Let’s visit Tom who built a hybrid aquaponics system in a backyard greenhouse. Tom is based in Melbourne Australia. He is opening us the door to an interesting system composed of both a flood and drain grow-bed aquaponics and a Deep Water Culture aquaponics.
The fish tanks are composed of 2 in-ground IBCs (Industrial Bulk Containers) covered by a nice decking. You actually don’t see the tanks when you enter in the greenhouse as they are literally below your feet. Tom is currently growing Australian native fish such as eel tail catfish, Murray cod and Golden perch. He plans to later add trouts into the system.
He simply has to lift the decking/tanks lead to have access to the fish. The setup is very neat and tidy.
Tom choose to divert the water flow from the water pump in the fish tank to 2 different growing setups.
1 The flood and drain growbed section composed of 2 growbeds equipped with a bell siphon and clay balls as media. Those 2 Growbeds are producing very well and we note a very large sweet potato plant is currently transforming the greenhouse into a jungle.
2 The Deep Water Culture section is composed of 2 raft tanks equipped with air stones. The polystyrene rafts are floating on the surface and supporting pots where plants are growing.
Tom has noted that the DWC works extremely well with leafy vegetables while the Growbed technique seems more adapted to fruit plants.
We thank Tom for his time and congratulations again for the very nice system. Each square meter of this greenhouse has been optimized and will allow a nice food production.
Tom is also working on other solar systems to power the greenhouse so we will probably see him again in future articles and videos

Welcome here! If you are new, you will probably be interested to discover Jonathan’s six steps to build and manage an Aquaponics system. Click here to access for free! Thanks and good reading 🙂

Hello guys. Today, I’ve a new video. I am with Tom who is a good friend of mine. He’s an aquaponics enthusiast. And today, we are here. He built an aquaponics system inside a greenhouse.

 

So thank you so much Tom for welcoming us.

 

Oh, you’re welcome.

 

Thanks a lot. So I have a few questions for you.

 

Sure.

 

Can you just let us know how you started aquaponics, like why you started and how you started?

 

Well, I started aquaponics about maybe 6 years ago. It’s just by chance that I saw a video on online and just thought, “Oh, well. It’s an interesting idea. What a great idea. I’m always into sustainable growing and you know, sustainable living in organic.

 

So you are already growing some food?

 

Yeah, I was growing but the natural way in a garden.

 

Yeah.

 

And I just thought well, it’s a great idea and I love keeping fish.

 

Yes.

 

So I thought oh that’s a really good combination.

 

So you were already keeping fish before in an aquarium?

 

Yeah, I was keeping yeah, aquarium fish.

 

Yeah.

 

Yeah, yeah. So and I was growing in the garden so I thought, oh, why not combine the two?

 

Yeah. Excellent.

 

Yeah, yeah. So I just did a lot of research online.

 

Yeah.

 

And books and yeah and yeah it’s just trial and error and then yeah that’s just how I started and got into aquaponics.

 

Okay. What did you start with? Was it like a large-sized aquaponics?

 

No, I started out on quite a small size, just one grow bed and one sump and a fish tank

 

Yeah.

 

Yeah and then from there it grew and yeah and here we are and then yeah eventually one day I incorporated a greenhouse just so I can extend that growing season,

 

Yeah.

 

Through winter.

 

Yeah. It’s such a good idea.

 

Yeah.

 

So you can extend the season and when you started did you have some failures or you were already successful from the beginning?

 

No, the beginning was a bit of a hit and miss. So I needed a lot of tweaking, like bell siphon, you need to tweak it so you get the right flow and drain but yeah over time I just learned.

 

Yeah, you improved every time.

 

And improved, yeah.

 

And now, you reached a point where you have a setup. Well, we’re going to have a look but it’s looking really great.

 

Yeah.

 

And it’s very efficient, obviously.

 

Yeah.

 

Congratulations.

 

Yeah, I’m very happy with it.

 

Yeah, yeah.

 

Yeah.

 

And so there’s a reason why you started is because you were already doing, producing some in your own garden.

 

Yeah.

 

And you mixed everything together.

 

Correct.

 

Because you want to create your own ecosystem to be more sustainable.

 

Correct, yes. Yeah well the aim is just trying to be sustainable and produce enough organic vegetable for myself and my family.

 

Yeah, yeah.

 

That’s where it stemmed from.

 

Yeah. And why organic? You don’t trust the food from the supermarket?

 

No, it just tastes so much better growing it ourselves you know, and the convenience. It’s just at the back of your house. Yeah.

 

Yeah, yeah.

 

Yeah, that’s right. We have the same – I think that the food we buy from the supermarket is not so great. It doesn’t taste good but also, I think it’s not as healthy.

 

Correct.

 

Whatever you grow, you know what you are eating.

 

I agree, yes. So I know exactly what I’m putting in.

 

Yeah.

 

Yeah.

 

Amazing.

 

And plus the bonus side of it is the fish. Okay.

 

Okay, so here we have your grow beds.

 

Here’s my media grow beds.

 

So you got two grow beds. What is the volume of those tanks? Can you remember, approximately, of those grow beds?

