By Russ Robertson

I first got interested in sustainability and aquaponics about 12 years ago. I was working at a job that did not pay a lot of money and I was searching the internet for a way to save money on my monthly bills. The first thing I found out about was living off the grid. What a concept! To be able to set up a solar system that would power everything including the water pump! At the time, the payback period was over twenty years for an average home. While today, that same unit payback period is around 6 years. I will talk more about solar in future blogs.

My wife and I are longtime gardeners and aquarists so when I started to understand more about aquaponics, it just fit our lifestyle perfectly. Aquaponics is a system of aquaculture in which the waste produced by farmed fish or other aquatic animals supplies nutrients for plants grown hydroponically, which in turn purify the water (Google, n.d.). I currently have five aquaponic systems working in my yard. (See below).

This system is what I call a hybrid between aquaponic and hydroponic systems.


This unit has only been up for about 6 months but it is working great. I am growing mint, tie basil, tomatoes, ghost peppers, broccoli, and thyme. One of the greatest things about aquaponic systems is that any way that works for you, will probably work. I have tried many different systems and currently, I like this one the best.

Now before I go any further, we need to understand that the sustainable lifestyle that I have adapted goes well beyond just recycling your trash. When I work on something for aquaponics, the only thing I will spend a lot of money on is a pump (and I have found a great price on pumps). The less I spend on a system, the better. The hardest part is to make a system that doesn’t look like it belongs in the back of a junkyard.

With that said, the first thing we need is a water supply system. Anything that will hold water will do. The container you find will work best if it will hold at least 100 gals. or more. After you have picked a place in yard or patio that will have at least 5 + hours of sunlight, put your water supply there.


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The next step will be to pick out fish and the different types of fish that will work in large or small aqua systems. For now, you can pick up some feeder goldfish from the pet shop. You will need around 10 fish for a 100 gal. (This is just to get started; we will add more fish after the tank has seasoned














I hope you enjoyed my blog – please, please come back next week! I will continue our discussion over the next few blogs with the best types of fish for aquaponic systems (and how to find and care for them) and how simple or elaborate a system you want to build. If you have any questions you may contact me at . Please keep coming back.