Aquaponics Project

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Members Involved

  • Bengizmo
  • Michael B
  • Zac T
  • Colin Fitzgerald
  • Lorin Briand

Project Scope

To investigate various methods of growing food for personal use and the possibility of industrial use. We aim to collect data and share with other groups to further the collective knowledge on the subject. As the project progresses, no doubt the scope will change.

Hopefully we will be able to come up with some best practices and schematics so anyone who wants to can make their own system.

Progress Thus Far

  • 01/24/2012: Andy has dropped off his system at the space.
  • 03/26/2012: Green light from The Area to deploy system in Inglewood
  • 03/27/2012: Acquired sump pump, air pump (for aeration) and silicone (to re-seal tank); seals cut, cleaned and re-done. Tank curing for 48 hours.
  • 04/03/2012: Tank seals done. Leak test in progress. Early indication (elapsed test time: one hour) of success. Followup in 47 hours.
  • 04/06/2012: Leak test appears to be a success. Need to confirm on-site (likely Tues Apr 10) if not earlier.
  • 04/06/2012: Freeduino base unit donated by Bengizmo; demo code uploaded and unit confirmed working. Mike is now learning code.
  • 05/22/2012: Aquaponics system donated by Andy transported to The Area in Inglewood. Partnership formally arranged between Protospace and The Area.
  • 05/26/2012: System set-up with 3x Amazon Sword, 3x Bloody Dock aquatic plants. 2x air stone "strips" installed for oxygenation. Wet and dry pumps test fired: OK. Bio filter needs replacement. PH 7.0-7.4
  • 07/07/2012: Lights set up, donated via Colin F. Thank you! Bio filter replaced.
  • 07/28/2012: Jiffypellets set-up (18 in total) with lettuce seeds. Timer installed (2x yellow daytime outlets, 2x blue nighttime outlets, 4x white continuous power outlets). Day powers lights from 0600 to 2200. Night powers lift pump from 2200 to 2202 and again from 2300 to 2302.
  • 08/02/2012: Systems check. 3x Bloody Dock died earlier in July due to poor systems maintenance; required more light than we were giving it. Amazon Sword very hardy, takes a lot of punishment. Power a problem as other events often borrow the extension cord; more permanent set-up needed.
  • 08/14/2012: Systems check. Amazon Sword is very healthy and deep green. Timer was incorrectly programmed; changed to use "night" outlets (blue) from 04:02 to 20:00, then again at 20:02 until 04:00 next morning (perpetual day). Lift pump triggers twice per day on the "day" (yellow) outlets from 04:00 to 04:02 and again at 20:00 to 20:02. Unfortunately this timer system does not have an option for "both off" at a given time. The seedlings are approx 2 inches tall; success rate for 18 pellets is roughly 75%; need to do a better sowing job next time around. Moved three pellets to edges of first tray; moved three to edges of second tray. Believe their "drooped over" state is due to lack of available light as previous programming set-up would have only accounted for four minutes total of "daylight". Ambient light from outside is minimal at best. Next check planned for 08/18/2012 (four days). Will re-assess plant performance at that time. Also added 1/3 cap (60ml) Miracle Gro as fish are not yet installed and plants have been without nutrients since 05/26/2012. Power still an issue and discussion is planned on return of The Area's directors around August 20th.
Drooped over seedlings.
Drooped over seedlings; suspecting insufficient light.
  • 08/25/2012: Systems check. Plants responding very well to change in lighting and re-positioning of pods. Root systems pronounced in four of the 18 initial pods; 50% of the remaining pods could possibly be salvaged as they have developed small seedlings but will need extra care/attention to flourish. Other 50% are potentially write-offs (no observable growth). Discussion remains to be had regarding stable power supply. Fish not yet added to system; pending confirmation of stable power source.
Growth progress.
Growth progress after lighting change, approx 1 week after.

To Do


  • pH probe (preferably with BNC connector or something we can solder to an Arduino)
  • TDS (total dissolved solids) probe (as above)
  • Timing of lights and pumps via Arduino Zilla brand timer installed via power bar instead. 2x daytime, 2x nighttime, 4x continuous.
  • Acquisition of T5 fluorescent lighting or compact fluorescent (CFL) equivalent. Completed, thanks Colin F!