 

Well, I can’t remember.

 

Oh, they are quite significant. And so the water flow is that – the water is pumped from the tanks that we just saw, the fish tanks.

 

Yeah, the water comes from the fish tank.

 

Yeah.

 

It comes up through that pipe and then I send the water down to the grow bed.

 

Oh, directly to the grow bed, okay.

 

Some of it to the grow bed just so I can control the flow.

 

Yes.

 

And most of it is flowing through to the filters at the end.

 

Oh, okay. Through the tabs of filters.

 

Yeah. And here’s that sweet potato that’s going crazy.

 

This is impressive. So we really see the difference with the one you have outside.

 

That’s right. And they’re both same. I planted it at the same time. Constantly having to trim them back. So there’s the pump and the filter system.

 

And the filters.

 

So the water comes up and into that barrel.

 

Yeah.

 

And then it gets filtered. That’s a radial flow filter.

 

Okay.

 

And it’ll come out onto this second radial flow filter.

 

Yeah.

 

And then over across into the media filter, the bio filter and then it will flow down.

 

And it will flow to the –

 

Flow down into the DWC.

 

In the raft system, yeah. So what about the greenhouse? You started with this greenhouse. How did you incorporate the system inside and how you make it working together because you have to respect a certain temperature.

 

That’s right, yes.

 

How do you regulate things?

 

Yeah, look — the greenhouse is nothing special. I bought it online.

 

Yeah.

 

And it’s just like — it comes as a flat pack and you just install it yourself.

 

Okay.

 

And because I try to be sustainable and use as minimal water as possible.

 

Yeah.

 

So the plan is the greenhouse and under the ground there, I’ve got two IBCs. It is about approximately 2,000 liters of water.

 

2000 liters in the IBCs.

 

In the IBCs.

 

So the IBCs are the fish tanks, right?

 

And they actually access the fish tank.

 

Yeah.

 

And also the sump.

 

Until the sump.

 

That’s right.

 

One is the fish tank, one is the sump?

 

Now, both are the fish tanks because I needed a big volume of water just so when the water are siphoned up for the grow beds and the DWC, the fish are not stressed out by the drop in the level of water.

 

Yeah, yeah.

 

So having to IBCs 2,000 liters that’s both connected.

 

Yeah.

 

So it keeps the water temperature from fluctuating too much.

 

Yeah, I understand. So you got actually your fish tank and it’s also your sump tanks, right?

 

Correct. Yes.

 

So it’s such a big fish tank that you don’t have so much variation of water level.

 

That’s right. Yeah. And the benefit of keeping two tanks is you can have it segregated.

 

Yes.

 

So you can keep two varieties of fish.

 

Yeah.

 

And I’ve, for example, I’ve got Murray cod in one tank and I’ve got catfish and

yellowbelly in the other.

 

Okay.

 

And because the nature of the Murray cod, they tend to attack the other fish.

 

Yeah.

 

So that way they can both live in harmony.

 

All right, yeah, yeah. Excellent. Even if you have the same species you can put different sizes of fish. For example, Murray cod, if you have different size, you have big fish and small fish, you cannot just put them together, but if you are two tanks, at least you can sort them by size. And hopefully are not going to eat each other hopefully.

 

That’s the plan, yes.

 

That’s good. So here one of the particularities of your system is that the tank is underground.

 

That’s right, yeah and initially, when I was planning this, I wanted to incorporate everything to be inside the greenhouse.

 

Yeah.

 

And because I’m restricted by the size of the greenhouse, it’s approximately four and a half meters long by two and a half meters wide.

 

Yes.

 

And 2.7 meters high. So I didn’t want to keep the tank, the fish tank outside the greenhouse because you know, that would affect the temperature of the water.

 

Yeah.

 

So I thought that I would — our best idea was to put it in the ground plus I’ve insulated around it with foam.

 

Yes.

 

So that way it keeps everything stable. It keeps the dirt from coming in contact with the — and the water, the ground water from coming into contact with the IBC cage, busting it out over time.

 

Yeah, yeah.

 

And are affecting the plastic of the IBC. And that helps access an insulator, keeping the water temperature very constant.

 

Yeah, excellent.

 

Yeah.

 

And so that’s how you basically managed to put so many things in your greenhouse because you put the fish tank underneath, and the grow beds on top.

 

Correct, yes. Yep.

 

So you’re able to fit everything. And what did you say? What — four point?

 

About four and a half meters long.

 

Four and a half meters long?

 

By –

 

So it’s like 20 square meters or a bit less?

 

Yeah, about around there. Yeah.

 

So we’re talking about the regulation of the temperature.

 

Yes.

 

So you have a little trick in this greenhouse to regulate the temperature because we are Melbourne in the south of Australia, and the temperature can be super cold in winter but super warm in summer. We got a few days above 40 degrees.

 

That’s right.

 

So how do you deal with this?

 

Well, firstly, the greenhouse, see I’ve got a shade system that you can see the frame up there.

 

Yeah, so a lot of tubes that we can see, yeah, on the top.

