Friday, November 27, 2009

Aquaponics vs Hydroponics

Over the summer we didn't get a single tomato from our garden thanks to me picking some crazy heirloom varieties that do awful in our climate. To say sorry to my dad I bought an AeroGarden kit. They're a little expensive. We bought one for 6 plants at a time, the link above is a smaller model for 3 plants. I'm promoting the smaller model because a lot of people seem to be complaining about these. It's the kind of product that will probably break if shaken around to much so maybe buying at the store is the better way to go. Anyhow.

We're currently growing 3 tomato plants and they actually are producing tomatoes. My only complain is that tomato plants normally grow to be a 25 foot tall vine in the right conditions and the wonderful power of Hydroponics make them grow a little to well. Instructions suggest pruning the plants back and we'll have to do just that. They've already fallen over away from the light and are spreading on the kitchen counter. Parts to far away from the light are dying naturally though. Despite being a wind pollinator they're still producing tomatoes. We've yet to harvest one but we have a few little green tomatoes on each plant.

Smaller herb plants are probably more ideal for this on the counter setup. It's a shame we can't grow both at the same time. We tried to grow chives with the tomatoes and they got to much fertilizer and died out. The setup needs to be set to what kind of plant you're growing you see in order to time when to add more minerals into the water. I really like this product and think it's a wonderful addition to anyone's home. I've actually asked myself why garden centers don't sell herbs in planters at this time of year for indoor use, and so far I've yet to find an answer.

Can this system be improved?

Aquaponics is almost the same system but the water is circulated between a fish tank and a Hydroponic system. The other product above (here) looks like a fantastic system. The idea here is rather then constantly putting in pills of minerals (which is only ever done maybe twice a month anyhow) you have the fish waste fertilize the plants. Before getting all excited and buying this thing I'd like to point out the fine print.

Rocks, fish, fish food, plants or seeds and GLASS TANK are supplied by customer.

So $239 buys you all the pumps and times needed. You're also getting the stand and basically a raised waterproof flower bed. All of these things sound simple enough to buy and design with parts at your local hardware store. The only thing I'd worry about is weather or not the lining for the flower bed was of food grade. If you've got the money though I guess it's a time saver. And if you really got the money here's a top of the line model for $3,000.

But the real question is Do these products really work? For that I turn to YouTube. While I couldn't find anyone using the smaller model, I was able to find someone using a very similar looking top of the line model.

Now a lot of what these people are growing seriously require pollination, so bees are a must. Otherwise you'll be out there with a clean paint brush doing some pollinating of your own. (Sometimes stuffing male flowers into female flowers will work too.) But notice they're using Telapia, which I'm told taste great, as the fish. You could also use a $1's of feeder Gold Fish (usually 10), per tank. An Algae Eater could possibly keep the tank clean.

Going back to the smaller model, we used to have a fish tank. A lot of homes do. With just a few pumps, a timer, and a waterproof flowerbed any freshwater tank could be converted into an Aquaponic system. So you're basically turning the simple task of feeding the fish each morning and letting that grow plants. How's that for a mind blowing glimpse into the ecosystem?

This December I think I'll cave in and buy the smaller Aquaponics setup from Amazon. I'll post back how my experience went. They take a few weeks to setup I think, need to let the fish swim around for two weeks I believe before any plants can really grow. I'm doing this because my brother, not only works for a marina but goes fishing out in the bay regularly and he catches all sorts of expensive fish. I'm sure he could set me up with some Telapia. This might even make a great gift for him as well. So until then, thank you for reading my blog.