Goddard Aquaponic Gardens – Summer 2013

26 May 2013 – This blog is an attempt to document the 4525 Goddard pond conversion to Aquaponic farming. The picture below is a bird’s eye view of the whole pond with blue gill, tilapia, flag fish, gold fish, and mosquito fish. The tarp at the top is covering the deep end to reduce the amount of sun that might encourage algae blooms. There are a total of 5 tubs in two sizes:  100 Gallon and 300 Gallon.

Goddard Pond Bird's Eye View

Goddard Pond Bird’s Eye View

The shallow end was fenced off to prevent fish from entering the shallow end but that didn’t work. The tilapia babies were able to invade along with the blue gill and have grown up on that side. Unfortunately, the tilapia have eaten the water lilies that were planted to offer more shade. They’re trying to grow back and so far haven’t been affected by the tilapia this year. At least they eat the Cuban tree frog tadpoles in the shallow end so we’re not propagating invasive species. Also in the shallow end, the tub functions a dual purpose of filtering detritus from water through gravel as well as creating a current to prevent stagnation. In the picture above you can see the 300 Gallon tub at the top of the picture (south side) and below is a full shot of the tub. The banana plant is a miniature variety, the alocasia (right) is a metallic variety, and nestled below that is another alocasia of the velvet variety.

300 Gallon Tub with Banana and Alacasia

300 Gallon Tub with Banana and Alocasia

The 3 tubs below line the north side of the pond and contain 2 types of substrate:  hydroton (bottom) and river gravel (top 2). The top 2 use the same pump to fill the tubs. The hydroton tub disperses water from the pond across the bed in the ladder tube hydration system.  To see how a bell siphon flush system works, watch the video below.

Once the bell flush system exceeds capacity, the water begins to flush out of the tub and back into the pond, as illustrated below.

North Tubs Blaring

North Tubs Blaring Return Water

The day I shot most of these photos, a native lily bloomed in the shallow end amongst the lily pads in the picture above.

Water Lily Flower

The tub below contains the green beans and basil spice. The plant to the far right is a green bean that volunteered itself from last year and sprouted around January 2013. The other green beans from this year’s crop, planted in early April, appear towards the center and right front of the picture. The tall plants in the back are basil.

100 Gallon hydroton substrate with green beans and spices.

West 100 Gallon hydroton substrate with green beans and spices.

Focusing in on the more mature green bean plant, this volunteer has grown compact and tight, as illustrated in the picture below.

Volunteered Green Bean from 2012

Volunteered Green Bean from 2012

Focusing even closer on the volunteer green bean plant, the picture below shows the beans and flowers maturing under the leaves.

Aquaponic Green Beans Closeup

Aquaponic Green Beans and Flowers

The picture below shows the summer yellow squash, also planted in early April. This is the middle tub that also contains okra.

Aquaponic Summer Squash

Middle 100 Gallon Tub with Gravel Substrate – Aquaponic Summer Squash

The picture below is the eastern tub with an okra plant, a row of corn, and an eggplant.

Corn Rows

East 100 Gallon Tub with Gravel Substrate – Aquaponic Corn Rows

Corn Start

2 Week Old Aquaponic Corn Start

In the picture left you can see a closer view of the 4 week old seedling. Due to the amount of nutrients and substrate contents, these aquaponic plants grow slower. In addition, this year has been cooler than normal and we’ve even had to endure a hailstorm in May. And finally, the eggplant. This specimen, pictured below, is about 3 years old and has never produced any fruit. It has bloomed constantly during the summer months but never became fertile. Normal life cycle is typically 1 year, so this is the end of this one and will be removed soon.

Aquaponic Eggplant - Non-producer

Aquaponic Eggplant – Non-producer

The main point of this blog is to log our experiments and learn to grow larger crops for better sustainability and reduced grocery expenses. We are also experimenting with 5 gallon buckets using soil, as pictured below of our tomato plant.

