Aquaponics — how cool is that??

So I spent my entire weekend reading about growing fish in a suburban back yard. Correct: Growing fish. Plus vegetables. The best vegetables. The idea is that the fish will excrete ammonia through their gills, which is then converted to fertilizer for plants by enslaving a culture of helpful bacteria. The plants grow in a soilless system similar to Hydroponics, however instead of supplementing the hydro in your hydroponics with commercial nutrient solution, you’re able to naturally source by means of fish. Basically it is a highly complex and regulated system to turn fish food in to people food.

Many aquaponics systems are on a bordering-industrial scale: thousands of gallons of aquariums, hundreds of plants, etc. Not only do I not have the investment capital for that kind of thing, but I know better than to go through all that set up only to be rewarded with the ‘fast fail’. In light of that, I’m currently in the planning-stage for Version 0.5: Household Aquaponics. The planned setup is a 10-gallon fish tank stocked with normal pet-type fish, topped with a small to mid-sized kitchen herb tray.

One of the reasons I’m particularly interested in the small-start approach is the overwhelming information I’ve been able to find on Smart Aquariums — people online are harnessing the powers of Arduino & Raspberry Pi to monitor, track, and control just about every aspect of the aquaponics cycle. Now I’m not saying I can’t keep fish alive… But from what I’ve been seeing, aquaponics will require a much more exacting level of monitoring than I am used to. Temperature, pH, salinity, nutrient level, etc etc etc.

I went to the local aquarium/fish store and had a lovely chat with the guy there about my project. He recommended the 10 gallon tank, as well as a fer varieties of fish that would give me a pleasant fish community. After about an hour of Q&A I had my system identified, and he ballparked me at around $100 for the initial setup. Note that this doesn’t include the fish (which were all a few bucks, for the ones I was looking at) as you have to get your tank up and running prior to introducing fishies.

I’ll be going by there again later this week to collect the aquarium and related paraphernalia, and then will start collecting the tech required for my Household Aquaponics. I’d like to start small with likely just a temperature monitor at first, but I’ll be posting updates on the process, as well as open sourcing all of the code to keep it running.


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