Optimist, libertarian, philosopher, raconteur, humourist, pacifist, futurist, environmentalist, survivalist, chauvinist, classist, geek, meritocrat

You may not agree with my views, but if they make you think, or laugh out loud, I’ve achieved my objectives. Comment and debate is welcomed.



102 thoughts on “About”

  1. Dear Synatoman,

    We have an organic recycling farm in Florida where we recycle waste wood and green vegetation into humus. We are also evaluating raising tilapia on the farm. I went to the USVI school on raising tilapia a few months ago and have a pretty good understanding of raising them, however, I do not want to use commercial feed for them. I have been playing with duck weed and have interest in what you are doing with hyacinths and sunflowers. Can we communicate on some potential synergies?

    Carmel Monti

  2. Carmel,

    I will be trialing my Tilapia on water hyacinth from December and will have a good idea of how they like it by the end of the year. The sunflowers are for the oil to make bio-diesel. This is a long-term project but I will report back on my blog. You are welcome to correspond directly with me at aquaculture@knysna.sa.com if you wish.

  3. What are we to do?

    I have had similar experience in getting Aquaculture moving. Many lost opportunities and frustrations. We must not give up though. South africa has a large part to play in growing fish, especially Tilapia.

    David Fincham
    Chairman Tilapia Producers Association

  4. David,

    I certainly agree with that. My Aquaponic trial with Tilapia and various vegetables has been a huge success and we are now looking to scale this up substantially.


  5. Very interesting stuff . I am in Canada and thinking of starting a aquaponics venture ( the cold is my greatest worry )
    On a completly different topic i was very surprised when you mentioned that you are in Knysna as that is where i grew up and my father still lives there ( Colin Forster )
    What is the latest update on your project

  6. Well Well Well…..Synaptoman…. How are you and your family keeping…. Loooong time no chat….. was given your website address and WOW… am impressed… keep ’em blog going brother… a motivated brain indeed… Ciao Ciao

  7. Hey..today is the 15th already… where is my daily fix ? What did the Child Bride pack you for lunch on the 14th ? Whats the latest on those huge pipes you transported ?

  8. “I will be trialing my Tilapia on water hyacinth from December and will have a good idea of how they like it by the end of the year….”

    It should have worked like a charm. I have yet to see any kind of water critter , or crazy Cajun for that matter, that didn’t love water hyacinths.

    (on a different note…)
    A self described funny, beer-swilling, romantic chauvinist, huh…love it!


  9. Aloha! We’re starting up an aquaponics project at my school in Hawai’i. I just found your blog & have just had a most enjoyable browse; we’ll be coming back to see & learn more. can’t wait to try the strawberry tubes… Anyway, perhaps you can help with what i was trying to find out in the first place – how to get the proper bacteria established in one’s gravel beds. A lot of American sites say to get some from a reputable source, but then don’t give any sources. I saw your mention of using inoculum from your home system to start up a bigger one – we’re at the point of getting the first mini-system going – once we have that we’ll be in good shape to expand. Is it like sourdough starter, passed on from expert to novices? Or do we have to just raise fish for a while until the fish poop bacteria have colonized the gravel?

    As you can see, we are rank newbs (but humble and eager to transcend our newbishness.)

    For that matter, do you know of any kind of basic textbook, or worldwide directory of aquaponicists that we can refer to?

    Many thanks for any help you can provide. If you answer back I promise not to become a pest.
    Many thanks

  10. We are setting up a very small aquaponics system in Arizona. It is a science project. We have a 140 gal horse tank that we are using and two grow beds. One is 8′ x 2′ x 6″ and the other is 8′ x 2′ x 4″. We want to grow some Koi which we will sell later. The Koi will be about 3 inches long when we get them. We are using Koi because some of us don’t like fish and we don’t know how we would get rid of them. We should be able to sell the Koi at a profit. How many fish can we put in our tank?

    Your systems are awesome. Keep up the good work.