Terrestrial Tomato Plant

Terrestrial Tomato Plant

In the picture above, the first tomato appears just below the middle right side of the plant. There are about 5 more smaller fruit in various places throughout this specimen. Although the tomato is not aquaponic, it is an experiment to expand our backyard to a sustainable farm opportunity. Stay tuned for more

6 thoughts on “Goddard Aquaponic Gardens – Summer 2013

  1. A note about the photography in this blog: the image selected was not based on artistic appearance but to help separate the subject matter in the picture from other elements in it. The fun composite above was the 3 tub shot. Since I didn’t want to wait for all three to flush simultaneously, I composited the 2 flush outlets from 2 separate pictures onto a third so all 3 appeared to be flushing at the same time. Gotta love digital photography and editing tools!

  2. A note about the tubs is that the 300 gallon one in the picture above was not running. The backside had split open about a quarter inch wide about a foot long and two other smaller splits prevented us from running it until it dried. Once dried, I applied a vinyl sealant inside the splits, let them dry, then put two coats of resin with fiberglass reinforcement, and a final layer of reinforced sealant tape over each patch. After filling the tub, there were no leaks. This is a problem with these Rubbermaid tubs. I had to return a 100 gallon tub after it split almost exactly one year from the date I purchased it.

  3. How is everything growing and working so far? Have you had any other problems. I’m wanting to get into aquaponics, but first I’d like to try to use my above ground fish pond like you did your below ground one. I just have no idea how many gallons my fish pond is. (It was here years ago when we moved in. I only have three medium size gold fish in it at the moment.

    Any and all advise would be great. Hopefully I’ll learn from you.

    • Everything is working great but the plants are not growing as expected. It appears only certain vegetables grow well in the moist substrate. Like Sweet Basil and Okra are the only one we’ve found that excel in this environment. We’ve tried corn, several varieties of beans, and squash but as you could see in the pictures, the corn is miniature and the squash rotted out (not pictured). We’re planning to experiment with Broccoli when the temperature starts to cool. We’re in Florida and it’s too hot here now for that vegetable.

      As for an above-ground pool, that will mean you have to elevate your tubs above the water so it can drain back into the pool once the siphon fills up. If you use a light weight material, like Hydroton, it’s not so bad. But I don’t believe you can purchase that material anymore. In our other tubs we’re using regular river gravel and it’s heavy and has broken the sides of some of the tubs because of that weight. I can’t suggest how to elevate the tubs full of gravel above water level because it becomes a dangerous method in that it could fall over and injure people or other things.

      Finally, we have moved into separate soil containers to grow vegetables and it has proven successful by keeping the plants away from the terrestrial insects and rodents. It doesn’t prevent butterflies, caterpillars, and rats but it prevents virus, damaging nematodes, and moles. However, we have to inspect the plants daily to remove the caterpillars but it’s fun to watch the fish hit and run with the insects in the pond. If it turns out well, I’ll be posting a video showing this process later.

      Thanks for your comments and feedback.

  4. I’ve never done Aquaponics so I’m gonna learn all I can from you. So here’s more questions I’m gonna ask. *LOL* I know you must looooove questions. Do you have the right amount of fish for the gallons of water. I heard it’s suppose to be a certain ratio…*sighs*…I wrote down the supposed Ratio somewhere…..*grrrrr*….somewhere I can’t find. Anyway, are you going with a type of ratio water per fish or are you just winging it?

    Also I read it takes about 3 months with the fish being in the water before there’s enough nitrate to really fertilize the plants. I wonder if that’s why some of your plants might not have done very well and others did?

    I can’t wait for the video..please stay in touch. Maybe if…when …someday..when I get mine up and running you can give me so tips.

    • We can’t really regulate the quantity of fish in the 23,000 gallons of water. In aquariums it’s about 1 fish per gallon but they are typically smaller fish and the larger the more crowded and stressed the fish become. These also reproduce so we’re leaving it to nature to determine. The larger blue gill are about 9″ long and the tilapia are about a foot long. The water is too murky to count them.

      You are correct about the nitrates on both accounts. We too believe it is not sufficient for certain plant species and have found that okra and basil do great in this environment. I think the green beans will do better in the winter time here, since the first volunteered sometime around January. They produced a few beans but their leaves never grew anywhere near the size of the terrestrial plantings.

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