Your Go-To Aquaponics Resource Guide
Buying building equipment for your greenhouse and aquaponics system can be overwhelming.
Over the years, we at Bright Agrotech have had a lot of time to seek out and test equipment based on costs, needs, and quality.
We'd like to share those with you so that you can save some time and money, and hopefully avoid any money pits like we've fallen into in the past.
Here are our thoughts on the products involved in an aquaponics greenhouse and system...
General Advice: Start Here!
If it doesn't have to be expensive, get it cheap.
Doing the research to find out exactly what you need is worth it in the savings!
Some of our materials are jerry-rigged, thrifted, or something we found on the side of the road. No joke!
Price does not always denote quality, nor does it need to. Have a critical eye and know what you want, and you will save a lot of money.
Greenhouse Frames, Coverings and Designs
The frame is made of rolled galvanized steel, which has been sturdy and has worked well for us.
There are plenty of other greenhouse frames out there including ones that are MUCH more solid (see: expensive) than ours.
Again, you'll find a wide selection for your own goals and price range at Greenhouse Megastore.
Bright Agrotech Greenhouse Building Videos:
The fans you get will depend on the size of your greenhouse, or the volume.
The goal of having fans is to provide sufficient air movement to support the gas exchange that is crucial to plant health, as well as providing a cooling effect.
Whether or not a fan is sufficiently powerful depends on it's capacity.
So what capacity do you need for your greenhouse?
A general rule is that you need a 2 CFM (cubic feet per minute) per square foot of ground space in your greenhouse. You may need more if you have cooling walls.
You can read more about airflow here.
Our environmental requirements for a greenhouse covering are quite high, especially when it come to heat. (Don't forget we're at 7,200' and our winter is about 6 months long... I wish that was a joke).
We needed a covering that would provide sufficient insulation to deal with extremely low temperatures and high winds, and that wouldn't break the bank!
Many people are surprised when we tell them that we got a covering capable of accomplishing both of these feats for around $700 per 100 foot-long hoop house.
We use 6mm polyethylene with a 6 year warranty. An inflated double-layer and a bit of wiggle wire goes a long way to combating -30 F and wind.
You can get a covering like this from Greenhouse Megastore.
Bright Agrotech Greenhouse Covering Videos:
Greenhouse Heating and Cooling
No matter how much insulation you have or the R value of your greenhouse covering, you will likely need to adjust the temperature.
With such a wide range of climates hosting aquaponic systems, pinning down just one recommended method is impossible, so instead we compiled a bunch of different methods, so that you can mix and match to fit your situation.
Ground to Air Heat Transfer can also be a great heating option.
Fish and Fish Feed
State laws make sourcing fish slightly different for each state.
We recommend talking to your local Fish and Wildlife Department for specific hatcheries information. (Find yours here.)
Bright Agrotech Fish Videos:
The important thing when it comes to fish food is protein.
We've used several brands and have settled on Skretting, which you can order by the bag through a feed store or online.
This feed is high protein and does not use feather meal - a fish food ingredient that will gunk up your system. BEWARE FEATHER MEAL!
Fish House Designs and Fish Tanks
Tanks are extremely versatile. The important things to look out for are zinc, and previous use.
Shape isn't extremely significant, and comes down to preference, but we like the conical bottom tanks ourselves.
Square tanks are more space efficient, but round tanks have better flow and can be easier from a management perspective.
Round vs. Square: Round tanks get more flow, but are spatially inefficient. Square tanks fit better, as I mentioned before.
Fish House Frame
I'm going to let you in on a secret: Our fish house is actually a steel carport that we got for about $3000.
An insulated building of the same size would've cost us seven or eight thousand dollars. We did have to insulate the port, which cost us about $1000. It took a bit more work but saved us three or four thousand dollars!
A note on insulation: Be aware of the moisture within the fish house, which will cause traditional insulation to rot and cause problems.
Instead, look for an insulation that can deal with the moisture. We use a blueboard, polystyrene insulation. Spray polyurethane or spray polystyrene will also work.
Hardware (Fittings, Tubing, etc.)
Hardware is something that doesn't change much in quality over a range of sources.
You can get almost everything you need in the way of PVC, fittings, tubing, gutters, etc. at a hardware store.
We offer a few of the more rare fittings on our store, but we recommend folks just visit their local hardware store.
Pumps & Plumbing
Finding the right pump for you aquaponics system is crucial!
If you go too small from the beginning, you'll either prohibit your system from performing as it should or prohibit yourself from scaling your system down the road.
When you're trying to decide the best pump for your system, you must understand head height and flow rates are very important to understand.
For ZipGrow towers in an aquaponic system, we recommend a flow rate of 7-10 gallons per hour.
Bright Agrotech Plumbing Videos:
There are three companies that we recommend for good quality seed: Johnny's, Harris, or Baker Creek.
All three of these companies are easy to work with and provide quality seeds with high germination rates.
Here's a quick video on starting seeds.
Our Favorite Seed Companies:
There are plenty of others, but these are the seeds we've had the most luck with and given us the highest sprouting percentages.
Getting mature seedlings ready for planting is an option some of our commercial farmers use.
Depending on the season and your geographic location, you might be able to find a plug producer in your area that could deliver seedlings when you need them.
Just be warned... If you're planning to grow commercially, becoming dependent on someone else to play a vital role in your business brings a whole new element of risk into your operation.
Be sure they can meet your demand and stay on schedule if you choose to go this route!
Dr. Storey gives a great overview of pesticides that are safe to use in a ZipGrow aquaponic system in this video.
In an aquaponic system, you want to be especially careful with pest controls- more so than with hydroponics. If you are using a growing tool other than ZipGrow Towers, don't use soaps and oils! They will get into your water more easily and will harm your fish.
You can also check out our pest control posts on our blog for information on pesticides as well as cultural, mechanical, and biological controls.
Bright Agrotech Pest Control Videos
OMRI Pest Controls
Before you go out and buy any of these, be sure you formulate a proficient and thoughtful Integrated Pest Management Strategy first!
Don't just go spraying your greenhouse with a bunch of pest controls, even if they are certified Organic!
Here are a few we use:
Understanding Nutrients and Cycling:
Microbes are the engines of an aquaponic system, and are responsible for the majority of your nutrient cycling. Understanding microbes is crucial to managing nutrients. These two posts are good starting points to understanding how microbes work with your system:
For information on supplements, see the post corresponding to the nutrient you want to supplement.
Here are a few to get started:
>> If you haven't downloaded the nutrient deficiency key yet, it's one of the best investments of $0.99 you can make!
Building Your Aquaponics System
Here's a step-by-step overview of one way to build an aquaponics system using ZipGrow towers.
I say "one way" because ZipGrow towers are insanely flexible and adaptable to your own ideas or system/market considerations.
They're kind of like the brushes you can use to paint your aquaponic masterpiece with.
If you're interested, here is an FAQ.
Happy Aquaponic Growing!
We hope that this aquaponics resource guide has been helpful to you.
Do you have any recommendations or warnings?
Let us know in the comments below!
Click here to learn more about how ZipGrow towers can increase your production.