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Friday, September 30, 2011

Preparing for Winter

Daffodils - Plant in Fall for a Spring Treat

Today I wandered by the hardware store and bought various things for upcoming projects. The daffodils were a splurge, but something I knew my daughter would enjoy.

I've got two projects in the works - the greenhouse-style shed, so I can show you how to finish off the greenhouse at the ends, and a solar heater, to keep things toasty in the greenhouse as it gets cold outside.

I posted the Cansolair video yesterday, but I'm doing a DIY version, our of pop cans. A particularly good set of instructions can be found online at Though I'm still at the beginning of the process, I've figured out a couple of improvements.
  • Use an empty soup can to brace the aluminum cans as you start cutting. The closer it is in size to the aluminum cans, the better. The point is that your aluminum can will not buckle (twist, tear, shred, undergo other plastic deformation) as you work, because the soup can will stabilize the perimeter. This is good.
  • Having a massive nail/spike and tin snips is nice, but all you really need is a 1-1/4 inch spade drill bit. I put the bit in my power drill, not because I want to use the power tool, but because the tool gives me leverage and control. The idea is to push the bit into the ends of the soda can - it slices through like a hot knife through cold butter.

Some argue that you don't actually have to punch holes in the cans, but wanted to post these tips for those who want to do the "classic" soda can solar heater construction technique.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dinner with Murray

Talking with Murray Hallam about his Videos

Today I got an e-mail from Sylvia Bernstein with pictures of me and Murray at the conference.

Did I mention how excited I was to meet Murray? Squee!!

I love how Murray makes aquaponics seem like the most natural, fun, productive thing in the world. And he's a lot like my grandfather, a down-to-earth person. And Murray has this fabulous Australian accent. I love how he pronounces pH "p-Haitch," for example.

I loved getting to explain "my" aquaponics system and greenhouse to Murray, before he conducted the fund-raising auction.

Explaining 'my' bell siphon and system to Murray

What's Up Next???

Now that I've gotten some sleep back in me, I recall the next thing I really wanted to post about was how to finish off the greenhouse, since I wasn't able to do that to my satisfaction in the single hour I had at the conference. Luckily, I could really use a shed, so I can show off the basic technique without having to build an entire greenhouse.

After that, I'm planning to build a solar heater, a home-made version of the basic "Cansolair" unit, demonstrated in the video below:

Cansolair heating air to 150+ degrees on a 17 degree day

We'll get to 365 days a year of growing season yet...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bell Siphon - the Parts List

Folks have been asking for parts lists and drawings on how to put this together. So I've (finally!) put together a parts list, complete with links to the product pages for these bits on the Home Depot website.

Bernoulli Standpipe Inexpensive Bulkhead Fitting Coanda Discharge
Auto-siphon "Bell" Media Guard
All told, the parts add up to about $20 if you're just building a single Bell Siphon. If you build two of them, they come in at $14 apiece. Or if you get a bunch of friends together to build 10 of these, the price comes down to $9 apiece (because you'll buy the 10 foot long lengths of 2-inch and 3-inch pipe - economies of scale).

Now that you've got the parts, here's how to put it together:

Small system I put together for a Feb 2012 science fair

Installing the Bulkhead fitting (the grey conduit bits and O-ring)

Assembling the Standpipe, Bell, and Media Guard

Different Discharge Options (I like the 45 degree or Coanda Discharge)

Friday, September 16, 2011

15 - How Much does this Cost? Under $1000...

Here's a run down of the amount I paid for this system, with suggestions on how you can reduce costs even further.

Tanks - $440 - I was able to get the Rubbermaid stock tanks at a local farming coop for $70 and $80 for the 50-gallon and 100-gallon tanks, respectively. I think you'd need 3 IBC units to make something similar out of IBC, so that wouldn't save much cost. However I understand that it's possible to get 55-gallon barrels for free from local beverage processing plants. The downside of 55-gallon barrels is you'll have to spend more on plumbing, you'll have a lot more cutting to do, and the end result will look like hack-sawed plastic. But free is free.

Hoop house - $100 - If you use pressure-treated landscape lumber for the base, 3 mil sheeting, and 1/2" EMT conduit, the total price rolls in at around $100. You could slightly reduce costs for the frame by using PVC. Or you can decide you don't need protection at all, if you're in a climate that doesn't require protection from excess sun, rain, or cold.

