Dec 22

Tropical Fish Keeping And Aquaponics

If you are serious about learning aquaponics, you had better know something about tropical fish keeping. The most commonly used aquaponics fish, the tilapia fish, is a freshwater tropical fish.
Tropical fish keeping is best learned in advance of building your aquaponics system.

Learn Tropical Fish Keeping Using An Aquarium

You would be best learning tropical fish keeping using a small aquarium indoors, and it will take you some months to really get the hang of it.
The devil in tropical fish keeping is in the details. You cannot just purchase the required tank, filter, heater, lights, gravel, and plants, assemble the lot, and dump your chosen tropical fish in there. That fish will die an agonizing death, usually because of the tap-water you have used, if not from shock at the wrong temperature or a temperature different from the fish bagful of water in which you brought the fish home from your local aquarium fish store.

A Brief Tropical Fish Keeping Points List

So here is a brief points list to consider when buying an aquarium suitable for tropical fish keeping:
a) Is the aquarium big enough for the tropical fish you are considering keeping? The rule of thumb is a gallon of water per inch of fish in the aquarium (lengthwise). Think of all your proposed fish lined up and measure their length inches. That number of inches equals the number of gallons of water your will need to keep those fish healthy. Keep in mind that they will grow, and find out their maximum size to calculate that calculation by.
b) Only get an aquarium (and number of fish as calculated, for maximum size) that you have room for.
c) Never, ever use plain tapwater in an aquarium. Tapwater must always be treated, as per the instructions on the bottle, with an aquarium water conditioner to remove chlorine and chloramine added usually to all tapwater. Chlorine and chloramine will burn your fish’s gills so it cannot breathe and dies horribly.
d) Get an aquarium filter of the right size to suit your tank. This removes fish poo and waste from the water. If you do not have a filter, the fish poo and waste will build up and cause ammonia and nitrite levle spikes, which will kill your fish, again through suffocation.
e) Get an aquarium vacuum, usually the air-driven kind, to regularly once a week clean the bottom gravel of the tank of fish solids and uneaten food.
f) Don’t overstock your aquarium with more fish than its filter can handle in terms of waste. If you want more than that inch per gallon of fish, consider getting a larger aquarium or having more than one.
This will, of course, increase the amount of aquarium maintenance you will regularly have to carry out. Tropical fish keeping is not a just-add-water discipline. Nor is aquaponics, which is usually tropical fish keeping on a very much larger scale for half of all operations. The other half concerns the plant crops, which we are not concerned with here.
g) Make sure that your heater is the right size and wattage to properly heat your fish tank. Temperature can make or break your tropical fish keeping efforts. Fish are very sensistive to water temperature. You will need a reliable waterproof thermometer to regularly check this. You will also need to know what is the ideal temperature at which to keep your aquarium water so that your tropical fish keeping efforts will be successful.
h) Next, you will need to know what kind of food your fish prefer to eat. This is dependent on the species. Tilapia, for instance, are omnivorous (eat anything, but need a balanced diet), but some fish are carnivores (eat meat) and some are vegetarian only, and will turn their noses up at anything except vegetable matter.
i) Next, what are your fish going to breathe? If you reply “water,” you’ve got it SO wrong. Fish breathe AIR dissolved in water. So you are going to need air pumps and air stones for your aquarium. An air pump pumps air via a tube called an ‘air line’ that is attached to a bubble diffuser called an ‘air stone’ that you place at the bottom of your fish tank. It constantly bubbles air through the water which ‘ventilates’ the tank like an open window would for you in a stuffy room. The fish and plants in your tank all need oxygen from this to survive and thrive.
j) Yes, it’s best to have a gravel substrate planted with plants in your tank. The plants breathe in the carbon dioxide that the fish exhale, and also help absorb some of the nitrate fertilizer produced by your filter. There are hundreds of different ornamental aquarium plants available. They also provide a miniature forest in which your fish can hide if they are feeling shy, which happens quite often.
k) However, they will not cope with it all, so you will have to change the water in the aquarium once a week on average. To do this you will need to use a siphon made from PVC tubing. You can just use the tubing, but you may not like sucking up aquarium water to make this work, so for this, siphon pumps are sold that mean you do not have to share the experience of dirty aquarium water with your fish.More Points To con

More Points To Consider

These are just some of the less subtle points about tropical fish keeping at home. But you need to know in detail what it takes to keep tropical fish alive, and also coldwater fish (a little less demanding, but not much) if you are to have a chance at larger-scale fish farming and aquaponics.

