The pumps are used to get the water from the fish tanks up to the flood tanks. From there, gravity does the rest of the work. The water in the flood tank reaches a certain level which engages a flapper valve like the one found in most toilets today. The water flows down out of the flood tank and into a manifold system that empties into the grow beds. The water fills the grow beds and then empties out into a guttering system that returns the water back into the fish tanks below. It’s a simple and efficient design.
As a homesteader with a mind towards being a survivalist, I really wanted to maximize our efforts in growing food. Aquaponics helps us do that. A mature system can grow a lot of food very fast. What is a mature system? Maturity comes with time that allows the bacterial colonies in the grow beds to become established. It’s the bacteria that works to change the ammonia rich fish waste into useable plant food called nitrates.
Our system is pretty new and just starting this year to create the needed bacteria to allow plant growth. While we are seeing good growth, maturity will greatly increase the amount of growth we will see in the future.
besides plant growth, the other added benefit of aquaponics is fish production. Both my wife and I love fish. We are growing about 300 bluegill fish in our system. They will take about 18 months to reach very good harvest size. We could probably harvest in 12-14 months but I really want our fish to reach a large size and so I think we will grow them a full year and a half before we start to harvest.
At that time, I’m planning on combining some fish into tanks and starting new fish. Right now, I have 75 or so bluegill in each of the 4 – 250 gallon tanks. At 18 months, I’ll begin to harvest while taking one tank of 75 fish and dispersing them into each of the other 3 tanks. I can then start the empty tank with new fish. I will harvest out of one of the 3 tanks with mature fish and 6 months later with that tank empty, start a new tank with fish. This will begin a cycle that will allow me to constantly harvest fish and restart a new tank every 6 months.
At some point, we will build a breeding program for the fish so we don’t have to purchase them. Right now, blue gill fingerlings are selling for about 0.40 each and they are about 2-3 inches long when we get them.
It’s August as I type this and very soon fall will be upon us. My plan this fall is to use the aquaponics system to grow as many fall and winter vegetables as possible. Our system is under a greenhouse we constructed this spring. We feel this will give the system an additional growing season even during the winter when things like kale and some spinach varieties will do well. Leafy greens are something my family really missed during last winter. My only concern this winter is keeping some of the piping from freezing if it gets too cold. We had an abnormally cold winter this last year with the temps twice reaching -4 degrees. That is unheard of in the Ozarks!
Also with colder weather, comes reduced microbial activity meaning the bacteria in the growbeds are not going to be producing as much nitrates for plant food. I’m hoping that we can keep enough bacteria working to continue filtering out the waste water for the fish to keep them healthy. It all comes down to keeping the greenhouse at a respectable temperature.
A backup plan is to construct some sort of mass rocket stove to fire up and keep the greenhouse warm if temps get too low.
Aquaponics is a huge part of our homestead food plan. Stay tuned, we will be posting continual updates on the system and the successes and failures we encounter as we go along. Also be sure to subscribe to our youtube channel as we will be doing video updates as well this fall and winter.