Pumps and timer - $110 - I was able to find my 800 gph pump at a local hydroponics store for $60, and you can get an air pump sufficient to aerate 100 gallons for $30. Tubing and air stones round the total amount upwards to $100. One option is to dispense with the air pump, if you pump some of your water over the surface of the fish tank, oxygenating the water the way a pond fountain does. There are ways to use wind power to drive something like a rope pump, but I don't think that is cheaper than an electric pump (though awfully fun to make). I do use a timer to turn my water pumps off at night, which is another $5-10.

Plumbing - $100 - I used 3" pipe for media guards (4 feet), 2" pipe for bells (4 feet), 1" pipe to connect the tanks (10 feet), and lots of 3/4" pipe for upstands and drains (10 feet). Add in the elbows and adapters, caps, and o-rings and you're up around $40. I used garden hose that is drinking water safe to carry water from my sump tank to the grow beds, so two 50 foot lengths, adapters, and Y splitters ran me $60. You could reduce cost by having a simple standpipe and using a timer to turn the water on intermittently, though your water pump capacity may need to increase. As for plumbing between the sump and the beds, you could plumb that with PVC pipe and elbows. If you find a cheaper way to do it, after tallying all the costs, go for it.

Grow bed supports - $60 - I used cinder blocks (16 @ $2.50) and 2x6 planks (4 @ $5) to support the grow beds. If you are able to dig your tanks down into the ground, you can cut back on the number of cinder blocks required. If you can find such materials second hand, that'd be great.

Floating Raft - $40 - I was able to get a 2'x8' sheet of 2" extruded polystyrene for $15, and the 2" net pots cost $0.39 apiece. I suppose you could come up with some kind of wood float supported on empty water bottles and used (drilled) plastic containers.

Media - $ to $$$ - If you've got a pile of 3/4 gravel out back, this could be free. If you fill all four grow beds with Hydroton (@ $40 per 50L bag), you could be spending about $600.

So the basic system as I've got it here (including a floating raft bed) is $850. I love Hydroton, but I know of a friend who got an entire truckbed full (1250L) of expanded shale for under $60. So you can create an extended-season, vegetable-growing, fish growing water storage system for under $1000.

14 - Moving the System in a Minivan

System packed into a Minivan

The system you’ve been reading about will be auctioned off at the September 2011 Aquaponics Association Conference this weekend on Saturday, the evening of 17 September.

My problem? How to get this sucker from Northern Virginia to Orlando, Florida.

Someone else’s problem? How to get this sucker for Orlando, Florida, to their place.

I figured the bidding pool would shrink significantly if the system was too big to fit in a standard vehicle. So here we go, packing the bits up and loading them into the back of my minivan. I left both seats in the van, since there’s no guarantee someone wanting to take this home will have thought to remove seats from their van.

It can work. You can take the 365 Aquaponics System with you – an investment you wouldn’t have to leave behind if life turned upside down. You’d have to leave the most the water behind, as well as the fish. You might even want to gift all but one grow bed worth of media to a friend. But at the end of the day, you could pick up and take it with you.

I look forward to seeing many of you in Orlando, at the Aquaponics Conference. But the anticipation can’t be better than the friendships and memories I’ll have to look back on when it’s all done.

Here's some more pictures:

The interior of my minivan with some of the long bits inside

Packing the growbeds inside

Side view through the sliding door

Thursday, September 15, 2011

13 - Creating a Greenhouse out of Electric Metallic Tubing (EMT)

Picture of EMT frame, draped with plastic

So how do you grow 365 days a year when you have cold winters? A greenhouse is a big part of that answer. [In fairness, 365 Aquaponics also requires attention to fish selection and plant choice, but that’s for another post.]

The lightbulb went off for me when I saw a video of Michelle Obama’s hoop house garden, at the White House. An evening of internet surfing later, I knew all kinds of information about high tunnels, aka hoop houses.

But a standard hoop house wouldn’t work for me. The typical cross section of a hoop house is a circular arc, 12 feet wide if it’s 6 feet high. Not bad for crops grown in the ground, but murder if my crops are sprouting 3 feet above ground level, as in an aquaponics system that’s wholly installed above the surface of the ground. Besides, all that area at the edges is practically useless for either growing plants or allowing the gardener to walk around.

There are some nice greenhouses available for sale. Harbor Freight has an inexpensive 10’x12’ model that is used by many gardeners. But my townhome community has covenants that limit how tall my backyard structures can stand.

Besides, I wanted to see if I could come up with a sturdy greenhouse someone could build themselves from standard materials available at local hardware stores.