 

That’s right yeah. So in the midst of summer when it’s unbearably hot, I’ve got shade cloth that’s designed for the greenhouse.

 

Yeah.

 

It covers the greenhouse and it’s actually better to have it on the outside than having it on the inside because that way, the greenhouse, the auto vent where it’s — the gas tube expands according to the heat. So the vents can still open and letting air in, fresh air.

 

Yeah. So it’s automatic

 

And keeping the house cool.

 

So can you set the temperature or it’s already set by the specifications of the gas?

 

The gas struts I think they were set around maybe 20. Off the top my head is around 24-25 degrees Celsius.

 

Yeah, which is perfect to just keep it warm, yeah.

 

Yeah. It’s just perfect. Yeah so they all open up automatically when the greenhouse gets too hot, get to a certain temperature.

 

Yeah.

 

Yeah.

 

So the way it works, the gas inside the system expands and so it pushes the window up, right?

 

Yes, the roof vent pushes them up.

 

The movement.

 

Yeah, so fresh air can flow in and hot air can rise out.

 

Yeah, excellent.

 

Yeah.

 

And so on top of that, you put a mat to decrease the quantity of sunlight that is going directly into the greenhouse.

 

That’s right. Yeah, because you know, in summer, the sun can be so bright and so hot that it’ll literally cook the plants.

 

Yeah.

 

So the shade cloth over the greenhouse acts as a shade, keeping and filtering all the UVs out.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

Keeping the house a lot cooler. Yeah.

 

So what type of temperature have you recorded the last summer, for example?

 

Summer on a really hot day, I’ve probably seen it – it topped that or maybe around 32-33 degrees.

 

Yeah.

 

Yeah.

 

While outside is even hotter.

 

Well, yeah. Outside is even hotter.

 

Correct, it’s crazy.

 

Yeah.

 

Thanks to your system plus obviously, the water you got some evaporation.

 

Yeah.

 

So it cools them with that.

 

Yes, that’s right. Yeah, and the water flow helps keep the air cool.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

Yeah, but the plan is I’ll probably add another fan to it.

 

A fan, yeah.

 

And plus a temperature switch where you know, you can set the temperature to a certain degree so maybe above 25, the fan will kick in and start blowing to circulate fresh air.

 

Yeah.

 

Yeah.

 

Excellent.

 

Because inside the greenhouse everything are grown at a very close proximity, so the problem I find over time is that the airflow is not adequate to sustain a healthy plant growth. So I’ll try and get a fan put in so it will push some of the air around, yeah.

 

Is it linked to the fact that we’re in aquaponics and you try to grow as many plants as possible in a limited space, but not too close to each other?

 

That’s right. Correct.

 

You can’t afford to just space them and a bit cool.

 

That’s right, yeah.

 

Bur involving a bigger greenhouse.

 

Yeah, it’s quite a problem of real estate in there.

 

Yeah, it sucks.

 

So yeah, yeah. So I try and get as much in as possible.

 

Okay.

 

But still allowing everything to grow as you know, as best as I can.

 

Yup, okay. Cool. So in terms of aquaponics right now, you are using different techniques in this, a new system.

 

Yeah, well my system is a bit of a hybrid. So I’ve got flood and drain on the left. I’ve got two grow beds that is flood and drain. Each got its own bell siphon, and on the right, I’ve got two DWCs or deep-water culture. So I’m always constantly trying and tweaking it. So when I’ve got one variety of plant, I’ll try and grow half in the media grow bed and then the other half in the DWC and try and monitor it over time and see how each is performing.

 

Yeah.

 

You can see a clear difference. Some plants certainly prefer DWC over the grow bed.

 

Okay, so you see a difference, but you will say that it’s — you wouldn’t say one is better than the other. It’s just by specific plants, right?

 

That’s right. Yeah, yeah.

 

Some of these can grow better in one system.

 

Yeah, it’s just the growth rate. It’s just a lot faster especially in like leafy green. They for some reason love the DWC.

 

Okay.

 

Yeah.

 

And so in the grow bed you will grow more fruits.

 

Correct, yeah.

 

Tomatoes, or chili or those types of things.

 

That’s right, yeah.

 

Okay.

 

And ginger or the one with the tuber.

 

Yeah, and what type of media are you using in the grow bed?

 

I only use clay balls.

 

Yeah.

 

It’s just, predominately, I just find them easy to handle.

 

Yeah.

 

Yeah, and then lighter as well.

 

And they look nice as well.

 

That’s right because although you can’t see it but the grow beds are sitting on a frame that are welded together from you know, steel.

 

Yeah.

 

Yeah, so there is quite a lot of weight because in the past, I’ve used 20 mil gravel and they work perfectly fine. Don’t get me wrong. It’s just that the weight is just — plus the water is just too much.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m sure as well the clay balls are more efficient due to the fact that they have more surface area because they are porous.

 

That’s right.

 

There must be — they must do a better job in terms of offering a better surface for the bacteria.

 

Yeah. Just to give you an idea, this setup is only about eight months old.

 

Yeah because you moved, right?

