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The Urban Aquaculture Manual

by Jonathan Woods
Sponsored by Heifer Project Internationalwith assistance from the
Evangelical Lutheran Church of America

Table Of Contents
Chapter One: Urban Aquaculture
Chapter Two: Simple Recirculuation System
Chapter Three: An Aquaponic System
Chapter Four: Resources

Chapter One

URBAN AQUACULTURE
INTRODUCTION
Aquaculture is a type of animal-based agriculture that can be practiced in small
spaces. It is suitable for city people who want to raise food animals but have
limited space to do it. Unfortunately, there is little information about urban
aquaculture. This manual was written to give city dwellers information about
aquaculture in the city.
This manual provides some basic knowledge about aquaculture. It tells you how to
build two different aquaculture systems, a simple recalculating system and an
aquaponic system. It also tells you how to maintain these systems and what to do if
something goes wrong. Finally, it list", some good places to find out more about
aquaculture.

PROS AND CONS


Raising fish in the city is not for everyone. To get good growth, fish have to be fed
daily, and something goes wrong with their tank it needs to be fixed promptly.
Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using the systems in this
manual.
Advantages
1. You can raise fish and plants in a small amount of space.
2. You don't need a large garden plot or backyard.
3. Fresh fish are a nutritious and healthy food.
4. Food fish are often cheaper to raise yourself than to buy.
Disadvantages
1. Tanks take up space and are very heavy.
2. Tanks have to be kept warm if you intend to use them over the winter.
3. Indoors, an aquaculture system can make a room very humid.
4. Some fish can be tricky to raise.

COSTS
There are two types of costs to think about when you decide to build a system,
construction costs and maintenance costs. You only have to pay construction costs
once - when you build the system. Maintenance costs include things like food,
electricity, and repairs. These are paid for as long as you have the system.
Estimates for construction costs (below) and maintenance costs (opposite page) for
the two different systems are shown. By 'crop' I mean the time to raise and harvest
a group of fish from fingerling to eating size.

Note that some of the materials that you need can be obtained for free or at a low
price. These estimates are based on buying most material new at a large hardware
store like Home Depot. Your costs might be higher or lower than these depending
on where you show, and how much you can get for cheap or free.

BENEFITS
The reason that you are thinking about building a system is because of the benefits
you will get. Fresh fish and vegetables, satisfaction from growing your own food,
and even improved indoor air quality are all benefits that people have gotten from
these systems. Below, I have show the dollar value of fish and vegetable yields that
you can expect from a well- run system.

THE BOTTOM LINE


The value of the fish and plants that you grow is higher if you eat them yourself.
This is because farmers can get paid a lot less for a crop than consumers pay for it
in the grocery store. By eating what you grow, or sharing or trading it with
neighbors, you will get higher economic benefits.
For each dollar that you spend in food, maintenance and utilities, you can expect to
harvest $1.75 to $2.00 worth of fish. If you also are growing vegetables in the
aquaponic system, then you will harvest $1.25 worth of vegetables as well. The
total return per dollar is close to three dollars for the aquaponic system and two
dollars for the simple recirculating system.
If you operate your system all year round, then you can recover the cost of
construction in one to two years. Operating it only in the summer will lengthen this
period to 3 or more years. So if you are planning to use one of these systems for
more than 2 years, then it is worthwhile economically to build one.
If you feel entrepreneurial, you might consider building more or larger systems and
selling your produce.
Running small businesses and operating large aquaculture tank systems are beyond
the scope of this manual, but there are some references listed in the Resources
Chapter that you could consult if you want to grow fish and vegetables for profit.

HOW TO START
The first thing you should do is read this manual through. This will help you get an
overview of what is involved, what you will have to do, and what you can expect.
Then go and get information or experience from other sources. is there somebody
in your neighborhood who keeps tropical fish? They should be a good source of
information.
Public libraries are also excellent places to find out more.
While you are learning about aquaculture from books and people, keep your eyes
open for sources of cheap or free materials. You can save some money by spending
time stockpiling things like barrels, pipe, and rocks.

ASK YOURSELF THREE QUESTIONS

Before you start building anything you should ask yourself a few basic questions.
These will help you focus on what aquaculture is about and how you really feel
about it.
1. Most importantly, do you like to eat fish? What about tilapia? It might be a good
idea to buy a tilapla from a store and eat it, just to make sure that you like the taste.
Remember that fresh fish that you raise yourself will taste better than frozen or
dead ones from the store.
2. Are you (or somebody else who is going to be around to responsible feed and
take care of the system? While you can leave these systems unattended for a few
days, it is better if somebody is taking care of the fish on a daily basis. Things can
go wrong quite quickly with fish, and aquaculturists who check their fish
frequently tend to be successful.
3. Finally, why were you thinking about raising fish in the first place? If it was to
get rich quick, you may want to reconsider. You won't become rich raising fish 'in
barrels 'in your basement, unless they are rare tropical fish and you are an expert. If
you want to raise fish so that you can grow your own food, near your own home,
even in the city, then I think that's fantastic and encourage you to try it!

CONCLUSION
Raising fish in small aquaculture systems is a good way for city dwellers and
people with limited space to raise animals for food. By considering the economic
costs and benefits, and asking yourself what your motivations are, you can
determine whether or not urban aquaculture Is a good idea for you.

Chapter Two

A Simple Recirculation System


INTRODUCTION

This chapter describes how to build a simple, inexpensive and compact aquaculture system. It
fits Into a four foot by four foot space, runs off of one double-outlet air pump, and is easy to
maintain. This is an ideal system to learn about aquaculture without spending a lot of money.
The system described in this chapter has been built by ordinary people living in Toronto,
Chicago, Little Rock, and Milwaukee. They didn't know much about aquaculture or even
plumbing, but they shared a willigness to try something new and were successful.

HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS


The following is a quick account of the processes that occur in this recirculating system. Look
for sources of additional information about how such systems work in the Resources Chapter.
This system mimics natural cycles. The sun (or artificial light) shines into the plant tank, causing
aquatic plants and algae to grow These plants and algae flow into the fish tank (or are cut and
fed) where herbivorous fish cat them. After digestion, the fish excrete ammonia (a sort of urine)
and produce feces. These are partially broken down by snails and other invertebrates in the
bottom of the fish tank and then pumped 'into the b1ofilter tank.
In the biofilter tank, specialized bacteria break down toxic ammonia into fairly harmless
nitrates, which can be taken up by plants. Other bacteria and micro-organisms break down other
waste products into forms that plants can use. Particles of waste are trapped by rocks and shells
where they are eaten by invertebrates or broken down by other microorganisms. This tank acts
like an aquatic compost pile, converting wastes into fertilizer for the plants.

Finally, the fertilized water flows into the plant tank, where it is taken up and converted into
plant tissues. Submerged plants and algae add oxygen to the water when the sun shines. Clean
water, oxygen, and green plant food flow into the fish tank, completing the cycle.

SITE
This system should be located in a warm sunny spot with a water source and drain nearby. It
should sit on a strong floor that is level, and should be protected from vandalism and curious
hands.

It is very important that the system is level. If not, the air-lift pumping system will not work well.
Most houses and buildings are built with level floors - test the floor with a level or put a marble
down and see if It rolls. If working on bare ground, try to tamp the earth down with a board
where the system will go. This will prevent compression and uneven settling. A good idea is to
put the system on top of a piece of plywood or a pallet.

PARTS AND TOOLS NEEDED


Hardware
3 - 55 gallon plastic barrels. These should he food grade (i.e , no chemical residues) and at least
one should be semi-transparent.
1 - 10' long piece of 2" PVC pipe.
6 - 2" male adapters.

6 - 2" female adapters


.

3 - 2" tee (T) fittings.

3 - 2" L fittings.

1- aquarium air pump with double air outlet. Get a medium-sized one (e.g. the Elite 802 which
produces 2500 cc/min. of air at 4.0 PSI)

2 - aquarium air stones.