Now that I’ve lived with such a greenhouse for a summer, I prefer a simple hoop house over standard greenhouses. When it gets hot, you can simply remove the plastic from the hoop house for the hot months. If you need shade, drape shade cloth over the hoops. Nature takes care of ventilation and pollination. When the days and nights start cooling, put up the plastic again. 6 mil plastic will be stronger and provide better insulation, but 3 mil plastic lets in more light and still keeps things moderately toasty in the sun.

I used Electric Metallic Tubing (EMT) rather than the more typical PVC pipe because:
  • EMT allows me to achieve a precise shape
  • EMT is stronger
  • EMT won’t break down under UV sunlight the way unpainted PVC does.
  • EMT is sold in 10 foot lengths, allowing me to create an arched form that is 8.5 feet wide and around 7 feet tall from just two 10 foot lengths

Pictures (better, moving pictures) are worth thousands of words, so here is a movie showing how to set this up.

Timers - If you have functioning bell siphons, you can leave the water pump running continuously. But there are reasons to have a simple timer to turn the water pump off and on:
  • Stopping water flow at night. You may do this because it's cold weather, and you want to conserve thermal energy rather that spending energy to "cool" your water by circulating it during the dark nights. Or you might just want to keep it quiet for your neighbors. Since I turn my pumps off at night, I have drilled a small hole in the standpipe of my bell siphon so any excess water remaining in the grow beds can drain when power goes off for the night.
  • You don't want to deal with bell siphons. In this case, you can set the timer to turn on for 15 minutes every so often (say once an hour). As long as you have a standpipe with a small hole at the bottom, your beds will fill while the pump is on, then slowly drain when the pump is turned off.
  • Even with functioning bell siphons, you can throttle back on power requirements by turning the power off intermittently. This can be particularly important if you have an extended power outage, and are trying to maintain your system off a small solar array.
There are any number of timer systems out there, but I believe a simple timer like the one pictured above will take care of most needs for an aquaponics system.

Friday, September 9, 2011

9 - Floating Raft for Deep Water Culture

My first floating raft system, July 2010

Sometimes you want to grow plants without using "media." In that case, you need some method for suspending your plant over the surface of the water.

I've seen folks use foam rafts, wooden structures supported on air-filled water bottles, or water-filled bins with holes cut in the lid. The plants are put in "net pots" to provide some support while allowing the roots to grow through the mesh/net of the pots.

I've used foam rafts. But you want to make sure you select the 'right' foam. There are three basic foam insulation board products on the market produced under several different manufacturer names. The basic types of foam board insulation include: polystyrene, polyurethane or polyisocyanurate.
  • Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) - This is the white foam board that is made up of lots of tiny white foam balls. Even though this isn't toxic, you don't want to use this for aquaponics. The stuff will disintegrate relatively quickly, leaving you with a white, snowy mess.
  • Extruded Polystyrene (XPS) - This is what you want for aquaponics. Folks typically recommend the 2 inch thick Dow product (blue board). However you may find other brands at your local hardware store, and the colors will vary depending on the manufacturer. For example, pink is the trademark color for the Owens Corning product, Lowes' GreenGuard product is (surprise) green. In all cases, make sure you're dealing with extruded polystyrene rather than some other chemical.
  • Polyurethane (PUR) or Polyisocyanurate (PIR or ISO) - Fully reacted polyurethane, itself, is chemically inert. The problem is that the stuff you can buy at the hardware store is typically "improved" to increase the insulation properties (R value). This "improvement" is achieved by adding isocyanurates, which are hazardous chemicals. The list of potential human hazards from exposure to isocyanurates is long and scary - and I wouldn't want my fish exposed to this stuff (or have the roots of my plants bathing in a weak isocyanurate solution). Folks on the web will often equate pink foam with polyisocyanurate, but that is not necessarily the case. Check the chemical composition of the foam you intend to buy and just make sure you're getting XPS and not PIR or ISO.

Lay out where the centers of your holes need to be. I use 3" spacing between centers for the 2" net pots I'll use to start seedlings or allow cuttings to root. You'll want to use 6 inches or more between centers if you want your plants to grow to maturity in the floating raft - this will be OK for plants like lettuce.

To drill the holes for 2" net pots, I recommend a standard 2-1/8 inch Door Knob Hole Saw and another drill bit that is long enough to go all the way through your foam. Drill a small hole at the center of each location, then drill part through one side at each location with the hole saw. Flip the foam and finish drilling the holes from the other side, using the center holes as a guide.