  • Code Arduino unit to read values from pH probe

Biology Bits

  • Pick up hydroton from Quick Grow (1204 Edmonton Trail Northeast Calgary, AB T2E 3K5 (403) 276-5156) Opted for marine gravel from Big Al's due to VIP discount.
  • Check out Big Al's for fish; we have a customer loyalty account thingy (call Mike for details). Will be wanting freshwater fish that can tolerate somewhat harsher environments.


  • Arduino communications solution; Wind mobile offers two very attractive data stick solutions (3G network)
  • Working with Area to see if we can connect to their wireless LAN.
  • Split Wiki entry into two sections: project being worked on and public reading material (who, what, when, where, why type stuff) Complete


  • Contact CDC project members; inquire about tour of Brooks facility if it is still operational
  • Contact Zoo for tour of Conservatory including in-depth workings of the greenhouse's operating system(s) (behind the scenes)
  • Contact Sam Livingston Fish Hatchery (Inglewood) for in-depth tour of operations
  • Research facility in Edmonton; apparently there is a substantial project in operation up there as well

It was mentioned that we look at city resources, such as the Bird Sanctuary and the Fish Hatchery.

Found an "Arduarium" kit fully assembled; two BNC connectors for probes like pH and OPR. (Google Arduarium Controller Ultimate at

Historical: Protospace Proposal Draft

Protospace Aquaponics Project

Authored: January 27th 2012

Last updated: February 4th 2012

A group of members within Protospace has expressed high interest in designing, constructing and operating an aquaponics project within the current space.

The term aquaponics is used to describe an integrated system of fish and plants in a symbiotic relationship; one provides the other with the required nutrients while removing toxins which are detrimental to the survival of the other. It is a relatively new science with provincial research projects exploring this avenue of natural science with food sustainability in mind. Further information is available on our wiki at

There are some points of note we must consider in installing and operating such a system.

The most immediate and obvious risk is water/flood damage. The current equipment has a capacity of 160L of water; it has not been filled pending an approval from CPAA to “go ahead”. We have considered the placement of the system with this in mind, with a desire to locate the equipment away from internal doors/corridors and internal common walls. We have also considered acquiring absorbent materials used in construction sites around drainage systems which would adequately cover any minor spills or major leaks. Mike has found Rubbermaid storage containers in excess of 160L capacities which will adequately cover the worst case scenario, that is, a total system failure. Though a simple and seemingly low tech solution, this will address the concerns of flooding and leakage.

As this project is a research and development initiative, close monitoring of the system will occur frequently with on-site visits from the project members at least once every week. We will be posting emergency contact information in the event none of the project members are at the space.

There has been discussion regarding mold/pest infestation as a result of operating a biological system within an enclosed area. It is our opinion that a series of best practices should be adopted to mitigate such concerns, namely:

  • Access to the system will be restricted to project members only, particularly any handling of the plants or fish or surfaces which have come into contact with either of the two. Mike has also considered the use of gloves (non-latex disposables) and can acquire these easily.
  • Regular maintenance and cleaning of the system, which is common to all aquarium owners and does not require special training.
  • Growth of plant material within the system/space as opposed to importing plant material from outside the system, mitigating introduction of pests to the space and/or system.

Mike has also heard feedback/concerns regarding energy usage of the system; a highly aggressive daily estimate is 3.27$. (a detailed chart is available in the soft-copy of the proposal)

We anticipate the costs to be significantly lower (around $1.50 per day); research is on-going into lighting systems but we have solid information pointing towards 100 watt units (down from the estimated 400 watt units). Should costs be a concern we are very eager to discuss an adequate compensation plan to ensure the system’s operation does not negatively impact the use of the space by other Protospace members or cause added concern for CPAA.

Significant research exists in this area of science, most notably a project run via the provincial government at two facilities in Brooks and Lethbridge. Though we have not yet successfully made contct with the team members from those projects, efforts continue to discuss our endeavors and ask a variety of questions to aid in our project.

We are very cognizant of the space we have been graciously permitted to use and wish to maintain the existing relationship between CPAA and Protospace. As a long term goal we wish to see potential interactivity between this project and the CPAA’s clients; what format that would take is unknown at this time. With this in mind we welcome any and all opportunities to discuss concerns, ideas or suggestions with the CPAA and other Protospace members. Further details are available on our wiki at which is regularly updated by team members.