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My Aquaponics Greenhouse

comGreenhouseFrameworkWe started building my Aquaponics Greenhouse!  Where I live we have a nice, piping hot summer.  It is ideal for warmer water fish, like Tilapia.  Our winters are fairly mild but are still cool enough that Tilapia would not survive.  Because of this, we have had a plan to build a greenhouse over our Aquaponics System for some time now.  The problem, as it usually is for anyone in this life, is money.

We looked into buying an Aquaponics greenhouse that would be big enough to accommodate our system but they were a lot of money. Like, thousands…  Luckily, we are handy enough with wood and tools and we can build something. For months we batted back and forth several ideas of how to do a sturdy green house on the cheap.

comGreenhouseFramework2The stroke of genius came about a month ago.  We had been discussing framing- ropes, 2x4s, pvc… And suddenly we thought that we could lash 2x4s directly to the metal frame of our IBCs!  The IBCs are so loaded down with rock and water that there is no way its going anywhere.  2x4s are sturdy and able to hold weight.  Lashing the 2x4s cuts down on the cost significantly.  We don’t have to concern ourselves as much with the rest of the frame work.

So, taking advantage of a long weekend, we’ve started lashing the 2x4s to the metal frame of our comGreenhouseFramework3system.  This greenhouse will be designed simply so we can take down plastic during the summer and we can still use the frame work to hold up plants and lattice work.

It wont be a finished product until it actually starts cooling off and we need to put up the plastic sheeting– which will be in about 6 weeks or so.  But in the meantime, I’ve posted pictures of the process.
Also, look at how green my garden is!  We have several bedscomGreenhouseFramework4 that have been pulled up, ready for the next series of planting.  My canteloupe plant is taking over the system, my peppers are ginormous, and my leeks are getting so thick I’m salivating thinking of what to cook them in!

If you are interested in buying a small greenhouse or need something quickly, check out my review of Aquaponics Greenhouses here. It’ll give you a good idea of what is out there!

Feeding Aquaponics Tilapia

Video: Feeding Aquaponics Tilapia

My kids love helping in the garden.  Since their hands are pretty small, sometimes helping harvest the food can be more of a frustration than a help so we frequently let them feed the fish.  They love it! Watch as my oldest feeds the fish and I give a few pointers.

Transcript

One of the benefits of our Aquaponics system is getting to feed the fish.

(Aside: “Alright, let me see how much you got. Okay, go ahead and throw that in there.”

“All of it?”

“Yep”)

The fish are just now getting conditioned to eat the food even though we are watching them.  When they get a little bigger they’ll get so excited they’ll even splash getting their food.

Alright, throw the food into this one! This is our second tank.  The first tank I showed you had the 2-3 in fish and this tank has some 1-2 inch fish. I don’t know if you can see them yet. Oh, they are all the way on the other side of the tank.  There they are.  She just threw in the fish food so they are swarming on the other side. These ones are a little more shy so I don’t know if we’ll actually get a look at them eating.

These fish, this is the first tank again, have eaten quite a bit of the food and are going to take a break.  Usually you leave the food in there for 5-10 minutes and let them see how much they are going to eat in 5-10 minutes. And if they leave a significant amount in there you need to fish it back out so the food doesn’t become waste and gunk up your system.

 

If you are interested in what fish can go in your system, check out our post on the Best Fish For Aquaponics Systems.

Aquaponics Lettuce Harvest

Are you interested in seeing yields from an Aquaponics Lettuce Harvest?  I took a quick video of what one harvest looks like in my grow beds.  Watch and enjoy!

Transcript:

Hey everybody! Today I wanted to show you my lettuce bed. This is my Aquaponics lettuce.  This is a bed that’s about 4 foot by 4 foot give or take a little. And it was planted with a butter leaf lettuce.  It has been a couple days since I harvested and usually we wait about every three days or so.  But it’s pretty long and definitely ready to be harvested.  There’s some pretty big leaves back here if you look you can see, that one is almost as long as my hand is.  You can harvest this type of lettuce anywhere down from these little leaves right here that are, I don’t know, maybe the size of a quarter or a little bit bigger or you can wait until they are really big.  There was one point that I did not harvest my lettuce, it took me a couple days and I had a piece or two that was the size of my hand, like full broad leaf the size of my hand.

As you harvest this type of lettuce you need to be very careful because the roots are not very strong roots so if you are rough you could pull the whole plant out. If you do that it’s not the end of the world.  You can try to put it back into your medium. Like I’ve got some lava rock down here so it’s easy to move out of the way and you can try and just put the lettuce back in and if it does grow,  that’s great.But you do need to be careful.

I use a little pair of sewing scissors they are really sharp and small so I can get in and harvest the lettuce when it’s really close like this.  I’m going to go ahead and harvest some lettuce and get back to you once I’m done.

So I’m back and you might be able to tell I’ve thinned out the lettuce quite a bit. Here is my harvest in this bowl.  This is about, probably, more than one large salad for my family. I have 5 kids and me and my husband. The kids will probably only eat a couple of leaves each because they are not a huge fan of salad.  But between my husband and I that’s at least one salad, at least one salad a huge salad.  So that’s growth in about three days from my 4×4 lettuce bed.  That’s really great returns for the lettuce.  We’ve been able to harvest this lettuce, I think we are going on about 2 months now of at least twice a week harvests.  So if you are looking at growing lettuce, leaf lettuce is a really good plant to grow in your garden.  You get a lot of high yields and it grows really well in Aquaponics beds.

If you have any questions go ahead and comment below and I will try to answer them for you.  Thanks for watching!

