We Will Grow On You!

Alberta Aquaponics - We Will Grow On You!

Tilapia – Raising and Breeding

Tilapia, as a rule, are territorial fish and kind of jackasses in a communal setting which can be a fairly big challenge to those looking to establish aquaponics systems.

As an aquaponist, your success will be based in some degree on understanding what is happening in the tank and doing your best to ensure that everything is kept calm and happy.

There is a hierarchy and societal structure for tilapia that is based on aggressiveness, sex, size and hormones.

Male Tilapia will fight other each other to establish dominance, entice females and for territory to set up nests for breeding.

In captivity, these fish will carry over all of the wild instincts but in the confined space we provide can lead to some very big issues.

Nesting in the wild can be very impressive and look like a mine field with hundreds and even thousands of nests with competitive fish standing guard vying for a chance to breed.

Mozambique Tilapia Nests Photo Credit - http://www.finterest.com.au/

Mozambique Tilapia Nests
Photo Credit – http://www.finterest.com.au/

In captivity, we attempt to give them a nest (usually in the form of a flower pot or some other structure with a bowl shape) to call territory and allow for breeding to happen.

Large male with females in a tank. Flower pot for nesting and hide pipes for fish to stay safe.

Large male with females in a tank. Flower pot for nesting and hide pipes for fish to stay safe.

In both cases, the males will attempt to hold ground and highly contest all of the other fish around them. Any fish that attempts to take the nest or move into the designated breeding area must be driven off or even killed by the fish holding the territory or face the fate itself.

Donna caught some video of the tilapia nesting at the Alberta Aquaponics Tilapia Donation To The Calgary Zoo when we were last there showing how the males create and hold nests. (Sadly it is somewhat hard to see in the hippo waters of the zoo).

On a large scale area in the wild, this can be accommodated to some respect with natural formations for fish to hide in, lots of room to establish nests and to some capacity even predation which cuts down on the numbers of fish as a whole.

It is normal for male tilapia to fight (it looks much like chasing or Sumo) and attempt to toss other fish out of the tank. If they are unable to rid the fish from their defined territory, they will rip the skin off of the other fish or run them until the stress kills them.

Females will also compete in a standard tank. Females attempt to rip the lips off of each other. This, because of them being mouth brooders, means that they are not just killing the female fish by stopping her from eating properly, but also killing any possibility of her blood line carrying on.
When combined you are in for a real shake up when it comes to mating.

Males will attempt to achieve dominance in the tank, beating up all of the other males around them. They will pick the nesting area and start defending it by chasing all males from the area, then attempt to find a female that they can push (read beat up) into the breeding territory.

Females can be killed by the males at this point with the aggression levels they have and efforts in keeping the females in the nest area.

Once the female is in the territory and receptive, she will start cleaning the nest area until she comes into cycle at which time a hormone is released in her urine that draws the male to her to breed. This hormone will also draw in other males in the area adding to the charged environment.

The male will then hyper guard the nest while the female lays eggs. The male will swoop in and milt the eggs, then go off to guard and defend again until the next batch of eggs is laid (read go beat up everything it can come in contact with in the tank).

The female at this point will begin picking up the fertilized eggs in her mouth where she will roll them to oxygenate them by taking little bites of water. The eggs can be seen in her mouth as she rolls them around at this point. She will continue the cycle until she has no more eggs to pick up, while the male continues coming back to milt and then guard. Once she is completed in her duty to drop and pick up eggs the male will then drive her from the nest (read beat her up) so he can find another female to mate with.

At this time the female is vulnerable in the tank from all of the other fish. She will not eat for the next few weeks while she rears her young and will weaken over time. Other fish in the tank (both male and female) will attempt to beat her up and get her to spit her eggs and fry of which they will eat given the opportunity.

Blue Mommy with Fry

Blue Tilapia with Very Small Babies

In a single confined fish tank, this is a lot to manage, and it is up to the aquaponist to help sort out.

For a good breeding environment, I suggest a few things.

Be able to see your fish. If you are unable to see what is going on in the tank and what your fish are doing it is unlikely that you will be able to help the reproductive process with your fish. Look for signs of territory owning, watch for fish with distended chins or females rolling eggs.

Make sure you have brood tanks available for the incubating females and eggs or better yet, be able to move the non-brooding fish to another communal tank (harder to do usually due to the size needed for the tanks).