Yeah, correct. I’ve moved from one place to another and for my other place, I was using 20 mil gravel and I find that it takes about maybe a year or even more for the system to mature, but with the clay balls, I can see the difference of the bacteria. It builds up faster.

 

Okay, interesting.

 

Yeah and the growth rate is already maybe twice as fast as one of the normal 20 mil gravel.

 

The growth rate of the plants, you mean?

 

The plants, yeah.

 

Wow.

 

Yeah, yeah. So the system certainly seems to mature much faster.

 

Okay.

 

Yeah, yeah.

 

And you will probably be able to handle, I mean, to keep more fish for the same volume of grow bed.

 

That’s right, yes.

 

Because of the fact that you have more bacteria in your system.

 

Correct.

 

Yeah, right. And so in terms of filtration you rely on the grow bed? Plus, I can see some blue barrels at the back.

 

Yeah, for filtration I’ve got the barrels there. So I’ve got two radial flow filters. So they’ll catch most of the larger solids.

 

Yes.

 

But then the third barrel is the media filter.

 

The mechanic filter, yeah.

 

Mechanical filter, yes. So that is designed to catch all the finer particles.

 

The particles yeah.

 

Because the DWC demands a very clear filtration you know. So the root system is free from all the contaminants.

Exactly. Yeah, they need to be able to breathe and if there are too many solids that are caught on the – fixed on the roots, they can’t really absorb the air and the nutrients and they just don’t grow well, right?

 

Correct, yes.

 

The cleaner water the better it’s going to be.

 

That’s right, yeah. Yep, correct. And on the outside of the greenhouse, I’ve got it surrounded with IBCs which I’ve cut in half and turned into a wicking bed, but I’ve actually sunken it into the ground just to keep the aesthetics of the whole setup a bit nicer.

 

Yeah, yeah.

 

Yeah.

 

Because we couldn’t just imagine like looking at this, we would think it’s a normal garden, but actually, all those patches around the greenhouse are different wicking beds.

 

Correct.

 

So you cut them out of IBC pipes?

 

Correct, so it’s just IBCs that I’ve cut in half and I’ve joined the 7 wicking beds together to get more completely level and then there’s a drainpipe at the other end that will drain into the drain. So all the water in here, if it gets to a certain point, it will flow out of that pipe.

 

Wow.

 

Yeah, and I try to catch all the water off the roof of the greenhouse because the greenhouse got its own gutters. So it’s all connected to poly pipes and it drains all the water into the wicking beds. So if it rains, it’ll catch most of the water.

 

It’s very sustainable. You try to maximise the resources you have.

 

That’s right, yes. Correct. Yeah.

 

It’s really good.

 

And I find it worked really well. I rarely have to top it up with water. So it’s definitely working and the plants are certainly loving it.

 

Fantastic.

 

Yeah.

 

Okay and so, so far, have you found that one system was working better than the other, like either the aquaponics or the deep water or the wicking beds?

 

I find that the grow beds grow faster and better than the wicking beds.

 

Okay, yeah.

 

Yeah, probably because of the constant water supply.

 

Yes, with the constant nutrients as well, yeah.

 

Yeah. Correct, yeah, yeah.

 

Okay that’s good. And maybe there are some species that are going to be more adapted to the wicking bed. You were talking –

 

That’s right.

 

Yesterday you talked about asparagus.

 

Yeah, I’m looking at planting asparagus in the wicking beds because with asparagus, it’s a long investment plan you know. You put it in and you can’t harvest at least a few years. So it makes sense then. I’m going to dedicate two grow beds to asparagus because I’ll put it in and then maybe two or three years down the road. fingers crossed I’ll get a good crop/

 

You can probably plant other plants with it.

 

Yeah, so I’ll get a few crowns in and hopefully I’ll sneak a few herbs in between the crowns when they’re — during their dormancy stage.

 

Yeah.

 

Yeah. Make the most of it.

 

And this we wouldn’t probably be able to do it in aquaponics because I think they don’t like to be in wet environment, right?

 

Yeah, the roots of the asparagus, I don’t think they like to be moist too often. Otherwise, they would all rot.

 

Yeah, yeah.

 

Yeah, so I don’t think it will work well in aquaponics.

 

In the classic aquaponics, at least, yeah.

 

That’s right. Yeah, yeah.

 

You could probably adapt it but in a wicking bed it’s probably a perfect environment.

 

Correct, yeah.

 

Okay, I look forward to see you harvest.

 

Welcome.

 

Okay, Tom so how often do you, I mean, first are you testing your water sometimes, and if you do, how often are you doing it?

 

I’m currently testing the water. I’ve tested more often when it’s first set up, but now I find it’s quite stable, and I’ll probably test it maybe once a month you know, pH, etc. but currently I can see that some of the plants are struggling for iron so because of the yellowing of the leaves, which is natural for a young system.

 

Exactly.

 

So currently, I’m having to test for that and adding in iron chelates just to give it a bit of a boost.

 

Yes, okay.

 

You know, well because the fish are still small so maybe they’re not producing enough waste water to sustain the system. So just having those supplements just gives them a little bit of a hand.

