You've discovered aquaponics, you're psyched about the possibilities, you want to take your knowledge and understanding to the next level...but where to start? It's easy to get overwhelmed with all of the components and science jargon when starting up your own home system. As a designer by trade, the part that I love most about building a home aquaponics system is the flexibility and customization options it affords; Go for an easy assembly kit or get down and dirty with the materials that you have around you! And that's exactly what Robert Eschbach of Denver did! We had been corresponding with Robert for several months over the summer with some water cycling questions before adding some of our Tilapia to his home system. He picked up 4 Blue Niles and 2 Rocky Mountain Whites in August. About a month later these photos arrived from Robert who thought they might be just the inspiration others need to get started.
CA: So Robert, how did you first learn about Aquaponics?
RE: One of my friends posted an article on Facebook several months ago. I've always been interested in sustainability and was fascinated with the concept. From there I started researching on my own, primarily through online forums on aquaponics.
CA: Describe your system for us.
RE: I have a 55 gallon fish tank set beneath my grow bed. There are two holes in the bottom of the growbed, one where the water is pumped in to the bed and the other for the bell siphon. About 1/3 of the fish tank water is pumped up to the growbed which fills about every 10 minutes. There's one fluorescent light on a pulley system over the growbed to provide supplementary light to the plants.
CA: How many fish do you have in there?
RE: Right now there are 5 fish total, one Rocky Mountain White juvenile and four Blue Nile fingerlings.
CA: What types of things are you growing?
RE: Lettuce, Mesclun greens, Peas, Basil, Wheat Grass. Everything is about two months old. I started them by simply broadcasting seeds straight into the media bed.
CA: How much money do you think you have put into building and maintaining your system?
RE: Probably about $500.
CA: What was your biggest obstacle/most frustrating moment?
RE: The Bell Siphon! Getting just the right amount of flow into the bed in order to start the siphon took a lot of trial and error. The water pump tube clogs up and slows the rate of flow. I recommend not gluing in any of the plumbing pipes so that you can easily make adjustments as needed. Don't get too anxious to get it started and know that it may take a lot of tweaking to get your system flowing just right.
CA: What was your best resource for aquaponic knowledge?
RE: I did all my research with free blogs and forums found on the internet. I can't remember the exact names of them, but there is a ton of free resources on the web.
CA: Any last thoughts you want to impart to those who are dreaming of having their own home aquaponics systems?
RE: It's important for people to be proactive about living more sustainably. Everyone needs realize that aquaponics is just a part of a bigger means toward eating healthier food and knowing where your food comes from.
Big Thanks to Robert for sharing his experience, the system is looking great! Don't forget that the Colorado Aquaponics team is a great resource for Aquaponics questions that you may be stuck on. We continuously offer one-day workshops each month that cover everything from fundamental concepts to pump sizing, plumbing, and construction! Check out the Education tab of our website for upcoming class schedules and registration! See you there!