Aquaponics is So EASY: Plant, Harvest and Feed the Fish

Aquaponics is So EASY: Plant, Harvest and Feed the Fish
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis

Aquaponics is a balance of water, fish, plants and bacteria.

A balance of these four components is what makes a successful aquaponics system.

Mozambique tilapia


The tilapia fish in Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems are healthy. Our plants grow to maturation and ripeness because our systems work and we know how to operate them because, over time, we’ve learned our lessons from trial-and-error mistakes and we’ve learned our wisdom through experimentation, guidance from botanists, chemists, other aquaponists around the world (there are far fewer than you might imagine), and our customers.

We seldom, if ever, lose fish. We have lost a few, but very few over the years and it was due to unique reasons and not disease. Because of our technology and the ‘human factor,’ which we teach our customers, we are happy to report our fish are extremely healthy and here are some tips you can use in your own aquaponics systems to create a productive system:

  • Always provide your fish with proper aeration, good food, insulation from cold or excessive heat
  • Keep your fish from being stressed. When fish become stressed, it lowers their immune system and they can become susceptible to disease.
    • Experiment with plants and seed selections and determine what works best in your aquaponics system in your climate.
    • Since space is at a premium in any aquaponics Grow Tray, maximum production is achieved by careful attention to size, quality and grow time for seeds.
    • Implement stalking and support systems to encourage vertical growth of plants that bear heavy fruits and vegetables (tomatoes, zucchini, etc.)
    • Protect plants at all times of their growth and maturation. Protection from wind, humidity, extreme temperatures (hot or cold), insects, disease or predators.
    • Pay close attention to water flow with appropriate levels of nutrient from fish waste.
    • Take care of plants that require pruning unneeded branches.
    • Don’t allow plants with large root systems to remain in grow trays too long. For example, the root system on a tomato plants grows very wide and very deep like a 4 inch thick carpet under the gravel and will alter water flow for the rest of the Grow Tray.
    • Study indoor pollinating techniques designed for non-pollinating and self-pollinating plants.
    • Apply effective and safe oportable-farms-greens-swiss-chard-kalerganic methods for treating plants IF they need support (seldom needed, but occasionally, you might have a problem) for any type of bugs including ants, aphids, red spiders, etc.
    • Learn effective harvest and planting cycles that are crucial to maximize yield in all aquaponics systems.
    • Use grow lights from 4:00PM to 8:00PM from Mid-November to March 1 if living in the Northern Hemisphere so you can grow various crops year round that require a longer grow day.
    • Tilapia are friendly (even clown like) and they enjoy human interaction. Talk to your fish when you feed them and treat them with respect and they will respond by being healthy and growing to maturation.
    • Never overfeed your fish. It’s tempting to overfeed them because they ‘frenzy’ when you feed them and it’s entertaining to watch them jumping around, but the fish are healthier if you’ll feed them only what they can eat in 15 seconds.
    • Don’t overcrowd the fish tanks and make sure the tanks are always clear and clean.
    • Empty the Clarifier/Settling tank regularly so their water does not foul with ammonia buildups.
    • Never, ever, use chemicals that could harm the fish, plants or the system.
    • Add make-up water during times of hot weather by placing the hose in the grow trays before it circulates back into their fish tank.
    • Feed your fish nutritious a high-protein fish food and even duckweed if you have it available.
    • Give your fish occasional treats of organic chopped greens grown in the farm.

Cheap Aquaponics “Startup Fish”

Cheap Aquaponics “Startup Fish”
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis

“Can we use goldfish or crayfish or something besides tilapia in our backyard aquaponics system?”

gowithflowThis is a frequently asked question and prompted a conversation with a new ‘aquaponist’ at my local Home Depot store which has prompted me to make a list of the fish that can be used in aquaponics for new aquaponics farmers to get started with because of choice or local regulations or restrictions.

The gentleman in the plumbing section of Home Depot had to help me find a component we use to manufacture the PFAS Kits and he asked me what I was using so many, I told him they were used in our manufacturing process. He said, (you will not believe this), ‘Oh, are you doing aquaponics?’

