|Written by Sheryl Wiesner|
This hydroponics style system uses no chemical fertilizers, creates no toxic waste to dispose of and is simple to build and operate.
You will be using the system of "Aquaponics" to grow and feed your plants. You raise fish in the deep water culture tank, the fish waste feeds the roots of the plants and in turn keeps the water clean and safe for the fish. Once set up and cycled you should only need to top off the water and perhaps do the occasional partial water change.
The great thing is that you eat the plants and the fish!!! What could be more natural???
Things You'll Need:
β’ 20 gallon rubbermaid tote with lid.
1. Step 1
2. Step 2
Determine how many holes and what pattern you will use before you begin cutting with the hole saw. Lids are different some are nice and flat or like the one in the picture some have contours you will have to work around. A good rule of thump is for small plants space 3 inches or so apart.
3. Step 3
Mark the top side of the lid where you are going to make your holes, don't get fancy here just put a dot where the drill bit should be. Put the lid on the tub and make your cuts using an appropriate sized hole saw. You are going to cut 12 holes. You should have 3 rows of 4 holes each, you may want to offset the center set of holes to give the plants more room.
4. Step 4
Place a small layer of well washed pea gravel on the bottom of the tank, this will collect the heavy solids of the fish waste giving it time to decompose and will also help keep your pump clean if you choose to use a pump for circulation.
5. Step 5
Attach airstone to airline tubing and attach tubing to the air pump.
If you live in an area with frequent power outages you may want to install a check valve into the airline to prevent water from flowing back into the air pump in a power failure.
If you place the pump above the level of the water you wont need to do this. place the airstone into the tub using one of the holes you cut near an edge, this hole will hold all cords and be the port where you will feed your fish from.
6. Step 6
Some rubber maid style tubs have ventilation holes in the handle area on the sides of the tub. If so then you need to take a small amount of aquarium sealant and fill the holes. Allow time for it to dry thoroughly before you add any water to the tank.
7. Step 7
If the tub you are using has a deep lid or irregularly shaped lid you will need to invert the lid for your plants to reach the water.
Apply weather stripping around top edge of rubber maid tub.
Use extra care to insure that you do NOT stretch the weather stripping while you are applying it to the tub, if it stretches it will pull loose and not make a nice tight fit when you close the lid.
8. Step 8
Place tub where it will be operating and fill with water. Add the Dechlor according to bottle directions. If you have an aquarium or pond that has been set up and running for a while you can add a gallon or two of this water to the tub to speed up the nitrogen cycle process. If not you can add a product called "cycle" which provides the beneficial bacteria that changes fish waste into plant food.
9. Step 9
plug in air pump and water pump if used. If you have warm water fishes like Tilapia you will need a small wattage heater. This is not necessary for Catfish, Perch, Bass or Bluegill. If a heater is used set it to 78-82 degrees, DO NOT PLUG IN HEATER UNTIL AFTER IT HAS BEEN IN THE WATER FOR AT LEAST AN HOUR!!!!
10. Step 10
Wait 24 hours for the water peramiters to settle before adding your fish. You can stock at a rate of 1 inch of fish for every gallon of water, some fishes can tolerate higher stocking densities as long as the water remains nontoxic to them.
Float the bag of fish in the rubbermaid tub for at least 20 minutes before releasing the fish into the tub. Put the lid on the system to keep the fish from spooking and jumping out.
11. Step 11
If the plants you are going to use are planted in some sort of soil you will want to gently wash it off of the roots of your plants.
Once this is done you will place the roots into a pot and gently tease some thru the holes in the pot so that they can dangle down into the water. Gently add well washed pea gravel or hydroten to the pot to stabilize the plant and keep it from falling over. Then place plant in pot into a hole in the lid and repeat untill all plants are in the lid.
12. Step 12
Test the water daily for the first 6 weeks for Nitrate/Nitrite and do partial water changes as needed. After the first 6 weeks test weekly and do water changes as needed.
If you have your fish to plant ratio correct you will not need to do any water change after the first 6 weeks or so.
13. Step 13
If supplimental lighting is needed set it up now, lights should be on timers set for 16-18 hours a day.
Remember you do NOT need expensive grow lights, one cool white and one warm white bulb are all that is needed.
14. Step 14
In about 6-9 months your fish should be big enough to eat and you can start the system over or just keep fewer big fish in the tubs.
β’ for larger plants you will need 5 or more inches of space around the pots.