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  1. #1
    Tanganyika Freak Jack Stone's Avatar
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    Default Aquaponics - Using Terrestrial Plants to Filter Aquarium Water

    Hi again,

    This is copied from the questions I posted on ********************* - just wanting to get a few more opinions on it! Fire away!

    Has anybody here had any experience with aquaponics?

    Most of us know our fish water can be highly beneficial to the plants in our gardens. Most of us also know plants can be highly beneficial to the quality or our fish tank water, or at least eat some nitrogen and delay the "inevitable" water change. I put inevitable in quotation marks... do read on....

    Aquaponics is the combination of agriculture (farming plants) and aquaculture (farming fish). Now cichlids and plants don't always get along together. A refugium or sump might work for plants but this aquaponics system might be a better method of filtering out those nitrates and keeping our water clean.

    What the big idea?
    Starting on a very small scale we could put up a shelf above our fish tank, place on it a couple of pot plants which have been modified to drain down some PVC piping (that stuff that's dead cheap, widely available and really easy to work with) into your fish tank, this would be the return or drain pipe. As you've probably just figured out you can simply use an aquarium water pump on an electronic timer to feed your plants and let them filter your water.

    So, it's dead easy, could be appreciated by your fish, should result in water changes being required less frequently and you finally have a cool way to grow some herbs and spices for your kitchen. Some concerns might be the scale of it and providing lighting for your plants. If you think about it, there's allot of water to filter, you could grow quite a few plants in a moderately stocked cichlid aquarium... I'm sure old Oscar could feed a small plant or two?

    For those of you breeding cichlids with multiple tanks (with the same water chemistry), why not run your overflows into your vegetable garden and back inside to your fish room? Use a small pool pump to move water around the garden and or back into the fish room, into a central or a couple reservoirs from which it drains back into your tanks. Save your water bill, save on your vegetables, have the energy and the patience to set it up?

    Hope to hear some thoughts on this!

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  3. #2
    Loaches & Gobies azurekoi's Avatar
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    @Jack Stone... Cool,another greenie out there...

    You might not know this,but there are quite a few aquaculture/perma culture projects running like this all over SA -albeit on a much larger scale than your home fish tank...

    Have had a great deal of experimentation with aquaponics over the past decade - mostly in koi ponds... Just one thing I want to correct you with - no aquaponics system will replace your primary filtration unit(unless you defy rules and grow a lot of BL plant species that are able to remove both Amonia and Nitrite directly from the water column..)

    We all have a basic understanding of the nitrogen cycle and how it works in our tanks(or should - get reading those who dont...) - End product of our filtration is nitrates - build up of these is why we need to waterchange to prevent algea formation(this staement is VERY simplified - not getting into the need to waterchange to replenish trace elements..etc.)
    Unlees you run a heavily planted system with fertz dosing and CO2,your little ecosystem that you nurture does not have the capacity to getrid of this nitrate buildup...

    Using terrestrial plants to "filter" these nitrates out is an awesome idea - just some words of caution:

    - only use certified organic" potting soil for the terrestrial plants
    -ensure adequate lighting for them too...
    - remember that these plants need to have enough oxygen to there roots...REALY slow water feed to the pots + excelent drainage...

    Hmmn...gonna need to think about this one a bit more to explain the concept - will update later...

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  4. #3
    Tanganyika Freak Jack Stone's Avatar
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    Hi @azurekoi,

    Thanks for getting in touch.
    I have heard of a few people and places implementing this on the industrial level, where it's probably at it's best.

    I believe this works well for ponds too... scaling up is generally the way to go (if not always the cheapest) anyway.

    You're right there, I don't know how I managed to make it seem like it could replace the filter altogether...
    Maybe this line..."As you've probably just figured out you can simply use an aquarium water pump on an electronic timer to feed your plants and let them filter your water"... I was actually only talking about the nitrates.

