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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 87
August 11th,  2012
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend,

In Today's Newsletter:

Today's "Nugget" is about how to poison your aquaponics system! We'll tell you all the creative ways we know people have used to do this, so you can be sure never to do a repeat performance.

For Hawaii Residents ONLY:

Special offer on all three of our live August trainings is ONLY for Hawaii residents! We support the revitalization of our State's economy, and feel we can help by offering our usual $995 trainings for only $195 to Hawaii residents.

So, if you are a Hawaii resident, you can attend any one of: the 3-day Aquaponics Technology Training; the 2-day Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training; or the 1-day Commercial Aquaponics Training; for only $195 instead of the usual $995 we receive for each one of these courses. Or, you can attend all three for only $395 (instead of $2,485!).

Our shopping cart cannot discriminate between Hawaii residents and non-residents, so to register, you need to email us at for instructions on how to qualify for this special offer, and how to pay. See you there, brah (and seestah too!).

If you want to earn a living from aquaponics (or just learn the best aquaponics technology available) , we have three trainings scheduled in the balance of 2012:

Training 1: In Hawaii, August 26th to September 1st. Our Aquaponics Technology Training, plus the Solar Greenhouse Training, plus the Commercial Aquaponics Training. Attend one or more trainings to suit your needs. More information on those trainings on our webpage here.  See special offer for Hawaii residents for this training (above).

Training 2: In Tennesee, the same six days of training from September 16th to the 22nd at Randy and Katy Campbell's farm, Ellibell Farm, in Elora, Tennesee. You can sign up now for these trainings on our webpage here. You can also call Randy directly at 256-679-9488, or email Randy for information.

Training 3:
The same six days of training, October 21st to the 27th in Hawaii.

If you're interested in our Solar Greenhouse technology, please take a look at our Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training (Special Offer in right sidebar of this email), where you will learn more about how to grow affordably using aquaponics in greenhouses than you can anywhere else in the world. The next training is in Hawaii in August 2012 and in Tennessee in September 2012. For smaller home backyard and apartment systems, please read on:
Purchase Construction Plans and Operating Info for 4 Different Sizes of Apartment/Condo Aquaponics Systems $49.95

Our Apartment/Condo System package includes new and easy-to-understand building instructions and complete operating information for 4 different sizes of small aquaponic systems based on our years of experience operating a commercial aquaponics farm. 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!

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 Apartment/Condo Systems!

Aquaponics Nugget #87, Poison Your Fish, Poison Your Vegetables, Poison Yourself.

Every aquaponics system, no matter what kind it is, has water in it; and water has a way of carrying any contamination or toxin to nearly every part of the system.

In our long experience with aquaponics, we've been lucky to have only poisoned our vegetables once, and our fish not at all. Still, we've collected stories of many who have done it in other creative and easily understandable ways that you will see as obviously wrong (once you've heard them, that is). That's the problem, right there: these people didn't see them as obviously wrong, before they did them, or they never would have done them! Let us list the ways you can do it, so you know how to avoid them:

1. Toxic Totes: What we hear from the panicked practitioner whose fish are all dying is always "I didn't put anything bad into the system!". So many people use "cheap" used IBC totes on the advice of "experts", and I've never seen warnings about this one in their literature: poisoned IBC totes. We feature this warning prominently in a section of our manuals called "Tank Discussion".

Warning: the LDPE plastic that the totes is manufactured from is slightly porous; when a tote is used (even for a short period of time) to store something toxic, the toxic substance will leach into the LDPE, to leach out into your aquaponic system at some unspecified future time.

We've seen toxic results with totes used to store propionic acid (a food preservative that is used in animal food processing); and totes in which organophosphate insecticides or herbicides were stored or mixed "for a short time only".

Imagine having a toxic tote in your system: maybe your fish and plants don't all die, or just a few of them. You may not be able to trace it back to the tote. In fact, you may not even notice the problem; but you or someone else is eating the poisoned fish and vegetables that come from your system; what's your responsibility to them?

If you can read the label on the used tote you're thinking about buying, and you understand enough chemistry to know that it is a non-toxic substance for your fish and vegetables, then by all means go ahead and use it. That is, if you're absolutely certain it never had anything else in it, even for a short time.
This really comes down to how good your information is and how much you feel like gambling with your safety. The only really safe IBC tote, or other container made from LDPE, is a brand-new one!

2. Citric Acid: This is an organically-approved herbicide, and you can spray it around your system by using extreme care. But don't spray it onto your vegetables, or use it to adjust pH downwards in your system; for it will turn your plant roots black and kill them all. It's an herbicide!

3. "Organically Approved" Oil-based, Pepper-based, and Soap-based Sprays:
These are all toxic to the fish in your system, through various mechanisms.
The oil from the oil-based sprays ends up coating the gills of your fish, and their gills stop working or work so poorly that they asphyxiate. The pepper from the pepper-based sprays goes straight into the fish's bloodstream through their gills (just like you getting pepper spray or Mace in your face: people have died from this), and this kills the fish. The mechanism by which the soap-based sprays works is the same as the oil sprays: soap is half oil and half water, and the oil fraction of the soap coats the fish's gills and they asphyxiate.

