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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 153
December 17th,  2013
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend

We're offering a Christmas special on our Texas and Tennessee aquaponics trainings: if you bring a second person, their registration is only half price!

Although the second person is normally $1,495, we and our training partners have decided to make it more affordable for the aquaponics projects being done by husband and wife, father and son, or two business partners working together. This offer will continue until five days before each training begins. To take advantage of it, just sign up for the Texas training or
sign up for the Tennessee training You will be able to sign up your "second person" for $747.50 at checkout.

In addition, anyone who signs up between now and December 25th will receive five free copies of our new E-book: "Aquaponics The EASY Way" (a $29.95 value), which we will email to five friends of your choice. We've been getting raves about how "complete and easy to understand" our new book is.

Today's "Nugget #153" subject is "Seeding, Germination, and Sprouting" (below our sales pitch for our trainings). Today we cover all the things to not do, in order to get your plants to germinate and grow well.

Our "In The Farmily" column today
is about a little kid changing Christmas lights on the edge of a dark roof; and should bend your funny bone just a little!

Friendly 2014 Commercial Aquaponics and Greenhouse Trainings:

Texas Training from January 13th to the 17th at Ben Godfrey's farm in Milam County, Texas (Click here for more information!).

One-day CSA (Consumer Supported Agriculture) Course given by Ben and Alysha Godfrey at their farm on January 18th, Saturday (click here for more information!).

Tennessee Training from January 27th to the 31st at Randy Campbell's farm in Elora, Tennessee (Click here for more information!).

(Below) One of Ben and Alysha Godfrey's aquaponics systems in a greenhouse in Milam County, Texas. I can't wait to taste their system water! lettuce2-385px

(Below) Another of Ben and Alysha's aquaponic greenhouses.

(Below) Tim drinking water from one of Randy and Katie's aquaponics systems at a Tennessee training. "I've been doing this for six years; I'm certain the food from these systems is safe and healthy" (Tim).  TimWaterDrinkingNugget

These five-day trainings allow you to travel during the weekend so that you only need to take a week off your busy life to attend, and include our $999 DIY Commercial Aquaponics package, $998 DIY Farmer's Market Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse package, and new $295 DIY Commercial Tilapia Hatchery manual as course materials, plus our Plywood/Epoxy/ Tank manual, CAD construction drawings for all greenhouses and aquaponics systems, and much more!

(Below) Randy and Tim showing attendees at a Tennessee training how easy it is to use a DO (dissolved oxygen) meter to measure oxygen levels in the vegetable troughs.


In Tennessee: Call Randy and Katie at 256-679-9488 or email Randy to find out when the next farm tour is scheduled.

In Texas: Call Ben at 254-697-2927 or email Ben to find out when their next "Family Day" farm tour is scheduled ($15 fee per family is charged).

More details of the Aquaponics Technology course here.

More details of the Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse course here.

More details of the Commercial Aquaponics course here.

(Below) Randy and Katie's Chinese-style Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse in Tennessee in the February snow, 2013. 70 degrees inside and you had to take your coat off when working with the vegetables!

GreenhouseSnow3Small 2

An Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse with the participants in our second June 2013 course in Tennessee!

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For smaller home backyard and apartment systems, please read on:
Purchase Construction Plans and Operating Info for 4 Different Sizes of Table Top Aquaponics Systems $49.95

Our TableTop System package includes easy-to-understand building instructions and operating information for 4 different sizes of small aquaponic systems based on our years of experience. Anyone can build a system out of plastic barrels or IBC totes, but operating one successfully without good and easily-understood information can be frustrating. You simply use the "Daily Operations Checklist" in the manual and follow the step-by-step instructions on your way to success. We also cover how to make aquaponics systems out of weird things like old refrigerators and door frames; this makes aquaponics much more economical to get started in, and fun too!

We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours, and built our first commercial aquaponics systems with FAR less information than this manual contains. We included all the information learned from that experience in this manual so you don't need to make any of the same mistakes we did.

Learn about our TableTop Systems!


Aquaponics Nugget #153, Part 3: Seeding, Germination, and Sprouting

We covered "what works" in the first and second newsletters in this series (click on the blue "first" and "second" to read those and catch up, if you missed them).

If you simply follow the directions in those first two newsletters, you will have close to 100% success with your planting, germination and transplanting. However, if you are one of those who like to experiment, you can read about all the experiments we tried (that failed) so you don't have to go down the same rocky road.

That's what we're covering today: all the things you can do that will make your seeds not germinate, and your plants not grow once transplanted into the aquaponics.