For further details, and a good read as well, try out this book for size as an answer to your overall tropical fish keeping beginner’s needs:

Dec 19

How Can We Conserve Water?

university of the virgin islands aquaponic system

Hydroponic raceways at the University of the Virgin Islands commercial aquaponic system growing lettuce for sale

Globally, the available fresh water supplies are running out. We hear about the population going up and up, but not so much about the water crisis. What are all these people going to drink if they run out of fresh water?

Obviously, the first step is to conserve water. How can we conserve water?

Did you know that the biggest use of fresh water is not domestic, or industrial, but agricultural? Farmers use the most water. 90% of that water is only used once, for irrigation or for watering livestock, and then wasted.  Again, farmers, how can we conserve water?

How are we going to farm if the local fresh water supplies run out? Droughts are increasingly common everywhere. How can we conserve water and save it for use when water is scarce?

Many have resorted to huge dam projects, but we hear increasingly of dam reservoirs running dry, as well.

It pays to look very carefully at how we can conserve water on the farm and use it much more cleverly and wisely.

Modern buried Israeli-type irrigation lines are one way of restricting evaporation. The water supply is directed directly to the plant’s roots through a leaky-hose type irrigation line that is buried up to a couple of feet down. This way the plant is supplied only with the water it needs, unlike surface sprinkler irrigation where most of the water is wasted.

However, this is still single-time usage of water.

What if you could recycle 90% or more of the water used on your farm to grow crops? Wastage of water would thus be minimized. This would be a really good answer to that begging question: “How can we conserve water?”

Luckily, there is a tried and tested way to recycle water-but it involves pairing up a fish farm with a hydroponic farm, both of which use water to raise fish/grow vegetables.  No soil is used, and most of the water going round the hybrid ‘aquaponic’ system is covered or shaded, so less than 10% of the water volume in the system is exposed to light and air and can evaporate. Wastage of water in some cases, such as in the University of the Virgin Islands commercial aquaponic system design, can be as little as 1.5% of the total volume of water used per day.

On top of this, crops grow up to twice as fast at half the normal soil spacing in an aquaponic system.  This means that, especially with short growth cycle crops such as lettuce, you can get high volumes of food ready to market, grown from seedlings, in as little as 29 days in the main aquaponic system.  This is to say nothing much about the tons of quality fish you can produce without the expense and complications of a mechanical biofilter. The plants and system resident nitrifying bacteria do all of that.  It doesn’t have to be sterile like in a hydroponics system.  Far from it.

One of the main advantages of an aquaponic system as opposed to a hydroponic system is that you do not have to maintain surgically sterile conditions in your greenhouse.  The bacteria and micro-organisms that take up residence in your aquaponic system over time actually help it along.

How can we conserve water and still grow enough food to feed the world?  Switch a lot of farming to aquaponics, which RECYCLES most of the water used.


Dec 19

Fish Poo Saves The World!