A student who had his entire operation inside a greenhouse sprayed his vegetables, very carefully, with a soap-based spray. His rationale was that since he was careful, and since there was never any rain inside his greenhouse to wash the soap spray down onto the rafts and into the water, he would be safe. We heard from him after he'd sprayed three or four times and killed all 800 pounds of fish in his system. We supplied him with another 500 to get started again, after he'd had to dump his system water and reinoculate with nitrifiers.

4. Mildewcide and Others:
Use your head here and look for toxins you may have unwittingly introduced to your system. For instance: in an area that is plagued by mildew and mold because it is overcast a lot, you may think of painting your rafts with paint that contains a mildew-inhibitor, or mildewcide, in it. Don't! It's a toxin that is designed to be added to paint to kill any mildews or molds that might be tempted to grow on the surface of your house. Using it on a raft will introduce the same toxin to everything in your system. The same thing can happen if an upwind neighbor sprays an organophosphate insecticide or herbicide; even a minscule amount of this stuff floating onto your rafts will get into your water and kill things.

Our Designs: Your System, Your Brain:
Last week I answered an email from a student with a Micro System of our design whose fish were all dying. Upon receiving the second email from them, I found out that they had a used IBC tote in their system, had put their rafts in the same day they painted them (before the paint was completely dry) and that their system was foaming from this, had sprayed oil-based pepper sprays and soap sprays on their plants (outside, in the dew and rain), and had also been using two chemicals: pH UP and pH DOWN, to adjust pH. We discuss all these things in the Micro System manual and feature prominent warnings telling people not to use them! For a short moment, I couldn't even think of how to begin to help this person, I just wanted to go take a nap!

The bottom line here is that it doesn't matter how good the information in our manuals is: it's up to you to keep poisonous stuff out of your aquaponic system; the only guaranteed way to do that is to use your brain!

The photo below is our Solar Greenhouse. It's cool when it's hot, and warm when it's cold (hope that makes sense to you, it's the best greenhouse we've ever seen!).

GrownOut1medium 2

Friendly Aquaponic's FIRST Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse in full bloom, Honoka'a, Hawaii, March 2012, (on a grey rainy day) showing PV panels, and growing plants.

Next week: Something interesting and valuable to know about aquaponics. Thanks for listening!

Click Here To See Our New Aquaponics Video!
Back Issues Of Newsletters Now Available, Click Here!
Purchase Trough Liner Directly From Manufacturer!

Free Farm Tours
Aquaponics tour at the Friendly farm!

We hold a free workshop on our farm the FIRST Saturday of every month,  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!


3-1/2 pound kalo (taro root) grown in a 2" net pot (little bump at bottom)


4-month old prawn (macrobrachium rosenbergii) grown in hydroponics troughs of our aquaponics systems

Special Offer! Sign up for our HAWAII August 30-31st Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training
or our
HAWAII August 26-28 Aquaponics Technology Training,
or our
TENNESSEE September 20-21 Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training
or our
TENNESSEE September 16-18th Aquaponics Technology Training,

and receive a free Micro System DIY package so you can begin studying aquaponics! ($99.95 value)

More Information on Hawaii Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse Training

"The Fish's View"

Today's column is NOT about fish at all! I was searching my memory chips for something that might appeal to readers when I came across this bit:

I have a time-honored connection to Japan. In 1998 I began learning kendo; "The Way Of The Sword". Kendo began as a technology for practicing swordfighting that would allow warriors to experience full-contact combat without killing or injuring each other.

Even wooden swords, when wielded in practice by experts, are as capable of killing or injuring as a steel sword is. When a daimyo's (Medieval Japanese lord) army practiced, the daimyo did not benefit from injured or maimed warriors; they still needed to go up against the other side with as many competent men as possible.

Ergo, kendo, which is practiced with protective armor and bamboo swords. The kendo practitioner is one of the few modern martial artists who can "execute fully" that is, go ALL-OUT in practice without worrying about more than a bruise or two.

My kendo sensei (teacher) was taught by a line of sensei who came from Okinawa to Hawaii in the late 1800's. As a result of his teachers' teachers leaving Japan almost 130 years ago, the style of kendo my sensei taught me was unchanged from that which was taught in Okinawa in the 1860's to 1870's. When I practiced with mainland kenshi before (kendo practitioners), they laughed at me because they didn't recognize my style of kendo. They got a lot more respectful when I explained my sensei's lineage and philosophy of teaching kendo.

My sensei emphasized "The Spirit Of Kendo", which was not about winning tournament matches, but about doing "beautiful kendo". He was very serious about kendo not being a "sport", but a way of life.

When I had been practicing with him for eight years, he said that he was moving to another island to take a better career position (as headmaster of a new private Buddhist high school on the island of Oahu), and that I would be sensei now.

I protested that I was not ready to be sensei, and he just smiled at me. He left for his new position, and I continued teaching the dojo (kendo school), which had from six to twelve high school students as kenshi, for another three years.

We had one or two adult students, but they didn't last very long; their minds were full of nonsense, and they didn't apply themselves or concentrate as well as the teenagers did.

We could only afford to rent a church building to use as the dojo practice room, and because of changes in my financial situation, we had to stop doing that in 2008. I am trying to find funds or a patron so we can build our own dojo and I can begin teaching again. It was one of the most rewarding experiences and periods of my whole life!

Konnichi-Wa, and 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, 2008-2012

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