 

Yeah. Also the iron as soon as you put normal iron in the system, it’s oxidized because of the oxygen and the pH of the system. So we always have to add some. So what kind of chelated iron do you use? Do you remember?

 

Just iron chelates in powder form. You can purchase from you know, the hardware store.

 

Yeah.

 

Yeah.

 

Okay, cool. And what type of fish are you growing then?

 

Aha, the fish is — I’ve got Murray cod which is a native fish to Australia.

 

Yeah.

 

And –

 

Fish that can really, really big.

 

— Golden perch or yellowbelly, and also catfish.

 

Okay.

 

Tandanus tandanus, which are all native to Australia.

 

Yes, and why did you choose those species and not any carp. I know carps are pests here.

 

Now, look, I’ve tried a few species in the past and I find that these works really well —

 

Yeah.

 

— in the system.

 

Okay, excellent.

 

Yeah.

 

So you know, yeah, I think in the past you grew already some Murray cods.

 

Yes, yeah in my previous setup, I’ve had some Murray cods and that was quite successful.

 

How long did it take you to be able to harvest them?

 

I think that one there maybe it took me about a year and a half.

 

Oh, it’s very fast.

 

Before they got to plate size, yeah.

 

It’s extremely fast.

 

That’s right, yeah.

 

Comparing to myself, who is growing silver perch, and I got my fish. I had the same for probably four years, some. And they are only 30 centimetres. I mean, that they are plate size but yeah, they take a while comparing to other fish such as the Murray cod or the trout.

 

Yeah, plus the benefit of the greenhouse is that it keeps the water at a constant temperature, at a warmer temperature. So the fish they naturally feed more during — when the water’s warm.

 

Yes. So I’m feeding them more so they probably put on a bit more growth faster than –

 

Yes, definitely.

 

— the system that’s out in the open.

 

100% yes. That makes a big difference.

 

Yeah. So these are the fish tanks. So I’ve made a deck to go over it with composite deckings so zero maintenance, and plus it keeps any potential pests, because we have a cat around here and so it keeps them out. So I’ve got a 5,000-liter pump, but it’s a Laguna pump which has got a cage around it to collect all the solids, so because it pumps all solids up to the filters.

 

Really cool. So the pump is a submersible. That’s the one we can see that’s underneath there.

 

Correct.

 

There’s a cage and the pump is there.

 

The pump is submersible.

 

Yep, okay.

 

I’ll just pull in the pump up so you can see, and I use a 32-mil line. This is so I get a maximum flow rate. So there’s the pump there.

 

And here we can see some pipes underneath that link in the sorry, the IBC.

 

Yeah. So I’ve got two 100-mil PVC pipe.

 

Yeah.

 

And I’m using uni seals to join the two grow beds together.

 

Okay.

 

And I’ve got a cap that I’ve drilled holes through it just so the fish can’t swim through

 

Oh, yes. So you don’t have too many problems of sedimentation.

 

I find that this set up the only downside is, every so often, you know, I find I have to move the pump from this IBC to the other tank just so that it can clean out those solids on the other tank.

 

So what type of fish do you have in this one?

 

In this one here, I’ve got catfish and yellowbelly.

 

Okay, and they’re probably hidden inside the pipes because you got two pipes under that.

 

That’s right. I put a drop, some off cut to the PVC pipes down just somewhere for the fish to hide.

 

Yeah. Oh, great.

 

And I’ve got an air stone down there to keep the water well oxygenated.

 

Yeah, of course. So what type of air pump do you have for that?

 

I’ve got an 80 liters per minute pump at the other end.

 

Oh, yes. Yes.

 

And here’s the other tank. So in this tank, I only keep Murray cod. Unfortunately, they’ve still fingerlings so it’s a bit hard to see and plus all the air bubbles.

 

So you’ve got a really good aeration here.

 

That’s right.

 

That’s good. Yeah, I don’t see too much sedimentation. Maybe a little bit.

 

Yes.

 

It is quite thin. And so in terms of fish food, obviously, you are using some pellet food but so you were — before you were growing a bit of life food as well? Can you talk on that?

 

Yeah, look ah, most of the fish like the Murray cod and the catfish, I feed them pellets because they’re small so maybe the small 2-mil pellets that sink because a lot of them feed at the bottom. Yes.

 

But for the yellowbelly, they’re a bit fussy. So they prefer live food, but I’m trying to wean them into taking pellet foods. I substitute live food every once or so a week.

 

Yes.

 

So I’m keeping – I’m trying to culture my own black worms so it’s just a small setup that I have there with a pump pushing air through it.

 

Yes.

 

And the worms seem to yeah, quite enjoy.

 

Very interesting.

 

They’re breeding very fast.

 

Okay and so obviously, you’re not going to be able to do a big production but when the fish are small –

 

Yeah.

 

— it’s enough to help them to switch to a food pellet.

 

That’s right. Yes. Well, that’s the idea. I’m trying to move them off live food.

 

Yeah.

 

And onto pallets so the worms are just acting as a supplement.