Tanks on hand for rearing fry.

Tanks on hand for rearing fry.

Once the female has picked up the eggs, collect her and the eggs (as calmly as possible to stop her from spitting out the eggs) and migrate her to another tank on her own. This will lower the stress levels overall for the mother and allow for the fry to have the best chance of not being eaten. (Ensure that you have a filtration system that will not allow the fry to get sucked into it. Fry have an uncanny ability of finding ways into canister filters, grow beds and swirl filters. <check these daily>)

These tanks should be set up and running with an already active bacterial load so that you are not putting the fish through a full nitrate cycle.  You should have a tank for the female to brood out and another tank to move the female to once she has completed looking after the fry to build her weight back up (remember she has not eaten for weeks at this point) before putting her back in the general population tanks.

For many aquaponists, fish breeding seems very daunting and equipment intensive, so the desire to just not have the fish able to reproduce at all seems to be the key. This is far from resolving the issues overall in a tank however. The fish will still become aggressive with one another even if they are not allowed to breed.

There are many schools of thought on how to resolve some of the issues; some advisable and successful, others not so much:

Increase the fish density or use a smaller tank:

(This is something I do not recommend at all.)

In aquaponics which is based on bacterial loads and stability to keep a handle on the nitrate cycle, small water volumes are problematic and very hard to manage. Bigger water volumes and an even stocking density is a key factor in the stability and success of an aquaponics garden. By messing with this, you set yourself up for many potential pitfalls along that way.

For the tilapia, territory is based on the space size they believe they need for a nest and not a factor in the small size of the fish tank. (Equating this to humans, the house size a family requires or desires is not a factor based on the size of township of which they live in) Although you are giving them a physical boundary in which to live, the fish will not take that into account for nest building or territory holding. This can lead to very heavy pressure of other fish and worse.

The thought process of keeping a higher fish densities to cut down on breeding is only somewhat factual and successful.

The higher numbers in the volume of living space creates more pressure in the tank for space which will cut down on the chances of successful breeding but also creates more stress overall which will have a have impact on the health of your fish, their growing abilities and your overall success of the aquaponics system. High levels of stress also open up other problems like diseases as the fish have a lowered immune system decreasing the abilities to fight off infection and viruses meaning that it could cause a cascade effect in losses should something go wrong. The higher concentration also means there is usually a higher competition level for food with the biggest, most dominant and aggressive fish gobbling up offerings quickly and the lesser fish being pushed to the sides creating an overall weakness for problems to arise in.

Sex Segregation or single chromosome exclusion:

Tilapia are hard to sex in the juvenile (fingerling) stage under 4” in length. It is estimated that even professionals who do sexing full time are only able to get it right about 70% of the time at that size and 50% of the time with smaller fish. Sexing fish is also time consuming and stressful on the fish which is something most breeders attempt to avoid at all cost as time equates to money and stressed fish equate to problems.

As a result, most breeders will simply scoop out the fish they have for sale and you will get a mix of both males and female stock. (This is actually a good thing for most people doing aquaponics because, in my opinion, fish breeding and maintaining your own fish stock is as important as seed collection of an aquaponics system for sustainability.)

For many however, the task of fish breeding seems to be a daunting one so they assume that by ridding the tank of one sex or the other it will make the process easier. This is usually not the case. Hormones and instinct are formidable, unseen opponents and regardless of members of the opposite sex being there, standard societal and dominance competition will occur.

Science has created a method of single sexing fish in order to create male only tilapia.

Many states and provinces are actually looking at this for being a means to resolve the invasive species issues for the fish long term in North America and have thought about pushing for a mandate for all potential invasive fish species (tilapia included) to be single sexed.

For this the fish are milked of the eggs which are then put into colder water to incubate. The fish are then subjected to a hormone that modifies the chromosomes of the fish producing a triploid or male only gender.

There are some issues I have with this.

First the eggs that are incubated at the lower temperatures and exposed to the hormone cause huge losses in the viable fish fry. In my mind this is a huge waste and human intervention where it should not be.

Second, I do not want a GMO fish in an aquaponics system when I am attempting to grow the best and healthiest possible food. Take whatever stand on GMO’s you like, When I am distributing fish to the public, I feel that it is my duty and responsibility to give them the best possible stock I can give them, which to me means, non-GMO and organically fed. I can’t change things back the other way if I contaminate it in any form.