I nearly fell down from surprise. He explained that he had a small aquaponics system in his backyard and was using goldfish poop to raise the most amazing basil and peppers he had ever seen. It’s a small world to meet someone with an aquaponics system that actually guessed what I was building. His explanation was that another fellow builds hydroponic systems for people and uses the same item in a very different way. But back on topic. . .

The list of aquatic animals below includes enough species so you can get started today with a tiny aquaponics system to learn and grow with to see how amazing the technology really is at growing vegetables and fish. My original setup was a dishpan with aquarium gravel laid across an aquarium. The fish happened to be tilapia because it was my job at UC Davis (back in the early 1970’s) to clean the fish tanks, a nasty smelly job.

Each species has different requirements and are more or less hardy and easy to maintain. The list below is not all-inclusive, but is meant to be a basis for an inexpensive beginner aquaponics setup so you can get your hands wet.

By providing these fish with a clean water supply, aeration and food, you are ensuring a constant supply of the finest poop your system can handle.

Two caveats here:

  1. You will lose fish – this means some of them will die. Get used to it, its farming.
  2. Unless you are using the PFAS, you will have problems with sediment in the gravel so you will have to clean the gravel occasionally. Get used to it, its farming.

With the PFAS the #2 above is not true. Oh, and to use the PFAS you will need to complete the Aquaponics University Portable Farms Aquaponics Systems Course.

GoldfishHardy, readily available, poop a lotCheapTough to find a constant market – not for eating
KoiHardy, readily salable as ornamentals, can be fed cheap dog food, do not have to replace very oftenRelatively cheapNo one eats them, limited market
CatfishHardy, grow fast, seasonally available, chow is commercially availableRelatively cheapSeasonal availability of fry and depressed markets
CarpReally hardy, fast growing, will eat almost anythingMay be tricky to obtain fryNo food market in US
Crayfish/PrawnsCan be raised in conjunction with any other fin fish or by themselves.Relatively inexpensive to obtainMost are cannibalistic and must be provided housing (short sections of PVC pipe) to keep any number to harvest size.
PerchNew candidate – Feed just becoming availableNot cheapRegional markets only
BassNot recommended because you have to feed them live baitRelatively inexpensiveFish and Wildlife regulations on sale for food


Aquaponics for Beginners

Aquaponics for Beginners
By Colle and Phyllis Davis

There are literally millions of pages on the Internet about the topic of aquaponics.


PFAS LLC’s website has been visited several million times over the last 12 months, and we are only one of the many other sites available. To start the journey of having a working aquaponics system, the best place to start is to begin to search the Internet and devote several hours of time to do the research and then assemble your own unique aquaponics system.

Begin with one beta fish or gold fish in a bowl to support one lettuce plant. Grow your interest to feed your family and then if the stars align, install a community garden. BEGIN SMALL and grow from there.

If you’re interested in owning your own aquaponics system, your first goal is to select the size aquaponics system you’d like to operate for your own unique purposes. We always suggest to our customers that they learn how to successfully operate an aquaponics system and if it fits their needs THEN expand to multiple aquaponics modules (the sky’s the limit).

There are literally thousands of websites that can show you how to set up a small workable open-source backyard hobby-aquaponics systems without paying for the information. For those who are not able to purchase our systems, we suggest you START TODAY by working with online/open source information so you can learn about aquaponics and build your own farm. We also suggest you visit online aquaponics forums so you can ask questions you may have from other aquaponics enthusiasts. 

Please do all the research you need to feel comfortable moving forward with your aquaponics project. Some quick numbers that will be helpful:

  • IF you place your small system inside, as in garage or basement, be prepared to spend a few hundred dollars on the very smallest system that will be a joy to show off to your friends and enjoy a few vegetables each year. Indoors, if you build a larger system (4 x 8’ grow tray size) be prepared to spend a little over $1,000 and that will help feed one and a third people. More fun and more bragging.
  • If you go absolutely crazy and put up a greenhouse or ‘big’ installation to feed 4 to 8 people then you are looking at an investment in the US$3,500 to US$8,000 range (depending on your choice of greenhouse).

