Aquaponics 101

Another nice weekend, another post about outside stuff. Don’t worry, this pattern will stop soon. There is a very narrow band in spring where the temperature is acceptably warm without being too hot. After that I shift back into not liking summer, and thus, more posts about being inside where there is air conditioning.

So if you don’t know about aquaponics, you’re about to. Scope this sweet graphic I made for an office meeting about sharing cool stuff last summer:

Here’s the gist. Plants need water and nutrients. Fish live in water and excrete nutrients. From there, the math is easy and involves pumping fishwater into media beds, which filter out the poo, aka nutrients, aka pootrients, and make the water nice for the fish again. And so it goes, on and forever, obviously (witness the arrows that fold back on themselves). You can raise any old fish you want, although I imagine saltwater fish are hard, because plants are less crazy about being watered with saltwater. Tilapia is a great beginner fish, because they’re hardy and are not picky eaters. As far as what you can grow in the media beds, my understanding is that you won’t have any problems with the typical edibles you already grow in your back yard, like tomatoes, cucumbers, and so on. Bonus! You can eat the fish, too. I’m probably more excited about super-fresh fish than vegetables.

Corrugated metal is a common material for aquaponics kits. The above pictures are from a site that sells bits and pieces, but it’s in Australia, so eff them. Corrugated metal is strong and cheap and pretty easy to work with, hence its popularity. Too bad people put it in such boring shapes, when it can do awesome stuff like make a ribbony bathroom like in the bottom picture.

If you want to learn more about aquaponics, Google it, you’re a grown person. What I’m finding is that there’s not great infrastructure for kits or off-the-shelf products it in the U.S. yet, so anything I want to do will require some trial-and-error. Now I just need to get rid of that shed …


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