A Door Know Hole Saw bit

To prolong the life of your raft, you can paint the foam with white latex paint.

Here's a video showing the basics of a 2 inch thick floating raft that will fit in a 50-gallon Rubbermaid tank.

N.B. - If your plant roots are "dark," this may be due to particles in the water you're piping in under your floating raft. In that case, consider adding some kind of filtration to reduce the particulate content.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

8 - The Durso Standpipe

The very first Durso Standpipe™ ever made

Say you want to have a bed that is constant flood, always filled with water. Water comes in through the hose. Water drains out via a standpipe. Very easy to understand.

But if you’ve ever used a simple standpipe, you know it can be crazy loud. I experimented early on with a constant flood hydroponics system. Over time the standpipe started to gurgle noisily. It was terrible.

It was so bad, I was desperate to quiet the standpipe. I came across mention of a "Durso Siphon." Turns out this isn't a siphon at all, it's a modified standpipe that Richard Durso developed to quiet the 1500 gph flowing through the 180g Reef Aquarium in his dining room. Richard describes the reason he was driven to develop his standpipe design at his website:
"The aquarium came with a perforated pipe (a tube with hundreds of holes in it) inside the overflow chamber. This allowed the water to flow into the pipe quickly. However, this also meant that the water level in the overflow chambers was very low — about 3 inches (8 cm) deep.

"With such a low water level, water entering the overflow chamber had about a 20 inch (50 cm) drop! This sounded like Niagara Falls with about 1,500 gallons (5700 liters) per hour enter the overflow chambers. Secondly, each chamber made a gargling noise — sounded like a toilet flushing 24 hours a day. It was so loud my wife could not sleep. I had to fix it fast!
  • Little to no water fall.
  • Whisper quiet, no splashing or gurgling.
  • Each chamber becomes a refugium.
  • Chambers will not drain in a power outage.
  • Pipe is self priming."

If you want to convert one of your grow beds to simple constant flood or to floating raft, here’s a quick video clip showing how it is done.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

7 - The Coanda Discharge

The Coanda Discharge letting out below the water surface

The Achilles heel of the Bell Siphon is getting the silly thing to start.

There is an art to setting the bends in the typical 90 degree elbows of the typical discharge pipe design. If it fails to work in manner A, bend one way. If it fails to work in manner B, bend the other way. Or fuss with the rate of flow into the growbed. Or check the pipes for bio-fouling and rinse with a hose.

No wonder many people just give up on bell siphons and revert to timers!

The Coanda Discharge eliminates any need to fuss with the discharge. The Coanda Effect is that fluid likes to stay adhered to a surface even when that surface bends. It is why planes fly. It is why milk sometimes misses your cup and drips in a strange direction.

I stumbled onto the Coanda Discharge by accident. I planned to put together the kind of right-angle configuration I’d seen in videos of aquaponics systems. But I didn't have a 90 degree elbow, so I used a 45 degree elbow instead. The 45 degree elbow worked great. Because of my fluid dynamics background, I recognized why it worked so well and what it needed to be named.

When water overflows the lip inside a bell siphon, water sheets down the sides of the tube, leaving a column of air. You need to form a plug of water in a location where gravity can pull it out, sucking out the air column and starting the siphon. A 90 degree bends form that “plug” by making the water splash, but when you turn the water 90 degrees from vertical, you’re horizontal and gravity is no longer helping you.

In a Coanda discharge, though, the slug of water is formed by the stable “mounding” of the water as it encounters the pipe inserted into the 45 degree elbow. There’s little to no splashing, and when the plug of water has formed, you still have plenty of gravity to pull out that water plug and the air column behind it.

Here’s a video clip showing the difference between no elbow, the 90 degree elbow, and the 45 degree elbow cases.When the outlet of the Coanda discharge is buried below the water surface in your CHOP fish tank, the only significant noise is the burp when the siphon breaks.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

6 - The Bell Siphon

My original prototype bell siphon

There are two types of aquaponic growbeds:
  • floating raft (plants floating with their roots in a constant stream of water)
  • media-based growbeds (plants growing in some sort of rock/sand/gravel/beads)
Media-based systems are recommended for home hydroponicists because they are simpler and more reliable. Media-based systems are also referred to as flood and drain. The idea is you flood the growbed with the fish water (delivering nutrients and, um, water), then let it drain out (bathing the roots in air/oxygen).

