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PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2015 9:30 am 
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Champion Bird
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So hubby has been interested in Aquaponics for a very long time and is on the brink of setting up a system.

Just wondering if anyone here on BYP is doing aquaponics and can tell us realistically how much work it is to maintain the system and have it be productive?

What kind of work does it involve on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.

We already have chickens, ducks and dogs... And a 7mth old baby. I am worried that the aquaponics will end up being neglected and unproductive... :th

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2015 11:47 am 
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Sounds great for a small backyard, but would need a bit of water I think, and initially fairly expensive to set up. I hear you can grow a lot of food using aquaponics.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2015 1:05 pm 
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Junior Champion Bird
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I have an AP setup, running for about a year and a half now. There is a bit of a learning curve to begin with, but once you get your head around it it's pretty straightforward.

Firstly, I recommend reading a free ebook called the 'IBC of Aquaponics" put together by Backyard Aquaponics. It's a great jumping off point to start with and their forum is a great resource also. A lot to trawl through but it's all there and the users are great.

I have two standalone IBC systems; one grow bed and one fish tank for each, single pump in the fish tanks, grow bed draining to tanks. As simple a system as you can get. As a family of four I have found that the two growbeds don't give me enough space to grow everything I want, so I am going to add two more, plus some channels for lettuce (think hydroponic style channels plumbed into the system). I have it flowing continuously so I don't need to worry about siphons or timers so it's as straightforward as possible for me.

The setup for an IBC system is pretty reasonable. The most expensive part was the pump at $100 (I went with an ebay cheapy which has proven reliable for me). Secondhand IBC tanks tend to go for around $50-100 for something that can easily be cleaned and is safe to use. Grow bed media I used 20mm scoria, which is lightweight and cheap. The main ongoing cost tends to be the fish food as you need a good quality fish food to produce good quality produce. However in doing that, you also get good quality fish to eat too (although you can just use goldfish if you don't like eating fish).

Initially, the main work involved is getting the system 'cycled', which involves establishing the bacteria in the grow beds which break down and convert the fish waste into nutrients for the plants. You have to buy a test kit (API Freshwater Test kit goes for about $35 delivered on ebay), testing every day to check your levels and ensure things are going how they need to. It's a much easier process to do without fish, get it cycled and set up and then add your fish. Fish choice comes down to your location and climate, some fish prefer hot water, some cool.

Once it's all set up and cycled, there is very little work involved I have found. Test on a semi regular basis to make sure it's all chugging along nicely, throwing feed in for the fish, and adding the occasional supplement if the plants are cropping heavily and the fish can't keep up with it, or buffering for pH. I had to add some phosphorus and potassium with last seasons tomatoes as they were so productive. Water top ups are required over summer, but if you have insulated and covered your tanks then you don't tend to lose much due to evaporation (I have clad mine in timber and half buried the tanks). Fruiting plants will also drink up a bit of the water, but it's no where near as water hungry as a soil garden. Side by side with a friends soil veggie patch - I had more far,far produce from less plants, less work and less water used.

The things that are ongoing are usually quite minimal, in the first year it's generally more work and what you grow won't be quite so huge as it will be once it's well established, but for me I still found it incredibly productive. The amount of tomatoes we had last season was ridiculous!

Now I am by no means an expert on all of this, I haven't been doing it for nearly as long as other people have. And I have to admit that I recently had a moment when I accidentally bombed my system with ammonia and then almost drained the fish tank, but despite that the fish are fine and everything is back to normal. But that was me being a doofus more than anything else, lol. I recommend heading over to the Backyard Aquaponics forum and having a read of the IBC of Aquaponics, and have a look through the members systems. I know of at least one BYP member who is a member on BYAP, I'm sure there are others.

PS: Apologies for the random, incoherent, wall of text!


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2015 8:53 pm 
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Golden Kingfisher
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Thanks for the great post!!

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2015 9:42 pm 
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Thanks so much Azira!

That's awesome information and it's made me a lot more hopeful/positive about supporting hubby's latest project!

We have started setting up an IBC as the research I have managed to read suggested this was the cheapest way to set up with a decent amount of fish for a family of four - so excited to hear that you've got an IBC setup too! We are setting up or tank & grow bed on a flat bit of concrete for the time being as I want to make sure we have easy access to everything and plus - the extra height means less chance the kids will "relocate" the pebbles before we get a dome/cover set up.

