Growing up, my backyard was overflowing with flowers and herbs but it was always just my mom’s garden. I never participated in the planting or care of the garden, and the only plants I own today are succulents because I often forget to water them. When coming up with this project I thought it would be nice to start my own herb garden that watered itself (perhaps with the help of an Arduino or raspberry pi) sometime during my research I came across the concept of an aquaponic garden. In the easiest definition, an aquaponic garden uses fish waste to fertilize plants, and in turn the water from the plants flows back into the tank containing the fish. Clean and oxygenated.
Building and making things a la DIY has always appealed to me, but I don’t usually have the inclination to spend a lot time working on personal projects. So this was a perfect opportunity to browse Instructables and actually be motivated to make something. Instructables is an online community of DIY makers and the perfect place to start for this sort of project. Through that initial site I was linked to other sites and catapulted into the online community of aquaponic gardeners.
I was not surprised to learn my results from the VARK survey. I find that I am a very visual and hands on learner, and the survey results showed just that; a tie between visual and kinesthetic. My learning style played a huge role when I was looking through tutorials. I found many that were in written forms like this one by Rebecca Nelson from aquaponics.com. This contained no pictures at all and I immediately discarded it since I knew I would not be able to follow it without seeing the creation process in action. The second tutorial I browsed was on Japan-aquaponics.com which was more helpful than the first, contained images, and was meant for the indoors. The design of the total project was also one that really appealed to me because it looked clean and sturdy. However, there were a lot of materials involved so I continued to search for a simpler example. Many of the tutorials I found were intended for the eyes of hobbyists in hopes of having them buy kits that were available for purchase on that site. As for credibility I relied on whether or not it seemed that the creations they made worked. This was apparent on some of the sites through their pictures. While I had some difficulties at first understanding the way the system worked I watched this helpful video by aquaponic Youtube guru Kudaimo. The most useful tutorials involved videos that showed the complete creation process step by step.
While I have experience with electronics I have never made anything with water or live creatures. Unfortunately, many aquaponic gardens are massive and therefore very expensive. It took awhile to find a tutorial that allowed me to make a fun sized garden that didn’t break the bank.
The tutorial that I based most of my design on was a YouTube video that appealed to me for many reasons. (1) It was titled Miniponics DIY which promises a small dorm friendly device. (2) It promised it would cost me under $10 which might as well be tagged college wallet friendly. *Disclaimer: It ended up costing about $40. My main concerns were that I was not going to be able to find a pump that could do what I wanted and transport the water from the first level to the second. I did not completely understand the difference between water and air pumps. All of the tutorials described the pumps they were using as water pumps but in the end I bought an air pump. Here is why: While wandering through the aisles of Petco I found many water pumps that costed well over $85. When I checked out some of the filters they sold I realized I could take apart the device and only use the parts I needed. Filters suck up water from the tank, collect it in a little device that has a filter, and spill the water back into the tank nice and clean. However, that was what I wanted my plants to do. So I took the filtration system out and only used the air pump to move the water to the second layer, AKA a filtration system that doubles as an herb garden. I had quite a difficult time cutting the jug apart because I did not have a proper saw and instead used a variety of knives, scissors, and a lighter to melt and soften the plastic.
When The final step involved planting seeds which would successfully thrive in the aquaponic garden environment. Luckily the aquaponic community uses this handy forum on backyardaquaponics.com where they post an FAQ containing all the information I needed. Overall I really enjoyed this project and was quite happy with the result. I look forward to having a garden of fresh cilantro and dill in about 2 weeks!
“Indoor Aquaponics System Plans.” Japan Aquaponics. Web. 22 September 2016.
Kudaimo. “Home Aquaponics- Quick Animation.” YouTube. 6 June 2011. Web. 22 September 2016.
Nelson, Rebecca. “Build A Mini Aquaponic System.” Nelson Pade. Web. 22, Sep. 2016.
“Plant Glossary.” Backyard Aquaponics: A Place To Discuss Aquaponics. 2 March, 2007. Web. 22 September 2016.
Ratnakaran, Vinil. “Miniponics DIY Aquaponics for under $10.” YouTube. 23 November 2014. Web. 22 September 2016.