    Thinking about it replacing the filter... would the plants growing substrate not become your "filter media" containing your beneficial bacteria in the same way as a wet/dry filter? What are BL plant species? Black listed? Surely there are some that aren't black listed and do the same job? Not that I care much about the list because I don't make a habit of putting my silly little aquarium things in the local rivers (nor sewers).

    You reckon one can't get rid of the nitrate build-up by using "way too many" plants?
    I could be wrong but because we're using terrestrial plants will they not take their CO2 from the air around them as opposed to the water? You'd still be removing nitrate from the system by say, picking a tomato for lunch.

    I won't try and argue that it's much easier and probably safer to back yourself up with a good biological filter.

    I'd have to agree on the trace elements. I suppose you'd find most of these elements in a good fertilizer?

    Some hydroponics growers report success with clay pellets instead of potting soil. I'd also be inclined to go with a medium other than soil as it would be difficult to keep your drain lines clean (and working). Heheh, adequate lighting can probably get expensive if you don't use sunlight... an outside windowsill for instance, or really elaborate plumbing... I'd try and go with low light plants, spinach was my favourite option.

    There are a few options when in comes to oxygen for the plant roots, it mostly depends on what type of irrigation system you're using.
    1. Flood and Drain: switch on the pump every (say) 8 hours to soak the plants growing medium.
    2. Nutrient Film Technique: using this method you can leave the water pump on continuously and provide aeration using small aquarium air pumps with a small air-stone which lies at just after the water intake... the air is injected directly into the irrigation system so it doesn't just reach the surface and dissipate (air doesn't dissolve well in water). Apparently spinach doesn't mind this technique too much at all... it's a good plant to grow!

    There are more hydroponic (irrigation and drainage) systems including drips, deep water culture and probably a few more....

    Hope to hear what you're thinking....
    Ciao for now, enjoy!

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    Betta f-fish's Avatar
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    What is the reason for doing this?

    Do you want to do aquaponics to to get dual food source (fish and veg) or as a filter in your pond / aquarium?

    clay pellets = hydroton - yes it works well ... at a stretch http://www.tropicalaquarium.co.za/sh...hlight=Lucky13 would be a very simple experiment that worked to some degree.

    Later Ferdie


    Later Ferdie

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    Tanganyika Freak Jack Stone's Avatar
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    Hi Ferdie,

    Aquaponics, I believe, by definition, is the farming of the two food sources (aquaculture combined with agriculture in a hydroponic system) together so I guess anything other than that is just filtration. I'm just interested in the subject and would like to know what other South Africans are doing with it.

    Personally I might consider using this for a "vegetable patch" over the pond I don't have. In the short term I might try filtering out some nitrates and growing some spinach.

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  7. #6
    Loaches & Gobies azurekoi's Avatar
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    Hane not forgotten about this thread @Jack Stone....

    Check this out:

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    Neon dommodore's Avatar
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    I decided to do away with my pond filter and try this route about 5 months ago and its working pretty well! The water does go a bit murky from all the birds landing and cleaning themselves in the top level of my system but changing the water out a bit every few weeks seems to keep it acceptable.

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    The water is pumped from the pond at the bottom and runs through some rocks before and after the planted section, and there is a mesh barrier in the rocks after the planted section, before the water drops back into the pond. This filter isn't perfect, but the water seems healthy enough for the few fish I now keep in there.

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    This is what it looks like after 5 months. I have removed the fish and they are in a tank inside because it is cold. I have also extended the planted area right into the back corner now and the plants are starting to fill in well. I have planted a few different Arum lilies and some pennyworts and they are taking off well as the weather warms up now!!

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    Neon dommodore's Avatar
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    In the second picture you will see a tank in the right hand corner of the top section. This is where I want to try grow some plants for my other tanks, I want to install a second pump to slowly circulate the pond water through this tank at just let it overflow back into the pond again. It is there for a reason, I'm not completely mad!! Only a little...

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    Pleco Firefly's Avatar
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    Looks good. Keep us posted.

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