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PostPosted: Feb 6th, '19, 04:21 
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Hello everyone! I live in the Northeastern USA and am a fanatical aquarium keeper; I also have a fondness for plants. This year I want to combine those hobbies in a 20-40 gallon aquaponics system outside to grow veggies. I have a bunch of questions about this;

1 - What could I use for fish for the setup? I live in USA zone 5, so Tilapia (besides being too big) would have a pitifully short season outside before I would have to pull them inside. I was thinking of trying a sunfish (goldfish are illegal for outdoor use in my state).
2 - There are no outdoor electrical outlets close to my setup location. Do aquaponic systems need active water movement to succeed? (If they do I could invest in a solar powered pump, but that would expose the fish within to sharper temperature variations)
3 - How do I plant the vegetables? Can I plant them bare root in the water? If not, can I use plain gravel, or do I need a more specialized substrate?
4 - Any good veggies to start with aquaponics? Was especially desiring to try lettuce or kale (for my rabbit's use) and/or eggplant (for cooking eggplant parm or similar).
5 - How often to I do water changes on aquaponic systems?

Thanks for listening to my questions!


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PostPosted: Feb 6th, '19, 15:00 
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1. Sunfish will work for sure or any fish that can handle your climate.

2. You will need some kind of electric for airstones and for water movement you can use a separate water pump or airlift with your air pump.

3. You can put seed straight into your growbeds or if transplanting just rinse the dirt off the roots and put in your growbeds. You can use river pebbles (not pea gravel since it's too small) or lava rock straight from Lowes/Home Depot (just make sure there isn't any limestone in them) or you can get specialized media like Hydroton or expanded shale.

4. For your 1st year as you get established lettuce/kale/other greens are probably your best bet but tomatoes do great as well and most anything except root vegetables.

5. In most cases never, just top up what evaporates and your plants use.

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PostPosted: Feb 6th, '19, 16:22 
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Can you move the fish inside in the Winter?

Water movement is important to providing oxygen - having less oxygen means fewer fish. I'd look at going solar if you can or running power out to the AP system. You don't really need a lot of fish but you need enough to keep the plants going or you'll need to provide nutrients some other way.


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PostPosted: Feb 6th, '19, 17:00 
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Joshaeus wrote:
(goldfish are illegal for outdoor use in my state).

Wow,I've never heard that one before.

Joshaeus wrote:
3 - How do I plant the vegetables? Can I plant them bare root in the water? If not, can I use plain gravel, or do I need a more specialized substrate?

Look at some of the members photos to get an idea of what they're using.DWC

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PostPosted: Feb 6th, '19, 19:40 
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yellow perch or walleye might be an option. I'm not sure if you can get walleye fingerlings though, or if they take pelleted feed...


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PostPosted: Feb 7th, '19, 02:01 
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Can I use a solar powered pump with a battery? Yes the fish can/would be coming inside for the winter (an above ground water garden would invariably freeze solid during winter up here). How many fish would you guys recommend? I would love to keep ornamentals of some kind, and my favorite fish are Paradise fishes (Macropodus opercularis...eats anything, very prolific, hardy to the high 30's fahrenheit/about 5 celsius, gorgeous, breathes air, etc), but they are only 3 inches long before their beautiful flowing tails. If I fed them heavily (4 times a day?) would that provide enough nutrients for leaf vegetables? Thanks for all the replies by the way, very helpful :)

One last thought; can aquaponics be done at stocking densities that are ethical to the fish? I've heard on other forums that stocking density needs to be uncomfortably high to support veggies at all.


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PostPosted: Feb 7th, '19, 03:34 
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The ethics depends on the individual and their belief system etc. But there can be no doubt that the difference between stocking densities recommended in aquaponics and those recommended in hobby fish-keeping is huge.

You can have a large body of water that's lightly stocked, to a density considered ethical by most, and circulate the water through a hydroponic system growing the right biomass of plants in relation to that of the fish. However, most systems on this forum are intended to be as productive as feasible within limited space/resources etc, and therefore are not set up as such, apart from perhaps a few pool conversions etc.

If your tank is 40 gallons and you want to produce veg, you will have to stock WAY beyond what is considered ethical by most fish-keeping forums. To be honest I would suggest that you either have to go much bigger if you want to produce any veg, or forget about veg and make it purely ornamental.

About the solar powered pump. I think the general consensus here is that lithium batteries are pretty pricey. Most people stick to the mains supply for electricity. But some members have gone off-grid, it would be worth having a read of their threads. I must say though, it sounds like a lot of effort and money for such a small system! Could you dig a pond in your site?


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PostPosted: Feb 7th, '19, 03:39 
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Maybe I will just stick with ornamental plants and fish this year...I live in an apartment and it is a real victory just to be allowed to have a container pond. Thanks for helping me decide, though


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PostPosted: Feb 7th, '19, 22:38 
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new here as well. I'm in south eastern TN. I'm working on adding tilapia to my current hydroponics set up. I'll post pics as soon as I can.

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PostPosted: Feb 19th, '19, 19:58 
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I am also newbie here.

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