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  • Getting Started

    Four years ago I started building a hydroponic garden. I know, I know, I've heard all the jokes and references regarding Colorado herbs. But seriously, in Wisconsin, our summers are short and inconsistent. I got tired of trying to grow vegetables only to have an early or late frost kill everything. Then we had a couple very dry summers followed by wet falls. It was just a waste of time.

    So I built a lean-to on the back of my garage for an open-air greenhouse. This provided a couple benefits. First, it had a southern exposure and protected the growing beds from hard rains and hail. Second, it provided a framework to use for attaching equipment.

    For the first two years, this worked well and I learned a lot. One thing I quickly learned is that hydroponic nutrient solution is expensive. I was going through $150 per summer of the concentrated solution. So, I looked into other options and discovered aquaponics.

    Aquaponics is the practice of raising fish in tanks and circulating the fish water to the grow beds of a hydroponic garden. This fish waste in the water creates ammonia and bacteria in the water converts the ammonia into nitrates the plants can use for food. Any solid wastes in the water need to be removed but can be spread on a typical soil based garden.

    I looked into species of fish to try to raise and found Tilapia. Tilapia are a tropical freshwater fish. They are considered a "sauce" fish. Meaning they take on the flavor of whatever sauce you put them in. Raised in clean, fresh water they have very little flavor at all. They are also a very hardy species and unless you are really trying it is hard to kill them. The one downside I discovered is that they are tropical. Trying to raise tropical fish in Wisconsin, outside, year-round is an issue.

    I knew I could not build fish tanks outside. Even with significant insulation around the tanks, some plumbing would be exposed to below-zero temperatures. So, I added a propane furnace to my insulated garage. For the first time in my life, I had a heated garage in Wisconsin during the winter. It was amazing, but that's another story. Holding the garage at 60 F allowed me to use regular aquarium heaters, pumps, and aerators instead of commercial pond products. The entire fish system only uses 1.1KW when the heaters are on and only 75W when the heaters are off. My average daily electrical usage cost only $1 per day during the winter and only $0.28 per day in the summer.

    In the following posts, I will show how I built my system. I think it could be helpful for growing a protein food source and vegetables very efficiently.
    Lean-to Sump tank Fish tanks before insulation
    If it was man made it can be man re-made.

  • #2
    Mangler, that is a great setup. I really like it.

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    • #3
      that's awesome nicely done
      WHAT IF THE AMERICA YOU KNEW, WAS ABOUT TO CHANGE?

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      • #4
        Quite an accomplishment!! Being able to raise tropical fish in Wisconsin is amazing. Great Job!! Tilapia seems to be the fish of choice with many preppers using that type of system. We use to eat it pretty frequently, and I always liked it.
        The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.

        Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the reason is you are stupid, and make bad decisions.

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        • #5
          1st let me say your set up looks great for a 1st time, i hope i can do as well. with talapia cost today at $6.49 per lb, not cheap preferred because it's boneless and to me taste great. it's only $1.50 cheaper than the white bass. at these prices raising your own should be reason enough to put in the effort to have a aquaponics system & a hydroponics as well. i'm going to try to put together on this summer in my garage, not as large as yours but hopefully enough to fiegn off the cost of the grocerie stores. i've been reading a article in "mother earth news", on backyard fish farming about all the different methods and types of fishe best suited for aquaponics & hydroponics and there are a nice variety to raise for the beginner as well as by climate. check it out. the site offers a large variety in other self sustainable articles as well. all and all i'm going for a 2 for 1 and use both aquaponics and hydroponics, so i can grow a varied amount of vegtables as well.

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          • #6
            UPDATE: The Tilapia have started to breed. I found fry and fingerlings in the tanks.

             
            If it was man made it can be man re-made.

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            • #7
              Tilapia is good eating also. Hubby used to catch some when he was able to go fishing. Loved to grill it on the grill.

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              • #8
                Mang! THIS IS EPIC!!!!

                MORE! MORE!

                -Buggy
                It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value.
                -Arthur C. Clarke

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                • #9
                  You're a fish granddaddy! Actually your have tilted the scales in your favor for survival. (bad joke)

                  On the other hand I hope you have a pressure canner and lots of jars handy just in case sometime during that long cold winter in Wisconsin you lose power for a couple of weeks and run out of propane. Be a shame for all those fish to go to waste.

                  We used to can carp up to my high school years, Gut em, scale em, chop of their heads and can, bones and all. To this day I believe that is why I like canned salmon better than fresh! Taste almost alike.

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                  • #10
                    Mangler: Great Job!! looks like everything is working the way it is supposed to. Keep us posted on how you harvest. We have always enjoyed tilapia. Great eating fish.
                    The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.

                    Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the reason is you are stupid, and make bad decisions.

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                    • #11
                      Fish Farm Update: All the fish are dead.

                      I was gone last week to a seminar in Michigan for five days. As best as I can tell, sometime early Monday morning or late Monday night something tripped the GFCI outlet. The 75 lbs of fish in 250 gallons of water quickly turned the water toxic. By Thursday when my wife checked on the fish, they were all belly up.

                      Lesson learned:

                      1. Put an alarm of some kind on your system. I was actually at a seminar covering how to do just that when this happened.
                      2. Involve your spouse in your hobbies. I should have shown her what to look for and how to re-start essentials systems.

                      Such a waste of good food.
                      If it was man made it can be man re-made.

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                      • #12
                        Oh Nooooo.

                        Sorry man. That happened fast. Another angle and lesson I hadn't thought about.

                        -Buggy
                        It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value.
                        -Arthur C. Clarke

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                        • #13
                          Well crsp! so wish there had been an alarm or at least some person doing a daily check on your system. So hang in there, hopefully with some cleaning (a lot?) yu can have your system up and running again soon. Condolences bro!

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                          • #14
                            Wow so sorry that happened. It is a learning process though and you learned a valueble lesson. Shouldn't be long before tanks are cleaned and the fish are breading again. Best of luck. Lesson learned add an alarm system.

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                            • #15
                              Sorry to hear that. Makes for expensive compost.
                              I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you!

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