Saturday, April 30, 2011

Aquaponic Gardening – The Duckweed Dilemma!

Aquaponic gardening is a terrific way to grow your own organic veggies and chemical free fish.  Let's take a moment to  ponder the subject of what to feed your "wet" pets so that you can economically harvest the best. The subject of duckweed usually will come up in any conversation when folks passionate about aquaponics get together ... it seems that his tiny aquatic plant can make a big impact!

Duckweed is a species of small floating aquatic plants found worldwide.  It is often seen growing in thick, blanket like mats on still or slow moving, nutrient rich fresh or brackish waters.  Anyone who has ever had duckweed “sneak” into an aquarium or pond knows that this tiny plant can double their mass in under 2 days given the right conditions … this is faster  than almost any other higher plant.  It is for this reason duckweed is considered an invasive plant in many parts of the country and is on the “hit” list in some states. 

Now the real dilemma regarding duckweed is whether it is something you should be feeding it to your fish in your aquaponics system.  The nutritional value of duckweed varies, but most species have protein contents in the range of 15-45% which is good and duckweed is a convenient feed for fish.
  • It can be readily grown locally 
  • It can be fed fresh and since it floats, it will be consumed by your fish and not decay at the bottom of your system.
  • It is used very efficiently by fish such as tilapia and carp, but other species might well cope with duckweed as a component of the diet since it is particularly low in fiber and high in protein when grown under ideal conditions.
  • It is relatively inexpensive to produce or may be regarded to have no cost where the opportunity costs of family labor are not taken into consideration.

From the studies I have read, it seems that tilapia do the best with a combination of duckweed and pellets versus just duckweed alone.  See below:

*Gaigher, et al. (1984) compared the growth of hybrid tilapia fish on commercial pellets vs. duckweed. The fish were cultured at high densities in an experimental recirculating unit for 89 days with duckweed (Lemna gibba) or a combination of duckweed and commercial pellets. They conclude that a combination of pellets and Lemna gave the best performance:

When fed on duckweed alone, intake rate was low, feed conversion ratio good (1:1) and relative growth rate poor (0.67% of bodyweight daily). Sixty-five percent of the duckweed consumed was assimilated and 26% converted to fish. When the fish were fed on pellets in addition to duckweed the rate of duckweed consumption decreased and growth rate of the fish doubled with feed conversion ratios between 1.2 and 1.8. Seventy percent of the mixed diet was assimilated but only 21% converted. Fish grown on the mixed diet performed similarly to fish grown on pellets but had a better feed conversion ratio.

I am sure that everyone has had their own adventures with duckweed.  I would love to get everyones input .. so please leave your comments below ...

BTW ... whatever your decision on duckweed dilemma is, I would highly recommend growing in a separate system.  Duckweed enjoys calm or almost still waters, whereas most fish require vigorous aeration of the water and, of course, you want to be able to control its explosive growth and not find yourself up to your ears in it!  

*Gaigher, I. G.; Porath, D.; Granoth, G. (1984) Evaluation of duckweed (Lemna gibba) as feed for tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus X O. aureus) in a recirculating unit. Aquaculture 41: 235-244.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Aquaponic Gardening - Just Do IT!

The art ... or science ... of Aquaponic Gardening requires a plan and action.  You need to consider your location and your climate conditions ... and of course your budget.

I had the opportunity to interview Steve Chin-Yee  right after he got his first aquaponics system up and running. From the arrival of his plans, to actual start up, it took a couple of months ...

Listen to what Steve had to say ...

Steve has studied a ton of aquaponics information and it looks like he is on the road to success.  In his own words "You just have to do IT!"

Thanks Steve, for the tour and interview ... I'm sure that your story will be an inspiration to many other folks out there considering getting their feet wet in aquaponic gardening!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Aquaponic Gardening - Get Hooked!