1 - 10' long piece of aquarium air tubing (1/4" clear polyethylene).
several clean rags.
1 small can of PVC primer.
1 small can of PVC cement.
1 roll Teflon (plumbers) tape.
1 - tube of clear silicon sealant (bathroom or aquarium grade). Be sure that it is true silicon
sealant, as synthetic sealants can be toxic.
several small pieces of window screen, preferably plastic, to cover pipes and prevent fish from
escaping
2 - strong elastic bands.
40 gallons of crushed rock, brick, gravel, or other coarse rock-like material, washed to remove
dirt and pollution. The pieces should range In size from 1/2" to several inches in diameter. Try to
avoid pieces smaller than 1/2".
1 - 2' by 2' square piece of burlap or other strong, coarse cloth
10 gallons of oyster shells or dolomite, making sure that most of the pieces are larger than 1/2".
Tools

saw - to remove tops from the barrels and cut pipe. A Skill Saw (or "Jigsaw")
is probably the best for removing the tops, but a hand saw works well for cutting pipe.

scrub brush or sponge for cleaning up barrels and pipe


sandpaper or a small file for removing burrs from cut edges
felt pen to mark the barrels and pipe for cuts

power drill for drilling through-hulls

1/4" drill bit for making holes in filter in Pipe

2 1/4" hole saw (large bore drill bit) to drill holes for through hulls

caulking gun

2 pipe wrenches or large pliers - for tightening through-hulls (optional)


scissors - to cut plastic screen and burlap
Biological Materials
buckets of water (with some bottom mud or sand) from local lakes, rivers or ponds
1 quart of fresh compost
1 quart of good garden soil
1 quart of soil from a forest
1 quart of soil from a meadow
20-30 snails from an aquarium store or local pond
floating plants such as water lettuce or water hyacinth
20 - 30 fish fingerlings (nile tiapla are recommended)

CONSTRUCTION PROCEDURE
Most of this system can be built in two days if you can get all the materials together. Washing
and leaching the barrels takes several days to do properly, so plan to do this before the actual
construction. It is a good idea to let the system stabilize for a few days before adding any fish,
so arrange for the fingerlings to be delivered a week or so after you are finished building. Be sure
to read ALL the instructions CAREFULLY before starting to build so that you know what has to
be done next.

STEP 1. Rinsing the barrels.


You can obtain empty 200-litre food grade polyethylene barrels from food factories, breweries,
recycyling centers, and many other places. Big cities often have dealers who buy and sell used
barrels, or you could call your local recycyling organization. Rinse out the three barrels with a
garden hose. Even food-grade barrels could contain toxins, so you should always handle them
with care. Wear gloves, long sleeved shirts, long pants, and safety glasses when rinsing. You can
drain them by tipping them over (hard) or using a sipihon (easier).

STEP 2. Leaching the barrels.


Leach the barrels. Barrels can be leached by filling them with water, letting them sit overnight,
and then draining them the next day. Do this several times, using hot water if available. This will
draw out any rest 'dues that have been absorbed by the plastic and may be harmful to fish.
STEP 3. Cutting the lids out of the barrels.
Cut out the lids of the barrels, leaving the rim intact. The rim provides support for the barrel, so it
Is important not to cut it off There are several ways of cutting the lid out, depending on what
tools you have. You can drill a small hole and then use a skill saw, or you can drill holes all the
way around if you don't have a saw.
STEP 4. Washing the barrels.
Wash the barrels. Use soap, warm water, and a scrub brush or sponge. You should wear rubber
gloves to protect your hands as well as a long sleeved shirt. You could use a mop, or take the
barrel to a commercial car wash where you can use their pressure washer. Rinse off the soap, re-
fill with water, and let them leach overnight again.
STEP 5. Placing the barrels and marking the through-hulls.
Arrange the barrels into a triangle on the site you have chosen. Using the felt pen, mark each
barrel at the point where it is closest to the other two. Now measure six inches (6") straight down
from each point and draw a cross mark. This will be where you drill the- holes for the connecting
pipes.
Each barrel should have two crosses. Double check your measurements by measuring from the
cross mark to the floor. All the cross marks should be the same distance from the floor.
Put the barrels back into the original triangle. Eyeball the crosses to make with sure they line up.
Water will not practice circulate well if the crosses are not at quite the, same level.

STEP 6. Drilling the through-hulls.


Check the 2 1/4" large-bore drill bit against a male adapter. The bit should be slightly narrower
than the threads of the adapter. That way the adapter can be screwed into the hole you drill,
ensuring a snug fit. Straddle the barrel like youíre riding a horse, or get somebody else to.
Carefully drill a hole, using the cross mark center. Remember to hold the drill straight up and
down and lower it slowly. Bracing the drill with your other hand will help you cut an even, clean
hole.
You can practice drilling holes through the lids you removed in STEP 3. Even if you are handy a
drill, it is still a good idea to drilling because plastic drills differently from wood.

STEP 7. Connector pipe assembly.


Make the connector pipes by cutting three 3" long pieces of 2" pipe. Try to cut the pipe as square
as possible. Use a knife and some sandpaper to
smooth the cut edges. Dry fit (i.e. put together without using cement) a connector piece of pipe
between two male adapters. You should be able to see a little bit of the pipe in between the
adapters when it is pushed into them as far as possible. Make two more sets from the remaining
3" long pieces of pipe and the male adapters.

STEP 8. Through-hull assembly.


Assemble the through-hull fitting as follows. First dry fit a male adapter through each hole, from
the outside of the barrel in. Then GENTLY screw a female adapter onto each male adapter, but
do not tighten at this point.
Put the other two connector pipes together by screwing them into the other two sets of holes.
GENTLY screw on some female adapters. At this point, all the barrels in your system should be
connected together 'in a triangle.
Now that all the pipe connectors and through-hulls have been put together, have a close look at
the barrels. The barrels should be close together and level, and the three connectors should not be
bent at funny angles or appear to be under stress. Check that the system is as you want it before
you start cementing it together in the next step
STEP 9. Cementing the connector pipes.
WARNING: Primer and cement are dangerous chemicals. You should
always wear rubber gloves and work in a well- ventilated area when using '
these chemicals. Be sure to read the ALL safety instructions on the cans
before opening them!
Disassemble one of the connector pipes by unscrewing the male and female
adapters and removing the connector pipe from between the two male
adapters. You should have two male adapters, two female adapters and a 3"
long piece of 2" pipe. Using a rag, wipe clean the inner surface of one of the
male adapters and the outer surface of one end of the 3" long piece of pipe.
Apply primer to all these surfaces and allow to dry.
Working quickly, apply PVC cement to the inside of the male adapters and
the corresponding surface of the 3" long piece of pipe. Twist the pipe and
the adapter together, making sure that you have pushed the pipe in as far
as it will go. Wait for a few 11-11inutes until this joint sets, then cement the
other male adapter to the other end of the connector pipe. Repeat this
procedure for the other two sets of connector pipes and male adapters.
Allow the cement to dry for 20 minutes before moving on to the next step.

STEP 10. Silicon sealing the through- hulls.


Silicon sealant can produce irritating fumes when used indoors. Be sure to
ventilate your workspace as much as possible. Also, you should try not to
get it on your skin or clothes, as it is very difficult to remove.
Take one of the connector pipe/male adapter sets that you made in STEP 9
and wrap several layers of Teflon tape around the threads of one of the
adapters. Be sure to wrap the tape clockwise around the threads, otherwise
it will bunch up. Generously cover the tape and threads with silicon sealant
and twist the adapter through the hole in the barrel. Squirt a bit of silicon
'into the female adapter and begin to screw it onto the male adapter from
inside the barrel. As you tighten, it will become harder and harder to turn
the adapter and silicon will start to squeeze out from between the male and
female adapters. Put on some work gloves to protect your hands and tighten
the joint as much as you can. If you have a couple of pipe wrenches, then
use them to make the joint as tight as possible. Grab one adapter with each
wrench and turn the two wrenches in opposite directions. It is important that
a generous amount of silicon gets squeezed out between the adapters by the
force of tightening, as this makes the joint waterproof.
Repeat this process for the other five male adapters to female adapter
joints. By the end of this step all three barrels will be joined together by
waterproof connector pipes.
Let the silicon dry for 24 hours before moving on to the next step.