Third, the term triploid and male only does not always mean that is what you are getting. It is suggested and documented that as many as 10 – 15% of the fish will be female and could still be potentially viable. You will be paying an extra cost for this process on a local level if it is available. If it is not available locally, you can also count on expenses in shipping and permits to get them if you can at all. The end game is that you could still end up with breeding fish for the extra cost and have actually saved nothing in efforts for the price.

What we have had success with:


Tilapia like a living temperature range between 22c to 30c. Breeding temperature in our tanks is usually around 28c. By dropping the tank temperature to around 24c we have found that they are less likely to be in breeding mode. This is not to say that we have not had a couple of them breed anyway, but the chance of having them breed is a lot less.

The hard part here is temperature stability. Fluctuations of a couple degrees can result in unwanted breeding with the temperature change being the driving factor for putting them “in the mood”. With smaller outdoor tanks this can be somewhat harder to manage and compensate for due to outside temperature movements (larger volume, insulated tanks are more stable as a general rule).

More Territory

Give both sexes a bunch of territory for them to fold. IE: lots of pipes to hide in and own that are of a variety of shapes and sizes. This will imitate nature allowing for smaller fish to own territory that they will feel safe in and can hide from the abuses of the other males and females in the tank. This will allow the females to hide away from being pushed into breeding situations, lower stress levels in the tank and allow for all of the fish to “own property”.

Lower the fish density

Going against the other schools of thought, you can also attempt to lower the fish density in the tank or use a larger water volume of tank. This is not always great for the aquaponics side because it will also lower the nutrients going to the bacteria and plants however it will drop stress levels in the tank and allow for the fish to be more spread out with less competition.

Let Nature take its course

If you have fish that breed and you don’t want to raise them, leave the female and babies in the tank with the other fish. Chances are that the female will end up being bullied to the point where very few if any of the fish will make it to adulthood. Keep an eye on the female because it is very possible that she may be killed by the other fish attempting to get her eggs.

Some folks will catch the female with the eggs and use a pipette to either suck out or wash the eggs out of her mouth into the main tank to stop the cycle.

I hope that this helps in some of the questions and concerns about tilapia as a whole.

There have been many in our group that have managed to rear and raise tilapia fingerlings to full sized fish in both inside and outdoor aquaponics systems. Do not be shy about asking questions and getting advice on best practices. Remember that we do have a forum on our main website as well as Facebook pages and even a face to face meet up where you can ask questions, offer advice and get involved.

Finding the Spotlight

As every real estate person will say, its all about Location, Location, Location!

Solar is very much attuned to this.

Home builders and city design developers are only now starting to consider the average home as being a net zero structures. As a result, is likely that your home, as with most buildings in the city, is not constructed to take advantage of solar the way you might hope.

Few buildings are oriented to full south exposure let alone have the desired roof pitch for taking advantage of the perfect sun angle. This does not mean that solar is out of the question, it simply means that you have to make some choices and go with what is optimal for your situation.

It should be pointed out there are companies that you can hire who will do a full assessment of your property, take sun measurements, calculate angles, calculate solar panel layout  and estimate the electrical output. For some this may be a good choice prior to making the investment in gear and going it alone.

For us, the choice was pretty simple for the base of where we needed to install, so we opted to go it alone for the most part.

A direct facing south roof is not something we had and therefore had to attempt to find the best option available.

Our house is facing South East and has (at the moment) two very large pine trees blocking and shadowing the roof making that side of the house a poor choice.

The other side of the roof, although getting a good level of sun during the later afternoon and evening, has a lot of protrusions for ventilation, sewer and furnace venting making it a poor choice for the solar panels to be installed on.

This made us look toward our garage as the next option.

The garage has one side of the roof directed North East and the other side pointed South West.  We have a standard 12:3 pitch on the garage roof which is also not optimal.(It should be noted here that local legislation also restricts the distance of the solar panel mountings from the roof and the use of adjustable solar panel structures on roof tops making the likelihood of being optimal less likely for most builds.)

The side of the roof with the most available sunlight during the day is on the South West face with mid-day and afternoon sun exposure.

The North East face gets a lot of sun first thing in the morning. Although off axis for the majority of the day, still has sunlight exposure throughout the day.