    Best regards,


  11. Hi Kurt,

    The accepted formula is;

    200L of growbed volume
    100L of pond water
    6kg of fish

    This is optimal and both your plants and fish will be happy with this ratio.

    There is a brilliant little Excel spreadsheet that I found on the Backyard Aquaponics web site where you just type in all of your dimensions etc and it will calculate the fish load.

    Just a word of warning re: Koi. They GROW, so use your expected final weight in your calculations.

    I am emailing you the spreadsheet separately.



  12. It is amazing to see the progress that you have made over the last six months or so since I visited your site.It is probably not that apparent to you as you do the day today work but to me I just find it mind blowing.I visited your Dublin friends this weekend and they reminded me of your site.I wish you all the luck of the Irish.

  13. Dear Sir,

    I wish to know how to build your type of small culture tank to raise Tilapia.
    I’m the son of a pioneer of Belgium Congo and now living in California. I’m 74 and can use all the help I can get.

    Thank you so much


  14. Hi again sori 2 hear bout the loss of the elecricals hav u assertaind what caused it?
    Can you pleeze help me my stand up pipe in my grow beds keeps clogging with green gunk. and its drilled to your recomended size i then have to clear out some of the gravel and unblock it. i am scared to make the hole any bigger in case it drains 2 fast. HELP. my leaves of my spinage r going yellow how much iron chelate must i add & do i put it in2 the sump or direct in2 the grow beds? i hav a 14000lit pond

    1. Hi Greg,

      Electrical fault, spark or something. Either that or overheating battery cells. There was very little ventilation in the battery room. If you have made a push-in stand pipe (ie. you haven’t glued it into the bottom fitting) then you can drill it as big as you like and then just turn it to close it to size(a half-moon effect) If your outer pipe is big enough then you should be able to get your hand in and clean up or turn the pipe without taking any gravel out.

      As far as the iron chelate is concerned the recommended dosage is 5g / 10L of water. There is no point using 14000L as a base because it’ll be too expensive. Just mix some in the above ratio in a watering can and water twice a day for a few days directly onto the spinach. You could also bury a piece of old metal (some bolts and nuts etc.) in the gravel near the spinach. The oxidation (rusting) will produce a steady supply of iron to the roots of the plant.



  15. Hey, great website on keeping everyone in the world updated on all your aquaponics systems. I am in The Bahamas and want to start AP in my backyard to grow for friends and family. We have a big saltwater fish industry so I don’t know if persons we be so incline to buy freshwater fish. But I don’t think it would be hurt to try. You mentioned that you are an atheist, can you tell me why please?

    1. When I started this blog I made a decision not to discuss Politics, Sex or Religion. Seeing that I have dealt with Politics and Sex extensively, I suppose that I can’t duck the Religion issue any more. Why am I an atheist? Mmmm, let me think. Let’s just say that I don’t believe in God in the religious sense nor an afterlife (good or bad). My view is that we are just meat, albeit highly intelligent meat.

  16. Thank you for answering my question. Well I went out today I bought a barrel, cut it in half, bought a RubberMaid container for the fish, 28 gallons and built most of the stand to hold the half barrels. I’m very excited see how things are going to work out. We don’t have live Tilapia in The Bahamas so I’m going to start with some gold fish to get things running. Keep up the good work on your blog, excited to see what you will do next.

  17. Good luck. Goldfish are great starter fish and thrive in AP systems. Encourage them to spawn by frequent water changes and once they start chasing each other around put some shadecloth in as spawning mats and collect the eggs. There is always a ready market for goldfish.

  18. Hi there on your home site you are using barrels. I am having problems with mine leaking. I am using platic threaded running nipples with plastic nuts and 40 mm irrigation teas and elbows but cant get hem to seal properly. Can i just use copius amounts of silicone or is there another way to do it? The holes are on the bottom and top of the drums i have cut these in the middle and will be running them in rows of 6. ie 1st has an elbow next 5 have teas and return to sump. hope thats clear.

