Hydroponics - Soil Free Gardening
Our hydroponic system started as an Aquaponics system, growing tilapia as a protein source and using the fish waste as a nutrient source. In my opinion chickens and rabbits are a much better protein source. I bought into all the hype and I must tell you that it was a complete waste of time and money (my wife loves to tell me "told you so"). Aquaponics is very difficult to control and is very labor intensive. After 12 months I abandoned Aquaponics and converted my system to hydroponics.
There are a number of reasons for my decision:
After 12 months the fish were only about 12 inches long.
Aquaponics is very dirty, the waste collects in your growth media and thus it attracts flies and other unwanted critters. This means that at least once a year you have to clean your grow media which is no easy task.
Aquaponices smells bad.
You have to constantly check the chemistry, make adjustments and perform water exchanges, draining the system and refilling with freshwater.
You have to feed the fish five times a day.
Tilapia are very slimy making it difficult to filet the fish.
Converting the system to hydroponics was a fairly simple task. I eliminated the fish tank, drained all the water, cleaned the rock grow media and refilled system.
Now, we only have to check the nitrate level once a month and we still get excellent production and quality of the veggies we grow.
We use a fill and drain system. The grow beds are filled using a single pump and when they get to certain level they automatically drain back to the sump pump via gravity using a bell siphon.
We have eight grow beds made from 55 gallon food grade barrels cut in half lengthwise. Each barrel is filled with small pebbles that have been thoroughly cleaned. We produce mostly leafy vegetables year-round, enough for us and a lot more to sell to friends and neighbors.