Our garage roof was too small for the full 5 kW of solar we chose to install on the South West face alone, which is where we would get the majority of our sunlight, so we opted to put 3.5 kW of solar on the South West face and 1.5 kW of panels on the East face. This layout gives us a capture of the morning sun on the 1.5 kW side and then is still lit to some capacity in the afternoon and evening when we will be capturing the majority of our sunlight on the 3.5 kW west side.

Arrays on the garage

Arrays on the garage

We are well aware that because of this not being optimal, we will never get the full potential of the 5kW of solar that we have installed. We are ok with this because of the pre-planning we did based on our electrical usage and estimations on productivity.

solar report 1solar report 2solar report 3solar report 4
All of this goes to show you do not have to be in a perfect situation for this to work or to make a difference in your power creation.

Greenhouse Rebuild

Alberta Aquaponics needs a new Greenhouse!

Donna and I have been struggling with the greenhouse this year. We have problems with our grow bed tables starting to warp from the weight and humidity, Issues with the plastic poly around the greenhouse, limitations on our growing area and being able to access produce and problems with heating and cooling the greenhouse year round.

We would like to change things up.

Currently we have a used single car garage frame that we have used for our greenhouse. Its dimensions are 21′ x 11′ by 9′ tall. Surrounding our greenhouse, we are using nothing more than 7mil poly and bubble wrap for the winter months and just the 7 mil poly in the summer.

Plastic over the greenhouse

Greenhouse When it was first built

Although we have been able to grow through out the winter in our greenhouse, it has been at a cost due to the inefficiencies the greenhouse has. The solar concentrators have helped, but also need to be updated and made better to resolve the issues of the heating without the breakdowns that we have had from the solar tracker losing the sun from time to time.

The in floor heating from the solar concentrators is limited and needs to be extended under the grow beds, and more room in the greenhouse is required for both the water battery for radiant heat and the rabbits for over wintering. We would also like to move the worm farm inside the greenhouse to act as another heat source.

This summer we were hit with a hail storm that devastated our plant production due to the need of us having to remove the end walls of the greenhouse to allow for air flow. The hail came in both sides of the greenhouse and ripped the plants apart. The cold water was then collected in the grow bed and funneled into the fish tanks where we ended up with some pretty harsh losses.

The tables and grow bed supports we have in play are also in need of some much needed repairs. The tables, although reinforced and made as heavy as we could make them with wood, are starting to warp from the humidity and weight on them and are also in need to replacement.

Grow Bed Table

Grow bed table needs to be replaced

We also need to re-insulate and cover the greenhouse this fall. The hail managed to put some divots into the greenhouse and caused a couple of small punctures that need to be resolved before winter comes. (We have them covered with duct tape at the moment to get us through until replacement.)

As you can see, this is turning into a laundry list of problems that we would like to see resolved.

We have been thinking about the issues for the last few weeks and have come up with a plan.

We would like to rebuild and expand the greenhouse to be 24′ long, 16′ wide and 8′ tall. We believe that this will increase our growing capacity by 60%, make the greenhouse more efficient for temperature control, offer up a better education and training facility and be a safer long term structure over all.

Lets start at the bottom and work up.

We would like to put in a better layout of the in floor heating for the solar concentrators, making sure that they go to the outside edges of the greenhouse. This will better stave off the cold int eh winter and make growing a lot easier with fewer losses.

Once the in floor heating is installed we would like to put sidewalk blocks over the entire floor of the greenhouse to level it off and stop the trip hazards that we have in there now. This would also act as our base for the new building structure.

We would like to do the main walls of the rebuild using pallet racking.

Pallet Racking

Our Proposed Construction Material

The pallet racking would provide a very stable, safe and secure structure frame. The grow beds would be able to sit directly on the shelves that are structurally made to hold them and sized for an IBC tote. The room for extra shelving would allow for more grow space, storage and potential passive heating systems to be incorporated.

Attached to the pallet racking on the outside, we would like to build super insulated panels from the ground level to the 4′ mark all around the greenhouse. The insulated panels would help in both maintaining the heat and cooling within the greenhouse as well as protecting the greenhouse long term from the elements.

Super Insulated Panel

Super Insulated Panel

On the upper sides and roof of the greenhouse we would like to install multi walled poly-carbonate panels so that we have a better insulation value for the winter and the ability to create automated venting windows for the summer months.

Polycarbonate Panel

Polycarbonate Panel

Going along with the build, we would also like to incorporate a few more items for the education side.

