Frequently Asked Questions
You can buy trout fingerlings from several places around Canberra. There are two hatcheries in Tumut, (Triton Trout and Snowy Mountains Trout) and a NSW government funded one down in Jindabyne (Gaden Trout Hatchery). Once a year the Canberra aquaponics community does a group buy of trout fingerlings around March and we meet at someones house to pick up our fish. Subscribe to the newsletter if you want to be notified of the details.
If you want to buy native fish, there is a hatchery in Wagga Wagga (Murray Cod Hatcheries) or you can buy them over the internet with a good success rate (for example I've had good success with aquablueseafoods). Once again, we run group buys every now and then for things like Eel Tailed Catfish and Silver Perch, subscribe to the newsletter if you want in.
Short answer: yes
Long answer: yes, but don't fall into the trap of buying off the shelf "starter kits" from aquarium shops, you don't know what's in them. You're best off getting some medium (rocks, filter wool etc) from an established aquarium or another aquaponics system.That'll be crawling with the right types of bacteria.
The "cycling" process is where the benificial bacteria which do the important job of converting Ammonia through to Nitrate are breeding up so that they can handle the "load". The bacteria are mostly in the growbeds as that provides the largest surface area for them to grow on.
If you have a test kit (you should) which tests Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate, and you start a system going with a few fish in it, you will see Ammonia rise over a few days/weeks depending on the size of the system. Then as that form of bacteria breed up the Ammonia drops off and the Nitrite starts to increase. When the Nitrite starts to drop off the Nitrate will increase. When you have Ammonia and Nitrite readings of zero, then your system is cycled for the "load".
I say it's cycled for the "load" because if all of a sudden you dump in another 100 fish, there won't be enough bacteria to handle all that extra input, and the system will take time to cycle up to handle that load.
Important to note that Ammonia is poisonous to fish, as is Nitrite (but less so). So if you've got a prize crop that you want to grow, you want to start with a cycled system.
You can shorten the cycle time by innoculating the system with the bacteria from a working system (or fish pond or fish tank).
Right here at Capital Aquaponics. Visit the store.
Alternatively you can build a system out of recycled components such as IBC’s, bathtubs and barrels.
CapitalAquaponics buys food and will sell it by the kilo. Otherwise you're best off buying it from the hatchery which may do it in small quantities. Ideally you want to be moving your fish onto larger sized foods as they grow.
The issue with buying fish food direct is that you have to buy it in 20kg bags. The fish will grow fast and you will want to move them onto larger food as they grow, so you will be stuck with something like 15kg of unsuitable fish food. The vitamins tend to break down in them so they are not really suitable to keep for years at a time.
Generally systems are setup so they run off timers, so in terms of operating a system you should probably just do some tests and take a good look at the system to make sure there isn't anything awry before you go away.
In terms of looking after the fish - they're tougher than you think. I've not fed my fish for weeks at a time, and they're fine. They get hungry, but they survive. So heading off down the coast for the weekend is not going to be a problem.
I personally have left my systems in the care of people who know nothing about aquaponics for several months at a time, all they've had to do is feed the fish every couple of days (so that they've grown when I get back!).
The key is to make sure your system is stable and working before you go away (e.g. check to make sure no drains are about to become clogged with roots, that your system has adequate pH buffering, your pumps still work and your water parameters look ok).
And of course the plants don't need daily (or even weekly intervention) so that side of things will be fine. Just be prepared to pull out large weeds if you go away for several months.
Yes. It's important to cover your tank for many reasons, here are some:
- Trout jump, and will jump right out if you don't stop them
- Shading the tank stops algae growth - algae is a plant and hence a competitor to your veg.
- Birds and other predators can't take your fish
- Leaves and debris doesn't fall into your tank
- Evaporation is greatly reduced.
I recommend using shade cloth - just make sure you wash it in hot water first (no soap!) as most shade cloth has an anti-bacteria agent, and bacteria is essential in an aquaponics system!
The vegetables: pretty much anything that grows in your garden, right up to small fruit trees (for example, some people in warmer climates grow paw paw). Anything that's green and leafy gets the biggest advantage due to the abundance of Nitrate. You don't have to grow vegetables - flowers do fantastically as well.
The fish: Canberra's climate is best suited to trout. You can grow a Trout from fingerling to plate size in 9 months, so if you get them in March when the weather starts to cool off you can be eating them by christmas. Other popular species are silver perch, freshwater mussels, yabbies, eel tailed cat fish, goldern perch and murray cod.