  19. Hi Greg,

    The secret is to cut the hole just big enough for the threaded nipple to screw into with copious amounts of marine silicone on both sides. This should provide a tight seal. If you’ve already cut the holes then “silicone to the rescue”.



  20. Hi Synaptoman.
    Could you please tell me why you built the 4 x 3 m fish tank with a depth varying from 600mm to 1.2m? What are the advantages vs building one that is at a uniform depth of 1.2m? Thanx.

  21. Hi Wilson,

    Good question. Basically for two reasons. The first is that with a sloped bottom all of the solids (uneaten food and fish faeces) will be concentrated in one spot (at the deep end) and the submersible pump will suck them up.
    Secondly when I want to capture fish I merely start at the deep end with a 3m wide net and walk towards the shallow end with the net scraping along the bottom thus catching all of the fish in the pond. Easy !!



  22. Thank you much for your quick response. I am in Nairobi, Kenya.. want to model a commercial aquaponics system. Been following up your site, it’s awesome work you are doing, Kudos!

    Kind Regards,

  23. No, I can’t see any reason why there should be any length limitation. If I remember correctly the University of the Virgin islands has Basil growing in growbeds many meters long.

    As long as it is completely level there should be no problems. If your level is out, one end will never drain properly and the other will be bone dry, neither scenario good.

    Hope this helps.


  24. Greetns from Nairobi. ‘Ope your week is goin well. Q…the fish tanks at the commercial site..looks like wire-meshing and lining..what’s at the base? How do you ensure rigidity so that pressure from water doesn’t rip the tank apart?

    1. Hi Wilson,

      The tank merely rests on a concrete slab or even straight onto the earth. We use a geomat under the lining to prevent sharp stones puncturing the lining and to provide some insulation. The mesh re-enforcing is merely a ring around the outside providing rigidity. Between the mesh and the pond liner is a thick PVC plastic wall protector to protect the side walls of the liner. It’s a very strong structure

  25. Hi Synaptoman,

    Is your manual available as an eBook or only in physical copy? Thanks and well-done on the production.


  26. Great work on all levels. I have just started my first small test system and I am building a larger 250 gal system. (in Manila)
    I tried to find the spreadsheet for fish/pond/beds ratio on B.A. but could not. If you can link or point me to it I would love to have it.

    Thank you keep Aquaponics moving forward.

  27. There are many links dealing with the ratio of gravel to water. This is one;


    As the systems get bigger however it becomes increasingly difficult to get a 2:1 ratio of gravel to water, so I try and aim for 1:1. This means that if you have 250gal of water in your system (including your sump) you should aim for a minimum of 250gal of growbed volume. As far as fish are concerned, work on a maximum stocking density of 30kg per 1000L of water (this time excluding sump) This works out at 60lbs / 264gal. This is the final adult size estimate that your fish will grow to and NOT the fingerling weight.

    Hope this helps.


  28. Hi Synaptoman
    I stay in Bloemfontein on a 4 Ha plot and is very keen to start with aquaculture , for the love and commercial side of it,your system made me even more anxious .Can you assist me as there are many questions(what fish,temp,return on investment etc) Temp in the kidspool outside is 10 degrees(standup pool of 3.6 x 900)
    Thanx for a great site.

  29. hi there you have a great website.
    I moved from south africa in 2000 and know living on the Ilse of Man and Ireland.

    Were about from South Africa are you from ? ?

    Can you please help with a method of braaing crayfish or lobster as they are pretty cheap over here. I braai meat and fish at least 6 days a week but when it comes to the above i’m lost. Please can you help.

    Thank you ed

  30. Sorry the crayfish and lobsters only come live and when i was back in South Africa we use to boil them in a pot.

    The braai method is all new to me.

    Thank you once again.


    1. Hi Ed,

      Pop the live crayfish (in a box) into the freezer. It’s a humane way of killing them as they just go to sleep. Don’t freeze them just leave them in long enough to kill them. I slice my crayfish long ways, removing the head contents and rinsing thoroughly under running water. Make a fire and burn until you have a thick layer of coals. Grill for a few minutes on the meat side to seal the meat and then turn over and grill on the shell side until the shell is a bright red. Baste regularly with your favourite sauce. when the meat is white (ie not luminous) it is ready. Pop over onto the meat side one more time to slightly char and it’s done.



  31. Thank you for allowing the use of the image. I am including you in my new book, The Aquaponics Guidebook, as part of the interactive map of world aquaponics projects. I will send you a PDF when it’s complete.

  32. Apologise for being a pain but where can I view the PDF ebook I purchesed this morning ? or is it yet to be emailed to me?

    1. Hi Aleks,

      Thank you for your order. Your ebook was emailed to you this morining. We’re a few hours behind you here in South Africa. Hope you enjoy the manual.



  33. Hi Synaptoman,

    Stumbled on your website a couple of weeks ago. Well done on the good work you’re doing….its really inspiring! I live in Kenya and I’m eager to venture into aquaponics (hopefully commercially someday but smallscale for now). Does your manual give any details on setting up a home-based unit? I’d be interested in getting my hands on the PDF version.


      1. Is there an alternate way to order the book? Perhaps by moneygram? Visa card Issuers in Kenya don’t seem to have authorisation on MonsterPay.

    1. Hi Synaptoman, keeping well? Question: Where in Kenya is Robert located? I am based in Nyeri, Central Province and wouldn’t mind networking with local AP enthuthists. Mind linking us up?

  34. Dear Synaptoman,

    I am interested in starting an aquaponics venture and need to learn all about it.

    Kindly email me regarding your training courses on offer (I’m based a couple hours drive from Knysna).



  35. Hello,

    I’m very interested in aquaponics, like many people. What you’re doing make me dream.
    I would like to enlarge my knowledge and practices about aquaponics but I can’t find any place to do a training period. Do you eventually know business or association which is aware about trainees in England?

    Thank you.

      1. Hi Synaptoman,

        Thanks for your response and your website. I would ask you if aquaponics uk works with the aquaculture of Stirling. I have already contacted and I am waiting for answer. Do you have contact with? What is the best way to start learning about aquaponics?

        Best regards

  36. Hi Synaptoman,
    I am in charge of maintaining a very small aquaponics system for a company in the hopes of building a bigger setup in the future. I am very new to this whole process. Very new. I have run into a few roadblocks and need some expert advice. Any way you could answer one or two questions via email?

  37. Hi,

    I would like to see the things you are doing and maybe attend a course. I am currently living in Knysna but thinking to maybe relocate to Botswana and buy a small farm there. Hope your chauvinism is not in our way for a visit, I hardly am a woman anyways by now..Please let me know when would it be fine from your side?

  38. Hi,
    I would like to see your things and maybe attending to a course. I am currently living in Knysna but thinking of relocating to Botswana and buy a small farm there. Please let me know when would it be less disturbing for you?

  39. Hi synaptoman
    I stumbled on your site just a couple of hours ago and find it very informative and interesting. I would like to attend a course in AP in Knysna. I am from Cape Town. I have some resources such as a pool with no swimmers and a tunnel. I wish to hobby AP and impress my not-a-child-anymore-bride! Can you help? Please let me have the costs for this. Can I also purchase a hard copy of the AP manual when attending the course?

    1. Hi Nazeer,

      Unfortunately, we are not offering any more courses this year as I am on a long-term contract in Paarl. I can have a copy of the book printed out for you and post it to you if you like.

  40. Hi thanks for that response. Can I pick up a copy from you there? I often go to Paarl for a scenic drive. I can give you my cell no. via email. Also can I purchase some Tilapia from you? And lastly can I use my 5 x 5 meter pool for a AP? I would love to put it to good use since there are no more swimmers at home anymore.


  41. Hi Mr Synaptoman,

    Great blog you have. Thanks for all the info.

    I would like to order the Ebook on aquaponics but only have Paypal. Any ideas how I can go about getting some money to you and receiving the Ebook?

    I could also get to a Western Union.