Along with the ebb flow growbeds and dutch buckets that we already run, we are planning to add in a deep water culture system, wicking aquaponic beds and create a spring starter area for starter plants.

We would also like to get a better water capture system in play for collecting the water from the greenhouse, and putting it in play for both the tank top ups and water batteries.

All of this plan sounds simple enough until we get into the costs of implementation. Materials on this project are over $10,000.00.

Our solar install this year has left us tapped for extra finances to make everything happen on our own. Although we have a small budget to do some of the work, we are unable to make a real change that would help long term on our own.

This is where we would like to ask for your help!

We are looking for donations to the project.

We have set a goal of $5,000.00 for the new greenhouse build to get all the materials so that we can begin construction before winter hits. We are trying to make this easy for people to donate. Simply click on the donation button at the right side of the Alberta Aquaponics website, put in the amount you want to contribute!

To quote a show I often quote, “winter is coming”.

I know, we are being hopeful, in trying to make this happen fast, but we need to get the rebuild in play or start doing band-aid fixes to get us through the winter months. We would prefer to do it right the first time and have a long term solution and investment.

We do not expect people to donate without getting anything back, so if we are successful in achieving our goal, we are going to give the folks that donate $25.00 or more an invite for a tour of the new greenhouse, a bunny BBQ and an afternoon of mingling with other supporters for spring of 2016! We will also create a Donators Webpage celebrating everyone who donated and help Alberta Aquaponics and the greenhouse build!

Please help us make the greenhouse a better facility and help Alberta Aquaponics grow by supporting and donating to our cause!

Thank you for being a part of our community and for thinking about helping us go farther!

Face to Face Meetup This Sunday!

Just a reminder of the Alberta Aquaponics Face to Face Meetup this Sunday!

Meeting Alert!

Meeting Alert!

Come meet up with folks doing aquaponics to talk shop, ask questions and give information! A great time to be had by all!

Follow this link for the location, map and other info:

Photo Voltaic Solar Power How To. Planning

I am happy to say that our solar install is now up and running. As of August 10, 2015 at 10:10 am, our 5 Kw of solar started producing power.

In celebration, I thought that putting out the beginnings of the solar posts would be a good idea.

As I have only ever set up solar in our location in Calgary, most of the information I am going to give out is directed to people in the Calgary area, but I hope that at least some of the information is of use to everyone everywhere.

For everyone, I strongly suggest that you check your local bylaws and contact your municipality and electrical distributors to ensure that the information is current and applies to you in your area.

Always follow the laws and be 100%safe when working with the installation and operation of your solar install. Going renegade could void your insurance, harm people and more.

Lastly, I am not a professional solar installer or product dealer. I am basing this off of my experiences as a consumer and DIY’er and information I have gathered, as such, you should expect that there will be some personally skewed interpretations based off of our journey. I will however attempt to minimize that as much as possible.

Photo Voltaic Solar Power How To. Planning

Most people think that doing solar is as simple as getting solar panels and putting them on a roof, this however, is far from the case.

There are many steps in getting into solar, and as silly as it seems, getting the panels (or any gear for that matter) is a long way down the path.

Location, location, location:

Many municipalities have strict rules governing where solar panels can be installed. Issues with grid use, infrastructure, glare, community and community association bylaws and city land usage bylaws are just a few of the potential issues you may run into when attempting to install solar.

There are many places in the city of Calgary where you cannot have a P.V. installation at all. One of many of these locations is around Chinook Mall due to the power consumption of the mall and area.

A check with 311 will put you in contact with the city Planning and Development group that will give you a rough layout of where you can and cannot have solar. Ask questions and be thorough. Ensure you get e-mails to fall back on and know who you talked to.

My first experience in this was to call 311 and ask if there were permits needed. The operator that I talked to said they didn’t think there was, and only after I pushed the issue did they find out how much was needed for locations, permits and paperwork from the correct office.

Do the homework and dig deep!

This should be the first step before anything. Going head long into the project and purchasing panels only to find out later that you can’t use them would be more than heartbreaking.

Once you have determined if you can have a photo voltaic power system in your area, you are ready to move on to the planning phase.

The planning phase is what a lot of folks seem to just rush by. People usually just ask how much power are you making, how much does it cost and they think that is all there is for figuring out what they need or start calculating the total roof space they have and want to know how many panels they can install on it.

First, there are some pitfalls that you need to know about.