1. First, you can accidentally kill your seeds with a strong enough application of cold, heat, moisture, or a combination of these three. This can happen at home if you leave the seeds outdoors overnight, leave them on a sunny windowsill or in the sun anywhere (where the seeds can get up to 140 degrees on a really sunny day!), or let the seed packets get damp or wet (they will mold then!). So, keep seeds dry and warm indoors until you need to use them, then get them back to a protected spot as soon as you’re done. It's really difficult to get dead seeds to germinate!

If you find you are having trouble with germination on a particular species, then plant two or three per pot, and thin them by hand at this point back to a single plant, before they go into the rafts. If you are just getting 50% germination with the only seeds you have, planting two to a pot will almost always ensure that one comes up!


(Below) On the left, slit and net pots from 1-1/4 inches up to 5 inches in size. On the right, a nursery tray that holds 3-inch pots (the 2-inch tray looks similar, but has 32 spaces).

slitpot 2sproutingtray 2

2. Don’t use peat or store-bought "potting mixes" instead of the coco coir/vermiculite (we'll call it CV from now on for simplicity) potting mix recommended in the first two newsletters! First, these types of potting mixes hold far more moisture than the CV mix does, and are less "airy", allowing less oxygen to the developing plant's roots, if used in a flood and drain sprouting table. As a result, the plant roots often simply rot off, or “damp off”, and die at some point in the sprouting table.

In addition, these types of potting mixes often bring pythium or fusarium molds along with them, even though they say they're "sterilized". Both of these molds can become epidemic in your aquaponic system given the right conditions, and can also be difficult to get rid of. Don't take the chance, there's no cheese at the end of this tunnel!

3. Don’t use dirt instead of the CV potting mix! Plant roots develop differently in dirt than they do in the CV potting mix, and simply rot off, or “damp off”, and die when they’re put into the rafts where their roots are wet all the time.

4. There’s no need to use larger, more expensive pots (that occupy more aquaponic "real estate"): we grew a 7-pound taro and a 3-1/2 pound turnip(root vegetables) as well as bulbing onions, in 2-inch pots. They simply grow on top of the raft. We only seldom use 3-inch pots now, because everything grows just fine in 2 inch pots, and we get far more of them into every square foot of raft space, which equals more production from the same-sized system.

What follows from this (of course!) is that there's also never any need to "repot"; that is, take a plant out of a small pot and put it into a bigger pot. This is a good way to either kill a young plant or retard its growth so that it never achieves full size.

(Below) Our (now) 6-year-old 24-foot-long sprouting tables with Baby Rose, about 1 year old in 2008.


5. Don't "recycle" your CV potting mix. We found when we re-used our potting mix that our “germination rate” dropped to 50% (this means only half of our seeds sprouted). We don’t know why, but we do know enough to stop doing things that don’t work.

6. We tried using red and black volcanic cinder for potting mix. The black cinder worked GREAT! The plants grew better, faster, and had excellent germination rates. Except that after two or three planting cycles, the pots started shredding and we had to throw them away.

However, we found that when the plant’s roots grew, they forced the cinder out through the sides of the pot, breaking them. We’d gone from throwing away CV planting mix that cost us $0.001 (one-tenth of a cent) each planting cycle to throwing away pots that cost us $0.03 (three cents) after two or three uses (and we didn't actually "throw away" the used CV mix; it went into the compost, and was of further benefit to our farm there). Our potting expense went up by a factor of ten as a result of this.

7. There’s also no need to use, nor benefit from using expensive potting media such as Hydroton or other expanded media. The CV mix we recommend is economical and widely available.

8. If you are tempted to use Perlite (because we haven't said anything bad about it yet), take a handful of Perlite and throw it into a bucket of water. You'll notice that some of it sinks, some of it floats, and some of it is almost perfectly suspended in the middle of the bucket. Now take another handfull of Perlite and grind it together between your two hands; notice the abrasive, sandpaper like dust that results?

We shudder at the thought of Perlite loose in our systems, floating through at all levels from the water surface to the bottom of the tanks, abrading our pump shafts, impellers, and seals with each pass through the pump. We shudder even more about the possibility of it going through our fish's gills until the fish died suffering from the abrasions on its breathing surfaces. You can try it, we'll pass.

9. We also tried “rock wool cubes” with less than inspiring results; we used the “Oasis cubes”, plus other brands. Our results included poor germination, much higher costs, and more labor when compared to using the CV potting mix we recommend.

10. After the starts reach their optimum maturity in the sprouting table (which is when the little plants are about 1-1/2-2 inches tall, and their roots just barely start coming out of the net pots into the plastic trays) they get moved into the rafts in the Aquaponics system. You may be tempted to "let them get a little bigger and stronger" before the transfer. Don't wait longer!


If you wait too long to take the sprouted pots out of the trays, the roots will be tangled with the hole or the mesh at the bottom of the tray, and will rip off, shocking the little plant. This can be so severe that the plant doesn’t recover much, or at all, and will never grow well. So be sure to take your babies out of the sprouting table and put them into the system rafts at the appropriate stage of growth.