If you enjoy raising fish, like I do, and you love gardening in the dirt and growing your own veggies for you and your family, then the next logical step is to jump into aquaponic gardening!

So what the heck is aquaponic gardening?

In simple terms, aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture, raising fish, and hydroponics, growing plants without soil. The cool thing about aquaponics is that it simulates a real life eco system where the bacteria process the fish waste "amonia" from nitrites into nitrates which can then be absorbed by the plants and then returning clean water back to the fish ... OK, that might be too much info for the newbie, but if you have ponds or aquariums, it is nothing more than "cycling" or "seasoning" your system.

While some folks do this on a grand scale, in all actuality it can be done simply.  There is a lot of mis-information out there as to the best way to set up a system.  This diagram looks like a swimming pool designer put together this plan ...  This is not the way you want to set up your aquaponics system!

When you decide to move forward on this project be sure to contact someone locally or attend a workshop to help you design the best system for your area.

The main thing to remember is, the more steps you add to your aquaponics system, the possibily increases that you might have a system problem ... by that I mean, if you have 5 pumps in your system instead of 1, you have 5 times the chance that a pump will fail.  In aquaponics, I have found that the KISS principle "Keep it Simple Stupid" is the one to follow.  Use one water pump ( and have a backup) and one air pump (and a backup) and you should be good to go.

So, give it a try with a small system to get your feet wet and experiment.  You may get hooked on aquaponic gardening!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Aquaponic Gardening - Urban Farming with Aquaponics

Aquaponic Gardening .... consider becoming an Urban Farmer!

Urban farming using the aquaponic method is becoming widely recognized as an exceedingly viable method of food production.  Growing plants without soil effectively allows homes, regardless of environmental factors, to grow organic vegetables and raise organic fish varieties. Unlike seasonal gardens, aquaponic aquaculture allows for year round use. Aquaponics have not yet become a widely used food production source yet, but as we look to meet environmental needs and limited land issues, aquaponics has the means to meet these needs.

In a typical urban home, aquaponics stands to drastically replace, or at least ease, the extensive labor requirements of agricultural farming. A typical urban farming system requires about 15 to 20 minutes of daily maintenance.  This results in an ecologically sound food production system, especially when compared to a family farm which requires several hours each day of ongoing maintenance (including land irrigation and pest control).

While aquaponics systems can be developed indoors using an aquarium, or the like, outdoor systems may also be developed within a planting pots, small pools, plastic barrels or natural ponds using either troughs with floating rafts or using vertical tower methods. An urban family home can reap the benefits of their standard garden as well as edible water garden. Many choose to develop their aquaponic water garden in their backyard. Not only will this provide food, but also serves as an aesthetically pleasing water feature providing a serene setting. Though typical ponds are known to attract mosquitoes, the fish within your garden happily control these unwanted pests. The ecological symbiotic relationship between fish and plant is the “key” to its success.

Different varieties of fish and plant life will require different depths and temperature of water. Therefore, several water gardens may be created to allow for an expansive harvest of vegetables and fish. Floating, or “rafting” plants like lettuces and herbs can provide shade which can help keep algae under control. As well, by incorporating plants these floating plants into your garden you are creating an effective water filtration system by way of the plants’ rich roots. 

An outdoor aquaponic system attracts a variety of garden friendly bugs such as ladybugs, which also promotes a further self-sustaining quality. Plant life known to thrive in a shallow and wider environment includes tuber vegetables, including arrowhead and Chinese arrowhead, roots, as well as taro and violet-stem taro. Ideal species of floating plants and vegetables may include the water lotus, water mimosa, water celery, water spinach, and watercress.

Having a combination of both submerged and shallow vegetables in the arrangement of your garden is suggested. Additionally, the edge of your pond provides an ideal habitat for the many species of plant that prefer the constant wet soil.  This will lead to a beautiful garden, and all of this is possible in an urban environment.