You are limited in the amount of power you can generate to some capacity. The power company does not have to pay you for the power you send to grid for others to use as you would likely expect. Above this, the expectation of the power company is that you will not produce more electricity than you will use.

This means that you may be restricted in the number of panels you have, the power you create and that wishful payback of the P.V. system being made by supplying electricity to your neighbors; all huge factors in the scale and effectiveness of the system and things that need to be planned out.

To start your planning phase, you need to do some hard work.

There are companies out there that will assist you in all of this if you decide you want to pay for the service. Many of the solar installers out there actually prefer to be involved in every level of the P.V. install including the planning phase (read this is a pay for service) and will dissuade you from doing this alone.

There are some complexities involved and you do need to understand some basics like how power is measured, how you are being billed and the correlation between the two, but for the most part this is just straight up paper work and something I believe most people can do themselves.

With that said, using a service or going it alone is totally up to you.

Start by having a look at your electrical bills.

By going through your bills, you can look at the amount of electricity you are using.  This is going to give you a picture of what your electrical usage is, how much money you are spending, and allow you to set goals for your P.V. system and even your projected usage.

Go back as far as you can with your bill investigation. Take note of seasonal changes and additions to your electrical use with items you purchased.

Also take note of the cost of your electrical in cycles. Note when power increases have happened and the changes and cost per month. This can assist you in deciding on the long term investment you are willing to make hedging on the chances of price changes in the future.

At the end, this is going to be a very different picture for everyone which is why it is so hard to give anyone an estimate on what they need or what they should purchase.

Now that you have scared yourself with the level of electrical you are using (and it should scare you), it is a very good idea to start going through your house looking for the electrical thieves in the system. The more things you can take out of the electrical use equation the better, and there are many items that are gobbling up power that are costing you a lot of money over time.

This is where you get to turn into the stereotypical cranky parent yelling about turning off electrical appliances, lights and closing the door.
What you will quickly start to discover is that everything is interconnected. The efficiency of the solar array is directly tied to how efficient your house is as a whole.

The big ticket items you will be looking at are things like heating, cooling and lighting.

Heating and cooling (HVAC) can add up to a 40% or more of your electrical bill. Simple things like putting in a programmable thermostat and ensuring proper seals around doors and windows can have a very large cost savings impact on your electrical use. Small investments on making your house more efficient for heating in the winter and cooling in the summer can help you recoup your investment in solar.

Refrigeration and freezers are another big ticket item that can have a huge impact on your electrical bill.

Lighting is another item that can get up there fast. Changing out inefficient lights for lower power usage LED lighting, setting up timers and make sure that lights are not on when not needed can make huge differences.

The lights don’t stop there however.

There are a lot of devices in your home that are thieves of the system.

Items that use power just because they are plugged in can have a big drain on your electrical. Everything with a clock, lights and background functions when powered off are using electricity. The crazy part is that there are many in most homes that people never think of, so they add up quickly.

Attempt to find these items and remove them from the power system by unplugging them or if possible, removing them completely from the home.

Downsizing and minimizing is the best method of conservation long term.

Now have a look at the power usage on each device that you have left over.

All electrical devices have a power usage sticker on them telling you how much power they consume. For a number of these devices, you will be shocked at how inefficient many of them are. If you have duplicate items in your home like TV’s etc., compare them out and see which items are giving you the best power usage, then make decisions based on that power usage for use of the item.

Small changes in your lifestyle can again have a huge impact over time without taking away quality of life.

This is also a great thing to look at as a consumer when you are purchasing new items for your home. Look at the power consumption and figure out how that relates in price over time when doing a purchase. This can save you a lot of hidden cost that is not on the sales price of the item.

Keep in mind that “Energy Efficient” and “Green Compliant” advertising is somewhat subjective and is in many ways just marketing. Check and compare to know what you are actually getting.

Now that you have everything unplugged and minimized, go through a couple of power and billing cycles and see what the usage is. This will give you a much better idea of what your real power usage is and how much power you need and want to produce.

I never said this was going to be a fast process, so don’t be afraid to tweak things and take the time. The more prepared you are going in the better the system you will have on the other side and happier you will be.

It is also a good idea to revisit this every 3 months to see what items have weaseled into the electrical system and if seasonal requirements are different.

Remember, this is planning, and it is your personal plan.