Of the various ways to flood/drain a media-based growbed, the one that is easiest on the checkbook is a bell siphon. All a bell siphon needs are simple plumbing bits available at any hardware store. Oh, and a small pump. I loved the way the folks at EcoFilms explain it in their post about How an Aquaponics System Works:
"If the pump is the heart of an aquaponics system, then the auto-siphon are it’s lungs. A vital part of kit. Remember when you were a little kid and the teacher told you about the regular flooding of the Nile river and how fertile the Nile delta was to early farmers. Well think of the auto siphon as a kind of similar concept. It’s main purpose is to flood the grow bed drawing rich oxygen into the depths of the trough, oxygenating the plant roots and turbo charging the bacteria to do their thing."
Below is EcoFilms' animation of how a bell siphon works.
[The red button toggles the animation on and off.]

A real-life system takes many times longer to fill than the time to drain (my initial prototype system with a single growbed took 10 minutes to fill and 1 minute to drain, ignoring the dribbly parts at the beginning and end of the siphon). I found the growbed in my system only needs 10 gallons to fill the spaces between the rocks, so the change in the level of the water in the fish tank is only 2-3 inches, about 10%.

Basically, when water reaches the top of the siphon, water quickly drains out of the grow bed, sucking air down around the roots and oxygenating everything. You can have a small pump running continuously, rather than a big pump turning on for only a few minutes once an hour or so. Since the pump is on continuously, the water in the total system is also cycling continuously, which my fish and plants love.

I didn’t invent the bell siphon, but I have developed a design that doesn’t require solvents, a design that can be manufactured with just plumbing bits and a mitre saw.

I'll show the bell siphon working in tomorrow's post about the coanda discharge - for today the video just covers the parts and assembly of the bell siphon.

Monday, September 5, 2011

5 - Connecting the Fish Tank and Sump

Piping connecting the fish tank to the sump

It’s not always true that water flows downhill.

What is true is “fluid will flow from higher pressure to lower pressure.” In order to achieve this equilibrium, water will do some pretty whacky things. What we want to do is connect the fish tank and the sump such that:
  • Water in the fish tank will never siphon out completely
  • Water from the bottom of the fish tank will leave the tank, carrying away solids
  • No openings are large enough to ‘suck’ small fish out of the fish tank
  • My ‘sump’ can rest on the same surface as my fish tank

Tall order! But it can be done. I want to acknowledge up front that I didn’t invent this design from scratch. It is a modification of the “Constant Height of Pond” or CHOP systems originally popularized by Murray Hallam, as so beautifully explained in this post by ecofilms: CHOP and CHOP2. My ‘addition’ is translating this into standard pipe sizes that can be found in the US. The 365 Aquaponics design is partway between CHOP and CHOP2 - like a CHOP1.5.

The drain out of the fish tank must be higher than the drain into the sump. If the sump is higher than the fish tank, you’ll never persuade the water to leave the fish tank. But the piping between the fish tank and the sump can bend or run under the ground if needed so the gardener can walk freely between the tanks. The three sketches below are “equivalent,” as far as successfully draining water from the fish tank to the sump.

Water will flow from high pressure to low pressure

But it isn’t enough to just connect the drain from the fish tank to the drain into the sump. I want to pull water from the bottom of the fish tank, where all the nutrient-rich sediment collects. So I’ll put some simple pipes into my fish tank to pull water from the bottom, as seen in this picture of my prototype:

The fish tank, with pipes to suck water up from the bottom

One minor issue with using the standard, inexpensive, pipe sizes is that sometimes the water level in the fish tank rises faster than the water can escape through just the lower parts of the two pipes. In that case, I allow water to escape through the top of the pipes into the drain. Below is a video clip of me drilling the holes in the fish tank and sump and installing the bulkheads.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

4 - Installing Bulkheads

Exploded view of Bulkhead Components

You have to do something to let water drain from the grow beds.

If I wanted to just have a simple flood and drain system, I could pump water in the grow bed for a while, then let the water gush or dribble out a hole in the bottom.

But as soon as I want to control that water in any way, I need to install a bulkhead.

The bulkhead I use for the 365 Aquaponics System is constructed from inexpensive PVC pieces you can buy at any hardware store. I use ¾” PVC pipe and fittings. If using metric plumbing bits, the equivalent size is 19 mm.
For some inexplicable reason, plumbing bits in the US are designed with a rounded edge. So for the actual part that penetrates the tank, I use PVC bits designed for electrical conduit.

