Aquaponics: some lessons learned

No pretty pics for this post.  This is my tally for the aquaponics experiment.

It’s hard to believe it’s been two months since I started the first grow bed.

I didn’t have a set of directions when I “designed” my aquaponics setup.  I took bits and pieces from Murray Hallam and added things I learned from having aquariums.  I also didn’t like the idea of using grid power.  I felt that aquaponics as it is can be too expensive.  I could only justify normal costs because AP uses so little water.  I wanted something cheaper.


  • I took a 60 watt solar panel, a couple blemished deep cycle batteries and a charge controller to make my power.
  • I used a $12 pump and some PVC and had enough flow for four beds.
  • I bought a cheap swimming pool as a test pond.
  • Auto siphon works.
  • I insisted that my grow beds be high off the ground.  This meant the outflow from the beds could descend to the pond.  I like this design and will keep it.

I estimate that I saved around $300 to $600 in hardware.


  • There’s a minimum depth required in grow beds.  That depth seems to be deeper  than 8 inches.  I don’t remember what Murray recommends but I think it’s 12 inches.  I believe my beds are staying too wet because they drain and fill so fast.  I never imagined that a fast siphon and fill would be a problem.
  • I haven’t done much to try to fix pH.  It’s running in the 8s right now.  I want to try some natural things to try to lower it.  I have nothing against commercial products but I think there are more natural ways at hand.
  • Iron.  This is an outgrowth of the pH problem.  Plants can’t absorb iron if the pH is wonky.

Time for Mark II.

More is better.  I want more solar panels, more batteries and bigger pumps.  Minimalism was the word of the day when I put everything together.  The system is scraping by.  Three cloudy days in a row will take it down.

Time for food grade hardware.  New (and deeper) grow beds and verticals.  I also need to figure out if my pond needs to be food grade.

I’m also going to cover up the AP this fall and try to keep it running all winter.  That’s going to be a challenge!