While community gardens are a popular method in growing organic vegetables, aquaponic gardening provides an additional earth friendly option for the urban resident. The versatility and sustainability of aquaponics provides opportunity for even the busiest of communities to maintain a water garden with sure success. As the majority of maintenance is required only in initial setup of an aquaponic water garden, and 
continued maintenance being minimal, many families have the opportunity to now take part in urban farming.

Aquaponics information is constantly changing, in addition, so much of it is location specific ... we try to give you ideas and spark your imagination along with your vision!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Aquaponic Gardening - Cosmo Shares ... a Rock Star is Born!

Aquaponic gardening ... Day 4 of our gathering in Brooksville Florida and Michael Cosmo gets his turn to share just a tiny piece of his vast knowledge on aquaponics.  Most of us could have listened to him for hours, but, alas time was getting short ...

His "theme" was how to economically heat and / or cool your space ... whether that be a home for yourself or your aquaponics.  Living locally, aquaponics in Florida is much different than let's say a colder climate like Virginia, but the aquaponics information that he shared showed how to insulate against the heat as well as protect from the cold ... and how it could be accomplished on a budget ...

After listening to Cosmo, it became clear that successful aquaponic gardening is more than just the blissful union of fish and plants ... it takes planned intervention to make a system produce year round.

Thanks Cosmo ... you ROCK!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Aquaponic Gardening - Secrets Revealed Out at the Farm

Aquaponic Gardening ... Out at the Farm.

A boatload of aquaponics information was shared out at the Green Acre Organics farm ... day 3 of this gathering of aquaponic enthusiasts.  Take a look at some of the highlights from Gina Cavaliero of Green Acres and Tim Mann of Friendly Aquaponics ...

So many knowledgeable people all sharing information on a subject that they are passionate about ... Aquaponics!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Aquaponic Gardening - Let's Learn and Share!

Aquaponic gardening ...   Hosts Tonya Penick and Gina Cavaliero of Green Acre Organics, along with  the visionaries and mentors Susanne Friend and Tim Mann of Friendly Aquaponics in Hawaii  share their personal experiences with  aquaponics. Being held in Brooksville, Florida, over 50 aquaponics enthusiasts from all over the world have gathered to learn and share.

As Susann Friend states " we endorse open source aquaponics, where everyone learns and shares knowledge for the betterment of the aquaponics industry"

People from all walks of life and experience ...  from Venezuela, South Africa, Chile and all over the US, looking to "tweak" an existing aquaponics system or those looking to jump in for the first time ... non-profit groups looking to improve the lives of folks in third world countries ...

This is only the second day ... I can hardly wait for tomorrow!  This is like aquaponic gardening on STEROIDS!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Aquaponic Gardening - Nitrogen Cycle Explained

Aquaponic Gardening ... one of the "key" factors in a successful aquaponic garden is the Nitrogen Cycle.  Now, I have had fish since I was just a kid ... everything from guppies, to Discus then on to Koi ... and the one thing that is a must when you start up a new tank is to make sure it is "seasoned" before you put in any expensive fish. The same is also true if you are planning to grow food using aquaponics.

I have helped many friends and neighbors begin their new aquaculture hobby, but my technical explanation has always included terms like fish poop, good "cooties" in the filter, balanced water and so forth ...

Better you listen to Gina Cavaliero and get the straight scoop on the "poop"!

This graph, along with Gina's explanation should help all us "newbie" aquaponic people get a grasp on the nitrogen cycle and get us on our way to growing those delish organic veggies!

Aquaponic Gardening - Commercial Aquaponics

Aquaponic gardening ... let's take it a step further and visit a commercial aquaponics farm.  Can a local grower make money while growing organic vegetables?  Let's listen to what these two aquaponic growers had to say ...