 

Yes, I see. Yeah, because golden perch is one of those tricky fish that don’t always accept the pellets. You really need to lead them to the pellets slowly. So that’s why you are doing this.

 

Correct. Yes.

 

But you know, the black worm is such a good idea. If you can add a bit of life food in the system, it’s a really good boost to vitamins and it’s much better for the fish than always eating the same food. Great. And I have a question that is not really related to this, but what about your family do they enjoy having an aquaponics system here? Or do they — I mean, what is their point of view on this activity?

 

Yeah, my family loves it. My daughter, I’ve got a little girl who loves it, and it’s a good place to teach them about planting, where foods come from.

 

Yes.

 

You know, because a lot of kids nowadays. they’re not too sure where the food — they think it’s a supermarket.

 

Yeah, yeah.

 

But there she loves getting her hands dirty and getting in there, helping me out and seeing the fish. They love seeing the fish, the kids.

 

So she is involved with you in that.

 

Yeah, very, very much.

 

That is good. And that she feeds the fish sometimes?

 

Oh, that’s her job.

 

All right. Okay, it’s really good, excellent to hear. Well, anyway we can understand why the family loves the system because Tom made it really nice, really clean, and it’s productive. So you are really producing a significant quantity of food for your family from the system. So that’s probably also a good point to raise. If you want to start your setup and if the family is not too much for it, you have to do it the good way like Tom.

 

If you want, I could show you under the raft the root system.

 

Yeah, it’s quite significant.

 

You’ll find out it’s growing so fast that sometimes I have to trim the roots back because it’s flowing into the overflow pipes.

 

Oh, yes.

 

So it’s nothing special. I just buy these pots from hydroponic shops and just put the clay balls in here. You’re going to plant the plants straight in here and they’ll just take off.

 

The way you put them into the deep-water culture, are they already started or just seeds?

 

You can do both. I find that it’ll probably be easier if you put seedlings into the DWC because if you put seeds directly into here, I find that some time, it will just seep through the clay balls and flow into the system and end up somewhere else. So I plant them out as seedlings maybe in the grow beds.

 

Yeah.

 

And then I’ll thin them out and then pick the best ones and plant them over into the DWC.

 

Ah, yes. It’s really good.

 

So I’ve got chili.

 

Oh, chili. Yeah.

 

I’ve got maybe about seven plants in there and here’s my cucamelons.

 

And celery.

 

Celery, yep. And that’s a radicchio lettuce and bok choy and you can see my strawberries are doing quite well.

 

Yeah. Now, what is this one?

 

That’s a type of Asian plant that I planted out from seeds.

 

Okay.

 

The only problem with DWC is some of the plants the diameter is quite large and they tend to touch with each other. So when you’re planning the raft, make sure you plant, you’ve cut the holes with adequate room for the plants to grow.

 

Yeah. Then you can always change the board later on.

 

That’s right.

 

Yeah.

 

So I have these rafts and I’ve got other rafts that I’ve made where the holes are wider and farther apart. So if I plant anything that takes a lot of room, I would just swap them out accordingly.

 

Yeah, very good.

 

Is it possible to have a look at the inside of the filters?

 

The filter? Yeah, sure. So that’s the filter there. So as you can see, the water flows in and out of that pipe and all the solid is caught by this pipe. It flowed down.

 

It has to go down.

 

Correct.

 

And because it’s solid it just falls down.

 

That’s right.

 

And the only clear water goes up on the side.

 

Yeah, and if there are any solids left it’ll just be the finest solids that will flow out and it’ll be captured by this filter which I can show you.

 

Okay. It’s got some foam to capture the solids.

 

Correct. So the water flows in.

 

Yup.

 

So this bucket here I’ve drilled holes at the bottom.

 

Yep.

 

So it’ll catch all of the solids and all the clear water will sink down and come out through the holes and up and then flow over into the down pipe and into the DWC.

 

Excellent. So this one that’s a radial filter you have here. This pipe here you glued it.

 

Yeah. So this is just PVC pipe.

 

Yup.

 

That I’ve cut and glued to the lid.

 

Silicon.

 

Silicon to the lid.

 

Yeah. Great.

 

This is elephant ear. So we mainly use the stem in a lot of our cooking.

 

Do you boil it? Or how do you cook it? Or you use it like an onion?

 

Now, we yeah, we peel the skin. We cook it in like a kind of broth. Yeah, so a lot of our soup base ingredient. So these plants I find they do very well in aquaponics.

 

Yeah.

 

So constantly having to harvest it. I’ve tried growing it outside and also in the wicking bed, but by far, this is the best in the media grow bed.

 

Okay.

 

But unfortunately, it takes up a lot of room.

 

Yeah, it does. And what about the roots? Do you eat them? Or you don’t harvest the leaves, that’s it. You leave them.

 

No, we only harvest the whole stalk so we’ll cut the leaves and keep the stalk.

 

Well, that’s interesting. And so here you got some turmeric. Is it?

 

These are turmeric.

 

Yep.

 

Yep.

 

They have very nice leaves. Right.

