Aquaponics has been the buzz word for quite some time within the garden community, and rightfully so. The desire to be self-sufficient and self-reliant has never been stronger. Folks of all ages and all walks of life are beginning to look at these closed ecosystems as they seek skills to learn how to grow food, cook from scratch, raise farm animals, and repair and repurpose what is old and tired into something that is new and useful.
The question always comes up, “How can I do an Aquaponic system, when I am still renting?”
How You Do Aquaponics When You Rent – Set Your Mind
It seems that just about every time you turn around, someone is talking about growing food with aquaponics, or there are posts about it all over your social media feeds. Those in the garden community who own their homes and property all seem like they are getting their systems and constructing gardens to grow food.
Maybe you have always wanted to do something like aquaponics, and have dreamt (like me) of having a large grow bed numbers fed by your choice of fish somewhere out of the city filled with thriving plants, fish, and the proper ph balance. The problem is for a greater portion of you are renting. Because of that, you may write off aquaponics as something that is ‘impossible’ or ‘it will happen someday.’ This is the first fatal step people make in realizing their dream. If you are serious about it, you have to decide that you are going to have an aquaponic system, no matter where you are.
You have to change the way you approach aquaponics.
We live in a rental – and we are running a system. We have had to take into consideration that what we are building and look to expand on will at one time or another need to be taken down and moved. Thus with our desktop unit as well as our greenhouse plans have that in mind, of portability and ease of disassembling.
As we were growing up we had been told by our religious leaders to have a year’s worth of food storage for our family, since the 1970s. Through the years we have ebbed and flowed with this admonition for self-sufficiency on a greater scale. We have at times, relied heavily on these foodstuffs storage as well as the occasional traditional garden that we in the past been able to plant.
The food growing side has been more of a challenge. We discussed over the years the fact that we have more than not rented the places we chose to live and would be limited to just how much we could do. We knew it would be a challenge. I was absolutely determined though. I had made up my mind and nothing was going to stop me.
Six or so years ago I began researching what could I do to be able to follow that food storage advice, as well as growing what I would like to have to eat, all the while in the rentals we were habitating… what could be possible? It is what the researching did to my mental state that I want to stress here. Growing your own food, smartly as you can with Aquaponics, was incredibly appealing to me. Having the knowledge and the hands-on experience in running a system could not only help me but those around me. The more I looked into aquaponics, the more I realized that there is no ‘one size fits all’ configurations for exactly what it is needed.
Aquaponics is varied in what you can do with it, how you can set it up, and what you can grow in the grow beds. There are so many configurations that you can ask 5 people who are practicing Aquaponic growing and you will get 5 different ways on how to do it.
My personal set up? You will see me actually building it in the video section of ThatAquaponicsGuy site. Suffice to say here, with a small short term investment of about $300 and time, patience and study you too can make your very own Desktop Kit. Of course, we also have one ready-made for you, click here. You have to also make some ongoing expenditures to keep the system running optimally as well as, monitoring the system’s ph balance and temperatures.
Back to the mental approach to Aquaponics. In the course of those last 6 years, I changed how I looked at my present situations and added the knowledge I needed to have to bring this dream into reality. It is not what you have or can buy that makes you an Aquaponics practitioner. It is more of how you look at the world around you, the tools and resources you have available and thinking outside the box to adapt your resources with your needs. There is an incredible satisfaction that is derived from turning something that others may have discarded into something that helps you be more self-reliant.
The most significant change I have noticed in how we look at the world around us and approach projects was the idea that we can do it ourselves.
Don’t know quite how you want to set up your bio-filter on the system? Head over to the ever-knowing Google and type it your question in the browser. I know what you’re saying, “I am not all that computer literate, or how can just simply putting into Google help me?” Well, you are correct. Where the knowledge lays, and there is no action upon it, the advice, the tips, the step-by-steps are good for nothing. The situation applies because these are the wonderful resources readily available. You don’t have to recreate the wheel, to see success with it, only use it to your advantage.
The point is, you have to break the idea that to do something, you need to discover it anew. It is the rather, get the ideas and with your other material resources, new or not start building your system to meet your space and food requirements.
If you live in a large city, you have access to more of those kinds of libraries, and people or places that are doing Aquaponics. If you have a balcony, you could build a little greenhouse of sorts to place your ecosystem in. It is all about the mindset. You have to stop the “I can’t do that because…” and challenge your imagination to come up with ways you “Could do it this way…” Chances are pretty darn high that someone else has already done it and talked about it on the Internet.
Of course, sometimes you simply can’t do a project you want to because of the rules of where you live or physical limitations, not to mention financial ones. So, shift your focus. Can you do it on a smaller scale and build up? Do you know someone who would let you do the project on their property and everyone benefits?
The Other Side
Another important part of the Aquaponics mentality is the acceptance of failures and limitations overall.
Even if you had the 50 acres of pristine land and all the grow beds you dream of now, you can’t do it all! Not everyone can grow everything they want to. Not without help anyway! Networking and bartering are integrated into the lifestyle of self-sustenance. Maybe you are able to grow some fantastic cherry tomatoes on your balcony or in your window and end up with an abundance. That person you met at the farmer’s market last week who also grows food on their balcony has an abundance of peppers. Trading with them makes sure nothing goes to waste, not to mention now you have more variety!
It’s the network you create with others that helps you get over the disappointing times of building, cycling, and managing your system when you rent. Sometimes those limitations seem to creep in on you and you just want to kick them down! You may feel the urge to scream for wanting the full-blown greenhouse fish-filled system so badly and being unable to get it. I’ve been there many times over the last couple of years. My friends both off and online help me get over it. They inspire me and remind me that even though I rent, I now have a whole new set of skills I have learned that will allow me to hit the ground running when the land does come through. They also usually have some great suggestions on how I can overcome the challenges.
Changing your lifestyle starts with changing your mentality.
Some challenges will be greater than others and your determination will play a key role in your success. Keeping the balance between thinking outside the box to work around restrictions and knowing when to focus your efforts elsewhere can be one of the greatest challenges of all. If you really want to homestead, it does not matter where you live. What matters is how you think, how you use your resources, and learning the skills to provide more of what you need for yourself.
Once you have made the choice that you want to pursue Aquaponics for life, the next step is to Make the Plan which will be part two in this series, How to Aquaponics When You Rent.
As much as I dream of a full ecosystem with acres of land and unlimited vistas of fruit trees and grow beds, that is simply not in the cards currently. That said, I am happy to grow medicinal herbs and peppers, bake my own bread, and craft as many personal products as I can for my own use. That is how I ‘Aquaponic’.
Remember, Aquaponics is not a one size fits all. My challenge to you is to move beyond your dream and get started. Let us grow not only as gardeners, but as Sub-Urbian Farmers, too. We all can do it!