STEP 11. Assembling the up-pipes.


Cut a 20" long piece and two 3" long pieces of 2" pipe for the plant tank.
Cut another set (one 20" piece, two 3" pieces) for the fish tank. Use tee
fittings to install them into two of the barrels as shown the diagram. Because
the fittings and pipe are inside the tanks, they do not need to be held
together with cement or silicon sealant.
Remember that the water has to enter a tank at the top, flow to the bottom,
and then go up an up-pipe to exit that tank and enter the next. Therefore, It
is important that you arrange the up-pipes correctly. When set up correctly,
only one up-pipe should be attached to each connector pipe assembly.
STEP 12. Assembling the filter pipe.
Cut two 3" long pieces of 2" pipe. Install these into the third, empty barrel.
Now carefully measure and cut an up-pipe of 2" pipe for the filter tank. It is
important that the intake lies flat on the bottom, so carefully measure the
distance between the tee fitting at the top and the el fitting at the bottom.
Using three more el fittings, cut short pieces of 2" Pipe to make the intake
pipe as shown. You may need to trim these pipes to make them fit.
Once you have figured out how the filter assembly will fit, disassemble it and
perforate the pipe by drilling º" holes approximately 1" apart over the entire
surface of the intake. This will allow water to enter the up-pipe without
compromising the strength of the pipe. Reassemble the perforated pipe and
install into the filter tank.
STEP 13. Final positioning.
Before- you put anything heavy into the tanks (like water or rocks) you
should make sure that the tank is properly positioned. The plant tank should
be in the sunniest spot. The entire system should be level. If you don't have
a level, you can use a bowl full of water on a long straight board instead. If
you are placing the system on gravel or on loose soil, you should position
the whole system on top of a 4'by 4' piece of plywood or a large, sturdy
pallet. This will prevent the system from settling unevenly
STEP 14. Filling the filter tank.
If you are building this system inside a budding, you should consider how
heavy it will be and whether the floor will support it. The floors of most
modern buildings will easily hold the weight of this system. If your building
is old, and you are unsure about the strength of your floor, you should
consult a professional engineer. They will be able to tell you if your
floor can support a weight of 150 to 200 pounds per square foot.
Carefully fill the filter tank with the cleaned fill. "Cleaned fill" means things
like crushed brick, rock pieces, large gravel, or other rock-like materials that
are free of broken glass, metals, and other contaminants. Be sure to
carefully rinse off any dust or mud, as this will cloud the water.
Place the fill piece by piece into the filter tank. You should try to put larger
pieces in the bottom, adding medium and pieces as you get near the top.
When filling around the filter pipe, try to place the fill so that 'it doesn't rest
directly on the pipe.
When the filter tank is three-quarters full, lay the sheet of burlap or filter
cloth over the fill. The rest of the tank should be filled with calcium
carbonate materials such as shells or dolomite chips.
STEP 15. Rinsing and leaching the system.
Fill the system with water from a hose. If the fill is dirty, then it will cloud
the water with sediment. You may need to fill and drain the tanks several
times in order to clear the water. When the water appears fairly clean, fill
the system and let it leach for 24 hours. Drain the tanks and fill them again.
STEP 16. Inoculation.
Inoculate the tanks with biological materials. Sprinkle the compost and soils
onto the top of the filter tank. Add the pond/stream/river water to in the
other two tanks. Sprinkle snails into all three tanks. Two or three
tablespoons of rotten milk can be added to the filter tank to encourage a
healthy microbial community.
There are several places where aquatic plants can be added to your system.
Emergent plants, such as watercress, can be planted directly into the filter
tank. Floating plants, like water hyacinth, can be put on the top of e fish
tank or the plant tank. If your plant tank is fairly translucent, submerged
plants can be planted on the bottom of the plant tank, but try not to block
the up-pipe intake.
STEP 17. Installing the airlift pump.
Attach an air stone to a five-foot long piece of air tubing. Lower the air stone
into the up-pipe of the fish tank, almost to the bottom of the pipe. Plug the
other end of the air tubing into the air pump and Plug it in. Push it down as
far as it will go without causing any bubbles to escape from the bottom of
the pipe. You should see water moving as the air water mixture rises in the
pipe and is forced into the next barrel.
The airlift is all that is required to circulate water in this system. The system
works best when the water level half fills the connector pipes, so adjust the
water level by adding or removing some water.
The other air stone and tubing should be suspended 'in the fish tank. This
provides oxygen to the fish. You will have to weigh it down with a brick or
rock. Remember to place the air pump above the system in order to prevent
it from being flooded.

STEP 18. Preparing the system for fish.


You should let the system run without fish for a few days, so the various
micro-organisms have time to stabilize. This also allows any chlorine that
may be present in the water to be released into the atmosphere.
Chlorine is found in tap water and is toxic to most fish, so you should let tap
water sit for 24 hours before using in any case.
Before introducing any fish, block off the entrance and exit of the fish tank
with '/4" mesh or smaller to prevent them from escaping into the filter or
plant tank. The mesh can be held on by elastic bands for easy cleaning.
If you are planning on keeping fish that require high temperatures (e.g.
Tilapia), you will have to install a submersible heater 'in the system or put
the system in a hot place such as a heated greenhouse. Because the system
contains a lot of water, it will take a day or two for the water to warm up to
the desired temperature.
STEP 19. Adding the fish.
You have to introduce the fish slowly to prevent them from being too
stressed. If the fish came in a bag, open the top to allow oxygen to enter.
Float the bag in the fish tank for an hour or so to allow the water inside the
bag to come to the same temperature as the tank. You can hang the open
bag from the tee fitting so that the fish don't swim out. Once the
temperature is the same, add a little bit of water from the fish tank into the
bag. Five minutes later, add a little bit more. Do this a few more times, then
slowly tilt the bag underwater so that the fish can swim out of the bag and
into the tank.
STEP 20. The first few days.
It is a good idea to cover the tank after first introducing the fish because
sometimes fish will try to escape from a new tank. After a few days, the fish
will become accustomed to their new tank and a cover will no longer be
necessary.
When fish are first moved, they may not be as hungry due to stress. Feed
them only a little bit at first, gradually increasing the amount of food as they
become accustomed to their new environment.
If all your fish die in the first few days, then something is wrong with your
system, with the fish, or something happened during transit. Call the person
you got- your fish from and try to figure out what the problem could be.
Usually, you can get replacement fish at a discount if you can convince the
fish supplier that there was something wrong at their end.
MAINTENANCE

Regular maintenance helps keep a system healthy by spotting small


problems before they become big problems. The regular tasks that you need
to perform are listed according to how frequently they need to be done.
Daily Tasks
1. Feed the fish. You can feed fish until they stop eating, or feed them a set
amount. Calculating the exact amount of feed to provide is quite
complicated, so I suggest feeding them until they stop eating on a daily
basis. It is important to watch your fish eat. If they aren't eating happily
then there may be something wrong.
2. Check that the water level half fills the connector pipes and add water if
necessary.
3. Check to make sure screens over the inlets and outlets aren't clogged.
4. Check the air stone to make sure that it isn't clogged and that the air
pump is functioning properly. Clean or replace the air stone when
appropriate.
5. Look at the fish to see if they seem healthy.
Weekly Tasks
1. Harvest excess plant materials feed to fish or put into compost.
2. Check sediment levels at the bottom of the fish tank. They should not be
building up but rather be removed by the airlift pump. If they have built up,
use a siphon to remove any excess.
3. Check ammonia levels. There are numerous kits to measure ammonia
available at aquarium stores - read the directions carefully. If ammonia
levels are too high, cut back on feed and/or increase aeration (i.e. add
another air stone to the fish tank.) .
Monthly Tasks
1. Harvest and restock fish, if required.
2. Remove 10 or 15 gallons of water from the system and replace with water
that has sat overnight to let chlorine escape. Chlorine is present in all tap
water and can kill or harm fish. By letting it sit in a bucket overnight, most
of the chlorine will escape into the atmosphere as gas. It is a good idea to
always let water that you Intend to use with fish sit overnight.
Use any water that you remove from the system in a garden. It is an
excellent liquid fertilizer.
Yearly Tasks
1. Remove oyster shell/dolomite layer and rinse. Remove the filter cloth and
rinse out any clogged sediment.