farm 8 18 2012 aquaponicsWe call this process of starting small and expanding the size of your aquaponics system ‘getting your hands wet’ because even if one possesses all the knowledge in the world about a topic (in this case aquaponics), it will not feed a single person; only ACTION GROWS FOOD and in this case several steps are required before it creates food that nourishes someone and that action has an impact.  Start with research, build a small aquarium and dish pan system, move up to garbage cans or IBC totes, go crazy and build a ‘real’ system so you can kill fish and plants. Oh, sorry, you may not want to hear that, but that is what will happen. That is how one learns, by making mistakes.

aquaponics back yard farmIn the world of makers and successful businesses there is a motto: Fail fast and fail often. This means you will try things and if they work, keep them, if they fail, try something else. Side note here: we have killed thousands of fish in our 45 years in the field of aquaponics. Some we ate, some were our own dumb mistakes coming to bite us and some were out of unintended consequences.

Back to getting a running start in aquaponics. Start somewhere, at some level, now. Modern aquaponics is a brand new field because it encompasses recent technology and innovation along with successful techniques from the past. Aquaponics is evolving rapidly and slowly becoming main stream. The commercial side of aquaponics may take another ten or twenty years to accept on par with hydroponics, but it will happen.

It is the hobbyist, gardener, cook and home owner who are leading the charge on this ‘new’ technology, not the big companies, governments or NGO’s. Aquaponics is up close and personal as only eating can be and it is the opportunity to eat the best food on earth, every day, for a long as you live.

The important part is to get started NOW. Have fun, make mistakes and eat great food.

Portable Farms® – Go Solar and OFF GRID. So, Sexy.

Portable Farms® – Go Solar and OFF GRID. So, Sexy.
– By Colle and Phyllis Davis

PFAS LL offers Portable Farms® Kits designed for SOLAR installations.

The PFAS LLC Research Center installation at our headquarters in Southern Florida has operated on solar power since last August and has not missed a beat. The system is 100% solar powered and you too can have a system solar powered Portable Farms® with 12v air compressors and timers.

Full disclosure: We use a slightly modified solar electric system with a 12VDC to 110v AC converter for the large air pump because of the noise factor. We have on hand and have used a 12v air compressor for the CAD Pump and it works just fine but is much noisier than the 110VAC compressor. You have been forewarned. 🙂

Solar Aquaponics GOLD

Let us show you HOW, WHY, WHAT, WHERE and HOW MUCH it costs to install your own solar powered system for YOUR aquaponics system.

The PFAS LLC Florida solar electrical system:

solar panel

  A single 100 watt panel installed next to a Portable Farms® Aquaponics System        

The increasing demand from our students in areas of the world where electrical power is erratic or non-existent has prompted us to offer the Portable Farms® Kit that is part of the Aquaponics University Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems Course© with a 12 volt DC OPTION. The price is exactly the same as the regular 110 AC system, but we need to know when you order the AU Course or additional Portable Farms® Kits that you want the 12volt option.

With the price of solar panels continuing to drop, the price/value proposition has swung over to favor the solar installations EVEN IF YOU HAVE GRID POWER. For example, the system in use –shown above – is a 100watt panel, MPPT controller, a 12v constantly on air pump for the air stones, a 12v timer, (here is where the difference in our system lies) a 700watt converter 12/110 to run a 110 VAC 65lmp air pump to run the CAD Pump and one deep cycle marine battery. That’s it. The system is bullet proof with all the controls on a panel under the Grow Table.


What will ‘going solar’ do for you?

  • Reduce the worry of a power failure that could impact your fish.
  • Reduce the cost of electrical power from your house. Our system will take about 2 year to pay for itself because so little power is needed for the Portable Farms®.
  • Increasing the solar installation size to run Grow Lights for winter growing will quadruple the size/cost and will take about 3.5 years to pay off depending on the size of the installation.
  • Give you incredibly huge bragging rights.
  • Reduce your carbon footprint.

There you have it, PFAS LLC has made solar power components an option with their Portable Farms® Kits. If you are planning a commercial installation the needs of a 10,000 sq ft (1,000m2) climatically adapted building on solar is about the same as a small 2 bedroom house. The main difference is that the Portable Farms® uses the most electricity when the sun is shining so the battery bank can be much smaller than for a house.

