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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 141
October 9th,  2013
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend

In today's "Nugget", we continue with Part 7 of our series on "Energy-Efficient Greenhouses For Aquaponic Growing".

Our "In The Farmily" column today
is the continuing story of Bird and Boob, two feathered members of the Farmily that came along before I even knew there was going to be a Farmily.

Aquaponics Nugget #141, Part 7: Energy-Efficient Greenhouses For Aquaponics

(If you got started late, you might like to read back newsletter #1, back newsletter #2, back newsletter #3 , back newsletter #4, back newsletter #5, and back newsletter #6 of this series to catch up before continuing!).

Energy Efficient Heating: Backup Heating Systems (continued):

We have a "retraction" to make (actually better information that we learned!). Remember where we said this in the last newsletter?

"CRITICAL! You must use antifreeze as a coolant solution inside your geothermal cooling coil....".

(Below) Antifreeze Oops!


Since then we gave two courses in Tennessee, and learned the following from one of the participants (who just happened to be an engineer who specializes in water heating installations). As a result, we replaced that section of the manual with this new text:

CRITICAL! ALTERNATIVE NUMBER ONE: You must use FOOD-GRADE propylene glycol as a coolant solution inside your geothermal cooling coil and heat exchanger coil, and in your solar water heater system, if there is any part of it that is ever exposed to freezing temperatures. If it gets below freezing (even if only at nighttime) in your location, you can burst your solar water heater panels or geothermal cooling coil when the water freezes inside them.

Propylene glycol has better thermal transfer efficiency than tap water does, so you will be gaining efficiency in this system in addition to not ever losing it from freezing. You need to use food-grade PG because if your water heating system ever develops a leak into your aquaponic system, you’ll have the PG in your aquaponics water. DON’T use antifreeze, it may contain additional chemicals besides PG, and may be contaminated to boot. It certainly is not food-grade!


ALTERNATIVE NUMBER TWO: If you are planning on getting your operation USDA Organically Certified, check with your certification agency on whether or not this food-grade propylene glycol is acceptable for use with organic certification. If PG is not OK, then your other alternative is to incorporate what is called a “drain-back” solar water heater installation (and geothermal cooling coil installation), where all the water in your heating/cooling recirculating system drains back into a reservoir when the pump is turned off, leaving the water heater panel empty of water and full of air, which will not burst the panel when it freezes.

If you use this alternative, you can get nearly as good thermal transfer efficiency as propylene glycol by using distilled water in your solar water heating system. Distilled water has ~15% better thermal transfer efficiency than tap water does!

These two alternatives cover both your geothermal cooling coil and your solar water heater panels; they are both connected with valves to your solar hot water heating system, and both systems use the same food-grade proplyene glycol or distilled water, because the two systems use the same Grundfos recirculating pump. They are both protected by draining back into the same reservoir so that neither explodes if it freezes. Check with your plumber if this is Czechoslovakian to you!

(Back to this newsletter):

On a cloudy day, you may not have enough sun to heat your water using your solar water heater panels alone, and your water will be too cold at the end of the day to make it through the night. If this happens, you need a backup water heater in the water heater piping circuit that goes out to the solar heater panel(s).

This can be an on-demand or thermostat  controlled gas water heater such as a propane-fired pool heater, or a rocket mass heater or a wood burning stove heater with a heat exchanger in it, so you have positive temperature control and can heat during exceptional cloudy or cold periods. We’ll cover these next:


Wood Burning Stove: This consists of a hand-fed wood-burning stove that the manufacturer offers a “water heater” option for (a heat exchanger coil inside the stove to heat water pumped through it). Plumb your aquaponics water directly to this heat exchanger if it is made out of stainless steel or non-galvanized plain steel pipe. If the heat exchanger inside the stove is copper or galvanized pipe, you must run the hot water from the stove through a stainless steel or Pex heat exchanger in the aquaponics water as mentioned previously.

(Below) A hand-fed wood burning stove with a water heating coil inside. The red Pex visible in the foreground brings water in to the stove's heating coil, and the red Pex in the background takes the heated water back out to the aquaponics system.

Pellet Stove: This consists of an automatically-fed pellet-burning stove that burns premanufactured wood pellets; these are available in many locations. But be careful! These pellet stoves often cannot use regular wood, or wood chips, or any other source of fuel, and if you purchase one, you may be locked into purchasing pellets as long as you own the stove. Again, you need the model that the manufacturer offers a “water heater” option for (a heat exchanger coil inside the stove to heat water pumped through it).

Plumb your aquaponics water directly to this heat exchanger if it is made out of stainless steel or non-galvanized plain steel pipe. If the heat exchanger inside the stove is copper or galvanized pipe, you must run the hot water from the stove through a stainless steel or Pex heat exchanger in the aquaponics water as mentioned previously.

(Below) A pellet burning stove. You need a model with a water heating coil inside.

Propane Or Oil-Fired Pool Heater: This is the option to use if you are not going to be available to feed your wood burning or pellet burning stove for extended periods of time. Examples of where this would be useful include places where you have two to three day blizzards and you simply can’t get to the stove to feed it because there’s four feet of snow on the path; or if you travel and need to be away from the greenhouse for more than a day at a time.

This kind of heater is a “set-and-forget” installation; all you need to do is make sure you have propane, and that the heater is installed according to the manufacturer’s directions. These can be purchased in all sizes from small to huge, so can handle any size of greenhouse installation you may have.

(Below) An outdoors, propane burning, thermostatically controlled pool heater. 

