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Basement Aquaponics: March update

Our basement aquaponics system has been continually producing for a year and a half now. Even during the ice storm, where we were without heat and hydro for four days, the tilapia and plants survived. Fish metabolism slows down considerably when water temperatures dip below 55•F, they stop eating and require less oxygen. Recirculating a few buckets of water through the grow bed twice a day was enough to keep the tanks clean and oxygenated.

Basement Aquaponics

Over the course of the year, the most success I’ve had was with Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard. This versatile vegetable has been producing non-stop, sending up a never-ending supply of leafy greens, a perfect substitute for spinach. Collard greens and kale have also done well.

Basement Aquaponics

Screens are necessary to keep fish from jumping out. An automatic fish feeder hangs over the 100-gallon tank.

Once a week I would lug heavy 5-gallon buckets of water from the laundry room to top up the tanks, loss due to evaporation and plant uptake. I also went through a lot of water conditioner ($10 a bottle) to dechlorinate the water. As you can see in the above photo, Hubby so kindly rigged up a holding tank (black plastic storage container and garden hose) which I keep filled with a turn of a tap. After a day or two , the chlorine dissipates. Water from the holding tank is gravity fed into the fish tanks with an on and off valve. No more lugging water!  Thank you Hubby.

Basement Aquaponics

Daily maintenance means having a quick glance to see that the bell siphon is working properly, and water is flowing in and flowing out correctly. If the grow bed isn’t properly flooding and draining, the water will be dirtier than normal and smell a little fishy, a sign that something is not right.

Basement Aquaponics

Basil is also in constant supply. When they get too big and unruly, I snip and stick a sprig in the grow bed where it grows into another huge basil plant.

Basement AquaponicsAquaponics is a closed-loop soiless system, fish poop doesn’t contain essential minerals so you need to supplement. This is glacial rock dust. Without it, your leafy greens will not be so green and healthy. About once a week, a  few tablespoons mixed with water is added right into the grow bed. It’s also great in the garden to replenish the soil.

Basement Aquaponics

Out of twenty tilapia from my original basement aquaponics post, we are now down to three fish. Some we ate, some were jumpers. I’ve learned that tilapia are better in large groups. No one is singled out and they all blend and hide amongst each other. As soon as the numbers go down, they get territorial and aggressive. Just like chickens, there is a pecking order. I’ve seen flanks and tails with bites missing. We are currently trying to mate the remaining three. No more fish dinners until they reproduce… if  successful, we’ll have a year’s supply of fish!

  • Bev - Wonderful! My own basement system is just 3 months old, but I feel like every house should have one now. In all my research I haven’t come across anything about glacial rock dust before. I add iron, but nothing else. Judging by the look of your plants, it’s worth doing!

    Oh, I shared your post on my facebook page:

    I’m very keen on home scale, cold climate aquaponics systems.ReplyCancel

  • Angela - Wahooo! Lookin good! Im a Tilapia farmer too. Mine are in a huge tank in the garage. I would LOVE, to have a system in the house….Ohhh Hubby!!!! My hubby that is 😉 Wait until I show him this! I see a project in our near future.ReplyCancel

  • Basement Aquaponics & Raising Tilapia » FreestyleFarm - […] March Update: Basement aquaponics a year and a half later. […]ReplyCancel

  • Mark Arienda-Jose - What’s the trade-off for electricity consumption with running your aquaponics system? Are you guys supplementing with solar energy?

    Heard you were planning a workshop, add me to the list please, very excited.


    (416) 207-0775ReplyCancel

  • Robert Helbers - Bev,I’m currently planning to go into Aquaponics. Howeverquite a while ago I used to keep aquariums and one of the things I used to do when breeding fish was to put them in an aqaurium and replace some of the water with fresh rainwater. To do this I’d get an 4 liter ice cream container, drill a small hole in one corner (3mm) then I’d place this over the tank and start adding the water preferably over an airstone so that the water would not causefast chilling. Most fishes reacted to this the fresh water being like rain mixing in with the old water. Good luck I hope it helps to get your fish in the moodReplyCancel

  • jean-benoit - Hi! =)
    Are you using a filter for your fish tank?

    I’m building my first Aquaponic system. I bought a

    I’m wondering of it’S good to filter the water.


  • Brian - I so want to do what you are doing in my basement. I grew lots of veggies with hydroponics, but the nutrients were a little too expensive for long term small scale use.

    I might try it with goldfish. Those are readily available locally. I suspect I could also find bluegill somewhere local too once the system is stabilized.ReplyCancel

  • Nichelle - Amazing set-up, I’m inspired! I keep going back and forth between a small set-up to try it out and a big one because…well…bigger is better right!? Anyway, just wondering what light fixtures you’re using and where you got them.ReplyCancel

  • Clarence - Been doing aquaponics for past six years…I wish I was back in the midwest..where we had basements..Now that I am in houston tx..there is no such thing as my setup is all outdoorsReplyCancel

  • Jeff - I just looked at your aquaponics blogs and must say congratulations on your success. I’ve been at aquaponics for 2 years with a greenhouse and a basement system. I’m in Michigan and if I had it to do over again I think I would just do the basement system. Tough keeping things warm in the winter. Just finished re-winterizing the greenhouse and plan to expand the basement system this winter. Right now I have 2- 45 gallon aquariums and the bottom off an IBC with 2 small grow beds. I use these tanks to grow out the Tilapia. I have so many in the IBC in the greenhouse that I can’t feed them a lot to keep the ammonia down. I’ll re-configure the fish tanks in the basement and add more grow space.ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - Hi,
    I am interested in setting up a system for greens and tilapia. Wondering if you have an equipment list?
    We are in Ontario. Not sure where your fish supplier is located?


  • Q Nguyen - Hi,
    It is wonderful project.
    I would like to buy about a dozen of baby tilapia to try.
    do you know any where that can sell small amount?
    thank youReplyCancel

  • James - Aquaponics is a great way to grow your own food. One of the most essential things about human survival. It is very important for day to day life to grow your own chemical free food.ReplyCancel

  • Jimmy Chacko - Wow your an inspiration. I’d love an update including any hurdles you faced. Were you able to breed the fish? Additionly ive read that talipia will consume chicken poop, I’m interesting in knowing if you have thoughts on this.ReplyCancel

  • frigginGlorious - I’ve spent a few years interested and doing light research in Aquaponics, and these past couple weeks doing hardcore research, buying the things I need, and getting ready to set up!

    I hope to be cycling water by next month!

    I love this setup, and seems to be the most successful setup of the same size and type as I plan on setting up.

    Is this still operational at all? Did it end up working in the long run?

    I’ve taken many notes from your few posts here, but I would love an update. Any more wisdom you could shed would be simply fantastic!

    Thank you!ReplyCancel

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