If you are interested in seeing the growth of the lettuce beds, check out Aquaponics Lettuce Growth is Amazing.

Aquaponics Tips and Tricks Video 1

Are you a beginner, looking for some Aquaponics Tips as you start?  One Aquaponics Tip that I am excited to share with you is regarding leaks because of uneven pipes.  Check out the video!

 

Transcript:

So today I wanted to show you a little tip/ trick with my Aquaponics system.

So here, I actually am going to back out a little bit, I have my fish tank here and this is my lettuce bed.  The pipes, it’s a gravity flow so the water goes from this tank and it just flows from this tube, from this PVC pipe, and into the lettuce bed.

Well when it was plumbed there was some issues with leveling and we weren’t able to get the pipe completely level.  And the problem with that was that the water was dripping from here back and when it hit the tarp here it would go straight down. Well that’s wasting a lot of water.  It wasn’t all the water but it was enough of a drip that it was wasting water.

So what we ended up doing is we tied this zip tie right here onto the pipe.  You can actually see right here we actually tried to pull it down with some string and it wasn’t being as efficient as we wanted it to.  So we ended up tying the zip tie onto it.

And what that does is it’s a conduit to allow the water to go from there and straight down the zip tie. It then drips down into the grow bed and we are not losing any of the water from the fish tank.

Which I was hoping that would be a helpful tip or trick  for someone starting out a system because I know that those little leaks can be frustrating and eventually they add up. So let me know if that trick helped you in the comments, thanks!

If you are still in the building stage, take a look at our informational posts about How to Cut an IBC and How to Plumb an Aquaponics System.

Water Waster! Water Waster!

When I was growing up, my older sister and I would relentlessly tease my younger brother about wasting water.  He would let the faucet run while brushing his teeth or while doing the dishes or would take long showers.  And we were probably harsh about it.

Now, I guess he can start chanting “water waster” at me.

spray_of_waterThe other day my family and I were out in the garden. I was harvesting lettuce (a huge batch!) and my husband was feeding the fish and topping off the sump tank.

And then we went inside.  Without turning off the hose.  I didn’t notice the flooding…all…day…long.

22 hours after we were in the garden last I noticed out the window that the pump wasn’t running. Upon investigation I realized our grave error.  The pump cord had been sitting in water and eventually shorted out. Luckily it had just tripped a breaker and we were able to still use the pump after resetting everything.

Our full day of the hose running had completely flushed our system.  Completely!  Since the hose water was running into the sump, the sump pumped all the hose water into the fish tanks and all the good fishy water flowed into the garden beds and back into the sump where it then overflowed the edges.

I was very relieved to see that our Tilapia had survived the system flush but our poor Koi couldn’t handle the transition.

Fish are very particular about their water.  High fluctuations in the pH levels can be deadly for them.  And so it was.  We unceremoniously dumped the Koi into the garbage, but we were very sad to do so.

So, a word of warning- don’t abandon your sump tank while the hose is running.  If you do, be aware that you could lose all your fish.  And you’ll have a super high water bill to boot…

Planting our Garden

Tuesday was such a good day.  I surprised my husband with all day babysitting for three of our kids and we took off to do all of our shopping.  Yeah, not the best date ever, but those of you with kids understand how hard it is to go shopping with them!

Aquaponics Garden Plan

This is our Aquaponics Garden Planting Plan…torn and stained from carrying it around with us all day!

We headed off to Costco and Walmart to do our normal grocery shopping then stopped by home for lunch before heading out to the nursery I’d previously mentioned I wanted to go to.  It was a beautiful place but it didn’t have any of the plants we needed!  There were a ton of herbs so we did pick up several of those (including Mint, which my husband wants to brew into tea…yum!).  We browsed their seed packets and picked up quite a few of those.  But we really wanted the tomatoes, bell peppers, cantaloupe, watermelon, squash, and strawberries already started.

We decided to head back to Walmart to pick up those plants and guess what? They didn’t have any of the melons or bell peppers we wanted. Sigh.  We trucked on over to Lowe’s and picked up the rest of our desired plants as well as scooping up an egg plant and a Jalapeño plant.  Overall we got everything but it did take a lot longer than expected.

So, this morning we got up bright and early and started planting.  First we had to decide exactly what beds to put all our plants into so we shade the right ones and give full sun to the right ones.  Also, since some of our beds are at chest height, we needed to make sure we could reach all the plants for care and harvest purposes.

After all our discussions, we started sowing the seeds!  The plants in the dirt pots had to have their roots rinsed out before we could transplant them into the garden beds.

windowgarden.jpgBy the time we were done with the plantedgarden.jpgplanting our garden looked so cool!  We knew that we needed to string up some trellis over the edamame and the peas so we hunted through our yard for some scraps to do that with.  Simple!

We did use the hose and water the tops of the beds.  That seems weird in an
aquaponics system, I know, but the intent was to make sure that the top rocks are wet enough that the seeds can start to germinate even though they are not sitting in the water.

By the time we were done we had:

two grow beds of corn

one bed with strawberries, a row of leeks, and peas

one bed with tomatoes, egg plant, two squash plants

one bed with bell pepper, two squash plants, and a row of edamame

one bed with bush bean plants

and our last bed has edamame and lettuce.

We are frequent visitors of EcoGro, a local Aquaponics store.  The head guy joked that we must be going into the production business. We joked back that no, we just have 5 growing kids.  He still seemed to think we would have a lot of excess food.  If that is the case, I’ll be glad to preserve some of it and maybe I’ll trade with friends!  I am very excited to watch this garden grow. Its already so peaceful, keeping the windows open and listening to the sound of the water running…