CONCLUSION

You are now the proud owner of a recirculating aquaculture system with live,
happy fish in it. Congratulations! You should read the Maintenance chapter
to find out what you should be doing to keep your fish and your system
alive, growing and happy.

Chapter Three
An Aquaponic System

INTRODUCTION

Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics. While algae, submerged plants,
and floating plants do a good job of removing fish wastes from a recirculating aquaculture
system, so can lettuce, basil, or many other common vegetables and herbs. Fish wastes can be
treated with a biofilter and then allowed to pass through hydroponic troughs, where the roots of
cultivated plants can remove the wastes as fertilizer.
In this system, fish are fed in the fish tank. Their wastes are pumped with an airlift pump into a
biofilter pipe. This pipe is a smaller version of the biofilter tank used in the recirculating system.
As waste-filled water seeps through the biofilter pipe, bacteria and other micro- organisms
breakdown and convert the wastes into forms that plants can use as fertilizer.
At the end of the biofilter pipe, the water spills out through an irrigation bar which distributes the
fertilizer- filled water into the two hydroponic troughs. As the water slowly flows along the
bottom of the hydroponic troughs, plants in pots draw water and nutrients from the passing flow.
Small plants and seedlings are watered through the wicking action of wicking materials in the
bottom of their pots. Larger plants grow roots out of the bottom of their pots and into tile flow,
soaking tip lots of water and fertilizer.
After passing through the biofilter pipe and the hydroponic troughs, the cleaned water trickles
back into the fish tank, where the cycle starts once again.
This chapter shows you how to build a simple aquaponic system that will produce both fish and
vegetables. Like the simple recirculating system in chapter two, it runs off of one double-outlet
air pump. This design takes up a four foot by nine foot space but can be made smaller if space is
limited.
SITE
This system needs more light than the simple recirculating system, because vegetable crops tend
to need more light than water plants. A greenhouse, bright south-facing window, or protected
outdoor location is best.
If, you want to put it inside, you'll need to use lights to grow your plants.
This system weighs less than the simple recirculating system, but you should get an engineer to
look at any floor you think may not be strong enough. There are no through-hull fittings in this
system, and as long as the hydroponic tray is higher than the fish tank it can be put just about
anywhere. For example, you could put the hydroponic tray on top of an old table with the fish
tank on the floor at one end.
PARTS AND TOOLS NEEDED
Hardware
1- 50 gallon plastic barrel - preferably food grade and semi-transparent
1 - 10' long 1/2" PVC pipe
1 - 1/2" PVC male adapter

2 - 1/2" PVC tee fittings


1 - 10' long 4" PVC pipe

1 - 4" end cap

1 - 4" "L" fitting

1 - aquarium air pump with double outlet


2 - air stones
10' of air stone tubing
1 - 4' x 8' board, 1/4" or thicker
3 - 1" x 4" boards, 8' long
2 - 1 " x 2" boards, 8' long
50 - 1" nails
White or carpenter's glue for bonding the boards together
1 - 6' by 10' piece of polyethylene vapor barrier (6mil is best). This is simply a thick plastic sheet
used to protect houses from moisture and can be found in most hardware stores.
Staples for staple gun (if using)
5 gallons of oyster shells or dolomite
Plastic pots for plants
Bag of potting soil
Bag of perlite, vermiculite, cocofiber, or peat moss

Tools
Saw - to remove tops of barrels, cut boards and cut pipe
Hammer
Staple gun (optional - see STEP 9)
Felt pen - to mark cuts
Power drill
3/4" hole saw (or large bore drill bit)
Scissors - to cut plastic

Biological Materials
Buckets of water from local lakes, rivers or ponds
A handful of fresh compost
A handful of good garden soil
A handful of soil from a forest
A handful of soil from a meadow
Some snails from an aquarium store or local pond
Vegetable and herb seeds and seedlings
20 - 30 fish fingerlings (Nile tilapia are recommended)

CONSTRUCTION PROCEDURE
This system takes a day to build if you can get all the materials together and wash and leach the
barrels beforehand.
It is a good idea to add the plants a week or so before adding the fish, so that their roots can grow
into the water. Add the fish after the system has stabilized for a week or two. Be sure to read
ALL the Instructions CAREFULLY before starting to build so that you won't be surprised by
what comes next.
STEP 1. Rinsing the barrel.
Rinse out the barrel with a garden hose. Barrels often contain nasty toxins and should always be
handled with care. Wear gloves, long sleeved shirts, long pants, and safety glasses when rinsing.
STEP 2. Leaching the barrel.
The barrel can be leached by filling with water, letting it sit overnight, and then draining the next
day. Do this several times, using hot water if available. This will draw out any toxins that are in
the plastic itself.
STEP 3. Cutting the lid out of the barrel.
Cut the lid out of the barrel as shown. Leave the rim intact, as it provides support for the barrel,
and be sure to leave a small flap to hold the airlift pump. There are several ways of cutting the lid
out, depending on what tools you have available. For example, you could drill a small hole and
then use a skill saw, or you can drill holes all the way around if you don't have a saw.

STEP 4. Washing the barrel.


Wash the barrel. Use soap, warm water, and a scrub brush or sponge. Or take the barrel to a
commercial car wash. Rinse off the soap, re-fill, and let the barrel leach overnight again.
STEP 5. Making the hydroponic trough.
The hydroponic trough is basically a box lined with plastic. A plan for a four by eight-foot
double trough is shown. You can make the trough longer, shorter, narrower, or wider, if you
wish. The important thing is that the drains are spaced so that they drain directly into the fish
tank, and that there is a space to hold the biofilter pipe.
Cut one of the 1'x4" boards into a 46 1/2 " piece and two 16" pieces. Glue and nail the other two
8' long 1" x 4" boards onto the long sides of the 4' x 8' board. Glue and nail the 461/2" piece onto
one end of the 4' x 8' board, and glue and nail the 16" pieces to the other end as shown.
Find the center of the 4' x 8' board at-id mark it with a pencil. Mark a line 2 1/4" from the center
line on both sides of the center line. Glue and nail the two 1 x 2" boards so that their inside edge
runs along the 2 1/4" lines. You should end up with a 4 1/2-" wide trench in between the two 1" x
2" boards, where the biofilter pipe will sit.
Using sandpaper, go over the inside of your trough carefully, looking for sharp edges and
splinters that might poke through the plastic. Also look to see if any nails have come through that
might tear the plastic.
\
STEP 6. Building the irrigation bar.
Drill a 1/4" hole through the 4" endcap, as shown. Be very careful to drill this hole straight or
else the joint will leak. Use the caulking gun to cover the threads of a 1/2" male adapter with
silicon sealant. Using a wrench, carefully screw the adapter into the 3/4" hole. Be sure that it
goes in straight. You should be able to screw it until it is flush with the surface of the end cap.
Cut two pieces Of 1/2" pipe 1 foot long. Cut one piece 1 inch long. Clean the cut edges with
sandpaper and then push the pipe together as shown.
STEP 7. Building the biofilter pipe.
If your trough is eight feet long, then cut your 4" pipe to be nine feet long (i.e. cut one foot off
the end). The pipe should be 1 foot longer than the trough. Being careful not to bump the newly
attached irrigation bar, twist the end cap onto one end of the 4" pipe.
Carefully rinse the oyster shells or dolomite. The smallest pieces should be no smaller than '/4"
diameter, to prevent the biofilter from getting too clogged. Scoop the oyster shells or dolomite
into the biofilter pipe until it is 90% full. Attach the 4" "L" fitting and set the biofilter pipe aside.

STEP 8. Assembling the system.