 

And also these are the ginger.

 

Oh, so the ginger is growing well?

 

Ginger is doing well, but I’ve only planted recently and they seem to be taking off so they’re doing very well.

 

Just almost winter until about winter. We’ll see.

 

Yeah and in the past if I grow them outside in winter, they’ll tend to die off.

 

Yeah.

 

But hopefully it will

 

You take them to the greenhouse.

Yeah, correct, yeah. It keeps all the frost out so hopefully over this winter it’ll be okay.

 

Yeah. And here, what is this? A kind of a cucumber?

 

This is another, see this is a prime example of trying not to sow seeds directly into their DWC because this is a cucamelon and I’ve sowed the seeds on the other DWC you know.

 

Yeah.

 

It’s seeped through the clay balls and gone into the recirculating system. The pumps picked it up and pumped it up here and now the plant’s taking off.

 

Are you serious?

 

That’s right.

 

Wow. It’s crazy. Okay, that’s good.

 

What about those ones?

 

These are pennywort. It’s a vegetable that we have quite often. You can have it in salads or we can make juice out of it.

 

Okay. Does it grow well in aquaponics?

 

It grows very well in. It grows very well. I have friends who grow them outside, and I find that the leaves are not as big and juicy as the ones in the grow beds.

 

Oh, okay. Great.

 

And what is this? Do you know? You can’t remember?

 

This is a type of watercress.

 

Okay.

 

And here we got some eggplants.

 

Eggplants, yes.

 

So you put some little buckets on the outlets to try to capture the solids.

 

That’s right. Yes, I just cut through them and plug some of the sponge in there to try and catch some of the solids, keep them from entering in the grow bed, but there’s quite a few worms in this grow bed so most of the solids that do get through, the worms will clean them up.

 

Yeah.

 

Just got a – well, yeah, mostly what I do is just clean out all the leaves or dead leaves that have fallen in just so they don’t break down in the system.

 

Yeah. Excellent.

 

Are we done?

 

Yeah, we’re done. Because these systems are quite young, and the fish are still small. Sometimes they’re not producing enough for to support the plants so I’d find that I have to add a little bit of a liquid pellet feed. It’s just, it doesn’t hurt the fish but it does give the plant a bit of a boost.

 

Yeah.

 

Yeah.

 

So it adds a little of nitrogen, plus a bit of – whatever they need.

 

Correct.

 

So you saw a difference once you added it in the system?

 

That’s right.

 

Okay. So here you put the seeds directly in the pots?

 

Yeah, this is a trial that I’ve done. I put seeds. These are celery seeds that I put straight into the other pots and I’m sure some of them have flowed through down into the fish tank and the pump must have picked it up and pushed these somewhere else, but a lot of it has come up.

 

Yup.

 

So at this stage, I will get through it and thin it out and pick the strongest ones and I’ll plant them out into its individual pots.

 

Ah, good.

 

Same with these bok choy.

 

Yeah. Excellent.

 

I just want to show you the filter setup and how I maintain it. So the barrels have — at the bottom of the barrel I have tapered it into like a funnel and I’ve got these, made these taps. That’s joined to the bottom of the barrel so maybe once every six weeks, I would deal with maintenance and I’ll clean out the filter system. So I just connect the clear hose to the outlets, and then I’ll run the hose over to the fish tank into a filter sock and then I’ll just turn this nozzle and then the water will flow out. And then I just give it a — get a brush, clean the inside, and everything was just drained out into the — and then they’ll catch all of the solids in the filter socks and then that way the water is not wasted. It will just go back into the fish tank.

 

So you’re telling me that at the end of this transparent pipe you got the socks for the filter?

 

Correct. So you can buy these filter socks and you can attach to the end of the hose and then the water will run through and then it will catch all the — even the finest solids and that way you’re not wasting any water. All that water runs back into the fish tank and it’ll get pumped back into the system.

 

Why don’t you use it for your classic garden?

 

I find that my IBCs and wicking beds they sustain the water because I put a layer mulch on top of it so I’m not losing much moisture.

 

So you don’t have any other gardens in your house?

 

No, no. I just — the rest is just lawn and yeah trees.

 

Oh, okay.

 

Yeah. I can — well you can use it to water the garden, but I’m trying to save water as much as I can so I just put all that water back into the fish tank.

 

Yeah.

 

And yeah plus I’ve got rainwater tank to harvest all the water off the house and I use that on my lawn and my regular garden.

 

So we see evaporation in summer. How often do you have to top up your system?

 

In summer I top it up maybe once just every month and I’m not losing a lot. Maybe I put in between — I just pump water straight into the fish tank and I’ll probably put in about maybe 100 liters in about four weeks. So that’s hardly much water at all.

 

Great. There is probably one last thing that’s we didn’t talk about. I mean, nothing very special but about the oxygen.

 

Oh, the oxygen. Okay.

 

So maybe I can take this shot.

 

Sure.

 

And then the pipes are going inside. So here you just have stones or you have long lines in the bottom. Just an air stone, right?