To insure you receive the correct power components for your Portable Farms® Kit(s) you must notify us when you receive your Congratulations on Graduating Letter (or before) so we send you the right Portable Farms® Kit.

Begin reducing your carbon footprint and enroll in the Aquaponics University Portable Farms Aquaponics Systems Course© today and let us know when you start, that you are joining the solar revolution and want the 12volt Portable Farms® Kit for your installation.

Vertical Growing in Aquaponics

Vertical Growing in Aquaponics
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis


Every inch of space in an aquaponics tray is high-value ‘real estate’ for growing food. Unlike ‘dirt gardens,’ there’s no room for plants to spread their luscious leaves, vines and blossoms across a large area as they mature to produce food.

The rule of thumb (make that a GREEN thumb) is for food to grow as quickly as possible. In other words: Plant it, grow it, harvest it and then repeat the process immediately by planting a new plant that was grown from seed (over a few days) on the SAME DAY the previous plant was harvested, so there is always a continuous cycle of production, and there are always plants in various stages of growth within the farm.

The two years PFAS LLC spent in our Research Center in the Tropics highlighted the problems created from the constant heat and high humidity which forced us to find solutions to this ongoing problems for creating ample air flow, suspension of the plants for vertical growing and allowing for adequate sunshine within the greenhouse. By continual experimentation with locally available materials, we invented a simple trellis system using chicken wire (made of wire or plastic) with 2″ openings and clothes-line rope which solved all our problems. It was very inexpensive and easy to install. THE PLANTS LOVED IT. Their blossoms stayed dry. The new system took the pressure of the stems and vines and allowed for sunshine to reach all parts of the plant and happily, our production soared. When the plants were small, they did require a minimal amount of tying (to the clothes line rope) and then they did the rest on their own! Some of the larger stems require us to delicately thread them through the chicken wire so they would grow naturally.

After 30 days of plant growth (green beans) with the Portable Farms Trellis’ System

After 45 days of plant growth (green beans) with a Portable Farms Trellis.

Two frames containing plastic chicken wire suspeded above grow trays to support growing blooming plants.

Tie soft clothes line rope on top wire from top tray to support growing plants for vertical growing.

The Portable Farms tropical trellis system is yours to copy, modify and use in your own backyard ‘dirt farm,’ your backyard aquaponics system or your commercial aquaponics installation. It’s our gift to you. Now go grow food and send us pictures.


Marijuana Growing in Aquaponics – Part 3

Marijuana Growing in Aquaponics – Part 3

By Colle and Phyllis Davis 

Read our Three-Part Series on Marijuana Growing in Aquaponics

Marijuana Growing in Aquaponics – Part 1

Marijuana Growing in Aquaponics – Part 2

Marijuana Growing in Aquaponics – Part 3


We devote our final article in this three-part series focused on growing medicinal herbs in aquaponics for maximizing the growth of marijuana. This article excludes all other aquaponics’ crops and focuses solely on giving the herbs the most significant advantages they require to produce the best plant, bud, and quality.

Marijuana growing in both hydroponics and aquaponics has been a mainstay in both industries for years.

We have offered a state-by-state list of US states that allow and those
that do not allow growing marijuana in
Part 1 of this series.

  • Growing marijuana with hydroponics has been popular for decades. Growers simply put a few seeds in a half-dozen pots filled with soil and placed the pots in the bottom of their closet with artificial lighting and enjoyed the results.
  • In addition, growing marijuana in aquaponics has been a popular way to raise the plants in grow tables installed in private garages and basements with the addition of artificial lighting.

Mustard Greens growing in a Portable Farms Aquaponics System Grow Table.

Maximizing your production requires more time, effort, and money in the planning, building, and growing phases of your operation.

    • Start by creating a completely controlled environment for your crop. Each facet added to increased production and better product.
    • Monitor the air temperature, air mix, air flow and humidity. each facet added to increased production and better product.
    • Establish 16 to 18 hours of red/blue LED lighting for highest bud growth, and healthy fish. (the fish also need full spectrum lighting)

Interesting side note: Today’s herb is of such high-quality, a user rarely sees any seeds. A few years back, they were added to increase the weight. Now, the seeds are removed so the consumer cannot grow their own plants.