Fish poo. That yukky greasy sticky stuff you have to vacuum out of your fish tank once a week, that is, if you keep an aquarium.
Of course, if you have a fish farm you will be intimately familiar with this syrupy fish poo gunk that tends to clog up pipes, nozzles and valves with alarming frequency. You have to spend a fortune on electricity to run that rotary mechanical filter to digest it before releasing the resulting nitrate-charged effluvium to the drain, the environment, or if you are especially naughty, the local river.
Hmm. Or do you?
If you happen to visit your local garden center every so often, you may have noticed those sacks of fish manure. Very expensive fish manure. It usually comes from fish farms where they filter out the fish solids from the water and have to dispose of the resulting fish poo sludge, so they dewater it, compost it, and sell it as fish manure. It helps to pay that electricity bill you get from dealing with all that fish poo sludge, and the water bill you get from having to flush out all that fish poo sludge.
But plants like it. In fact, plants LOVE it.
Ever heard of hydroponics? That is where you float plants in a solution of expensive artificial fertilizer, usually sourced from the petrochemical industry, and they grow like crazy. Most of the tomatoes you eat are now grown this way, jack-and-the-beanstalk chemical-fed tomatoes.
What if you replaced the chemical solution with all that water full of nitrates you are currently throwing out from your fish farm?
Why don’t you plug a hydroponic farm into your fish farm and recycle water AND nutrients? That should save a bundle and grow something else to pay that killer electricity bill, shouldn’t it?
The fish feed the plants with their diluted fish poo, the plants grow like crazy on this liquid fish poo nutrient diet, and clean the water that then gets pumped back to the fish. With the addition of the work of a few billion bacteria that settle in to digest the fish poo and make the nutrients in it available to your plant crops, it’s called aquaponics.
It can grow up to four times more food for the space used than conventional agriculture.
If you look up things on the FAO website, (just google ‘FAO food’) you will soon find that we are heading into a world food crisis as population grows exponentially on this finite planet, and that by 2050 we will need 40% more food. There actually isn’t the farmland available to grow this much food. However, with aquaponics you get a balanced diet of fish and vegetables out of your area under cultivation, and can quadruple productivity on that patch of land, increasing food production 300% above what is usually able to be grown with those resources. You can grow up to four times more food than normal agriculture, is what I am saying, depending on the crops and fish species you grow and market demand for them. All made possible because of fish poo.
Farming is a business, don’t forget. Aquaponics, well managed and designed, can turn a tidy profit, solve the pressing problem of not enough space to grow what is needed, and possibly use fish poo nutrients to help save the world!

Here’s a little book about aquaponics entrepreneurs who have bravely gone where few have gone before-click on the picture to learn more:

Dec 19

Aquaponics-What Else To Call It?

It seems to me that the word ‘aquaponics’-very technical-sounding as it is-puts a lot of people off the subject before they have even found out what it is about. This includes farmers, who like to keep things simple, since they are very busy, getting up at four in the morning to milk the cows and all. They have no money to invest in ‘too complicated’ aquaponics.

Aquaponics is actually a mixture of ‘AQUAculture’ and ‘hydroPONICS‘. However, those two words might as well be Greek to many, as well. So another way of explaining it is fish farming (in water) tied into a continuous loop with vegetable farming (in water not soil).

Many plants actually thrive in oxygen-rich fertilized water, not soil.  And fish thrive in water, of course, as long as it is oxygen-rich, and clean.  By pumping the used fish water through a filter which takes out the solid waste, then pumping this liquid waste solution through the section where the plants are held up on floating rafts or gravel, you get rampant plant growth. The plants take out the toxic nitrates from the water and use them to grow. This cleans the water. The water then goes back to the fish with little wastage of water.  The only wastage of water is through what is used and then evaporated off the plants (evapo-transpiration).

Oh, and in the aquaponics filter are all these nitrifying bacteria which convert ammonia to nitrate via a few simple steps, as long as conditions and temperature in the filter are right.

That is aquaponics in a nutshell. Too complicated?

I suppose you could call aquaponics ‘water farming’ but that does not include what you are farming in the water.  It does sound less technical, but aquaponics is not just-add-water farming. There is a lot you need to know to get this plumbing system full of living things up and running properly.  So aquaponics is technical-intermediate biotechnology to be precise.  But you can understand most of the concepts and procedures if you passed high school biology!

You also need to know a bit about aquaponics pipework and that water always finds its own level, but you should have learnt that in high school, too. And you should know how to install and maintain a pump, and regenerating air blowers for the bubblers in the system.

Please leave your comments below about your ideas of what less daunting name for this very simple farming method, aquaponics, you think should be used, or if you think aquaponics is just fine as a name for this intermediate biotechnology.

If you are still confused and lost, here is a book to help you out, written for ‘complete idiots’. It takes all the complications out of aquaponics with simple graphic explanations. Click on the picture below to learn more:

Dec 18

Aquaponic System Plans For Your Back Yard

Murray Hallam, the Australian aquaponics impresario, who has built or helped build thousands of backyard and commercial aquaponic systems , has released his amazing book of plans that will show you in detail everything you need to know to build your own aquaponic system. Click on the above picture to find out more about this very useful book.