(Below) A friend's Micro System (to the right in the distance), and sprouting table ((near left) with storage area underneath.

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We got an overwhelming vote for this serie's subject. Next week, we'll do a series on how and where to get fish to start your aquaponics systems with, economically! (as in NOT $2-3 for a 1-inch long tilapia!). Also, how about "how to grow your own fingerlings" after you've got your aquaponics system up and running?

We are still welcoming suggestions on the next most important topic that you, the readers, want to hear about. What are you interested in learning more about?

Please email Tim and make your request for a subject, either for a single newsletter, or for a series. Thanks for listening!.

The Friendly  Aquaponics Way Video!
Back Issues Of Newsletters Now Available, Click Here!
Trough Liner Distributors:
West Coast USA
East Coast USA

Click here for Trout fry and fingerlings directly from the hatchery to you!

Spanish Language Micro System package now available!
Free Farm Tours

Aquaponics tour at the Friendly farm!

We hold a free Farm Tour on our farm the FIRST Saturday of every month at 10:00,  focused on growing food with aquaponics.  Click here for information. See you there!

If you are a school, a non-profit organization, an organization working with the poor, Native Hawaiians, or ex-inmates, or if you are a church, we will hold a free farm tour for you anytime. You DO need to email us first to schedule, or we might be out on errands!


Thousands of inch-long "fifty-cent" baby tilapia from our "backyard" hatchery.


What they turn into about a year later: a beautiful 2-pound white tilapia grown in the fish tanks of our aquaponics systems.



Sign yourself up for the Texas January 2014 (13th-17th)

Or sign yourself up for the Tennessee January 2014 (27th-31st)

Commercial Aquaponics and Solar Greenhouse Training
NOW, and receive a free Micro System DIY package so you can begin studying aquaponics, as soon as you register! ($99.95 value)


Micro System Classes!

Our four affiliates are now offering Micro System courses.

Click here
for a listing of affiliates and course locations!


Our new book: "Aquaponics The EASY Way!" is done!

It covers how to successfully build and operate tabletop aquaponics gardens from 3-1/2 to 18 square feet in size, using materials and equipment you can buy locally at Home Depot, Lowe's, and Petco.

The "3.5" costs you under $100 in Hawaii (where things are expensive) and the "18" costs $320.30. Click here to get our free "System Cost Calculator", an ExCel spreadsheet that you can put your own local numbers into (for parts) to find out what your system will cost you.

Sincere thanks (!) to everyone who purchased our new book at our presale discount. A number of you had problems due to glitches with the download service we used, Hightail. We sent you an updated email newsletter explaining this, also a new link to download your copy of this E-book from, a more dependable download site than Hightail. If you purchased the book but did not receive this link, email me (Tim) and I will fix it.

To purchase this E-book for only $29.95, click here. It's an excellent textbook for aquaponics for students from 6th grade on up. If you are a teacher, school administrator, or other faculty member, email us for information on pricing and volume discounts for textbook use.

"In The Farmily"

I was big enough to really do jobs and help, my guess is about seven or eight, and we had these old-fashioned christmas lights with big bulbs all around the eaves of our house. When one burned out, it was my job to get out the ladder, climb onto the roof with a replacement bulb and replace the bad one.

So I was doing my job. Having replaced a couple of bulbs, I moved down the roof to where I could tell the last one was, by the fact that there was a dark space in the string of lights. I reached into the dark space, feeling for the light, and found it.

I noticed that the bulb was broken but it still had electricity in it when my arm jerked, my whole body jerked, and I spasmed off the edge of the roof right onto the top of the fence that was between our house and the neighbor's. I bounced off the top of the fence, knocking the wind out of me, and into a bush on the neighbor's side.

The neighbor's Weimaraners went off, barking at the top of their lungs at the normally quiet bush that had suddenly become a threat to their people and house. I panicked, thinking the dogs were going to eat me or something. Then I got a little wind back and started thrashing around in the bush; and the dogs went off louder.

The people were outside the house by now, a few feet away from the bush saying "Who's there, is someone there?" I grunted in a choked voice, "me". I'm sure that explained a lot.

When I got my wind back and explained who I was, they helped me out of the bush, and my parents were called. This was handled by yelling over the fence; as we were in Suburbia, where the houses were only separated by fifteen feet and a six-foot redwood fence.

Mom and Dad both came over and took me home. I think I got ice cream or something, while they both fussed over me and were relieved. I  was sure going to take a flashlight next time I changed bulbs!

Aloha, Tim....

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This email, our manuals and construction plans are all copyrighted by  Friendly Aquaponics, Inc, Susanne Friend and Tim Mann, 2008-2013

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