The system needs to sit on top of something. Pallets, saw-horses, or concrete blocks could Al be
used to support the hydroponic troughs off of the ground. The end of the hydroponic troughs
nearest to the barrel should be just slightly higher than the lip of the barrel, and the far end an
inch or so higher than that. The lip of the barrel should be about 36", so you need to find
supports that will hold the troughs 36" to 38" off the ground.
Once you have set up supports for the troughs, set the trough onto them and secure with nails. If
you are using cement blocks as a support, you may need to use rope or cord to hold the troughs
'in place.
Place the barrel under the draining end of the troughs. It should just barely fit beneath the
troughs, and the two drains should hang well over the open top.
STEP 9. Lining the troughs
Check for sharp or rough edges in the troughs one last time. Lay the plastic over the hydroponic
trough and begin fitting it into the troughs. Be sure to allow enough slack in the corners so that
the plastic won't have to stretch when you put plants on top of it. The central trough, where the
biofilter pipe will lie, is lined 'in case of overflows or blockages in the pipe. If the pipe overflows
or breaks, the water will simply flow back into the fish tank.
Once the plastic has been fitted, secure it by using a staple gun, home- made pipe-clips' or binder
clips from an office supply store. Although harder to make and use, 'pipe-clips' will last longer
because they won't rust.
STEP 10. Placing the biofilter pipe.
Carefully lay the biofilter pipe into the central trough, being careful not to tear the plastic or
break the irrigation bar.
Water flows through the biofilter pipe because the entrance to the pipe is higher than the exit.
You can adjust the maximum height of water in the biofilter by twisting the "L" fitting at the
entrance. Ideally, the biofilter should be mostly full of water, with a thin layer of air at the top.

STEP 11. Setting up the air-lift pump.


Cut a piece of 1/2" pipe 30" long. Drill a 3/4" hole in the middle of the flap that is leftover from
the barrel lid and insert the 1/2" piece through it. You will probably have to widen the hole a
little bit with a knife. Push the 1/2" tee fitting onto the 30" pipe so that one hole sticks straight up
and the other is sideways.
Measure the horizontal distance from the tee fitting to the middle of the 4" "L" fitting on the end
of the biofilter. The idea is to raise the water up the 30" long pipe, and across to the biofilter. Cut
a piece of pipe to span the distance between the 30" long pipe and the b1ofilter and push it into
the tee fitting. Cut another 6" long piece of 1/2" pipe and push it into the top of the tee fitting.
Cut two 5' long pieces of air tubing and hook them up to the outlets of the air pump. Attach an
air stone to one of them. Remove the air-lift pipe and drill a ?" hole 4" from the bottom of the
pipe. Insert the air tube without any airstone into the hole. You may have to fold it to get it
in. Attach a rock to the to the airstone end of the other air tube and let it rest near the bottom of
the tank. This will provide extra oxygen to the fish.
Begin filling the tank with water and turn on the air pump. As the tank becomes full, you will see
the amount of water the air-lift pumps increase. When the tank is full, the air-lift should be
pumping a reasonable amount of water into the biofilter, the b1ofilter should fill with water, the
irrigation bar will drain into the hydroponic troughs, and the troughs should drain back into the
fish tank. Check for leaks, add more water if necessary, and let the system run for 24 hours so
that it can leach. After 24 hours, drain the system, refill, and let run for another 24 hours before
Inoculating.

STEP 12. Inoculation.


Inoculate the tanks with biological materials. Sprinkle the handful of compost and soils into the
entrance of the b1ofilter. Add the pond/ stream/river water directly to the fish tank, and add a
few snails as well. Two or three tablespoons of rotten milk can be added to the b1ofilter tank to
encourage a healthy microbial community.
STEP 13. Adding the plants.
Half fill the plant pots with peat, cocofibre, vermiculite, or perlite. This layer will wick water up
to the plants until their roots grow out of the bottom of the pots. Fill the remaining half of the
pots with compost or good potting soil. Plant seeds or seedlings in the pot and arrange them in
the troughs. You should try to place them so that the bottom of the pot touches the water flowing
through the trough. Water them well with water from the fish tank once you have put them in the
place you want them. Watering them will start the wicking action.
You should make sure that the plants you are growing have enough light and the right
temperature. Consult a good hydroponic or gardening book to get this information.
STEP 14. Preparing the system for fish.
You should let the system run without fish for a few days, so the various micro-organisms have
time to stabilize and the plants day or two for the water to warm have time to sprout or
compensate for transplant shock. This waiting period is also a good idea as it will allow any
residual chlorine in the water to escape into the atmosphere. If you are planning on keeping fish
that require high temperatures, you will have to install a submersible heater in the system or put
the system in a hot place such as a heated greenhouse. Because the system contains a lot of
water, it will take a day or two to warm up to the desired temperature.
STEP 15. Adding the fish.
You have to introduce the fish fingerlings slowly to prevent them from being too stressed. If the
fish came in a bag, open the top to allow oxygen to enter. Float the bag in the fish tank for an
hour or so to allow the water inside the bag to come to the same temperature as the tank. You can
hang the open bag from the b1ofilter pipe or the airlift pump so that the fish don't swim out.
Once the temperature is the same, add a little bit of water from the fish tank into the bag. Five
minutes later, add a little bit more. Do this a few more times, then slowly tilt the bag underwater
so that the fish can swim out of the bag and Into the tank.
Fish that are delivered in other types of containers should be handled the same way.
STEP 16. The first few days.
It is a good idea to cover the tank after first introducing the fish because sometimes fish will try
to escape from a new tank. After a few days, the fish will become accustomed to their new tank
and a cover will no longer be necessary.
When fish are first moved, they may not be as hungry due to stress. Feed them only a little bit at
first, gradually increasing the amount of food as they become accustomed to their new
environment.
If all your fish die in the first few days, then something is wrong with your system, with the fish
or something happened during transit. Call the person you got your fish from and try to figure
out what the problem could be. Usually, you can get replacement fish at a discount if you can
convince the fish supplier that there was something wrong at their end.
MAINTENANCE

Regular maintenance helps keep a system healthy by spotting small problems before they
become big problems. The regular tasks that you need to perform are listed according to how
frequently they need to be done.
Daily Tasks
1. Feed the fish. You can feed fish until they stop eating, or feed them a set amount. Calculating
the exact amount of feed to provide is quite complicated, so I suggest feeding them until they
stop eating on a daily basis. It is important to watch your fish eat. If they aren't eating happily
then there may be something Wrong.
2. Check that the water level in the fish tank is high enough so that the airlift pump is operating
efficiently.
3. Look at the fish to see if they seem healthy.
4. Look at your plants to see if they are happy. Check for insect pests, diseases, and nutrient
problems.
Weekly Tasks
1. Harvest plant materials and eat. Feed scraps to the fish or put into a compost pile.
2. Check sediment levels at the bottom of the fish tank. They should not be building up but rather
be removed by the airlift pump. If they have built up, use a siphon to remove any excess.
3. Check the air stone to make sure that it isn't clogged. Clean or replace when necessary.
4. Check ammonia levels. There are numerous kits to measure ammonia available at aquarium
stores - read the directions carefully. If ammonia levels are too high, cut back on feed and/ or
increase aeration (i.e. add another air stone to the fish tank.)
Monthly Tasks
1. Harvest and restock fish, if required.
2. Remove 5 or 10 gallons of water from the system and replace with water that has sat overnight
to let chlorine escape. Use the removed water in a garden.
3. Check to see if the biofilter pipe is becoming clogged. If It is, remove the el fitting, dump out
the oyster shells or dolomite, rinse, and then replace.

CONCLUSION

You are now an aquaponic farmer, growing happy, healthy fish and vegetables in a recirculating
aquaponic system. Congratulations! You should read the Resources chapter to find out what you
should be doing to keep your fish, your plants, and your system alive, growing, and happy.

Chapter 4
Resources
INTRODUCTION

This chapter contains information that should be useful in running your


system. The information is arranged according to topic, and each section
starts with background material relevant to the tables and lists in that
section.