(Which reminds me that we need to buy some metal mesh to eliminate the drowning hazard too) We have a productive "conventional" veggie garden so hubby mainly wants to do the Aquaponics for the fish - extra produce is a bonus.

We are looking at stocking either Jade or Silver Perch - but I want something that won't die over winter here in Sydney.

Could you give me some more details on your pump? I am totally confused as to how powerful a pump we need... I didn't realize you could run it continuously. Do you shut yours down overnight at all?

Sorry about all the questions...I have joined the Backyard Aquaponics forum and we are slowly wading through the wealth of information on there...

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 27, 2015 12:37 am 
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I have been very interested to start a simple system but was put off by the fact that the 3 systems that I knew of all had to close down due to various failures.
It seemed mostly that they were not run for long enough before putting fish in. I mean run for at least 6wks until plants were growing well.
The number, age & virility of plants was not enough to clean the water for the fish.
Obviously the fish were put in too early but there must've been more to it, because if the fish were fed they should have lived happily enough in the big tanks.
I used to have large scale hydroponics so I am familiar with that side of growing & I know of the myriad of issues & problems that can crop up regularly even in a well run hydro system.
Adding fish actually complicates things & requires diligence & accuracy on a daily basis.

I decided the few fish I would get from the size system I was thinking of building was not enough to outweigh the amount of work the system would create for me.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 27, 2015 10:26 am 
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I have been doing aquaponics for a few years now ands its an excellent way of growing veggies and raising fish. Aside from the initial cost and setup its relatively low maintenance and cheap to run. It also uses much less water than conventional dirt gardening (although I still have a conventional veggie patch).

Agree with Azira's post (hi Azira) that 'the IBC of aquaponics' free ebook is the best starting place to learn the basics


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 27, 2015 11:04 am 
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Junior Champion Bird
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SydneyChick wrote:
Thanks so much Azira!

That's awesome information and it's made me a lot more hopeful/positive about supporting hubby's latest project!

We have started setting up an IBC as the research I have managed to read suggested this was the cheapest way to set up with a decent amount of fish for a family of four - so excited to hear that you've got an IBC setup too! We are setting up or tank & grow bed on a flat bit of concrete for the time being as I want to make sure we have easy access to everything and plus - the extra height means less chance the kids will "relocate" the pebbles before we get a dome/cover set up.

(Which reminds me that we need to buy some metal mesh to eliminate the drowning hazard too) We have a productive "conventional" veggie garden so hubby mainly wants to do the Aquaponics for the fish - extra produce is a bonus.

We are looking at stocking either Jade or Silver Perch - but I want something that won't die over winter here in Sydney.

Could you give me some more details on your pump? I am totally confused as to how powerful a pump we need... I didn't realize you could run it continuously. Do you shut yours down overnight at all?

Sorry about all the questions...I have joined the Backyard Aquaponics forum and we are slowly wading through the wealth of information on there...

My main reason for sinking the fish tanks in the ground was because I'm short, I have the GB's now at around 90cm from the ground and it's much more workable for me, and the kids can get involved a bit easier.

I'd aim for a more solid cover to keep the fish tank darker, the less light means you'll have less chance of algae growing (although it is common to have a 'pea soup' stage during cycling, so don't worry if it does happen). But a solid mesh cover will be fine, and you can always tie shadecloth on it if needed.

The pump I got was a 3500 litre per hour, 25 watt Jebao pump from ebay (http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Jebao-Newest ... 5b14b7f111). However it's gone up in price since I bought mine, although there is a 6500lph pump that is only $95, and uses 50w. That would give you more than enough flexibility with expanding and adding extra beds, which you'd need to do to run more fish. I run two of the 3500lph pumps and haven't noticed any increase in my power bills.

My pumps run 24/7, continuous flow. I have a UPS as backup to keep them running if the power goes out, and a 35w 60 litre per minute air pump split between the two tanks in case one pump should fail. So far I've had no issues with that, except when a piece of string got caught up in one pump and stopped, but it was fine after I got it out.