The male PVC coupling bit is screwed down through the thickness of the tank. Once the coupling is tight, PVC will seat itself against the plastic tank wall in a nearly water-tight fashion. Slip a #18 O-ring around the male threads, then thread the female fitting as tight as you can by hand. The O-ring will make this bulkhead water tight, given that none of these bulkheads needs to withstand more than a foot or 300mm of water pressure.

Credit for this bulkhead concept goes to Richard Kinch, who details this bulkhead design at "An Improvised PVC Bulkhead Fitting for Liquid Storage Tanks."

Here’s a short video clip showing installation of a bulkhead.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

3 - Setting Up the Tanks

Tanks and materials for the 365 Aquaponics System

The first thing you need to have in an aquaponics system is a way to hold water.

In order to achieve system stability and grow an interesting quantity of food and fish, you’ll want to shoot for a water volume of 250 gallons. That’s a lot of water.

There are a lot of options. Concrete ponds, International Bulk Container (IBC) totes, 55-gallon drums, wood structures lined with plastic. For the 365 Aquaponics system, I chose stock tanks.
Here are my reasons for using stock tanks.

They are an existing and proven product. Stock tanks were designed to hold water for cattle, sheep, and other large livestock. They were designed to withstand day to day abuse from such livestock and the elements in which the livestock lives. Because plastic stock tanks are rugged, large capacity, and constructed from food grade plastic, they are often used by restaurants for food storage and preparation. Perhaps most important, they should be locally available.

When you’re buying something this big and having it delivered to your home, you’ll pay a hundred dollars or more just for shipping. If you can get it in stock from a local agriculture store, the shipping to the store has already been covered by the store as part of the cost of doing business.

They require little modification, if any. Grow beds in the 365 Aquaponics System have a single easy to drill hole (1” if using ‘English’ units, 25 mm if using metric). Beyond stacking some cinder blocks and planks, I don’t need to build support structures.

So here’s a video clip showing me preparing the stock tanks for the 365 Aquaponics System.

Friday, September 2, 2011

2 - Building the 365 Aquaponics System

My Original Prototype, Apr 20, 2011

For the next several days, I'll walk you through building "the 365 Aquaponics System," a wheelchair-accessible, 200 gallon aquaponics system and greenhouse for around $1000. The system you'll see over the next several posts will be auctioned off during the Aquaponics Association Conference to raise funds for the Association.

Here's the schedule of posts - enjoy!

9.03 - Setting up the Tanks
9.04 - Installing the Bulkheads
9.05 - Connecting the Fish Tank and Sump
9.06 - Pumps, Timers, and Plumbing
9.07 - Installing a Float Valve
9.08 - Media Options
9.09 - The Bell Siphon
9.10 - The Coanda Discharge
9.11 - Floating Raft
9.12 - The Durso Standpipe
9.13 - The EMT Hoop House
9.14 - Moving the System
9.15 - The Final Accounting
9.16 - Storing Solar Energy for Winter

Thursday, September 1, 2011

1 - A New Beginning

An early post at 3x5 Aquaponics

Just today I was reflecting that I needed a new name for my blog.

I started an aquaponics blog almost a year ago. At the time, I wanted to prototype an indoor DIY system that would allow year-round gardening. I picked the name 3x5 Aquaponics because:

Anyone with a 3' by 5' area (that can literally support a ton of water/gravel/etc.) can have an aquaponics system for well under $1000. That's under $1000 complete with lights, fish, and rocks (most experts recommend home aquaponicists stick to rock-based systems).

I designed the system and created a prototype. Seeds sprouted, and I transplanted them to the garden.

It worked. But the taller my plants grew, the more I envied those who can grow outside. When my tilapia "failed to thrive," I was free to create a system outside.

The garden grew...

July 2011

And grew...

August 24th, after a month away

And grew.

After Hurricane Irene swept past, August 28th

I'm loving this aquaponics adventure. Alas, "3x5 Aquaponics" doesn't really describe what I'm doing now. What new name could I pick?

Then I browsed to the Aquaponics Association website, to review what the site is promising about what I'll present this month in Orlando...

...Meg Stout of "365" Aquaponics

365 Aquaponics.

Year-round gardening.

It's perfect to fit where I am now in my journey, as well as including my original idea of a small indoor system.

So thank you, thank you, thank you to whoever decided I was 'Meg Stout of 365 Aquaponics.'

For the next year I'll continue to blog here about what I'm doing, with design details, tales of joy and woe, and pictures (always pictures)!