  • Indoor growing is best because it allows the control of all the growth factors and reduces the public view of your operation. Marijuana has been grown this way for decades, and the art and science of indoor growing are well established. The major difference is that aquaponics uses fish affluent and Fish-Friendly Mineral Rock Dust as the nutrient source instead of using hydroponic’ s chemicals or soil.
  • A light-tight space where the lighting is controlled by timers is the most effective. The red/blue LED light fixtures are available from many sources and yes, they are expensive. When growing a single crop consistently in the same space, it will always be costly, and it needs more care and attention. Plus, you will have a slight cost-uptick in your electrical costs.
  • We are starting with the growing medium and the Grow Tables. The best depth for growing marijuana appears to be 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30cm). The medium is less critical and the use of clay pellets (expensive) or ¾ inch (1.9cm) gravel are both equally effective.

Important note: Medium, especially gravel, is HEAVY. A Grow Table 10 inches (25cm) deep by 6 ft x 32 ft (1.8 x 9.75) will weigh several tons. Build the Grow Tables to support that weight. Wherever the Grow Table is resting, needs to be very sturdy and preferably installed on concrete.

The flood and drain method of watering the crop (filling the Grow Table and draining the Grow Table) produces the best conditions for healthy root-systems, top growth, and full maturation of the plant.

In nature, marijuana prefers a sandy soil that receives water regularly and then drains quickly. The medium (gravel or clay pellets) used in the aquaponics’ Grow Table retains the moisture for a full day, plus, the large gravel or clay pellets stay moist. Cycling the available water once a day is adequate. This timing allows the roots to be exposed to air most of the time. The plants grow faster and healthier using this once a day watering.

Providing water for an hour or two (two full cycles of flood and drain) early in the morning provides all the water and nutrients the plants can use for the day. Set the Grow Table to drain fully twice and make sure the fill water stops just as the second draining begins. This timing allows most of the water to drain out, so the roots are not sitting in water all day.

Growing Medium for seedlings to be moved into a Grow Table.

The only additional nutrient you may want to include is the FF-Mineral Rock Dust that provides the micro-nutrients necessary and does not add aluminum (retards root growth) or nitrogen (fish effluent provides ample nitrogen) to the water.

Fish Friendly (FF) Mineral Rock Dust provides aquaponics’ growers the perfect balance of four major trace elements not consistently available from your fish poop. Growing flowering herbs that blossom in aquaponics flourishes with the addition of FF Mineral Rock Dust. For example, it is widely used for growing tomatoes, peppers, beans, cucumbers, etc. Your marijuana plants will receive the nitrogen from your fish poop. The calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium are available from the FF Mineral Rock Dust and 57 other trace elements that promote plant growth. FF Mineral Rock Dust is best applied to the seedlings during their sprouting stage prior to installing in the Grow Table.

The fish effluent is an ideal fertilizer source, so you can use any warm water, freshwater species of fish you want, including catfish, tilapia, perch, crayfish, prawns, and others. Make sure you can buy the feed for them before choosing your fertilizer source.

One more suggestion that may be the hardest for you to pull off. Raise two crops of lettuce in the Grow Table before you plant and grow your marijuana plants. The Grow Table bacteria needs to cure, and the lettuce is a quick easy crop that will help the medium cure to prepare it to produce a great crop of herb. Lettuce only take 28 to 35 days to mature, and the wait is worth the effort. Besides, you can eat the lettuce while you wait for the system to cure.

Good luck, and if you have specific questions on any of the information in this series or want to start your own Portable Farm, please send us an email so we can respond.