ClissaTSoyFreeChooks wrote:
I have been very interested to start a simple system but was put off by the fact that the 3 systems that I knew of all had to close down due to various failures.
It seemed mostly that they were not run for long enough before putting fish in. I mean run for at least 6wks until plants were growing well.
The number, age & virility of plants was not enough to clean the water for the fish.
Obviously the fish were put in too early but there must've been more to it, because if the fish were fed they should have lived happily enough in the big tanks.
I used to have large scale hydroponics so I am familiar with that side of growing & I know of the myriad of issues & problems that can crop up regularly even in a well run hydro system.
Adding fish actually complicates things & requires diligence & accuracy on a daily basis.

I decided the few fish I would get from the size system I was thinking of building was not enough to outweigh the amount of work the system would create for me.

Cycling the system to establish the bacterial colony to process the fish waste can be time consuming if done over the cooler months, but it can be as short as two weeks in warm weather. It can be done with fish, I have done so, but I've found doing it without was much more worry free. You just have to add the ammonia source yourself (charlie carp is good for that, but you can even use your own pee!).

The main issue people seem to have when starting out is stocking too heavily for the amount of grow beds or filtration they have. There is a lot of information out there that says you can stock X amount of fish per litre of water, but if you don't have the filtration available to process the waste from said fish, you are setting yourself up for failure. A far better rule to go by is using your grow beds as a guide to how many fish you stock, and always stock modestly to begin with, ensuring you have a good amount of grow bed filtration to handle the fish waste.

Compared to Hydroponics, it can actually be simpler, particularly once established. Daily checks and maintenance aren't really required once it's up and running. A good quality fish food will provide most nutrients for your plants, with the addition of iron generally needed as it's not contained in the fish food, and occasional supplementing of heavily fruiting crops. Ongoing monitoring of the pH is important, but if you have buffers in place then you usually don't have to worry about it suddenly crashing.

bender wrote:
I have been doing aquaponics for a few years now ands its an excellent way of growing veggies and raising fish. Aside from the initial cost and setup its relatively low maintenance and cheap to run. It also uses much less water than conventional dirt gardening (although I still have a conventional veggie patch).

Agree with Azira's post (hi Azira) that 'the IBC of aquaponics' free ebook is the best starting place to learn the basics

Hi bender! :hiya:


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 27, 2015 5:09 pm 
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I may have caught the Aquaponics bug...

First of all I have to explain that I had two issues with our current site for the IBC

Firstly - it's in a very public and highly visible spot. Which means I would be compelled to do a lot of work on it to make it look attractive.

Secondly - it needs a roof. I'm located in Turramurra which receives a LOT of rain. Rain for weeks at a time. And as the current site is in front of our granny flat, any roof is not only going to make it more of an eyesore... It's also going to blocks sun reaching the granny flat. Especially once the plants get big.

So I was staring morosely at "my" shed (Hubby and I have separate sheds) which is an old zincalume shed and the sliding doors have totally broken...

ANYWAY... I was staring at my shed wondering how on earth to fix the doors and came to the conclusion it would probably be cheaper just to buy a new shed...

Sudden inspiration! Clean out the old shed and put 2-3 IBC FT's in there. Solves my problem of the FT and GB being in a very visible spot at the moment and a bit of an eyesore... Plus the fish are a bit more insulated and totally shaded!

Additionally I will be able to fit more FTs and more grow beds if I relocate. Possible expanding to 4 grow beds.

Then place the GBs next to the existing veggie patch which gets excellent sun. This will mean the GBs are down hill from the fish tanks... But surely there will be a way to overcome this issue with a pump and plumbing?!?

Engineering a rain cover for the grow beds will be much less of an eyesore in this location.

Am I mad or does this idea have some merit?

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 27, 2015 6:40 pm 
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It sounds like a great idea to me.

With the GB's down hill from the FT's, you'll want to set up a 'CHIFT PIST' system (it stands for 'constant height in fish tank, pump in sump tank). That will involve a sump for the GB's to drain into, which in turn will hold the pump which pumps to the FT's. The FT's drain to the GB's via a 'SLO', otherwise known as a 'solids lifting overflow'. A CHIFT PIST system is probably the best setup you can have as it keeps the fish tanks much cleaner of fish waste than the standard IBC setup of pump in FT. There are quite a few members on BYAP with CHIFT PIST systems, and I think that tends to be the most recommended setup.

It gets more complicated with the addition of non-GB based filtration, but in some systems it can be useful too. I think the most effective is a 'RFF' (radial flow filter), but there are also swirl filters in use too. People also set up mineralisation tanks to help break down fish waste and make it more available to the plants. However none of those I have experience with, but I assume the best use for those are when you want to stock more fish than your GB's can handle.

With your GB's, two IBC's cut in half diagonally and braced to stop the bladder slumping, making four deep GB's, should give you a good amount of filtration to start you off, as well as a decent amount of planting space. You can help the breakdown of the fish waste by adding composting worms to the GB's too, which helps to make it more available to the plants. The added benefit is they will clean up any stray roots left behind when pulling plants over seasonal change.

Anyway I'm waffling, I think your idea of putting the FT's in the shed is a good one, it will keep them covered and probably a bit safer for the little kids too.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 27, 2015 9:13 pm 
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Thanks Azira! Only just read your post above now.... Making more sense out of what you wrote on BYAP now that I've read it! Will move this conversation back to BYAP. :thumbs:

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 27, 2015 9:27 pm 
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NOOOOOOOOO!! Leave it here. This is great stuff!! You are letting me live my aquaponics (actually duckaponics) dream vicariously :)

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2015 1:07 am 
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I have looked into aquaponics a lot, but haven't taken the plunge. Here are a list of negatives that I've gathered in my research.

- It's not a cost-effective way to produce fish. If (and this is a big 'if') your main aim is of provide fish for the family, it will be significantly cheaper to purchase fish. The cost of the fish is, of course, offset by the value of the produce raised in the growbeds, but if you were into growing fresh produce too, it would still be cheaper to install a raised vege bed to grow your veg in the space you were thinking of dedicating to your AP system, and purchase fish offsite.

- Set up costs are much more than for dirt veg beds and purchase of fish off-site.

- You have to purchase fish food. Fish food is generally made, in part, from ocean fish. So growing your own fish still has an impact on the wild ocean fish.

- If you want to run the system with edible fish, you will not be able to breed your own, so you will have to purchase fish as fingerlings every season.

- The system requires electrical imput. Unless you have a solar setup with a battery bank, or home hydro or wind, you'll be using grid electricity to run your setup.

- The produce you grow doesn't get the benefits of all the minerals and other goodies that it would otherwise be able to access if it were growing in soil.

- Fish are easier to kill than veg. You have to monitor the levels in the water etc to keep your fish healthy. If your pump fails you could have a lot of dead fish in a very short period of time. It seems like a lot of tinkering. Temperature is also super important for fish and needs to be considered.

- There's a bit more maintenance involved with running an AP system than there is for dirt gardening.

These are the main reasons that I have decided to focus on dirt gardening over AP in the foreseeable future. I might even invest in a fishing rod and have the best of both worlds :)

Please note: you asked for negatives, so that's what I've given! I don't think it's all negative though. I love the concept, but I'd like to see it run with ducks instead of fish as I think it would negate some of thE negatives I've mentioned.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2015 10:55 am 
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Interesting Leverette... Thank you.

I've had a conversation with someone who's done AP for years and he says that he finds keeping the fish and the veggies separate is much more efficient. He has built filters for his fish tanks and harvests the solids periodically to water onto his soil garden beds.

This is of interest to me because at the moment we empty our duck pond and the pump sends the dirty water to the gardens. We could possibly do something similar with fish poo...

I don't even want to look into the costs vs savings associated with Aquaponics. :shock: :hiding We are trying to do it as cheaply as possible... But let's face it .... if I wanted to save money and effort I would just buy my chicken eggs from Coles....

However, I feel owning the ducks and the chickens gives my family so much more than eggs.

Just like growing our own veggies. I'm approaching the Aquaponics from the same angle. It's not the cheapest way to get fish. It's not the cheapest way to get vegetables...

But its really cool and interesting and it's going to be an amazing learning experience for both us and the kids.

Plus -> If the zombie apocalypse happens, we will be prepared! :thumbs: :rofl:

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2015 2:07 pm 
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My friends tell me that in the zombie apocalypse they're coming to my house to eat our eggs and veggies, closely followed by eating the ducks and chooks (don't worry though I won't let them eat Eenie).

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