be bad.
- You can talk to your fish regularly just like any house pet.
- You can talk to your plants just like any other house plant.
- It’s a conversation starter and it’s cool to get dinner from the spare room.
- It’s an excellent hobby, activity, or occupation; especially during a pandemic! It feeds you, entertains you, and educates too!
Cool. I like that list. It is good. It makes one feel indoor aquaponics is positive and full of opportunity, which it is!
But, I don’t want to be a Pollyanna and pretend there are no “other” sides of the coin here, so lets take a look at the list of bad stuff:
- There is water “noise” constantly. It can be soothing to some people, and for some it is like nails on a chalkboard after a while…
- Pumps can be noisy or get noisy. This is just a variant of the water noise.
- There is the real and probable possibility of house damage or soaking, as I mentioned where your containment fails, and your carpet becomes your backup system.
- There is a loss of interior space; be it for guests, storage, or spare space.
- It’s HEAVY—there’s lots of weight in water, even in a small system, so make sure you are on the first floor, or know your limits!
- It can be a pain to move and/or relocate again due to the weight and having to go through a lot of doors, steps, etc. that wouldn’t exist in a more outdoor setting.
- You can’t make a mess like you would or could if you were outside—the water, dirt, and the rest of the mess end up inside the house. That means in the carpet for me, so I’m almost always guaranteed to have to clean up after I do almost anything!
Ok. That was a fair and honest list, I think. It wasn’t bashing, but it did point out a few items one should definitely pay attention to.
So, how about we quickly talk about that other list, the ugly stuff?
Ok, here it is:
- The system can smell fishy at times, usually after a fish dies.
- Hanging grow lights and finding a place for things like pumps is not ideal so it doesn’t look like “normal” indoor décor…i.e. it may look “ugly”.
- When you buy trash cans like I do for fish tanks because it’s cheap and effective, you have to remember that your fish won’t be on display like that beautiful aquarium at the dentists office!
That was an ugly list—kind of strange and off-beat, but honest from my vantage point.
Well, after laying out all those comparisons, and reflecting on my decision to do aquaponics inside, I’m still glad I did. I’m glad I’m still doing it. But my thoughts about it have been altered. I wouldn’t say I had a bad idea to venture down this path; rather, I’d say I’m armed with better information to approach a similar situation, when faced with it.
For example, to mitigate several of the bad and ugly category listings, I’d modify my design. I’d probably go with a decoupled aquaponic system. That is, no water re-circulation. In this mode, I reduce the amount of hardware I need, my electricity use drops, and I can probably use a real aquarium to make it look pretty! Thus, I save weight, visual appeal, money, and drastically reduce that possibility of a leak because I don’t have any water being pumped from container to container.
Actually, I’m really considering doing this, so we’ll see if this is another “awesome” idea of mine!
Well, I’d like to arm you with a tool to take away today, but perhaps just hearing of my successes and poor failures is enough to get you to write down the good, the bad, and the ugly of your own indoor aquaponic system setup—hopefully before you begin!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.