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Front porch summer system
Kitchen herb system
I learned about aquaponics (AP) in December of 2007, from an article posted to treehugger.com It just struck me as an incredibly elegant system, and one worth trying. I had slowly been learning more about sustainability, and this looked like a great way to jump in with both feet.
Barrelponics is an AP system designed by Travis W. Hughey to be built with plastic 55 gallon drums and potentially scrap lumber.It's a tested system easy for beginners to build and learn from. He has a step-by-step manual for building a barrelponics system free for downloading.
I started by building one of these in my basement in March 2008. This flickr stream has some detailed pictures and information.
It probably cost me a couple hundred bucks to build, because I bought all of the lumber and plumbing new, and paid for the blue barrels. I'm much better at scrounging now, and could now build this for maybe $50 + the pump. (Get good pumps, they're worth it).
I chose to use LED grow-lights for this system, because I wanted to save as much on electricity as I could. The LEDs were very expensive, and some of them are burning out much faster than they should. However, they've been replaced under warranty.
In this system, I have 5 goldfish, bought as feeder goldfish and used to start the system, and 9 bullhead catfish. Also a pleco and a crayfish, to help keep the tank clean.
Even with the LEDs, I've had the most luck growing low-light plants: cilantro, miner's lettuce (claytonia), kale and watercress are especially fond of this growing environment, but I have gotten some snow peas, and even a few red bell peppers.
This one has the same growbed space that the basement system has: two 55 gallon halves. The fishtank is a bit bigger, and I have a sump tank, which adds about 30 gallons to the water volume of the system.
I started my tilapia, which I got from another person doing AP down in Iowa, in this system. However, I knew that this system wouldn't work in the winter, because the porch isn't heated.
Once the weather cooled, I moved the tilapia in here. This system started with some ornamental plants, but as those die (they don't like the low light) I've been replacing them with edibles. Watercress, and lettuce mixes seem to like this setup. I use florescent lights on this one, because my west-facing window wasn't providing enough light.
I'm hoping to start an urban CSA selling veggies and fish.
I don't currently give tours, however I will in the future, once I get the greenhouse set up. I presented "Aquaponics 101" March 28th, at the 2009 Community Garden Spring Resource Fair put on by Gardening Matters
Contact me at: swanberg -at- gmail -dot- com