Community Aquaponics is the HOT NEW TREND

Community Aquaponics is the HOT NEW TREND
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis

The impact of a single community aquaponics system is much larger than the excellent ROI (Return on Investment) and high monthly income. The impact of multiple units has a profound effect on virtually every aspect of a community.

botswana10,000 Sq ft Portable Farms Aquaponics System Commercial Farm Installed in Botswana, Africa


Commercial and community aquaponics systems have now proven themselves over the last two decades and are becoming more effective and efficient as the technology improves. Many people are contributing to the movement and it now appears that community aquaponics has finally arrived as a viable alternative to the easily disrupted food supply and the huge increase in the demand for locally grown, pesticide free food.

For investors looking for an ROI in the two to four year range, a construction company looking for a new arena to expand into over the next decade or two or even a Ministry of Agriculture or an NGO wanting to improve the lives of local people, community aquaponics is a viable option to address their desired outcomes to provide food and work for local people.

The large community installations employ local people on both a temporary (building the systems) and permanent basis (operating, harvesting and planting) and contribute to the local economy. The initial markets are necessarily local markets; resort hotels, high-end restaurants, foodies and specialty markets catering to the wealthy. Within the next few years, community aquaponics systems will contribute to local food supplies on a much broader scale (supermarkets and institutional growing for schools and prisons), but initially they may only contribute to the local economy through job creation.

For instance: An investor group planning to install a commercial (10,000 sq ft – 1/4 acre, 1,000m2) Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems next to a restaurant in a major US city. Here is what they are planning to accomplish with their very first installation:

  1. Showcase the use of aquaponics as a LOCAL FOOD SOURCE

  2. Deliver locally grown, pesticide free vegetables to their customers not treated with chemicals

  3. Place locally grown fresh-water healthy fish on the menu that were not treated with chemicals or any kind

  4. Reduce transportation costs for most vegetables to ZERO

  5. Serve food that was harvested on the DAY it was meant to be harvested which enhances both the flavor and the nutritional content of the food

  6. Dramatically reduces their carbon footprint

  7. Reduces storage costs because the food is harvested as needed

  8. Reduces prep time because the crops are harvested only as needed

  9. Supply their patrons with the excess production at regular store prices.

Plus the investor group will also reap these benefits:

  1. Realize an ROI of two to four years

  2. Net-net income for 1/4 acre is approximately US$100,000 or more depending on restaurant margins and the selection of crops you grow and sell to them

  3. Become their own supplier for many of the vegetables they now purchase through wholesalers

  4. Have the marketing lead to themselves in their niche for at least two years

  5. Become local spokespersons for using local suppliers and growers

  6. Offers owners ‘bragging rights’ to attract news coverage in the media. Also offers a ‘hook’ for advertising and articles about their aquaponics system to talk about on their website to boast the use of locally grown organic food that was planted, raised and harvested onsite or locally. This alone is worth its price of investment. Word travels fast and people will drive for miles to experience an innovative approach in dining and shopping.


To have the opportunity to invest in anything that has an ROI of less than five years is very tempting and when the investment comes with all of the above benefits, the long term impact for both the investor and the community continues to grow.

Multiple installations add several more benefits to the equation.

  1. The impact on local employment grows in direct proportion to each new installation

  2. The ancillary services to support the aquaponics installations creates jobs and even new businesses

  3. Tax revenue increases to better serve the community’s needs

  4. A stabilized workforce is more resilient to economic disruptions

  5. The less a community depends on imported energy and food, the more stable the community

  6. Eventually, a surplus may be developed and shipping to other areas

  7. The area could even become a net exporter of food.

The question now is, “How can an individual or group step into the community aquaponics business?”

The answer is, “Be prepared to spend some money to determine the feasibility of your chosen location and to work with engineers and experts to establish the cost and benefits for your project.”

Marijuana Growing in Aquaponics – Part 2 

Marijuana Growing in Aquaponics – Part 2

By Colle and Phyllis Davis 

Read our Three-Part Series on Marijuana Growing in Aquaponics

Marijuana Growing in Aquaponics – Part 1

Marijuana Growing in Aquaponics – Part 2

Marijuana Growing in Aquaponics – Part 3


Marijuana flowering buds  ( cannabis), hemp plant.

This second installation of our series on growing medical and other herbs in aquaponics and will show you the modifications from a vegetable-focused growing to an ‘herb’ favored one. The third and final installation will discuss the method for growing only marijuana in medium based aquaponics.

