Our home aquaponics system has now been running for almost two weeks so I felt it was time for an update. As with any project I do I am constantly making changes, adapting new techniques and updating the original plans based on things I am learning along the way. Since the last post we have purchased a "hi-tech" yet economical grow light that uses much less energy. Initially with the T12 ballast, the plants were emerging a little spindly and research suggested that that the lighting was inadequate and that the old T12 bulbs would need to be replaced as they lose their strength over time. So rather than purchasing new T12 bulbs for $20/piece ($40 total) we decided to upgrade to a T5 fluorescent system that produces better light and is more energy efficient (the system came with bulbs and the 4 bulbs that will need to be replaced on a yearly basis are the same price as two high output T12s). I would have enjoyed going with the newest LED systems which use significantly less energy but the prices of these systems are somewhat restrictive. Since the switch our seedlings have thickened, straightened, become more colorful and quickly gained their third leaves or true leaves. (For more information on choosing the appropriate lighting for your aquaponics system check out this blog post at The Aquaponics Source.)
One challenge we are encountering are aphids - which were likely brought into the mix from my introduction of a marigold from my summer garden into the apartment. Currently I am manually squishing the little guys off the plants but it seems a never-ending battle. I am in the process of tracking down a few asian beatles to help eliminate the aphids - but of course when you need them they are never around. :)
I have also changed the timing of the pump to run every two hours reduce electricity use and lowered the water level of the growing area after some online suggestions from other aquaponics enthusiasts. These settings will likely continue to be tweaked as I attempt to perfect the system.
Below are a few photos of our simple home aquaponics system. Any comments, constructive criticism, or suggestions are much appreciated!
Hydroton in some reused seedling containers from this summer's seedlings ready to go into the aquaponics system a few weeks ago.
The plants (basil, cilantro, lettuces, peppers, dill) as they look now. They germinated and are growing much faster than I expected. The plant in front is an ivy house plant (non-aquaponic).
Some lettuce gaining some noticeable color after the new lighting system was introduced.
Some hot pepper seedlings I haven't quite had the heart to thin. From the experience of other users hot peppers do extremely well in aquaponic systems.
The piping going from the pump up to the grow bed. The pump is much more powerful than we needed so we had to use the included adapter to reduce the flow. Note: the aquatic turtle named Pesto in the lower right. She is loving the cleaner water in the tank.
The inlet from the pump.
As I mentioned in the last post the inspiration for how easy it was to put together a aquaponics system came from a small exhibit at this year's Growing Power Conference. Below are two photos of the simple system they had on display.