    Many thanks


  42. Hi Synaptoman,

    I dedicated a post to your site at http://www.hightunnelaquaponics.com/ and wanted to make sure that it was ok with you.

    I started that site because I think that the general concept of high tunnel aquaponics is urgently important worldwide as an economical means of localized sustainable food production. I want to promote the concept, its positives, and the folks who are pioneering its development.

    I had to laugh when I read through your descriptors above; I’m agnostic (my epistemological position is that it’s impossible for material beings to know if an immaterial level of reality exists, and if so, what its features might be) and prefer other things to beer nowadays, but I could just about use that description as my own.

    You can check out my current system at http://www.greenfingardens.com/ if you’re interested.

    Thanks for doing what you do and sharing your experiences online.

  43. Synaptoman,

    Your picture of the roundabout is great. Can you share where you got it? I’m building a speach (non-commercial) and this image would be perfect for one of my slides. Would you be willing to email me at (email address removed for safety)(I couldn’t find an email address to contact you direct).

    Thank you and apologies for non aquaponics topic.

    Joel BC

  44. Hi Synaptoman. I was wondering if you could help. I am looking to set up a tilapia farm in DRC however I am completely new to farming. My question is regarding breeding the Tilapia. If I am having a mixed sex Tilapia system should I breed them myself each year or buy a new stock as this may reduce the genetic diversity in the system and lead to inbreeding?

    Thanks for any help you can offer,


    1. It would be cheaper for you to produce your own fingerlings for grow out, but you must bear in mind that operating a hatchery is very different to a grow-out facility and requires a higher level of technical expertise. It would be easier for you to rather buy good quality fingerlings when you first start off and have a look at establishing a hatchery after a couple of years once you understand the breed.

      Good luck in your ventures


  45. Awesome blog very helpful, lots of useful links. I am looking for info on marron farming (freshwater Crayfish) in South Africa, apparently you need a miracle from above to get a permit to farm these creatures. Someone somewhere must have got it right by now.

  46. Hey there Synaptoman … I have a strange question to ask … Could you not use some of the excrement trotted out at Tuesday night Turkey meets in the Owl to feed fish ? 🙂 Do you still use squash as a good medium for meeting Aquaponic people 🙂

    Good luck mate from down under in Brissie… Dave

    1. Haven’t been to the Owl for many years but yes, could work.

      Ditto squash. Play the occasional game but pretty busy here in Paarl.

      Hope all well there in Oz.

  47. Hello Synaptoman,

    While searching for Auqaponics systems I came across your blog.

    I am based in Cape Town and have recently been given an indoor open plan “studio” (size: 500 square meters and 3 meters high) to develop in which ever way I deem fit.
    So, I have thought about it and education and economy sprung to mind! Getting the community involved and at the same time as making R.
    I have a plan but in order to execute the plan I need to know if this is viable!
    If I had to MAXIMIZE my area usage, based on the specifications I gave you:
    How much produce would I be able to yield for the space?Lettuces/Cabbage/Basil/Rocket/Tomatoes/Tilipia (I.E. Fastest turn around time)
    How much would it cost to set up a space such as this?
    How long would it take to set up?
    ,(The roof also has the opportunity to be taken off and replaced with solar panels but that is a separate but similar issue.) JUST A THOUGHT!
    Anyway, this is a lot to think about I realize that. And seeing you are in the Western Cape, I was wondering if we could potentially meet up and I could show you the space and you can see where you could slot in.

    Many minds make light work and the information you have provided others looks awesome! I hope you are able to assist.

    Take care,


  48. Hi Synaptoman,

    I operate GreenFin Gardens, a commercial tilapia hatchery/farm in the U.S., and have a potential customer who is wanting tilapia shipped to Tanzania. I would like to pass him on to you if you can help him. Would you be able to ship tilapia to Tanzania for him? If so, I’ll pass his contact info to you. He’s looking for 100 broodstock (if adults are not feasible, he seems open to getting younger mixed sex fish).

    If you can’t help him but know someone else in Africa that could, let me know, and I’ll pass the contact info along.


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