As food prices soar, you can if you like calculate how much you will eventually save for shelling out the small amount of money, perhaps a thousand dollars, to build a family-sized backyard aquaponic system.

Growing pounds and pounds of your own fish and vegetables in this economic climate just has to make sense. On top of this, you will know exactly what went into your food when you eat it. No more chemical cocktails hiding in your fish and salad!

Actually, working with plastic tanks and PVC piping does not require a degree in engineering.  It only takes a few moments to get the hang of assembling pipework and plumbing, as long as you follow the instructions.  These, of course, are included with the plans.

If you do not live in sunny Australia, you may need a greenhouse to go over your aquaponic system to protect it from the elements.  Fish and plants do not take kindly to being frozen solid or blown to bits by gales!

Building your own greenhouse to house your DIY aquaponic system need not be too costly or complicated, either.  Since ready-made greenhouses of any useful size tend to cost a few thousand dollars, doing it yourself also makes sense.  A lot of the materials can often be got for free if you sniff around local building sites – wood from concrete forms that would otherwise be thrown away, also half-used bags of concrete mix, and other flotsam and jetsam from the construction industry such as old doors that can easily be recycled.

Here is a book of greenhouse plans with instructions that will get you well on your way to housing your aquaponic system-click on the picture to find out more:

In any construction project, be careful to always follow health and safety procedures. Wear goggles when cutting metal, wood and plastic to stop splinters and chips getting in your eyes, and make sure you are wearing your glasses if your eyesight is not up to scratch without them!

Wear protective gloves when handling glues and solvents, and any chemicals you might be using with your aquaponics. Also make sure that any IBC or other recycled containers are made of non-leaching food grade plastics. Never use metal in contact with water with aquaponics. It’s usually toxic to fish and can even make its way inside you through the food you have grown.

When using electric equipment such as pumps near water, make sure drips and leaks do not make their way onto live wires or you risk electrocution!

The best pumps for aquaponics are aquaculture and aquarium pumps, which are specially designed to work in water without getting water and electricity mixed up.  KEEP THOSE PLUGS AND ELECTRIC SOCKETS DRY, though!


Dec 18

Aquaponic System

This aquaponic system plumbing equipment package provides the plumbing system for the AquaParts SS3 Aquaponics Plumbing Kit from the Aquaponics Source and is only available in the United States.
However, it is a comprehensive set of aquaponic system plumbing parts to use with, for instance, 3 IBC water totes cut down to size, as in Murray Hallam’s DIY Aquaponics video and contains:

  • All the aquaponic system plumbing parts (83 in total) you require to put together a 3 bed aquaponic system with a sump tank and a fish tank. (grow beds and fish tanks not included) Perfect for adapting 3 IBC Water Totes! (make sure they have not previously contained nasty chemicals, only water)!
  • Three AquaParts Bell Siphons with Media Guards.  One even has a Viewing Window so you can see what is going on inside your aquaponic system plumbing! A viewing window also shows you if the siphon has accidentally got clogged up.
  • A PDF printable booklet with links to eleven 10 – 15 minute long private videos to demonstrate everything from selecting your grow beds and fish tank to understanding how the bell siphons work and what to do with them.
  • A fully illustrated step-by-step set of instructions to guide you through the entire project of building your own aquaponic system.

Click below on the highlighted text to find out where to purchase this plumbing kit for your DIY aquaponic system:

AquaParts SS3 Aquaponics Plumbing Kit

Dec 18

Fish Farming At Home

Fish farming at home with aquaponics

Fish farming at home with aquaponics

As the price of food goes up and up, have you ever considered fish farming at home? It need not take up a great deal of space, especially if you use a home aquaponic system, which will also give you a side dish of vegetables and/or salad for every meal you get out of the system.

Fish farming on its own tends to produce a lot of stinky, toxic sludge, but by sending this through a filtration unit on to the hydroponic section of your home aquaponics system, you effectively use up the fish waste as fertilizer for your hydroponic vegetable farm.

Your fish farming tanks have to be designed to fit your space and to be paired up with two to three times their volume in hydroponic tanks. This is because you need two to three times the number of plants growing at all times than you have fish in these tanks.

