Guest post by Yvonne Lee of www.bargainhunter.com.au
I first came across the concept of Aquaponics a few years ago. I think it was from reading some discussion forums on Aussies Living Simply, but it could have been from a number of places. I even bought the Murray Hallam DVD and made my husband and a couple of friends watch it with me. At the time we had a pond with a few koi and so we rigged up a simple system to cycle some water into a laundry bucket which had some holes punched into it and some blue metal. I managed to grow a few vegies in there quite well and the water did become a lot clearer. I can’t find a picture of the very first laundry bucket system but here is a picture of the pond we had:
Later, we ended up building ‘strawberry’ towers attached to the pond. It was an amazing system and quite (in my eyes) elaborate. This definitely cleared the water a lot better and gave us some tasty strawberries. This time we used PVC pipes and clay beads and a timer based water pump.
The instructions on how to build these are similar to these ones found on Instructables. We would have modified it to our needs and the PVC pipes we used were 80mm. We even painted them so they wouldn’t be stark white.
We planted basil, strawberries and other small herbs in these towers and they were pretty successful. We didn’t have the load of a normal aquaponics systems as we only had up to 9 koi at any time and the water pump was only turned on during the daylight hours via a timer.
Early 2011, we had to move house and we decided to rent out our place where we had this system installed. The system was dismantled and the pond filled in. But what to do with the fish? As we were renting ourselves we couldn’t just dig a pond like we did previously. After a lot of searching I found a poly farm trough which would be big enough to sustain our fish (we felt it cruel to try and find a smaller ‘pond’ for them to swim in). Most of the other pond options were either too small or too shallow or needed to be dug into the ground. And I wasn’t keen on a keeping them in a tank.
After a short period of time for the fish to settle in, version two of the PVC aquaponics system was developed. The first system was hung from a beam but this time we didn’t have anything to hang them on so instead the water ‘channels’ would sit and rest on the pond.
This system consists of 5 pots per channel and in each of the pots has a heap of holes drilled into it and the medium are clay beads. I used seedlings rather than seeds to pot them up. Rather than strawberries I have a mix of basil, lettuce, cos lettuce, rocket and parsley growing.
One thing to note is that we used to have the water return outlet to cause bubbles to be created (thinking that some oxygen would be good for the pond) but had three fish fatalities! They were sizeable koi so I was quite devastated. My theory is that the fish jumped ‘up’ the water flow so they could try and spawn. The system was modified so that the water was returned straight ‘down’ and just at the level of the water to cause minimum splashing.