My aquaponics system is the heartbeat of my hoop house. I created this system as an experiment which has been going on for over 2 years now with minimal intervention.
I built this system to provide water to my soil in the hoop house. It used to get really dry since I rarely ever water it myself. I don’t like watering anything unnaturally (with my water hose). I only do so in extreme cases. The Aquaponics system waters my hoop house automatically.
I also try and keep everything I do as low cost as possible by using recycled items. In this case I was lucky enough to inherit my children’s 10’ intex pool liner. This pool liner didn’t have any holes, so I figured why not!
What I wanted was an aquaponics system built under the ground level. My reasons were:
– I wanted the ground temperature to help keep the water from freezing solid.
– I wanted to be able to cover it and walk on top.
– I wanted to keep some light out and help prevent algae.
– I wanted the system to hydrate my soil with a wicking action.
– I also have some ideas I would like to try with plumbing the overflow in my soil.
– I use the “pond” to catch rainwater.
These were not all of my goals, but they were the ones within my grasp. I have some more ideas that will have to wait.
Now I had to dig the trench in my hoop house to accommodate the improvised pond liner. I worked in the winter because the summer would just be too hot for digging. I had to plan it out, and decided that not only did I want the pond, I also wanted a subterranean walkway which could be used later on as part of the pond.
The walkway was 3’ wide and then opened up to the main tank area of 4’x4’x4’. It’s 1′ deeper than the rest of the walkway. I then dug a trench the length of the hoop house and buried drainage pipe to get rid of any ground water. The drainage pipe emptied into a bucket under my steps which has a sump pump. This way I can pump out any water that might damage my setup.
I decided that I wasn’t going to plumb any drainage pipes on the bottom of my pond. I don’t have any drainage holes anywhere as of yet, but I do use a wicking system. The wicking system just uses cotton material (an old shirt cut up) that dangles in the pond and is buried in the soil. It works just like an oil lamp. It sucks up the water and then draws up the material then the soil absorbs the moisture. This is a system used by many with planters sitting on buckets of water.
I figured why not, so I set it up and it works fine. It only goes so far to moisten the soil, so I plan on running ½” pipe with small holes under my beds then connecting it to the full level of my pond. When excess water is present, it should water the beds in my hoop house more efficiently.
I have one $20.00 submersible pump running the system. This is easy to clean and has been working for over 2 years faithfully. I clean the filter every other week which takes less than 5 minutes. Most of the cleaning in the pond is done biologically with natural bacteria.
I don’t have any of the fancy filtering systems you see on YouTube, but I have less fish than most of those aquaponics systems. My filters consist of the pump and the second filter is actually my aquaponics planting bed. It’s just a ½ a plastic 55-gallon drum.
The aquaponics bed is a simple setup. I use the top half of the barrel which has 2 bung holes for drainage. I wedge some larger stones in the bung hole to keep my smaller stone from falling out. Then I filled the planter with some driveway stone. I don’t see the need to spend good money on special stones just because they put them in bags with a price tag.
The system works like this: I have my submersible pump push the water up to the planter. I use a plate in the center of the planter to catch and spread the water on the bed. I don’t use a fill and drain system; I have a continuous water supply that drains. I’m not sure if my system will work for all plants, but it worked good for tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, onions and watercress.
Watercress is my all-time favorite summer green for salads and sandwiches. I got some heirloom seeds my first year of the system and just sprinkled it into the aquaponics planter. They seed themselves, so I don’t have to do anything but enjoy my cress!
During the winter, my planter bed will freeze solid sometimes. That can end up bad draining my pond, so I just hang the pump hose to drop directly into the pond. This helps the pond keep from freezing and oxygenates the water more.
My fish are a mix of catfish, pan fish, and some koi and perch. I only have a max of 2 dozen fish in at a time but let it go down to a dozen every winter. My kids love eating fish, and it’s a nice treat when I let them fish them out.
I do give the fish treats like pellets once in a while, but the fish like worms and bugs better. My kids and I collect worms from the rabbit manure to feed the fish. I also use their services when I hand pick slugs and caterpillars from my plants.
Getting a new pond established is just like getting a fish tank started. You should start slow and get the biological system going. I started my pond with just some minnows for the first month. The second month a few koi. The third month I put in the fish I wanted to eat. This went fine for me, and I only had one issue this summer when I let over 24 fish. Some got ICK but when I went back to 24 fish, everything fell back into place.
This summer, I hope to take the plunge with a bigger liner and extend the system my full walkway. That should be about 3,000 gallons by the time I’m done. That should be more than enough to water my whole hoop house, add air moisture, and supply us with more fish for eating.
Above the food source, the aquaponics provides us with enjoyment. We really love the sound of running water, especially when I’m seed starting. It creates such a relaxing environment and makes me feel closer to nature. In the spring frogs visit, adding to the sounds of nature.