My Science Project (Aquaponics)
This is a proof of concept experiment that I have been working on since March. Hopefully once I understand all of the nuances I will be able to expand this is into a fully sustainable food producing system on which I can rely upon for foodstuffs. My wife and I are doing the normal plot and container gardening but this type of system has fascinated me for a while.
Basically this is a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics that is the raising of fish, and the raising of plants without dirt. Fish are raised in a tank and the water from the tank is circulated thru grow beds that filter the water which is then returned to the fish tank. The science here is that the ammonia produced by the fish is converted into nitrates which the plants utilize by bacteria in the growbeds. According to research I have done plant growth can be accelerated up to 18 times quicker using this process. Also water use is 1/10 that of a conventional garden. My current power consumption is only 67 watts! (This will go up of course once I finish the ventilation and heating systems). I am trying to create a system that will produce vegetables and fish year round.
Here is where I am at currently with this project. I have constructed a 10x12 Harbor freight greenhouse that with some modifications, has already withstood 50+ mph winds and ¾” hail. If you plan on getting one of these, check out this link. This guy has done some seriously beneficial modifications to this greenhouse. http://hfgh10x12.blogspot.com/2007/0...-strength.html I have installed ¾”’ pex radiant heat tubing in the floor and covered this with concrete. I plan on modifying some existing solar heat panels I have to provide hot water to circulate thru the floor in the winter. I also plan on supplementing this with a hot water heater powered by homemade methane. http://www.whenshtf.com/showthread.php?t=6179 I have also installed shade cloth and am currently working on a thermostatically controlled ventilation system to help control the summer temps inside the greenhouse.
My fish tank consists of a 325 gallon IBC (intermediate bulk container) which has been insulated with astro-foil. My grow beds are Steralite totes filled with washed pea gravel (1.4 tons).
I also have what is known as a riverbed system, which flows water along a series of 3” PVC pipes with holes drilled in them that hold plastic cups with small pea gravel in these I have planted various herbs.
Water is circulated from the fish tank to the grow beds by gravity thru a 1-1/2” PVC line which siphons off of the bottom of the fish tank and flows into a distribution manifold also made of PVC pipe. Each grow bed has what is known as a loop siphon, which automatically drains the bed when the water reaches a certain height. This water flows into a sump which is then pumped back into the fish tank. I am growing peppers, leaf lettuce, onions, tomatoes, bok choy, red cabbage, beans, spinach, celery and cucumbers.
My original crop of catfish died rather quickly because of chloramines poisoning (my ignorance), so after flushing and refilling the system with well water, I have temporarily placed 24 large goldfish from a bait shop in the tank while I wait on the fish farm to catch some more catfish fingerlings.
Here are some links to aquaponics forums and information sites if you are interested.