Rocket mass stoves: These are generally low-tech wood burning heaters that require relatively constant hand-feeding. Their advantage is that they are extremely cheap, and you can make them yourself from low-tech, readily available materials such as fire brick, steel well casing, and old 55-gallon steel barrels. They are downdraft stoves that suck the incoming air for combustion down a pipe, making a whooshing noise like a small rocket taking off.

They are generally used to store heat by running their exhaust pipe through a “mass” of earth or concrete, and heating this thermal mass up, thus the name “rocket mass heater”. In an aquaponics installation, you would want to introduce a fairly thick steel or stainless steel heat exchanger coil into the heated exhaust air to heat your aquaponic water.


If there is enough “mass” surrounding the stove flue, or enough heat exchanger coil in the stove flue, you will extract the most heat, and get the most efficiency out of the stove. If you do a good job and put plenty of heat exchanger coil in, the temperature where the exhaust air finally leaves the flue can be as low as 100 degrees F, even though the temperature in the combustion chamber can be as high as 1,200 degrees F. An excellent diagram of how a rocket mass heater works follows, courtesy of Nicodemus:


(Below) We use a nuclear fusion furnace for heating our greenhouse (top left in the photo). We're not greedy; we share this dependable source of heat and light with ALL our neighbors! It's difficult to turn down when it gets too hot, though!

NuclearFusionFurnaceNewsletter 2

(Next newsletter in this series will cover  energy-efficient cooling for the aquaponic solar greenhouse. Most important for those of you who are "lightly funded", a bit later in this series we will explain how to purchase and erect your own energy efficient greenhouse for pennies on the dollar, even if you never purchase any of our offerings! Thanks for listening!)

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!


Friendly 2014 Commercial Aquaponics and Greenhouse Trainings;

Dates To Be Announced Soon!

These trainings are $1,495 per person for five days of the most comprehensive and profitable Commercial Aquaponics and energy efficient Solar Greenhouse technology on the planet. If you can't wait until next year to learn about profitable commercial aquaponics, check out our Personal Intensive trainings in Hawaii.

(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; it's why 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.

These five-day trainings 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.


If you're located near Tennessee, Randy and Katie give regular free farm tours of their aquaponics systems and greenhouses to introduce the public to the benefits of aquaponics and energy-efficient greenhouse growing. Call Randy and Katie at 256-679-9488 or email Randy to find out when the next farm tour is scheduled.

Our Affiliate Program:

For those of you who aren't yet aware of our Affiliate programs, here's the deal: we're the ONLY aquaponics professionals who teach our students how to teach aquaponics, AND let them use our manuals (under license) to teach others with. In fact, there are three Micro System trainings being given by our affiliates right now (see sidebar). You'll see that we also encourage and work with "Commercial" level affiliates such as Randy and Katy Campbell (with whom we're offering courses in Tennessee) to teach our Commercial Aquaponics and Solar Greenhouse Trainings. No other aquaponics teachers offer this, but you can partner with us to do so if you wish!

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

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 workshop on our farm the FIRST Saturday of every month at 10:00,  focused on growing food with aquaponics and permaculture.  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 FIRST

Or sign yourself up for the SECOND

TENNESSEE September 2013 Commercial Aquaponics and Solar Greenhouse Trainings
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!

Join Ben and Alicia Godfrey at Sand Creek Farm in Cameron, Texas for a Micro System training! Call Ben or Alicia directly at 254-697-2927, or email them to sign up for this course. You can visit their website here to see a list of all the other cool classes they offer!

Join David Lindemann in Melbourne, Florida, in one of his Micro System classes: Call David directly at 321-604-6684, or email him to sign up for this course. You can visit David's website here for details of the class and to see all the other cool things he's doing!

Join Kevin Crawford in Longmont, Colorado, in one of his Micro System classes: Call Kevin directly at 720-363-5069, or email him to sign up for this course.

These Texas, Florida, and Colorado one-day live trainings use our $100 Micro System DIY manual as coursebook, and are a real deal!

The story of Bird and Boob, Part 3: Boob

After Bird moved out of the house, I was birdless for a while, until I was walking down the beach one day and found a young blue footed booby.  He looked pretty much like this:

Blue-footed booby in juvenile plumage

I know; something only a parent could love! I picked him up, took him home and set him up on Bird's old perch in the boatshop.

I'd put off removing Bird's old perch because it had such a mess under it that cleaning it would be a major operation. Good thing I'd put this one off, cause I'd just have had to build it again. I scraped the poo off, flung it in the deep bushes, and installed the new arrival.  

I'd been through this with Bird once already, so I was a seasoned surrogate bird parent. I knew what to feed the bird, how to water him, but I needed a name! I went in circles until I settled on the obvious: a blue footed booby should be named Booby!

After calling him (her?) that for awhile I shortened it because it was just too awkward. Boob rolled right off the tongue, and was always good for a laugh from visitors.

Too darn cute to cook and eat, plus I hear they taste fishy! Boob looked just like this when grown.

When Boob got his adult plumage and didn't need the additional shelter that the shop perch offered, I moved him out onto Bird's erstwhile perch in front of the house, facing the lagoon.

Boob took a few test flights, then left the nest the same way Bird had. He came back a couple of times for a bit of mackerel, then was gone. I don't know if I ever saw him again; it's hard to even recognize people from a thousand feet away or more.

It's funny; he was just another sea bird out of the thousands I've seen during my lifetime, but I'm getting kind of choked up writing this.

Blue-footed booby fishing in its natural environment


I'm probably going to turn into a real puddle when my first kid leaves home to make their way in the world. I'm glad I met Bird and Boob, and got to spend a little time with them.

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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