Apartment Aquaponics: Original Blog link = Super difficult trial and error since January 2015...


This Aquaponics system has been up and running through several reconfigurations since January of 2015. When you build your system, you will be working with different parameters. Every system is different.

This system started out as a fill and drain, with a homemade PVC auto-syphon. I had trouble with the expanded clay pellets in the garden bed floating up with the water level rise. When the water drained, the pellet substrate settled and all my seedlings jostled. It just didn't work. Both the fish pond and the garden bed were in 35 gallon Rubbermaid bins. So, they were narrow and deep... After some trial and error, I ended up using coconut coir as my garden bed substrate and have had the most success with it, so far. It is very "soil-like" and holds my seedlings well. (The next reconfiguration will be to the float raft system.) My system has one Koi that has grown huge, and I have four goldfish that started out as $0.30 feeders. They have also grown huge. I have innumerable guppies that breed at will. I have lost some fish over time and initially stocked it too much. Fish are tiny when they are new. They grow a lot. I think my biggest challenge at the moment, is my lack of sunlight. My plants reach desperately for a north facing slider window nearby, completely ignoring the fluorescent grow lights pouring light directly into their garden bin... Also at issue is growing seasons. I can't seem to get anything to really flourish through my New England winters, even indoors. I'm not sure if my apartment is too cold (approx. 60 degrees) or if it's the winter sun quality, or even humidity.

Aquaponics project August 2018

The chemistry is still "off." I have high nitrates - really high. My plants are burning and the garden is not thriving as a result. he rest of my parameters are good, though. I am in the process of re-homing the goldfish and Koi. They will be well cared for in a local, outdoor Koi pond that is well maintained throughout the winter. (It might even be heated, but I'm not sure)
I did buy seven Tilapia. They are in the system now as fry. It will take approx nine months for them to reach "harvest" size.
I started several more of the self polinating cuccumbers in the window and transplanted them into the system several weeks ago. They are actually blossoming now! I also have a sage doing fairly well, and a tomato that hasn't shown signs of blossoming at all.
I added some snails to try to knock back the algae growth in the garden bed, and some duckweed to help uptake some nitrogen. The duckweed didn't do well. My only option, really, is ten percent water exchange as frequently as possible. ...And, to get rid of the ornamental fish asap.

Duckweed quarantine prior to introduction

I actually ordered these Tilapia through the mail. It was a shipment of two "breather" bags. Unfortunately, one didn't make it. Six fish died in delivery. Seven made it.

Garden bed August 2018.

Evidence of nitrate effects.

Aquaponics August 2018.

Aquaponics August 2018.

March 2018: The newest itteration is a 4'x4'x18" pond in the basement with LED lighting system and floating raft, constant flow garden.

4'x4'x18" pond construction. March 2018

Just waiting for another pond liner to get delivered for pickup at the store. I bought one on ebay for twenty bucks - turned out to be too small and the wrong material. The seller refunded me about 25% of the money... ($5)

It's a lot bigger than I had intended. The Koi and four goldfish are in the rubber bin in the corner of this photo. They desparately need a bigger "pond." I need the water to come to room temp though, and probably burn off the city's water treatment chemicals before moving the fish over.

Fish are IN!!!

This setup is upwards of 120 gallons of water. It circulates up to the garden and through a filtering bin before returning to the pond level.

March 15th 2018

Today, we turned on ... THE LIGHT!!!! March 20th 2018
The garden is floating on floral foam, with holes cut out to hold the rock wool that anchors the seeding sprouts.

first sprout of the basement setup! this is a cucumber variety that doesn't need pollinators.

Parthenocarpic Cucumbers = self pollinating

Cucumber: The light throws this eerie hue over everything... March 26th 2018

Cherry tomato sprout. March 26th, 2018

The cherry tomato sprouted another seed in its same hole... I might have to pluck one eventually. March 27, 2018

Cucumber lookin' good. March 27, 2018

The Dill seeds finally sprouted after I had given up on them and planted a couple spinach seeds in their hole... March 27, 2018

Three weeks after the lights came on...

Amonia: very high - between 4 and 8 ppm | Nitrite: zero | Nitrate: between 10 and 20 ppm | Nitrate from tap (control sample): almost none

I've purchased bio filtering media to help build out the nitrogen fixing bacterial colonies.

Onion starts - April 3rd, 2018

Tomato will have to be thinned at some point - April 3rd, 2018

Root rot is evident. The Nitrate and Amonia concentrations are still very high, despite 12 gallon water changes four times this week. April 15th 2018.

Aquaponics project 2017

This is the new batch of cherry tomatoes. The majority of these hope to transfer to a container garden on the deck. They are about two weeks old at this point. February 15, 2017

They're not all tomatoes. If I remember - there are some flowers, some apple seeds and some other randos I threw in... February 23, 2017

Images 2017

There are peanuts in there, too. They did very well until we transplanted them into the garden outdoors without "hardening" them off to the sun. They ended up shriveling in the heat... 2017

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