About a year or so ago, I became interested in hydroponics. I've always enjoyed growing my fresh herbs and vegetables since I was a child. Living in a condo, working with soil is a major issue. I decided to try hydroponics. Actually, I decided to go with a more complex aquaponics set-up at first.
Here is what my aquaponics looked like when I started it. I won't show a picture of how it ended... trust me it was not good. The problem I think was that my small guppies and the 1 big cichlid in the tank were not producing enough nutrients for the types of plants I tried to grow (eggplant, cucumber, green onions, chili peppers, bell peppers & lettuce). You can probably tell how well that went by what plants are left in my new set-up (chili pepper, green onions, 1 lettuce, 1 clove of garlic). Besides having a hard time getting the nutrients for the plants using the aquaponics method, the water would immediately turn dark green from the sun. I could have reduced this by using a black or non-translucent container for the tank, but I wanted to be able to see the fish occasionally. I didn't like the green water because eventually it was so green you couldn't see the fish anyway! It was finally time for version 2.0 of my condo lanai vegetable garden.
I had purchased these things back in March, but haven't had a chance to set it up. It actually only took about 10 minutes to set up, but cleaning up the old system is what was a big job. I put the guppies and the cichlid in my indoor aquarium for now and I'll see how that goes.
These are the parts I used for this super simple set-up. Total cost approx. $50. -bucket (white) -cheap plastic planter (green) -cheapest garden fountain water pump I could find ($19) -silicone hose to fit pump outlet & length from bottom of bucket to top of planter -expanded clay pellets (grow medium) -outlet timer (capable of 30 minute cycles) -Water Soluble Miracle-Gro 8oz trial size "All Purpose Plant Food" (24-8-16)
The cost to set-up might seem higher than buying a bag of potting soil, but I have a good feeling that in the long run it will be more effecient. I have started my version 2.0 system with the small bucket and planter just as a trial basis. If It works out, all I would need to do is spend money on a larger bucket and planter that can have more growing surface. I might also need a little more silicone hose and connectors to spread the water evenly and more expanded clay pellets which I already have a big bag of. The location of my plants are on my balcony facing afternoon sun so I don't feel the need for any grow lights right now.
Assembly: -Place water pump into bucket. -Pass silicone hose through bottom of planter drain hole (should have several holes; if it's not big enough or there aren't any you'll need to make some). -Planter should be able to rest on the rim of the bucket or you will need a spacer under the planter to hold it to the desired height. -Fill bucket with enough water to submerse the pump and be at about the level of the bottom of the planter. -Hold end (opposite end of the side at the pump) of silicone hose up to center & top of planter. -Fill planter with expanded clay pellets or whatever medium you choose leaving room for plants and more medium at surface. -Plants' roots should be washed free of soil and gently placed in the medium while adding more medium to support the plants. -Set timer to turn on for 30 minutes and off for 30 minutes all day long (this can be adjusted to maintain proper moisture for your area and plants). -Plug pump into timer and check to see that it cycles off and on. -While pump is running, make sure pressure is low enough so it doesn't shoot the water out of your planter & also check that water is being evenly distributed around the planter. I used cut up pieces of a drinking water bottle to direct flow of water outward. -Dilute Miracle-Gro (instructions 1 Tblspn./Gallon of water is for normal use). Since I'm just starting this version now, I am starting with about 1/4 teaspoon/Gallon of water. **note: a gallon of water doesn't fit in my bucket. The bucket is only filled to about 4 inches from the bottom. Save the solution or make less if you don't need a gallon.
I sprinkled some new lettuce mix seeds, spinach seeds and mizuna seeds on the top so I placed a paper towel on the top to keep it moist so the seeds can germinate. We'll see how this version works. Hopefully better than my aquaponics.