This article is going to save you from wasting 5 years of banging your head on a wall… literally.
How do I know?
Because I grew with aquaponics for 5 years. I didn’t just grow… I taught aquaponics classes, I worked full-time for a big aquaponics company, and even I created a top-selling online aquaponics training.
And yes, if you happen to be someone who purchased my aquaponics training I’m issuing you my deepest apology and a full refund AND sending you a free copy of my NEW training which is a MUCH better way to grow organic food. I’d be happy to tell ya more when you are ready to really get growing.
Anyways…one day I realized how incredibly stupid it was… and how much easier it is to grow a lot more food, while still using the SAME principles that aquaponics is actually based on:
That is: creating an environment that supports a symbiotic relationship.
I was just attempting to nurture the wrong relationship…
WARNING: If you’re a fish-poo flavored Kool Aid drinking aquaponics person (no judgement, I used to BE you) this information is probably going to piss you off.
You can fight me and gnash your teeth, but I suggest you hear me out and let me explain why there’s a much easier and better way of accomplishing your goal (which in theory is growing food, not to be a tinkering mad scientist, right?)
What Exactly IS Aquaponics?
Aquaponics is growing fish and plants together in the same system. In theory, this sounds really cool…
In practice, it turns out… (after 5+ years of doing it, teaching it, and being obsessed with it) aquaponics is pretty stooopid.
There are a multitude of reasons why you should NEVER drink the aquaponics kool-aid but…. Here are the top 5…
1. Over Complication – bell siphon.
One does not “simply”….. “do gardening.”
If there is a way to overcomplicate gardening, humanity will most assuredly find a way.
Case in Point: The Bell Siphon beloved by all aquapons.
Reason why bell-siphons are stupid:
The bell siphon in aquaponics was originally created because AT THAT TIME, about 10+ years ago, the pumps people were using were unreliable.
The pumps in THOSE DAYS weren’t meant to be turned off and on.
Wow. It’s amazing how much technology changes in 10 years, isn’t it?
Bell Siphons are vastly over complicated, and today, completely unnecessary- to the point of stoopidity.
What should you use instead?
I have been using an EcoPlus 66 submersible pump. It draws around 75-gallons per hour and it is very small. It costs a whopping $6. I’ve been running these for a long time in all sorts of weather conditions. These are practically indestructible. This pump is a bottom-draw pump. Other EcoPlus pumps come with a bottom draw adapter.
Battalions of pot growers use the very SAME pumps, turning them on and off all day long 24/7.
Seriously; OFF, ON, OFF, ON, OFF, ON ALL DAY LONG… the EcoPlus pumps run like clockwork and are reliable.
I’ve run these pumps in freezing water. Literally until they have ice in them. Just thaw them out, and they continue to perform.
Bell siphons are more tricky and complicated and failure prone than these pumps.
There is no reason to have a bell siphon.
Just slap a simple analog timer onto the pump, save yourself hours of confusion and overflowing grow beds, and get on with your life.
(And I won’t even go into the “how many ways can we think of to move fish solids around” issue.)
2. Extra Fragile Ecosystem – Without HEAT the fish won’t EAT (and your plants won’t grow!)
Do you have any idea how fragile aquaponics systems are?.
This was the last straw for me.
A big reason that I (and probably you too) took up growing with aquaponics was that I wanted to live greener, eat healthier and do my part to help create a greener environment.
Saving money on food played a big role too.
If I had known then, how fragile and costly aquaponics systems are I would have stopped the aquaponics insanity before it even started.
The whole purpose of aquaponics is to create a symbiotic relationship between the plants and the fish to harvest amazing organic vegetables.
Truth is that aquaponics systems need consistent heat to function properly.
Aquaponics also require a balance of nutrients to grow healthy plants. Too much heat or too little heat and the oxygen levels get thrown and the entire aquaponics system throws the ecosystem out of balance. Too little heat —- the fish die.
Turns out that managing an aquaponics system can become a full time job and basically requires a degree in organic chemistry to keep everything in balance.
Don’t enslave yourself like I did.