Of course, you have to like eating fish! If you get your system right, you could be eating up to ten fish every few weeks from fish farming at home in your aquaponic system.

The space needed is really minimal. You can do fish farming at home in your back yard, in a small greenhouse or even in your basement under grow lights. Depending on what climate you live in, you must make sure to keep the temperature up to the right warmth for the fish, nitrifying bacteria and plants to grow, though! Fish farming at home will not work if the winter gets to your aquaponic system.

For a reasonably priced starter kit at under $100, if you live in the United States, you can get one for Christmas or as a birthday gift for someone with green fingers and a liking for fish here (click on the picture below):


That one is a small start-up system, but if you really want to get serious about farming fish at home, there is a more costly but also much larger system available as a kit from Genesis, which features a 300 gallon fish tank. With that volume of fish tank, you can rear more than a hundred fish, depending on the kind of fish you are after and how many grow beds you are servicing with the waste. The kit comes with one grow bed but you can easily add on more and by doing this, raise more fish for the volume of water in the fish rearing tank. This kit comes with full instructions, click on the picture:

This kit is only available in the United States.

Finally, here is the start-up kit for your live aquaponics including water conditioners and the course from the Aquaponic Source. The course is available online but the rest of these are only available in the U.S, that includes the water conditioners and start-up ammonia and seaweed powder with instructions.

Feb 14

Aquaponics How To: Starting Small

If as a farmer or even a hobbyist you are considering starting your own aquaponics system, my advice is first to set up a small model system to get into practice and minimize the dimensions of your errors when you make the usual mistakes that amateurs make with this agricultural science.

The list of aquaponics how to mistakes you can make is long but here are some of the worst ones:

Aquaponics How To Make Mistakes-

  • Forgetting to check the pumps are connected to the piping every day in your aquaponics system.
  • Forgetting to clean the pumps that run your aquaponics system. Regularly.
  • Forgetting to check if the air lines are connected in your aquaponics system.
  • Forgetting to check the air pumps are working in your aquaponics system.
  • Forgetting to check oxygen levels with the right oxygen sensor. Daily.
  • Forgetting to check the water heaters are working daily in your aquaponics system.
  • Forgetting to check the water temperature is correct daily
  • Forgetting to check the water level in the tanks and raceways daily.
  • Forgetting to test the water Ph (it should be steady at 7.0, if not, add Ph down or Ph up bases)
  • Forgetting to feed the fish the right amount at the right intervals.
  • Overfeeding the fish in your aquaponics systems.
  • Underfeeding the fish in your aquaponics systems.
  • Not having the right ratio of growing plants to growing fish at all times in your aquaponics systems.
  • Allowing the water to clog up with fish solids in your aquaponics system (not maintaining the filtration system between the fish and the plants)
  • Getting your whole aquaponics systems maintenance routine  out of kilter.
  • Abandoning your aquaponics system, even for a day.
  • Not having at least a couple of trained and willing backup maintenance people, just in case you are in hospital or have to work abroad, etc. and cannot be there for your aquaponics systems.
  • Not having an isolation tank,  with cushy conditions, right temperature, lots of oxygen, heavy filtration aquaponics system, etc for sick fish.
  • Not having the right water flow rate for your size of aquaponics system.
  • Not having seedlings ready to immediately replace harvested plants in your aquaponics systems.
  • Not having seedlings that have been grown in a soil-less medium such as sterile coco coir and vermiculite mixture. Seedlings that have been grown in soil or peat-based potting compost are unsuitable for aquaponics.
  • ETC.

This is why starting out with a small 150-litre or so home backyard aquaponics system that you can tinker with and make mistakes on at that scale is essential before you scale things up and have enormous fishy messes to clear up because of lack of experience on a smaller scale.  Aquaponics how to smarts are gained not by just constructing systems, though that is also important, but by learning a lot of biology about fish and plants when you are actually running them.  Building a car does not qualify you to drive one, and this is the same with keeping fish and plants in aquaponics.  You need to build up a long learning curve towards professionalism with aquaponics as a whole.

