After visiting Growing Power a few times, seeing the amazing work being done at Sweet Water Organics, and seeing a small scale aquaponics demonstration at the Growing Power Urban and Small Farm Conference I have decided (with Erin's approval) to try doing some "desktop" or home aquaponics. Aquaponics is natural technique of nutrient recycling which was noticed and applied by the ancient Aztec and Egyptians. These civilizations saw the immense benefits of simultaneously cultivating plants and aquatic animals in a symbiotic environment. Aquaponics is considered by some to be better than certified organic and much more sustainable than most organic practices because:
- no chemicals or fertilizers are used (any chemicals or fertilizers would be detrimental to aquatic animal health)
- 1/10th the water is used
- no weeds
- no diseases
We are doing it "on the cheap" with our rather large fish tank. Many of the supplies being used to start the project are things that we have either recovered from dumpsters/trash or already owned except:
- a new pump (~$30 - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000BJM9G8/ref=oss_product)
- random pieces of piping (~$10 at local hardware store)
- some seed starter cubes($1 at local hydropoonics store)
- a bag of hydroton ($10 at local hydropoonics store).
Here is a picture of the simple setup.
The plants are on top with the water pumped in from the tank, circulated past the roots, and back into the tank on an ebb and flow (flood and drain) cycle for 15 minutes every hour (set with a timer). Currently we have an aquatic turtle and convict cichlids in the tank providing our fertilizer. We also have basil, lettuce, and cilantro starts growing quite well in the system. (Will update on plant growth and system components periodically.)
For more information check out this interesting piece was done by NBC on the Aquaponics System at Sweet Water Organics: