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An adventurous accountant with a green thumb. Now the world is his cubicle.

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A preview of our new backyard aquaponics system, design courtesy of Olomana Gardens.

A big mahalo to (Captain) Glenn Martinez and Natalie Cash, who taught me everything I know about aquaponics and helped me troubleshoot the problems that arose while assembling this system!

Water circulated using only an air pump.

  1. No mechanical pump means no filter to clean.
  2. No wear and tear because the system has no moving parts (replacement diaphragm for air pump is only $27 and the pump is warrantied for 3 years!).
  3. Low power requirement; the air pump I’m using uses 40W… 40W x 24 hrs x 365 days = 350,400 watt hours/year = 350.4 KWH/year (!). Even in Hawaii, that is only $105.58 a year; slap a solar panel ($200 @ Costco) and deep cycle marine battery on it and you’re approaching free. (source)
  4. Safer because you don’t have a mechanical pump with a power cord submerged in a tank of water.
  5. Secure because the air pump can be as far away from the fish tank as you need it to be, so it can be locked up tight. This also means you don’t need to call in an electrician and have a new power outlet installed outside where your garden will be; you can just run the hose as far as you need to without losing (tangible) performance.
  6. Depending on your fish tank size, pumping water using the air lift will oxygenate the water enough that you won’t need to run a separate air stone for your fish. This means lower operating costs and less equipment to purchase!

Ebb and flow system

  1. Water level in biofilter completely drains every time the siphon triggers. This allows your garden (and worms!) to breathe. Picture the biofilter as a pair of lungs. Everytime the water level rises, old, stale air is pushed out of the garden. When it drains, fresh oxygen is absorbed by the roots and microbiology in your biofilter. There is no stale layer of water that never drains (like there is when you use a bell siphon); the water is completely changed out everytime the system cycles.

Biofilter trays controlled via 5 gallon bucket with an outboard siphon.

  1. No need to build a bell siphon for each biofilter bed you want to have; all trays can be plumbed to one bucket that acts as a controller for your whole system.
  2. Outboard siphon allows you to use the 5 gal bucket as a worm/compost tea brewer. The ebb and flow action releases compost nutrient into your system, providing all the trace minerals and nutrients your system needs to stay happy and healthy. I will provide a more detailed description of how this bucket siphon works in the future!

One thing I will say is building an aquaponics system is a great excuse to buy new tools! When I finally get everything dialed in, I will provide a full cost breakdown for the tools and supplies required to build this system.

Because I live on Kauai, which is as beautiful as it is expensive, my equipment/supply costs will most likely be dramatically higher than what your local hardware store charges. So my quote will essentially be the maximum amount you might spend to build this system. Lucky you.



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An adventurous accountant with a green thumb. Now the world is his cubicle.

Latest posts by Matt (see all)


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