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Aquaponics is a very interesting aspect of being sustainable. I think it would be a stupendous idea for a family as long as they could have power to operate the water pump required to make the system work.

Yes one could use solar power or windmills to power it...provided the sun shines or the wind blows, but what if it doesn't? Yes you could use battery banks to harness excess power for the times when the wind didn't blow or the sun didn't shine, but even deep cycle marine batteries have a service life and many with heavy use will be relegated to junk in about 5 years or so. I say this from experience as I lived on my 37 ft boat for about 7 years using mainly solar or wind power for a power source.

Im also an avid aquarist with extensive experience in raising fresh and saltwater fish and plants and coral in aquaculture settings allowing my hobby to supplement or finance my operation. While your garden may be able to go a considerable time without the flow of water due to the moisture that the substrate would inevitably hold for a while, your fish aint! In such a system the Ammonia, Nitrites and Nitrates would quickly build up and oxygen level would be reduced at an alarming rate jeapordizing the fish your raising. Having set up some aquaculture operations which are very similar to aquaponics systems I can tell you from experience the power that is drawn by suitable pumps to circulate water use a substantial amount of power in a 12 hour period. If you loose power for much of a period of time you would quickly loose a tank full of fish unless the tank was of a considerable size compared to the bio load.

There are a lot of variables in a aquaponics system and its a very delicate balancing act to follow and get good results from, there is very little room for error or miscalculations. In a peace time setting where power is reliably available I think its a real winner. In a SHTF situation, more so if its long term, I don't see it being all that viable of a operation.

I suppose that you could probably rig up some sort of workable gravity feed system and about once every couple of hours using a manual pump or buckets to fill a gravity drain water tank up to cycle your water through your system but this would surely be a very laborious and time consuming routine. That's not to say that it wouldn't be doable, but I am betting it would be more work than its likely to be worth.

Maybe I am wrong here, but based off my experience with similar operations, that's the way I see it.
 

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If you got the power portion of the system solved I agree Denton those with limited space will be able to make the most of this for a minimal investment to supplement the familys larder. Building a larger system to feed a family of four would be pretty sizable and expensive I would think. Its still a very interesting concept though and one I would like to explore on a small scale though while times are decent enough. It seems to have a lot of potential!
 

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That's a good idea PaulS, even a earth bermed green house with plastic paneling or plastic sheeting for a roof would work to keep the temps up in the winter. Here in north Texas that would make gardening pretty feasible all year round! That could increase ones production from a somewhat small system considerably in locations with mild winters and long growing seasons.
 

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Out of curiosity Denton, what sort of fish were you looking to stock your system with?

The most common approach uses Tilapia. When I looked into that it appears I would have needed a permit which would have been difficult to obtain due to this species being considered invasive and the fact that I am on lake front property in close proximity to water. To add to that most folks were dealing in Hybrids which seem to be sterile making sustainability a bit of an issue. As such in my situation I was thinking Catfish or better yet Bluegill would have been the more economical way for me to go if I set up such a system. I thought these would be best because I could trap smaller fish from the lake and feed them out in my system to a larger size fairly quickly making the system pretty sustainable as far as a supply of fish. I would have to feed them through but I felt that since I had rabbit hutches and as such a endless supply of worms, that going out a every 2-3 days and picking up a 1 lbs coffee can or so of them to feed the fish would be worth the effort in a long term SHTF situation. In the mean time dog food is cheap and they readily eat the 26% protein mixes. I paid 19.00 for a 50 lbs bag. Just some half hearted hatched plans I have had.

IDK...under the right circumstances a well thought out and efficient system could prove to be a most valuable asset and one that's cost efficient too. However living in such close proximity to the lake, I just haven't arrived at that perfect balance yet.
 
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