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Gardening Without Green Space: Aquaponics

This is going to be my last installment of “gardening without green space.” (Next week we’re going back to the topic of medicinal herbs.) We’ve covered several useful ways to grow your own fruits and veggies even if you’re short on yard space, and for my omnivorous readers this week I’m adding an addition: meat.

That’s right, with aquaponics you have a way to not only grow fresh vegetables, but to have a supply of fish as well.

On their small three greenhouse property they create around a million pounds of food a year. Let that sink in. A million pounds of organic, locally sourced food for an urban community. They’re drastically cutting their carbon footprint and supplying a much needed commodity to the area. They also heat the greenhouses without electricity (using thermal mass from compost they also create and sell, because creating a million pounds of food a year isn’t enough do-gooding).

People are adapting this large scale food production system for their own homes and yards; if you have a porch or a spare room or a basement with artificial lighting you can have an aquaponics system.

The setup is a little more complicated than the other things I’ve talked about the past few weeks, but for my meat-eating friends, the promise of your own fresh tilapia year round straight from your own home sounds pretty fucking neat. Tilapia is usually the choice fish because it needs less space than many other popular breeds of fish; they’re also exceptionally beefy.

For less than two hundred dollars you can have an aquaponics setup going in your own home – people use everything from scavenged food safe plastic barrels to pond liners to whatever holds water, you can get as creative as you want. This woman gives some pretty solid step by step instructions:

It’s a relatively closed cycle, any organic material pulled from the plants flushes down to the fish, and the fish waste feeds the plants. There may need to be some extra feeding of the fish, which will allow you to raise your tilapia in what manner you see fit, organically or conventionally, giving another dimension of control over your food, which I find awesome.

It’s a perfect alternative if you have a greenhouse or space on pavement or a deck that you can construct a cheap greenhouse around. Cheap rolls of clear plastic and some PVC tubing will give you one on le super cheap, which is my favorite way to do things, if not free.

The nice thing about aquaponics is that you can get as creative and spendy or as as spartan and thrifty as you want. Three Rubbermaids and some tubing & a motor is all you need to get started and you can upgrade a fancy pants greenhouse with automatic whatsits. For those who eat meat, I can’t think of a better way to get fish. It’s local (like ten steps away local), you control how many fish get put in so there’s no overcrowding like more conventional fish farms, it can be organic, it’s tied into an eco friendly system that also feeds plants… fuck, now I want some fish. MUST. RESIST.

And for my vegetarian and vegan friends, you can do like the greenhouse fellow does and just hook your goldfish into the system and let them do some heavy lifting for food production. (It’s about fucking time they started doing something productive right? How many bubbles does a tank need?)

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