FISH FOODS

Some fish are fussy eaters; most fish will eat a wide range of foods, while a
few will try just about anything. Garbage in, garbage out is as true for fish
as for humans, but determining exactly what is garbage for a fish is slightly
more difficult than human nutrition. Fish grow faster when there is a lot of
protein in their diet, although they need their carbohydrates and vitamins as
well. A good food to start with (and an excellent back-up food in any case) is
any sort of cheap dog food or trout/catfish chow if you can get it. Another
good all around food for fish is seaweed or kelp meal. This is especially good
for baby fish and can be purchased at garden centers or feed mills.

Feeding ideas

1. Fertilization. If you are raising a herbivorous fish, or if the fish you are
raisin cats something that grows readily in your system then fertilizing the
tank to promote algal (and therefore zooplankton) growth. Compost is
probably the best sort of fertilizer for a small system. Use only a handful or
two and then wait to see what happens.

2. Food scraps. There are a lot of wasted foods out there, and if you can
get your hands on a steady, local supply, you could end up feeding your fish
for free. Tilapia will cat vegetable peelings, as will carp. Many fish will take
meat scraps, fishmeal, or leftovers from the table. There are recipes
available for homemade fish feeds from waste materials - see the book
Freshwater Aquaculture for a good introduction. Here are some suggestions
of food resources in the city.
Stale bread and bakery throwouts
Fish scraps - frozen and ground
Meat scraps - fresh or frozen and ground
Vegetable peelings
Old vegetables from markets
Restaurant wet wastes

These can be found at numerous commercial businesses, as well as public


places like schools and institutions. If your fish will cat it, you probably
produce enough food scraps 'in your house to feed a healthy population of
tilapia. If you do not have a dog, then a tank full of leftover-eating fish can
be your substitute.

3. Collect invertebrates for food. Most fish love eating insects, especially
live ones, - and if you know where to look and are not too squeamish, there
are lots of potential insect sources in and around a city. The first one that
comes to my mind is cockroaches squish 'em and toss them to the sharks!
Many of these can be trapped and (for the intrepid) can even be cultured
right in your own backyard. Here are some ideas.
Earthworms
Cockroaches
Crickets
Snails
Slugs
Flies
Moths
Beetles
Buried beetle and wasp larvae
Big, juicy caterpillars
4. Keep a worm bin. Red wigglers are a favorite food of tilapia and
also help you reduce your household wet wastes into nice, indoor
compost. God's Gang, who have several aquacultural ecosystems set
up in Chicago, grows red wigglers both for sale and to feed to their
fish. Fish fed with earthworms on a regular basis grow healthy and
strong due to the high vitamin content of these little guys.
5. Grow some plants. Fish, especially herbivorous fish, will eat a lot of
plant materials that we do not even consider to be food, Of course, fish will
eat just about all the fruits and vegetables that we eat, so these are not
listed here but are also good sources of food. The following list shows some
of the more exotic parts of the fish diet.
Water hyacinth - fish will not eat it unless you take it out of the tank, chop it
up, and then return it to the tank
Azolla
Duckweed
Carrot tops
Marigolds
Taro leaves
Purslane
Green tomatoes
Much has been written on feeding fish and the references in the bibliography
should give you some direction if you are interested in developing new ways
of feeding them. Fish will eat so many things that it is always worth trying
something new The best way to test a new food is to put a little bit in the
tank and watch for awhile. Usually fish will mouth the new food and then spit
it out - it is their way of testing. If they do not eat it right away, leave them
alone for an hour or so and check again. The food will most likely be gone by
then if they are going to eat it at all. An exception is live foods. Fish seem to
know that a live insect or worm will stay fresh until they eat it (or until it
dies), so they often let it live in the tank for a few days before consuming it.
This is especially true with worms, who can live underwater if the water is
well oxygenated. Just as they think that they have escaped, the fish usually
eats them!
FISH SPECIES FOR AQUACULTURAL ECOSYSTEMS
I am not an expert in raising many different types of fish, but there are so
many experts out there already that you can easily find information about
the fish you might want to raise. Table 7-1 lists several fish species, their
temperature ranges, and whether or not they are easy to raise. The last
category was determined from a literature review generally aquaculture
authors agree about which species are easy and which are temperamental.
It is interesting to note that many widely farmed fish are actually quite
difficult to raise. The reason that they are widely farmed usually has nothing
to do with how easy or hard they are to raise, but rather how much money
they can make for the farmer, and that is why trout and channel catfish are
so popular among North American farmers. In countries where people raise
fish for their own or local consumption, carp, Chinese carp, and tilapia are
much more widely raised.

Good places to go for advice about fish are extension agents, pet stores, fish
dealers, and the library. Anybody who sells you fingerlings must know a
thing or two about how to raise fish, so make sure that some advice is
included in the purchase price. Take advice with a lot of salt, however. I
cannot remember how many people have told me that I was raising fish the
wrong way! Usually commercial fish farmers have little knowledge about
recirculating systems but they still know a lot about the particular species of
fish that they raise.
OTHER EDIBLE ANIMALS

There are several other species of animal, mostly invertebrate, that you
might want to try raising as you become proficient. Most of these are
crustaceans, but if you like to eat frogs, why not? All these species are
freshwater types and would be suitable for aquacultural ecosystems,
providing you do a little background research on their natural history-
Freshwater shrimp (Macrobrachium spp.)
Crayfish (Procambarus spp.)
Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana)
Freshwater clams
Turtles
Yabbles (an Australian crayfish)
Giant snail (Achanita spp.)
Escargot (Helix spp.)
Freshwater crab (Halicarcinus spp.)

VEGETABLES

These are lists of vegetables (including herbs and annual fruits) that grow
well under certain conditions or are tolerant of aquatic conditions. Some of
the uncommon ones may be difficult to get a hold of in North America but
are included here, as you should be able to find them if you look hard
enough. Also, some root vegetables have been largely overlooked as they
are difficult (or at least impractical) to grow in aquacultural ecosystems.

Vegetables that float on the water surface


Water hyacinth
Water mimosa
Watercress
Vegetables that grow in underwater soil (emergent vegetables)
Water chestnut
Lotus
Taro (Colocasla esculentes)
Kangkong (Ipormea aquatica)
Watercress
Indian water chestnut
Arrowhead
Chinese arrowhead
Wild rice
Duck potato
Water celery
Manchurian wild rice
Vegetables that grow well in hydroponics
These are the basic ones. Almost all-common annual vegetables can be
grown hydroponically with the exception of some root vegetables such as
potatoes. See a good magazine like The Growing Edge or look in the
bibliography for books about hydroponics.
Basil eggplant
Mint kale
Arugula lettuce
Chives mustard greens
Coriander peas
Ginger peppers
Parsley radish
Beans rapini
Bok choy spinach
Broccoli sweet potato
Cabbage tomato
Chard zucchini
Chinese cabbage cucumber
Corn

AQUATIC PLANTS

There are many aquatic plants available both in a good garden center as well
as in the local pond. Increasing the diversity of aquatic plants in your system
will also increase the diversity of the microorganisms that use aquatic plants
as habitat. Many of them can be quite beautiful, especially if the conditions
are right for them to flower. Also see the vegetable section for plants in
these categories.
Floating plants
Water hyacinth
Water lettuce
Duck-weed
Salvinia
Azolla
Indonesian water hyacinth bladderwort

Submerged plants
Hydrilla
Elodea

Plants that are rooted in underwater soil (emergent plants)


Cattail
Alligatorweed
Pickerel weed
Smartweed
Lotus
Water lily
Water buttercup
Watercress

TROUBLESHOOTING

If you maintain a healthy system and do riot overload it with organisms, you
should not encounter any serious problems. Every, system is different and
therefore each system will experience problems in a different way. What I
have tried to do here is to set up a problem-solving helper based on my
experience of what some of the common problems are. If you come to the
end of this helper and the problem is not solved then it is up to you - be
resourceful!

To use this helper, simply look down the list of problems until you find one
that sounds like what you are experiencing. There are numbers for solutions
listed below. Sometimes a major problem (like Fish almost Dead) will refer
you to a lesser problem (such as Pump is Broken) as problems seem to set
themselves up in a hierarchy. Check each of these possible solutions in order
to see I if they solve your problem. Good luck!