Thank you Gina and Tonya ... looking forward to seeing you and your farm, Green Acre Organics , again!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Aquaponic Gardening - A Visit with TCLynx

Aquaponic gardening is all about balance and creating that balance in a closed "loop" type of environment to raise healthy fish as well as grow wonderfully organic vegetables and fruit.  I recently had the opportunity to visit with TCLynx up at her central Florida farm ... WOW ... what a setup!

TCLynx has been doing aquaponics since 2007.  Her garden is remarkable and she uses all sorts of aquaponic methods to grow her terrific crops ... take a look ...

This is a very knowledgeable woman when it comes to aquaponic gardening ... you can visit TCLynx's aquaponic website right here 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Aquaponic Gardening - Koi Pond Adventure

OK, boys and girls ... I'm beginning my aquaponic gardening research right here, for all to see!  I've gotten the Koi pond (minus the koi) ready for action.  Right now just have a couple of "plecos" keeping the place cleaned up!

so far so good, lets get ready for some excitement!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Aquaponic Gardening - Tasty Fresh Veggies!

Aquaponic gardening is a fun and exciting way to grow your own organic vegetables along with a bountiful supply of fish.  I recently visited Hans Geissler at Morning Star Fishermen in Dade City Florida where I got a ton of great information on how to begin my own pond.

Take a peek and see what you think ... and check back often to watch my aquaponic gardening adventures!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Aquaponic Gardening, Get the Scoop!

Aquaponic gardening … what is it and why do we need it?  Aquaponics is an interesting mix of fish … either edible, like tilapia or ornamental like koi … and lush plants to eat or just to enjoy as a cutting garden.

Why we need aquaponics is a serious question, indeed.  Many countries in the world suffer from hunger … the land may not be fertile or they may not have enough of it ... sometimes it is simply a lack of education.  In any event, aquaponics may turn out to be the single most important factor in feeding the world.

In reality, right here in the United States, many people worry about our food sources. Think about all the genetically modified plants and vegetables … not to mention the quality of the soil and the purity of the water used to grow the “store” bought produce that we line up to buy.  This does not even scratch the surface when you start to think about our source of fresh fish!  Can you say BP oil spill?

Imagine now, you could walk right into your very own backyard and harvest nutrient rich organic vegetables to feed your family and then catch a healthy tilapia that you have raised right from your pond.  How good would it make you feel to provide your family’s food for the day?

Aquaponic Gardening is the blissful marriage of fish farming, called aquaculture and Hydroponics, the art of growing plants and vegetables without soil.  In reality, it is a symbiotic relationship … the plants provide Oxygen and use up Carbon dioxide.   All fish make wastes including CO2 which the plants will eventually use up as fertilizer (nutrients)

Water quality is also a key issue in aquaponics and quality water insures the growth of healthy fish and plants.  In addition, there are many factors that go together to create the perfect water environment. These include the proper pH, Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, Bacteria levels, Temperature, Oxygen levels and Alkalinity. An imbalance of any one of these factors can cause the water quality to drop to harmful conditions for the fish and/or the plants and your garden will not succeed.

Any farmer knows there is a time to plant and a time to harvest. That time is dictated by the seasons. But we’re talking about feeding your family year round regardless of the time of year. So unless you live in a season-less, tropical climate, you need to place your food-growing system in a protected environment where you control the conditions.

Aquaponics has a low start up and operating cost. Aquaponic systems can be made from low cost simple materials and equipment. It is also very scalable, making it easy to start small and add on to the system later. You can buy a cheap piece of land and get set up with an aquaponics garden for a fraction of what it may cost to buy the fertile land that would only grow a fraction of the food in the same amount of space.

If there was ever a time in history to begin grow your own food … the time is NOW. With all the issues and financial problems in the world … are food shortages a possibility? Aquaponic Gardening is the answer.

Aquaponic Gardening - Research

Aquaponic gardening is an echo-friendly way to not only feed you and your family, but it can change the way the poor feed themselves ....

A look at the Morning Star Fishermen Research Center.  Aquaponic Gardening at its finest!