You are allowed to decide what it is you want to use, how you want to use it and how you are going to power it and the only person you are trying to impress is yourself.

At the end of this process you should have a handle on your electrical requirements and have a base number of how much electricity you would like to create or off set.

In the next step we will look at location and seeing how possible it is to achieve those goals.

Solar – The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

I have been getting a lot of questions about doing solar over the last while, so I thought I should do up an update.

The solar project is coming along, but has been a little more work than I had initially anticipated and has taken a lot longer than I had expected and hoped for.

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We are in the process of getting our final ground wire connected from all our gear on the roof of the garage to the main electrical panel in the house.

We have had a bit of a delay as our latest Master Electrician was off getting married and then we were hit with some rather inclement weather that has put a damper (literally) on things.

With luck we will have our electrical inspection for early next week and be able to put the whole thing live.

The solar project was an install of 5 kW of solar installed on the garage, which sounds simple enough, but there are some pit falls along the way that complicated things in our situation and as a result have taken a lot more time to implement than we expected.

This however is all good. I got to learn a lot in the process and we are getting to the power creating end.

I am going to put out some posts on the solar install over the next few weeks, breaking down the different steps and going over some of the things to think about when doing solar. With luck it will help those interested in getting an array installed and make the path a little easier.

I will start dropping out the posts starting next week in bite size segments.



Hail Storm And After Math

Last night we got hit with a pretty nasty hail storm. It started around 5:30 with hail that went until 6:30 and continued to pound rain until around 8:00 before calming down for the night.

I snapped a couple of pictures and did some video of the storm.


The hail knocked out our community grow beds and shredded all the plants.
IMG_1867 IMG_1868
The hail managed to strip the leaves off the apple tree with such force that they are actually stuck 6 feet up the side of the house, 10 feet from the apple tree.


Today we still have piles of hail all over the yard.

The greenhouse got hit as well finishing off the cucumbers and peppers that had already been hit by a power outage that starved our plants of water and made them wilt.

The melting hail also brought the temperatures in our tanks down in a dramatic fashion. As a result we lost another 12 fish.

I have yet to get on the garage roof to see the solar panels. It is still too wet for me to go up safely, so I will wait and cross my fingers that they all survived the onslaught.

This will end up definitely being well less than what we get out of our back yard as a norm for a summer.

As bad as all of this is, it could have been a lot worse. The house didn’t flood, we are all still safe and healthy and we can rebuild.


Solar Oven Debut And Solar Burner Update.

As an add on to our last post on the solar burner, we have received our SunOK Solar Oven.

SunOK Solar Oven

SunOK Solar Oven

“Whats with all the Solar stuff?” you may ask.

Simply we are looking at making our switch to solar energy more effective.

Part of the issue with going solar is that no matter how much you create, there is a cost to the creation of it and for this energy, the payback can be counted in years.

Minimizing the electrical usage and footprint is all part and parcel of the solar install which gives you a faster return on your electrical investment.

Lets break this down a little.

There are many things that just use electricity by being plugged in, even when not in use. Items with clocks and LED lights for example are constantly drawing and using electricity. These are the thieves of the electrical system. They usually go unnoticed or thought to draw so little power that they are accepted. The reality of these devices are they add up fast in electrical use and can end up costing you a lot of money over the course of a year if you pay for power and can make your investment of solar a lot longer to break even.

As part of the standard solar install, it is strongly suggested that you go through your home and start whittling down the electrical thieves that you don’t need. Unplugging unused TV’s, alarm clocks in spare rooms, electrical devices that you rarely use and calculating where your electrical use is wanted and needed are all part of this process.

The concept of take care of the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves comes to reality here.

After looking and resolving many of the small electrical use issues we found in our house, we looked at big ticket items that we use every day.

One of the items that shocked us was that of the oven in the house. We were amazed at the amount of electricity it uses and how that heating effects everything else in the house.

Cooking alone can run you 4 – 10% of a households power usage.

Household heating and cooling can rack up over 40% of your electrical use, and compensation for cooking in the summer can increase that many more percentage points.

We looked at options out there and did some investigation work. The solar oven and Burner were our solution to the problems in cutting down on some of our electrical usage.

The solar burner works like the burner on a stove. It provides high heat to a given location allowing for frying, searing, boiling and reheating in the exact same method you would use your stove.