PROBLEMS

System problems
(P1) - Water is not circulating / no bubbles. (S1) (S2) (S3) (S4) (S5)
(S6)
(P2) - Puddles on the floor around the system. (S7) (S15) (P4)
(P3) - Big puddle surrounding the system. (S8) (P9) (S15) (S17)
(P4) - Found a leak! (S9) (S15)
(P5) - Funny smell - rotten eggs. (S10)
(P6) - Funny smell - like manure. (S11)
(P7) - Funny smell - fishy smelling. (S12) (P11)
(P8) - Funny smell - ammonia! (S13) (S12)
(P9) - Cracks in the ceiling in room below system. (S14)

Fish problems

(P10) - ALL THE FISH ARE DEAD THIS MORNING! (P1) (P5) (P6) (P7)
(P8) (S16) (S17)
(P11) - One of the fish is dead, others appear fine. (S18)
(P12) - Fish gasping at surface. (P5) (P6) (P7) (P8) (S19)
(P13) - One fish is swimming funny, covered with lesions, or does not feed
with the rest. (S18)
(P14) - Fish attacking each other. (S22) (S23) (S24) (S16) (P5) (P6)
(P7) (P8)
(P15)- Some fish seem to be missing. (S7) (S17) (S6) (S25)
(P16)- One fish grows really fast, smaller fish missing. (S26) (S25) (S6)
(P17) - Fish do not seem to grow (SI6) (S27)
(P18) - Fish never get very big, more and more appearing. (S27) (S24)
(S16) (S28)
(P20)- Fish are not feeding. (S27) (P1)

Plant problems
(P21) - Plants appear unhealthy. (S30) (S31) (S32) (S33) (P26)
(P22) - Plants do not grow. (S31) (P21)
(P23) - Plants grow but are spindly. (S31) (P21)
(P24) - Plants grow well, but no flowers or fruits. (S30) (S31)
(P25) - Flowers appear, but no fruits. (S35) (S31)
(P26) - Insects, insects, everywhere! (S34)

SOLUTIONS

(S1) - Screens are clogged. These need regular maintenance for smooth
operation. Scrub with a brush to remove accumulated algae and debris. If
possible, use a larger mesh size.

(S2) - Air pump broken or not plugged in. Check for air from the outlet
tube. If there is none then you may have blown a gasket. Buy a replacement
gasket (US $2-3) at a pet store.

(S3) - Air tubing is clogged. Remove the air stone and try to blow through
the tubing with your mouth - you should be able to do this easily and feel air
coming out the other end.

(S4) - Air stone clogged. Air stones get clogged eventually with algae and
other stuff They can be cleaned somewhat by soaking 'in vinegar, but will
never bubble as well as a new one. Clean or replace.

(S5) - There is a clog in the plumbing. Visually inspect all plumbing, use a
stick to probe the depths. Sometimes, a fish gets caught in the plumbing
and blocks it up. Snails will sometimes congregate in plumbing to the extent
where water flow is blocked. Exclude both with some 1/4" mesh. (S6)

(S6) - There is a clog in the b1ofilter. If you make your biofilter too fine, or
you do not use a large enough uptake pipe, you may find that your system
clogs. Also, your biofilter may need a good cleaning. Set aside a few hours
and take apart your b1ofiltcr to find out what the problem is. (S25)

(S7) - Fish like to play. Sometimes newly introduced fish splash around
while they settle into their new environment. Sometimes they jump to their
death. Put a net over the fish tank to prevent jumpers.

(S8) - There is a big leak in your system and you had better find it soon.
Rescue what you can and try to determine if the leak is repairable. Usually a
leak is found at a joint or in the biofilter - check those first.

(S9) - If you can, drain the System to below the level of the leak, let it dry
out, and then repair with silicon. It is almost impossible to properly repair a
leak while it is wet. Alternate layers of plastic bags and duct tape may do the
trick, temporarily.
(S10) - Toxic hydrogen sulfide is being released! Act fast; provide as much
dissolved oxygen as you can to the afflicted tank. Gently vacuum up any
anaerobically decomposing material from the bottom of the tank. (P1)

(S11) Methane is being produced. Eventually, this can cause problems,


especially if other people have to around your system. Gently vacuum up
any anaerobically decomposing material from the bottom of the tank. (P1)

(S12) - Food is rotting in the system. Locate and remove any obviously
rotting pieces of food. Avoid feeding too much.

(S13) - Ammonia is highly toxic, aerate immediately Prevent future


problems by encouraging nitrifying bacteria in a biofilter. (P1)

(S14) Call an engineer. Your system is too heavy for the building structure -
move it to the basement.

(S15) - Leaking water can cause rotting problems with wooden structures.
Protect the floor with plastic or move the system.
(S16) - Check the water temperature and compare it with recommended
ranges for your fish.
(S17) Fish tanks in semi-public places are prone to vandalism. Respond
appropriately.
(S18) - Remove fish and inspect for signs of disease or attack. Suspicious
spots, missing scales, funny colored eyes, and other symptoms all could
indicate a diseased fish. Alive still - S (20). Dead - S (21).
(S19) - Dissolved oxygen is in short supply. Aerate immediately by
whatever means necessary. (P1)
(S20) - Keep fish isolated in a well-aerated tank. Feed only sparingly and
only if fish seems willing to eat. (S21)
(S21) - Increase aeration and keep a close eye on the rest of the fish.
Consult a fish disease handbook and do a biopsy if you feel up to it.
(S22) - The attacked fish may be ill. See (S18).
(S23) - The attacking fish may be ill. See (S 18).
(S24) - The fish may be breeding. Consult natural history information about
that species in order to confirm this.
(S25) - Sometimes fish escape into other parts of the system. If they have
you will find them eventually.
(S26) - Fish are eating each other. Either come to terms with this horrible
fact of life, or choose a less cannibalistic species.Increasing the availability of
live food and reducing population density will reduce cannibalism. You could
also try removing all the big fish, or removing all the small fish (called
"grading").
(S27)- There may be a problem with the foods you are giving them. Try
something different for awhile to see if they improve.
(S28)- Fish may be overcrowded. Increase water circulation and biofiltration
or reduce fish density.
(S30)- There is a nutrient deficiency. Check a nutrient table to see if one of
these matches the symptoms. Nutrient tables can be found in good
gardening books.
(S31)- There is not enough light. Move the plants to a place where they can
get more light, supplement the available light, or grow more shade-tolerant
plants.
(S32)- The plants are diseased. Check a plant disease book. Remove and
destroy diseased plants.
(S33)- The roots are waterlogged and possible rotting. Evaluate your
growing system and consult the hydroponics literature.
(S34)- The plants may be infested with detrimental insects. Confirm with an
insect guidebook. Feed infested plants (insects included) to the fish. Look in
a good organic gardening book for ideas about controlling future
infestations.

(S35) There are no pollinators. Open the window or, if it is too cold,
investigate artificial pollination techniques.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Books and Manuals
I have in my opinions on the following books, which I have found useful for
understanding and learning about aquaculture, hydroponics, and agriculture
in general. Usually, the most interesting materials are in magazines and
journals, but there is a lot of historical, reference, and background material
in larger books. Older books tend to be interesting and informative - often
they contain ideas that were rejected for one or another reason by the
rather narrowly focused aquaculture/hydroponic industry. Much early work
on sustainable and organic methods in these fields was rejected outright or
modified by the industry to conform to sterile, chemical agriculture. Now, as
sustainable aquaculture and organic hydroponics arc coming into vogue,
many of the best books are out of print. A good public library can be a gold
mine of useful information from the past.

Chakroff, Marilyn. 1976. Fresh water fish pond culture and


management. Volunteers in Technical Assistance (VITA) publication #36E

- The Peace Corps classic. Chakroff wrote this manual from firsthand
experiences while serving in the Philippines with the Peace Corps. While
there is little information about tanks, the information about fish, their
biology, and how to take care of them is accurate and accessible. Most
libraries seem to have a copy - worth the effort and expense to photocopy
this book if you can find it.
Mollison, Bill. 1997. Permaculture -A Designer's Manual Ten-speed Press.
Mollison, Bill. 1998. Introduction to Permaculture. Ten-speed Press.