Furthermore, don’t enslave these fish as your nitrogen whores when you can use an abundant nitrogen source instead! One that doesn’t even need to be imported. In fact, it’s so abundant we’re throwing it away and can’t seem to get rid of it fast enough. This nitrogen source is free and easy to obtain and 100% legal and safe.
3. Unsubstantial meat harvest
Let’s debunk the “I’m going to eat fish every day” myth.
One of the widely touted benefits of aquaponics is that you can harvest the fish for food and protein
In theory this is great… A “thriving” aquaponics system provides bountiful veggies and fish to eat?
It sounds too good to be true. (because it is)
No wonder many homesteaders flock to the empty promises of aquaponics.
That is…until they do the math.
Check it out: A 200gallon aquaponic system is supposed to provide you with 50 fish per year while a 125gallon system can get you roughly 40 fish per year.
Those 40 fish will give you about 40 lbs of meat in about 9 months time….
Yes…It takes about 9 months at 85F to get your fish to plate size.
So when you break it down… you’ll get a whopping 4.4lbs of meat per month.
Now let’s compare that to other popular homestead animals for self-sufficiency. Rabbits and Chickens.
40 rabbits will give you about 160lbs of meat in only 3 months time….
Which is a 53.3 lbs/month. A quick internet research will tell you that: “Rabbits breed and grow so quickly that one pair of healthy does(females) can produce more than 600 pounds of meat in a year. Compare that to the dressed yield of 400 pounds for an average year-old beef steer.”
And 50 chickens will give you about 225lbs of meat in only 2 months time…
which is 112.5 lbs/month.
Conclusion: Sorry to break it to you aquapon…your fish aint gonna provide the meat you need…that is if they even survive. And if they do, are you sure you want to eat them after all GMO feed you give ‘em ( More on this in Reason #5)
4. Aquaponics requires heavy supplementation
…..soooo… again….why do I have these fish?
You’ll need to buy iron, you’ll need extra potassium for root crops, you’ll need phosphorus for fruiting growth like tomatoes.
You’ll basically have to buy a bunch of things that are safe for fish so they’re even more expensive than your standard hydroponic nutrients.
I supplemented so much to get the type of growth I was looking for… that I wondered “wait a minute, I’m adding all these supplements to the water, why the HELL do I have these fish?” This led me to realize that I was only keeping them for their nitrogen.
They were my nitrogen slaves. Because as I said, you’re not getting the bang for your buck by eating these fish and if you did you’d lose or diminish your nitrogen source.
So I found a MUCH better, more regenerative way to get nitrogen that does not require enslaving fish.
It does involve recycling an abundant waste stream that every country has an oversupply of and I’ll tell you more about this amazing, well-rounded fertilizer that people in India and Africa are already using to put chemical companies like Dow Chemical out of business by using this free home-made fertilizer instead.
There is even multi-million dollar research grant money available for the development of this type of resource. It’s that good….
5. It is NOT a healthy alternative growing method
Shhhhh… The Fertilizer is (GMO) Feed!
This is THE Achilles heel of aquaponics and the one of the most discussed items you’ll hear at any large aquaponics conference.
It’s why aquaponics….
a) destroys the environment,
b) destroys your health
c) is counterproductive in the one goal it sets out to achieve…
(Especially compared to all the other gardening alternatives out there)
Tune in for more information on my preferred food growing method.
In summary, after doing (and teaching) aquaponics for 5+ years…
I discovered that aquaponics actually… sucks bawls.
At first (and like many aquapons) I refused to believe it…
I wouldn’t… believe it
I was in denial…
How could I tell 900+ people I basically blew smoke up their bum?
Finally, I swallowed my pride…
And decided to tell everyone the truth:
1. Aquaponics is a huge waste of $.
2. Aquaponics actually destroys the Earth.
3. Aquaponics does NOT give you edible fish.
Aquaponics is a huge waste of time, energy, and brain cells…
…and I’ve developed something that works 10 times better.
Don’t enslave yourself to an aquaponics system.
Excited for you to learn the truth.
Check it out here:
5 Reasons Why Aquaponics is Terribly Stoopid (Confessions of a reformed Aquaponics expert)
jamesgroweverywhere March 10, 2017
Posted In: Rants and Raves