Dinner, Solar Lamb Curry
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The solar burner heats up incredibly fast. There is no preheating to it. As soon as you put the pan in the focal point there is instant heat.

The Solar Oven takes the place of a traditional oven giving you the ability to bake.

Solar Oven Blackberry, blueberry, rhubarb crumble.
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We had a number of questions off of Facebook and one of the Solar Cooking groups we are involved with and did a fast video to explain some of how the unit works.

Combined, you have the perfect outdoor kitchen system that requires no other power supply than the sun.

These systems are also portable, meaning you can take them camping or on a day trip to make meals. Over that, with the number of fire bans we have had this year, this is the perfect method of cooking and adhering to the laws. There is nothing combustible about the solar cookers and they require no costly or weighty fuels.

We have been using the solar oven and the solar burner exclusively since we got them in place of our oven. It is amazing how well they work and how awesome it is to cook with just the sun.

New Bunnies For The Closed Loop Farm!

Alberta Aquaponics has never been just about aquaponics. We do a lot of stuff in our little back yard urban farm that many people just dont get from our name.

One of these things that we do is raise meat rabbits.

Raising meat rabbits is referred to as cuniculture.

The bunnies are part of our closed loop farming system and enhance our aquaponic garden. We strongly suggest them to anyone doing urban farming or considering doing aquaponics who have the space.

The rabbits eat the extra produce we grow lowing the direct waste to compost. We collect their waste and use it as a direct fertilizer in our community grow beds (bunny poop does not burn roots and is one of the few wastes you can directly add to soils for a supplement) but we also add it to the vermacomposter that feeds the worms.

The worms use the poop as food and break it down into even better compost that we can again add to our grow beds while the action of the worms composting creates heat that we can use in our greenhouse over the winter months.

We then harvest the worms to supplement our fish feed which in turn provides the fish waste that grows more plants to start the cycle over again.

Over this we also use the heat given off by the bunnies during the winter time to heat our greenhouse and keep us growing year round. (By moving the bunnies inside the greenhouse over the winter, the bunnies are given a little more protection from the elements and in turn they help heat the greenhouse up keeping the cold weather crops going for their food and ours.)

We produce around 300 – 500 lbs of meat from our meat rabbits every year as a norm. (This works out as a huge cost savings for meat seeing as a frozen non-organic rabbit sells for around $9.00/lb.)

We had a couple of females that we had to retire this year because of age.

Older rabbits slow down on the reproduction and take a lot longer to build back up to reproduce again between each batch of kits. Our bunnies that we replaced were both over 4.5 years old, which is a pretty lengthy life for a rabbit (the average lifespan is around 5 years).

An average large breed female should produce 16 – 24 bunnies a year and they should dress out at 5 – 10 lbs per rabbit.

This weekend we picked up two new bunnies to add to the collection of breeders.

The first is a female Albino, Flemish Giant Cross who was born on May 12, 2015. She is a little young yet for breeding, but come around February, she should be ready to start producing for us.

Albino Flemish Giant Cross

Albino Flemish Giant Cross

She is still a little shy but is starting to come around to at least letting us hang out with her a couple of times a day, if not coming over to bound into our laps just yet.

The second bunny we picked up is a Female Silver Fox / Flemish Giant Cross who was born in February of 2015 and is about two months from starting to breed for us.

Silver Fox Flemish Giant Cross

Silver Fox Flemish Giant Cross

She is also a little on the shy side and needs to be handled a little more to bring her in line with the friendliness of our other rabbits.  We expect that the two months before breeding is just enough time for her to become comfortable with us and settle down some before we start her being a mommy and teaching the kits.

Neither of these bunnies have names yet, so we are putting it out to you to put in suggestions for what to call our two new sweethearts.

Give us your feedback and let us know your suggestions. We will tally the suggestions and whittle them down to a top list for people to vote on. Please remember that we have a lot of folks that come through our yard and a lot of kids, so family friendly names for suggestions are needed.

Solar Cooker Debut

Not aquaponics, but very awesome and cool as well as a new addition to the place; we have our first solar cooker.


Dinner, Solar Lamb Curry
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The first of two solar cookers arrived today. This is a Solar Burner, which is basically a 5 foot parabolic dish that is a cooking implement.

The unit took about 45 minutes to put together, about the same length of time it took to prep and make the Solar Lamb Curry that we had tonight for dinner.

Everyone should be using the sun to make dinner!

This thing is wicked cool!

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