My first year of aquaponics since I could only afford $120 a month (My quit smoking money) I smoked my marital financial allowance for 38 years.) By the time I quit 3 years ago it was up to $120/month. Increases in the price of cigarettes that month here in Florida would have nearly doubled that amount. So I quit smoking and started spending my $120.month on chewing gum, raising chickens and aquaponics. Chickens are easy and cheap so that was no big deal. The aquaponics was an entirely different thing financially. The chewing gum helped keep me from going out of my ever loving, nicotine starved mind.
So, I saved enough to buy 120 gallon Rubbermaid stock tank, a very small pump and two ten gallon plastic WalMart storage bins. The fish had to wait for another month. I set all the containers together and built up supports for the tanks so the water level would be even in all of them. The large stock tank I filled with water. I also filled the small bin closest to the large stock tank with water. That small bin acted as a solid/slash baby catcher. Next in line I placed other small bin. In this one I placed the pump in the bottom made a frame to hold screen over the pump and fiiled the rest with 1 - 2 inch river rock from Home Depot. In to the rocks I planted Melanga that I had already growing in my yard. (Melanga is a largish elephant ear type plant that has an edible tuber). Finally, I added a little nitrogen fertilizer and scum fro the wet lands to help build up the nitrogen eating bacteria.
Anyway, the little pump moved water from the Melanga tank into the large stock tank leaving a lower level in the Melanga tank which was promptly and automatically siphoned from the adjacent small tank to keep the water level........well..........level I had 2" PVC joined together to make a U shaped pipe set over the edges of the tanks connecting them together without having to to put holes and buy bulkhead connectors. Large bulkhead connectors are an expensive extravagance for $120/month expense account. Anyhow, once I got the right size pipe and got the siphon action going between all the tanks it worked like a charm.
I purchased five Blue Tilapia (no aquaculture license needed in Florida for Blue Tilapia thank you very much) from a local guy for a $50 "donation". Turns out I could have got them free in a pond not far from me. One male and 4 females. Three females died! After renewing my fishing license, off to the pond with a bait cast net we went a couple of months later and succeeded in catching a few more..........."bait fish". I think all told, we ended up with 14.
As that summer ended it became clear that I would need to build a shelter to protect the swimming ones from the elements and the varmints. Seems birds like fish as much as people. And with the winter coming on, the temperature is a major concern for Tilapia. They die when the water temp falls below 48 F. So, to make it easier to keep their little butts warm and the birds away I built the "Fish House". My fish house was not much more than a PVC lean-to held together with cheap wire fencing and plastic stretched over it. But the sun shines in Florida.........a lot. So my fish stayed pretty toasty their first winter.
The next spring we had over 100. Yes they do breed by golly! So now I had way too many fish for my little set-up so I began to expand. It took most of the next year. But by the end of it I had the basics for what you see in the pictures on the first page including the greenhouse. Last year I was able to save and buy real corrugated greenhouse roofing for the fish house.
This past year, being so busy and not as vigilant as I had been, we only had a few fry (baby fish) survive. That, only because they made their way to the sump tank and I just happen to catch a glimpse of them one day. I did not have the solids collector tank in until the end of this past summer (2011). So any fry that made it past the "big gulp' (aunts and uncles) probably didn't survive the trip through rocks and back through the pump again. But, that's OK since it was probably the smart ones that did survive. (wonder if they taste better or prevent dementia or something?)
So, I had a couple of old aquariums left from when the kids were young. Naturally being old they both leaked (the aquariums, the kids stopped that years ago). Removed all the old silicone seal and replaced it myself. One is a 50 gallon and the other is a 10 gallon. I cleaned out my garage and set them up to be able to control the temperatures easier for a spawning tank (honeymoon suite). and the smaller tank for the babies (nursery). Tilapia are in heaven when the temperatures are above 80 F and are just happy as hogs in mud when the temps are in the 90s F That was in November. I put fish in the honeymoon tank that month. But. so far no babies. Although, last week I did notice the male ( I think he was the male) doing nesting thingies. With Tilapia, the males build the nest and then lure the females back to have their way with them. Not a whole lot different than people I guess.
Anyhow, now we wait.
(This turned out to be a humungous success. See the page marked "Babies Galore" )