Can I build a fully automated aquaponics system? More questions than answers…

Photo by Lettuce Grow on Unsplash

There was a time when I was obsessing over aquaponics. This was back when I lived in an apartment with a close friend of mine.

My goal was to develop an aquaponic system that essentially paid for itself.

I read a book, listened to a podcast, and spent hours researching online. I got over the knowledge hump of, “this is going to be cake!” and got to, “Wow! there’s so much to think about…”.

Water is wonderful but finicky. It weighs about 8.3 pounds per gallon and can create a lot of moisture (no duh). So if your fish need about 50 gallons of water and your grow bed is about 50 gallons of water, then you’re looking at 800 pounds of water. Not only that, I would have been growing inside, possibly creating enough moisture in my room for mold to accumulate. Not to mention the electrical bill from pumps, lights, aerator, etc.

Needless to say, I didn’t build an aquaponic system.

But that was then. Today is now and today, I am in a house. Woo! I have no excuses. None whatsoever… It’s time to build an aquaponic system.

Day 1

Aquaponic systems must have power. At the minimum, you need a way to pump water to the top of the system.

Also, I’m lazy. I want an automated system that requires very little maintenance.

Also, at the top of my mind is how to keep the fish, bacteria, and plants comfortable (alive) all year round. After all, it will take about a year for a fish to fully mature.

So instead of creating a full-fledged aquaponics system at one time, I will take a gradual approach. I will automate tracking the temperature of the water and alerting myself when the temperature gets too low (or too high).

It’s literally day one as I’m writing this and so I have nothing to show but I do have a plan and some questions to answer.

The Program

I want to create this program with nodejs because I like javascript. Also, the system doesn’t need to be super fast. I imagine the system will do a couple of things.

  1. Record data (water and air temperature) every minute.
  2. React to data.

Obviously, that is too simplistic but that’s where I’m at. If the program has a whole minute to react to the data being recorded then I don’t need a speedy python or R implementation. And I hear you, python is super easy to use but javascript has its own bells and whistles that I’m more comfortable with.

The Questions

At this point, I have more questions than answers. Here are several of my top questions.

I did look this one up. Arduinos are good for single tasks. Raspberry Pis are good for many tasks.

Eventually, I want this software to perform many tasks and so Raspberry Pi is probably what I’ll choose.

At this point, I can use my laptop but at least I don’t need to think about it anymore.

I need to be able to record the temperature from some thermometer peripheral. How do I do that?

I don’t like spending money without knowing something will work but I’m going to need to buy a thermometer and just see if I can record the temperature from it.

It's probably more difficult than that. I have found some open-source software and so I will continue to research but at some point, I will have to buy a thermometer and try to access it through a nodejs program.

Maybe I can do something easier like accessing my mouse in a nodejs program and see how that works.

In any case, I have found these resources.

  1. https://github.com/sebhildebrandt/systeminformation
  2. https://github.com/nebrius/raspi-io

Aquaponic systems need power and so there needs to be a backup. Secondly, if there is a manual switch to press, how will you know to turn that switch on?

This isn’t something I need to answer right away but I have an idea.

Ultimately, I want to route all power through a single computer with a battery. I know this probably is too simplistic but I think it’s a good starting point.

My only question from there is battery maintenance. The battery would probably die if I always had the system plugged in, which would defeat the purpose of having the battery. But maybe there is a way to control switching between the battery and power supply.

Conclusion

I’m starting to build a fully automated aquaponic system but not all at once.

For now, I’m wondering how cold water gets during the winter months and how to automate recording that information and reacting to that information.

Software Engineer

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store