 

Yeah. Now, I’ve got – so that the pumps it’s separated into four lines. So I’ve got two lines, one going to each of the IBC fish tank.

 

Yeah.

 

And then I’ve got two more lines running for the DWC.

 

Okay.

 

So I’ve got two stones in each of the DWC.

 

Yeah.

 

It’s just so I can put some more oxygen into the system and I find that having fresh oxygen straight into the roots, it really helps with the plant growth.

 

Yeah. So I can see that here it’s really localized where you have your air stone, right? Did you find a better growth on the plants that are just above air stone? Or you don’t find really a big difference? I don’t if my question is clear.

 

I find that if you look at it here, this is a good example here. You see when the bubble rises.

 

Yeah.

 

It’ll flow outwards quite evenly so not just the plants right directly above the stone but most of the other plants they do benefit from the oxygen. So I find that the root system on all the plants are quite healthy. And as you can see the color.

 

Yeah, nice white.

 

It’s a nice white color.

 

Yeah, so did you find a difference between the plants that were very close to the air stone such as those ones here, and the plants that are quite farther like the ones that we have here?

 

Yeah. I’d find that there’s quite a difference with the plants that are closer to the air stone. So I try to place the plants that have a significant root structure closer to the air stone while things like onions where there’s not a major amount of roots, they will do fine being away from the air stones.

 

Okay, yeah.

 

The greenhouse, the positioning of it, I purposely placed in this spot because with my property, the sun tracks along here, so I’m maximizing the amount of hours per day in summer and winter that I get the full sun exposure. So it tracks along the right side of the greenhouse. So I get at least six hours in winter and maybe eight to nine hours in summer of good sunlight for the plants.

 

So that’s how you maximize the growth in the greenhouse.

 

Correct.

 

Yeah. Thanks Tom. How do you manage any eventual pests that would come in the greenhouse such as aphids or caterpillars?

 

Well, it’s a bit hard to manage the pests in the greenhouse because you know, you can naturally attract as much beneficial insect into the greenhouse as you would outside. So on nice days like today, I’d try to keep the door open so the ladybugs and all that can enter the greenhouse. But with aphids, I try to stay away from nasty chemicals so I make my own, maybe soapy, dishwashing water, with detergent with a bit of water and I spray onto them because that kills the insect or I just use eco oil or white oil and that seems to work really well.

 

Ah good. Okay, so until now you never had any big issue and when you had issue you were able to manage them with those types of fluids.

 

Correct. It seemed to work really well and even if it does flow into the system it doesn’t harm the fish.

 

Okay and you haven’t seen when you add soap, it doesn’t form any foam on the surface or whatever.

 

No, you don’t. Try to dilute it as much as possible just so that it’s just enough so it attached to the insect.

 

Oh yeah. Okay. And it kills the insects.

 

It does. Yes, especially the aphids efforts. I find it works really well on them.

 

Great. Did you ever have those white flies you know? Personally, I have them before on my tomatoes. When I have them, it’s kind of impossible to get rid of them because I don’t use any – I just don’t use anything, but how do you, I mean, did you have those things and how did you deal with them?

 

No, I haven’t had any white flies.

 

Okay.

 

My biggest problem is the aphids and the black aphids I find a lot. There’s quite a lot of them on the garlic chives.

 

Okay.

 

So I just have to be prevalent and just constantly attacking them with the soapy water and the eco oil.

 

Yeah okay. And you know, I receive a lot of inquiry about going for commercial farm aquaponics. Do you think if you got a commercial system, it will be way harder to manage these pests, or what is your view on this? No, I’m just asking that because personally I think when you got a small system, you can always manage it either manually or with soft, very nice products. But if you have a commercial system and you have pests that are coming in the greenhouse, I imagine it must be way more tricky to manage the crop and the pests.

 

Yeah, yeah.

 

What do you think?

 

I think with my greenhouse, the next thing I’ll do is I’ll start to incorporating planting flowers to attract bees you know, because it helps with the pollination because currently, a lot of the plants sometime I have to give it a bit of a hand you know, hand pollinate.

 

Yeah.

 

Yeah, but if I incorporate flowers in there, it might be able to attract the beneficial insect in. For a commercial purpose they can definitely do the same.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Very good point, yeah. Thanks a lot Tom. Tom, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate that.

 

You’re welcome.

 

Excellent. I’m sure we’re going to have the opportunity to make other videos later on.

 

Yep.

 

Because you are working on some very exciting projects such as?

 

Yes. Yes, the next thing is I’m trying to build some batteries and get some solar panels just so I can be more sustainable and yeah, remove the power component of the whole setup because currently it’s running on a 5,000 liter pump and an air pump. Together, I think it’s consuming about 150 watts.

 

Yeah.

 

So I’m trying to get some solar panel put in and build my own battery from recycled laptop batteries, and yeah and then hopefully have the whole system running on this solar power.

 

That’s amazing.

 

Yeah.

 

I can’t wait. Well, thank you for today, Tom. It’s so great and I’m sure it’s going to help a lot of people who are watching this video.

 

You’re welcome.

 

Bye-bye.

 

Okay, bye.

 

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