In 1994, I saw my first aquaponic system. It was an installation for educational purposes at a Texas high school. it consisted of a 400 gallon tank stocked with tilapia and using large PVC tubing with net pots inserted to hold the plants, whose roots reached down intot he constantly circulating water from the fish tank, thus deriving nutrients for themselves and cleaning the water for the fish.

I fell in love with the concept of symbiotic biological inputs and outputs and maintaining a semi-natural ecosystem. I further learned that the tilapia could eat the vegetation produced by their own waste. What a perfect livestock! No noise, very little mess, no need for acres of ground and extensive fencing for containment, and they could conceivably help produce the majority of their own food!

The main drawbacks were the cost of the system and the amount of energy it used. Although my memory has faded in the past 20 years, I believe the system was $5000 and the pumps/aerators used about 400 watts.

I tried a few attempts at simple systems of my own design using goldfish and koi, but the results were not good and I consoled myself that at least I had been introduced to the hobby of fish/koi keeping, which is rewarding in itself.

Over the years, my skills at keeping fish alive and healthy increased, and the cost and energy usage of pumps/aerators decreased. I started seeing examples of people, ande even whole farms, using aquaponics, in particular, flood & drain media beds. Some of the photos of their results were amazing! One of the best examples of this is Portable Farms - http://portablefarms.com/. I have no relationship with these folks, other than an appreciation of their system design and the results they're getting.

Unfortunately, I couldn't afford to both pay for the Portable Farms program materials AND build a system, so I went forward with what I thought would work with mostly Home Depot materials.

To Be Continued...

 

 

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