Aquaponics is a sustainable food production system that combines a traditional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. In the aquaculture, effluents accumulate in the water, increasing toxicity for the fish. This water is led to a hydroponic system where the by-products from the aquaculture are filtered out by the plants as vital nutrients, after which the cleansed water is recirculated back to the animals. The term aquaponics is a portmanteau of the terms aquaculture and hydroponic.
I finally found time to start cutting the IBC tanks today after extracting them from their cages yesterday. I pulled all of the tanks onto the back lawn and tried cutting one of the cages with a metal blade on my “Sawsall”. Wow, that’s some tough metal – it took three and a half blades to cut one cage in half! I am going to look at using some cutting discs on my angle grinder tomorrow, as that’s the way most people seem to have cut theirs. I still imagine it takes a few discs there as well. Below is a picture of the cut result.
Back on the lawn, I measured three of the four for 16 inch deep growbeds – a little deeper than most I’ve seen, but done at the recommendation of Rick Op, who advises that the maintenance will be less with deeper beds – I’m all about low maintenance once it’s set up! (Rick wanted me to make them even deeper.) I cut them and also the top out of the fourth for the fish tank. You can see a pic of one in the cut cage as an idea of what it looks like in the end.
As light began to fall, I fired up the pressure washer and started cleaning the grime off. Fairly successful, although I was pretty disappointed to see that one of the growbed IBCs seemed to have glue in it – not budging at the moment. I’ve read about one person’s trials with an IBC that had wood glue in his that he did not clean out – it sent the pH way up in the beginning for a while, which makes it hard to get the beneficial bacteria started. I’ll see about what I can do to clean that one better tomorrow. The others cleaned out really nicely and are ready for sanding and painting.
A few hours one day, and a couple of more the next… the old play fort from the side of the house is disassembled and out of the way! Not sure when I’ll get to start cutting the IBCs, as I’ll be out of town next weekend, but perhaps that gives me more time to plan.
I made a checklist of the things I need to do to get the Aquaponics system going. Today I dismantled most of the old play fort that was on the side of the house when I moved in 10+ years ago. Hopefully I’ll get to do the rest tomorrow while the baby naps, and figure out exactly where the fish tank and grow beds will go. The ground is not exactly level, that’ll be a chore getting it just right.
At long last, and after many hours of reading aquaponics information, I’ve taken the plunge. I rented a truck at Home Depot and picked up 4 IBC tanks at a yard on the side of Highway 6 near Alvin, TX. They almost fit on the truck, just about an inch too wide, so the left gate I left down. It was so good to finally get started!
I’ve been reading up on Aquaponics a lot (Backyard Aquaponics is a good place to learn more), and am looking for a good place in my yard for a setup. Short of taking the main center of the yard, I have two places that might work. I called Centerpoint Energy’s “Call before you dig” line to see where utility lines are, which you can see in some of the pics. Glad I did! Can’t bury a sump tank in either of these locations. At any rate, picking the right space from a sunlight perspective as well as leaving room for the kids is important.
First is a little odd, but the narrow alley between my garage and the neighbor gets the most consistent sunlight, at least where an elevated growbed would be. The down side is that I’d have to put in gutters as well, which would add to the cost.
The second place, which is where my wife would want it, is around the north side of the house where the old play fort is. During the summer, sun shines well close to the fence. The down side here is that, especially during winter, no direct sunlight reaches the area. A little further out into the yard might work. We’ll see…