Aquaponics 101 – Early Beginnings

OK, I’ve taken the plunge and embarked on my Home Aquaponics project. In Newtopia – Aquaponics 101 I introduced the concept of Aquaponics, ie the integrated grow-out of fish and vegetables in a balanced and sustainable system.

The beauty of aquaponics is that it can be tiny. There are some system that merely consist of a couple of goldfish and a potplant !! However small, the basic principles apply. Here is an image of a tiny system from Backyard Aquaponics


Then there are full-scale commercial facilities. Here is a picture of a Basil and Tilapia system in the Virgin Islands.


My system is going to be somewhere in between. Here are the rough specifications.

Land area : 8m x 7m
Greenhouse : PVC tube frame, clear plastic cover for fish tanks 3.5m x 5m.
Fish Ponds : 3 ponds 1.2m deep and 1.75m diameter. (1 communal, 1 for babies, 1 male grow-out)
Grow Beds : Under shade-cloth, outside the greenhouse in 5m gravel-filled troughs, flood and drain irrigation directly from fish ponds.
Fish : Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus)
Plants : Lettuce, spinach and any other leafy vegetables.

Some explanations of my decisions;

  • The land area is determined by the space I can spare. Although I have a large garden, it is steeply sloped and this is about the biggest I can make a terrace.
  • I have looked at various greenhouse options and also just using shade cloth. Although it will work in summer, the winter temperatures will be too low for the Tilapia. I need a constant temperature (water/air) of 24-28 deg C for the fish to be happy. I have eventually decided to design and build my own greenhouse out of 40mm PVC piping (similar to plumbing pipes) . Over this I will stretch proper greenhouse plastic.
  • I am using small Hydrex mesh ponds. The reason I have gone for shallow (1.2m) ponds is in case I have problems with dissolved oxygen levels. Smaller ponds are easier to aerate. By having three ponds I can separate my fry (Tilapia breed like crazy) from my communal tank. My third pond is for some special all-male Tilapias that I am hoping to try out. Apparently they grow at a much faster rate than mixed fish.
  • I am still looking for suitable furrows to use as grow beds but have decided on 8mm granite gravel as my grow media.
  • The Mozambique Tilapia is legal in South Africa and is a great hardy fish for Aquaponics. With catches of wild fish drying up, farmed Tilapia is set to boom in this country. Ocean Basket already have it on their menu.
  • tilapia.gif

  • As you can see I am going to try leafy vegetables. Apparently they are easier for beginners.
  • The reason that I am housing my fish and vegetables separately is because of the different temperature requirements.

Here is an image of my “early-beginnings” I will report back weekly.



7 thoughts on “Aquaponics 101 – Early Beginnings”

  1. Only just received your blogg on early beginnings, well done, just goes to show anything can be done on a slope. Can the gardener cope ? or is he busy with the taxi problem ? Is the temporary taxi spot now at the driving testing grounds ?

    1. That system was built and eventually became a small hatchery. If it was used for grow-out I’d say you could raise 500 plus fish to market size (500-600g) twice annually.

  2. Hey more questions?…how is production in this system, in terms of vegetables produced for the grow out pond size…are the water from all ponds recirculated through the system or only water from select ponds?

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