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Basement Aquaponics: January Update

The tilapia have grown a couple of inches since our first fish harvest in December. Nothing beats going down to the basement and picking out a fish for dinner. From tank to table in 20 minutes. Depending on who’s (me) cleaning the fish, maybe 60 minutes.

Our dinner guest holds up a large male (they grow faster than females).

My mother is better at this, so she is given the honour of cleaning fish.

“Eeeeeeeeew!” My daughter always threatens she’ll be vegetarian.

Scaled and gutted, ready to be steamed. There isn’t any fishy smell.

Last month, in celebration of Terra Madre Day, we sampled our first fish. Shown above, steamed in black bean sauce with ginger.

Same plate, second fish. See how much it grew in a month? Season with some salt and steam as is. You know the fish is done when the eyeball turns white.

Raw sliced green onion, ginger and a bit of soy sauce is added after the fish is steamed. A little bit of searing hot oil is poured overtop to bring out the flavours of the onion and ginger.

So clean, so fresh, so delicious. Watch out for bones.

So how did my garden grow since the last post? Here is the before…

Here’s the after, two months later.

The tomato plants have really grown, after cutting them back quite a bit, and harvesting a lot of the chard, I noticed the ammonia level in the water had gone up. Maybe there wasn’t enough leafy greens to take up all the converted plant food?

Swiss chard is doing extremely well, bok choy not bad considering they are grown too close together, and kale is not getting as big as they should. Some of the leaves shrivel up and die. There must be some sort of mineral deficiency.

What I do love is there are NO bugs. No white fly, no aphids, NO BUGS!

Mold had been a bit of a problem on some of the lower stems where I planted things too closely. Removing those stems and adding a clip-on fan to move the air seems to have remedied that.

We harvested all the bok choy today (half of the growbed area). It will be interesting to see if the ammonia level spikes again.

Trimmed and washed, ready for blanching.

Blanched in boiling water then chilled in cold water, the bok choy is ready for making wontons.

Get the recipe for Shanghai-style Wontons here.

  • marcia - love the garden! i will definitely try this in my basement next winter!ReplyCancel

  • Janet - Fantastic Jill – what a bounty!!ReplyCancel

  • kat - I love the parts of your blog where you appreciate animals for their intellect, capacity for love and the companionship they give. And the parts where you grow and harvest and prepare your own plant-based foods. I’m afraid to say I’m with your daughter here. Poor fishy. 🙁ReplyCancel

  • Frank - I’m more than happy to come over for fresh fishy dinner!ReplyCancel

  • Basement Aquaponics & Raising Tilapia » FreestyleFarm - […] For an Update to this post, follow this link. […]ReplyCancel

  • benjamin - What amazing job they have done on the bok choy. Gonna have to try this dish at home. Very fresh and healthy bok choy. Wanna grow bok choy in an aquaponic system? More details below.

  • Shiitake Mushroom Update, it worked! » FreestyleFarm - […] week we’ve enjoyed them simply sauteed in butter with garlic, or in omelettes with swiss chard from the basement, and eggs from our backyard […]ReplyCancel

  • Geno - I really liked the pictures and seeing the outcome of your efforts. The fish looked delicious and the wontons made my mouth water!ReplyCancel

  • Lea Bouabid - Question: You said that you had no insects. How do you get tomatoes, do you pollinate yourself with a small brush, or what?ReplyCancel

  • mama anik - awesome job jill!
    question for you…
    where can i get tilapia fingelings?

    thanks so much!

  • Randy Childers - I love the honest, richly visual writeups! I’ve been thinking about trying to raise tilapia, and this has answered a dozen questions I didn’t know I had. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Roger Ervine - Hi,

    Have you experimented much with duckweed for your tilapia? I saw some interesting results regarding that on Also I don’t know if you have tried the higher output T5 style fluorescent lights. They tend to have a higher output per size (54w per bulb v.s. 32w on a standard fluorescent). From my experience it would probably make a bigger difference given extra lumens. Pretty cool set up. I am looking forward to getting my greenhouse in place this spring for future experiments as well.ReplyCancel

  • Kim baysinger - Love your posts! Hope to try this myself soon.ReplyCancel

  • manny bernardo - love your basement aquaponics. I would like to do the same.ReplyCancel

  • hossein - Dear Sir/Madam,

    Very glad to talk to you.I am from Atlas Toos Khavaran Company.we are importer and exporter of different kind of fish.our company located in Iran.
    Please inform us of your products list and price list,specially Salmon, Hoki,Spanish mackerel fillet,hoki fillet,hake fillet, Hake ,black pomfret fillet,Escolar headless.(skin on,grade B,)Barracouda fillet, rainbow trout, European seabass fillet, wahoo steak,tilapia fillet, .… .
    Please send the picture of these fish and also send the required doc such as health certificate,nuclear of radiation,Eu code number).
    Sincerely hope that you can help me in this matter.
    Sincerely hope we will stablish friendly cooperation with esteemed your company in the near future.
    Please inform us of your direct email.
    Our email:
    Skype: rainbow.1265
    Please feel free to contact with me:+98-915-159-1137

    Best Regards,
    Atlastoos khavaran Co.ReplyCancel

  • Joe Pelletier - very nice setup. trying to do something here to but very hard to find grow trays etc. Can i ask make of the stock tanks your using and where in canada you got them by any chance?
    Thanks in advance.ReplyCancel

  • Jaime - May I ask what is your lighting?ReplyCancel

  • Enis Cotton - love your site how much to set up cost involved?ReplyCancel

  • Andrew Peck - Awesome setup, am setting up my own basement aquaponics and appreciate your info. Also might want to get some fish at some point.

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