Backyard Aquaponics How To:

Well, if you go over to the right margin on this website, we are offering a basic guide to organic gardening techniques, and integrated biological pest management systems, Organic Secrets, which you will need to know FIRST before you start off on your aquaponics how to adventures. This also links from within our site to a really good AQUAPONICS HOW TO DIY COURSE that will set you off on the right path to learning aquaponics simply, cheaply and I hope without too many aquaponics how to mistakes how to construct your own backyard aquaponics system and run it to perfection.

Oct 09

Aquaculture Economics And Financing

aquaculture economics financingAquaculture Economics and Financing: Management and Analysis

Before you embark on a sustainable aquaculture business, ‘Aquaculture Economics and Financing: Management and Analysis‘ should be read with care and notes taken.  You have to write a business plan for your project, with all the right spreadsheets and costings, and this book will save you months of work.

A Generous Framework

It supplies a generous framework on which you can build the structure and market research for your business.  By the time you have read this book, you will have a much more down-to-earth idea of what you are actually getting into as an aquaculture farmer.

For Feasibility Studies

Any feasibility study for sustainable aquaculture should take note of this book and keep it handy when you have boots on the ground, to remind you of where you stand financially.

Management Observations

And the helpful observations about aquaculture farm management will help you continue to plan and manage your aquaculture business realistically.

Towards Sustainable Success

‘Aquaculture Economics and Financing: Management and Analysis‘ will certainly help you towards making your aquaculture projects a permanent and profitable success.

Oct 09

Recirculating Aquaculture Systems Bible

recirculating aquaculture

Recirculating Aquaculture by MB Timmons and JM Ebeling

This book is the ‘recirculating aquaculture Bible’. It contains everything you need to know about recirculating aquaculture, in tanks.  Aquaponics systems are a form of recirculating aquaculture systems, that use hydroponic beds full of vegetable crops as the biofilter for the fish farm.  This is true whether you are using tilapia as your stock fish or some other species such as trout. This form of fish farming is very sustainable aquaculture.

How to breed and keep fish commercially.

The various ways of keeping and breeding commonly farmed fish such as tilapia (oreochromis spp.)  in these aquaculture systems are described in detail.

Technical details and explanations.

It is a heavy tome full of all the technical details and explanations you could wish for.  It is used as a textbook on aquaculture in university agricultural science courses.  It is a standard required textbook on most high-level aquaculture courses, including aquaponics courses.

The science of Recirculating Aquaculture

If you want to know about the scientific basis for recirculating aquaculture in tanks of water, and tilapia husbandry, here it is. All the biology, physics and chemistry involved are described here in detail.

The tanks and plumbing.

If you want to know about the plumbing of these recirculating aquaculture systems (R.A.S. systems) then it is explained here.

How sustainable is it?

If you want to know how sustainable aquaculture in recirculating aquaculture systems can be, you can get down to basics with it here.

recirculating aquaculture systems

Fattening tilapia.

Tilapia feeding schedules, and the results of decades of aquaculture research on how to get these fish to grow to standard and to schedule, are described.

Sustainable aquaculture.

Recirculating aquaculture systems can be easily included in any sustainable aquaculture project as part of a sustainable farming business.

Science training required.

You will, however, require some previous science training, this is not for complete beginners. Sustainable aquaculture requires some previous experience of keeping fish and running a market gardening operation successfully as a business to prosper.

Aquaculture reference manual for farmers.

However, having read this book, and having it to hand as a reference manual, can only help you understand the advantages and the risks of sustainable aquaculture and running aquaculture systems as part of your farming enterprise.

Different from extensive aquaculture.

Sustainable aquaculture using recirculating aquaculture systems is quite different from extensive aquaculture farming in ponds. The environment in ponds is not as controlled or water-efficient as that in recirculating aquaculture systems. All the inputs in recirculating aquaculture systems are far more controllable and usually less than in extensive aquaculture.

Closer control on aquaculture inputs.

For instance, you can far more closely control your tilapia feed rate in recirculating aquaculture, and get more weight of fish for your feed dollars. Decades of aquaculture research have gone into this book to prove that this is so.  To find out more details on how this is done, I suggest you invest in a copy and read it! Click here for Recirculating Aquaculture or on the picture below to obtain a copy/

recirculating aquaculture

Recirculating Aquaculture By MB Timmons And JM Ebeling