- Bill is one of the most creative agricultural thinkers of this century. All of
his works 'include sections on aquaculture and the underlying philosophy of
permaculture is both interesting and useful for anyone who likes to
contemplate our place inthe world. Full of new ideas and practical advice.

McLarney, William. 1998. Fresh water aquaculture. Hartley & Marks, Port
Roberts, WA.

- The standard textbook on small-scale, freshwater aquaculture, McClarney


was a founding member of the New Alchemy Institute and worked with John
Todd 'in his early career. This book was out of print for a long time but the
1984 edition has now been reprinted and it is available through special
order. Lots of information and charts, but a lot of the contact information is
out of date and useless. He tries to promote using North American species
for aquaculture as opposed to introduced species like carp. I would not
recommend purchasing this book unless you want to raise N. American
species, want more technical information about aquaculture, or are
interested in other forms (such as ponds, lakes, cages, etc.)

Logsdon, G. 1978. Getting food from water. Rodale Press, Emmaus, PA


An excellent but out of print book. Seems that all the alternative agriculture
organizations were running interesting programs on aquaculture and
aquaponics in the seventies. Now Rodale publishes magazines like "Men's
Health" and the New Alchemy Institute is defunct. This book is an excellent
alternative to McClarney's text. It Is written in a more accessible style and
seems to be more on the scale of home gardeners. There's even an account
of an old man who raises catfish in a bathtub. Out of print but a valuable
read if you can find it.

Todd, Nancy Jack and John Todd. 1994. From Eco-cities to Living machines:
Principles of ecological design. North Atlantic Books.
John Todd and his wife outline their philosophies and ideas about ecological
engineering and the role of ecology in design. Not a very handsome book,
but it does have some interesting ideas about aquaculture, cities, and the
future of the planet. Generally, while the ideas coming out if the New
Alchemy Institute are pretty cool, the books and other publications from the
members of this group are sort of vague and disappointing. If this group
wants the world to change using its ideas, then they need to write a detailed
manual about building living machines. There are a lot of willing people out
there who are sort of puttering in the dark trying to do good things but
apparently missing key details.
DeKorne, James B. 1992. The hydroponic hot house: low-cost, high-yield
greenhouse gardening. Loompanics Unlimited.

DeKorne is the last of the paranoid survivalists, but has developed some
very useful systems for growing things hydroponically indoors. He is an
inventor who has limited resources - the results are accessible, cheap, and
easy to build systems.

Resh, Howard Al. 1 990. Hydroponic home food gardens. Woodbridge Press.

Resh is the dean of commercial hydroponics in North America. Every good


hydroponics store will be stocked with his books, and libraries usually have a
few copies. This book is the most accessible of his works, and although the
ideas are fairly narrow-minded and conventional, at least it provides a solid
survey of the hydroponic industry in general.

Douglas, James Sholto. 1985. Advanced guide to hydroponics (soilless


culture).

Douglas, James Sholto. 1976. Hydroponics: the Bengal system.

- Douglas was one of the first writers about the 'new' science of hydroponics
and he was very keen on organic and sustainable methods of production. If
you can find any of his books, snap them up. Reading Douglas after reading
Resh, you realize that Resh's entire scope would fit into a specialist chapter
or two of Douglas' global perspective. Look for these books in the library.

Addey, William and Karen Loveland. 1998. Dynamic Aquaria. Academic


Press.
A fantastic book about how aquariums and ecosystems work, written by two
biologists. Full of explanations about how different environmental factors can
influence fish and other organisms. Also has good ideas about how to stock
an aquatic system with plants, fish, and other organisms.

Magazines

Of all the magazines published currently, the Growing Edge is by far the
most relevant and useful. It often has articleabout aquaponics and organic
methods, and is an excellent source for latest hydroponic ideas. Practical
Hydroponics andGreenhouses from Australia is equivalent to the Growing
Edge in quality and outlook, but can be expensive because it is imported.
The out of print Journal of the New Alchemist and the New Alchemy
Quarterly have good articles about livingmachines but are rather difficult to
find.
A good all-around gardening magazines is Organic Gardening. It is widely
available and contains useful information about vegetables, composting, and
the occasional water-gardening/hydroponic/aquaculture article. Older issues
are better than recent issues, as the current editor seems more concerned
about growing ornamentals than food.
Aquaculture Magazine the best source for industry news and format. Their
articles are well written and researched, although keep in mind that the
bottom-line is the driving force behind this magazine. Their annual Buyer's
Guide is a must-have. It tells you where to get everything you could possibly
need for aquaculture, especially sources of fingerlings.
All of these magazines have extremely useful back-issues. You can find
these in a good library system or you can often buy them at a discount form
the publisher.
Aquaculture Magazine
P.O. Box 2329
Asheville, NC, 28802
USA
www.aquaculturemag.com

The Growing Edge Magazine


1-800-888-6785
www.growingedge.com

Organic Gardening
Rodale Press
Emmaus, PA, 18049
USA
www.organicgardening.com

Practical Hydroponics and Greenhouses


P.O. Box 225
Narrabeen, NSW
2101 Australia
www.hydroponics.net.au

Journal of the New Alchemists, New Alchemy Quarterly - Both are out of
print. Try contacting Ocean Arks International or your local public library to
locate back issues.
Free Literature
Generally, your local extension agent will be able to provide you with
information about some aspects of your proposed project. Here is one
agency that has been particularly helpful.
Southern Regional Aquaculture Center
c/o Michael P. Masser
106A Swinger Hall
Auburn University, AL, 36849-5628
USA
(334) 844-9312
(334) 844-9208 (fax)
mmasser@acesg.auburn.edu

This center has put a lot of effort into promoting aquaculture. They have an
excellent range of free publications, many of which are highly useful for
recirculating aquaculture enthusiasts. They are one of the few places which
promote crayfish, Chinese carps, tilapia, and exotic shrimps in the USDA
system. They are also excellent sources of information about where to buy
less common species. Ask for the following pamphlets in particular.
SRAC282 Tank culture of Tilapia
SRAC451 Recirculating aquaculture tank production systems. An overview of
critical considerations.
SRAC 452 Recirculating aquaculture tank production systems. Management
of recirculating systems.
SRAC 453 Recirculating aquaculture tank production Systems.
Component Options
SRAC 454 Recirculating aquaculture tank production systems. Integrating
fish and plant culture.
Herb, Frances Raising snails for food
WEB SITES

Web access is becoming more widely available, and even In the developing
world Internet is available at reasonable prices (approx. US$5 per hour) in
Internet cafes. There are tons of resources on the Internet but beware
anybody can write Just about anything in cyberspace and nobody checks
their work. Be wise about advice and ideas that you glean off the Internet -
if It sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The following sites have useful information and will lead you to other sites.
www.jeffcook.com/hbpond.htm1
Jeff's half -whiskey-barrel page, while not quite as funny as Eric's is also full
of information. He has a lot of different opinions from Eric, but the two end
up with the same thing in the end. Jeff 's links are extensive.
www.livingmachines.com
The Living Technologies company site. This site is John Todd's consulting
site. There are some interesting photos, information, and links, as well as
examples of how Todd has applied living machines to industrial problems.

ext.msstate.edu/anr/aquaculture
Access to Mississippi State University's excellent collection of aquaculture
extension information.
www.kloubec.com
- A major tilapia producer in Iowa, their site gives a good overview of this
species.
ag.arizona.edu/azaqua/tilapia
- A large but disorganized site containing lots of information about tilapia.
www.itv.se/rainbow
- Swedish farmers who grow trout and vegetables in a recirculating system,
www.townsqr.com/snsaqua
- Home page of the Sperraneo family who are successful aquaponic farmers
in Missouri.
www.cropking.com/store/AquaM/AquaSystem.htm
◦ A large-scale and high-tech aquaponic system made by a major
hydroponic equipment manufacturer.

keywords to search with for internet information


aquaponics
hydroponics and aquaculture
living and machines
aquaculture and recirculating
alternative and aquaculture