First Adventure: Aquaponics

So, my first foray into the homesteading lifestyle started about six months ago  when I decide to start a small aquaponics system.  I figure, hey it’s a good way to grow some protein and veggies at the same time.  The main reason that I chose to start with this is because my major was Oceanography in grad school and I took two class that discussed this–not that I remember much of it.  Plus, since I live on a 1/4 acre lot, this could give me the most bang for my buck.


After much research about a inexpensive ways to set up a system, I came across a video that comprised a small self sustaining system using an IBC container. (I will link the full video at the end of this post)  So after search for the container and picking it up (I actually purchased two, so that I could expand in the future if I wanted).  I roped my husband in to help me with the set up.

July 2015

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Here we took the ibc container and cut off the “bottom.”

grow bed


fish tank
fish tank

I let the system run for several weeks to get the equilibrium set up.  I also added urea into the system to get bacteria growing by two routes: urine and fish tank water.  I wouldn’t recommend using urine unless you use a source that is free of all medications/hormones.  Personally, I only used samples from my four year old :).  Although the pH was still high (in the 8’s), I decided to get fish with the hopes that their wastes would bring down the pH.

the set up system-without water

I decided to purchase media because of the fact it would behave more like dirt and I could plant my plants in like a typical garden.  Once I got this, I had to soak them in water to absorb as much water as possible so that they would sink. In August, after running the system for almost a month I purchase 50 tilapia and 10 catfish.  I haven’t really tried much tilapia, but I love me some catfish.  So off I went!

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I started with seedlings from the local hardware store.  I rinsed them in a bucket to get as much dirt off as possbile and put them in.

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So, I sat back and waited. The basil did great, but nothing else I tried: lettuce, cucumber, tomoatoes, and beans, to name a few.  I figured I would just wait and see.  By December things were not getting any better.


So, I consulted one my old grad school buddies who used to work at an Aquaculture Research Center and thought that maybe it had to do with low levels of iron.  So I added some chelated iron to the water and volla-it seemed to help! Now my plants are doing much better.  I acutally saw flowers on my tomato plants and my broccoli is getting huge.  Now, I just need to get these plants to produce something!

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I will keep you updated with the progress!


Video that I used:

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