Most herbs, primarily basil and mint, prefer a dryer medium to maximize their growth and potency. Creating the right conditions for marijuana requires modifications to the aquaponics grow table, the lighting, and the cycling of the nutrient-laden water.

Please remember, the information in this three-part series on Marijuana Growing discusses growing this herb in a medium based aquaponics system. Any other type of aquaponics system is out of our purview, and you will have to go elsewhere for information specific to your different setup.

We have offered a state-by-state list of US states that allow and those that do not allow growing marijuana in Part 1 of this series.

We recommend the use of our Fish-Friendly Mineral Rock Dust to aid in the blossoming of the herb which requires adequate levels of calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium. The nutrients in fish waste provides ample levels of nitrogen, but it does not have the trace elements that encourage bountiful blossom growth.


Building the Grow Table/tray deeper improves the production of herbs. This deeper tray is the biggest single item to increase yield, but it requires planning ahead before you start building. Most medium based grow tables are between 4.5 inches and 6 inches (11.4cm x 15.2cm) deep.


Making the Grow Tables an inch or two deeper gives the gravel a chance to dry out more between watering cycles. The gravel stays moist, and the bacteria on it are happy, healthy, and willing to give up nutrients to the plants.

    • Using 2 x 8-inch (5 x 20cm) sideboards increase the water capacity by 50 to 70%.
    • Be careful when sizing your fish tank, so it neither runs over nor gets too low at full cycle capacity.
    • A Grow Table that is 7.5 inches deep by 6 feet wide and 16 feet long will contain several tons of gravel and water and requires a solid base or footing to ensure it stays level.

Improved lighting to ensure 10 to 14 hours of growing time increases the yield of all crops. Adding blue and red LED lights will add to the production of your plants, especially the ones that fruit, such as tomatoes. Too much sun or too long of duration each day will slow the growth because the plants need to rest, just like people. If you want to experiment with longer lighting times, please do so until there is no increase in production.

One module of a Portable Farms Aquaponics System.

Flood-and-drain medium-based aquaponics is often misunderstood as to what is best for the plants. Filling the Grow Table to where the water is near the top of the gravel but not noticeable prevents algae from growing. It is better to have the water level too low than ever having the nutrient-laden water exposed to the light.

    • The filling and draining are one aspect of this system.
    • The other is duration or cycling.
    • Many people run their pumps continuously, so the system is always being filled and drained. This method works okay with greens, but not with flowering plants; the medium is too wet.
    • The roots of flowering plants need more air on their roots than greens. Medicinal herbs prefer ‘dry’ soil and are prone to mildew and other problems if their roots are too wet.
    • We have had the best results by using a single cycle at mid-morning where the Grow Table fills and drains twice, and then the pump shuts off. This single cycle gives the plants plenty of water, and the roots plenty of air.

Fun side note: After about five months of use, the medium (gravel) has a growth of bacteria out of the light that looks like light brown yogurt. It is very moist, soft, and the roots grow all through it.

The next installation will cover pure marijuana growing at its finest—the how and way of a straight medicinal herb production facility.

Good luck, and if you have specific questions on any of the information in this series or want to start your own Portable Farm, please send us an email so we can respond.

YEAR ROUND Ideal Growing Conditions for Aquaponics

YEAR ROUND Ideal Growing Conditions for Aquaponics
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis 


One single head of India Mustard (tastes like a spicy lettuce) that was harvested from a Portable Farms® Aquaponics System.



 “How is it possible that Portable Farms Aquaponics Systems can grow such DELICIOUS and nutrient rich food year round?”


  • In sunlight, plans use photosynthesis to turn CO2 and water into oxygen and sugar.
  • In the dark, plants switch to the same system animals use to stay alive, the building and repair of the organism itself. 
  • Added to this phenomena of growth, is the fact that as the temperature increases, chemical activity speeds up.

greenbean aquaponicsThe closer to the ‘ideal’ temperature the better for the plants to grow. The ideal temperature for plant growth is, interestingly, 73° F at the leaf surface or about the same temperature as humans enjoy.

In a climatically adapted greenhouse, temperatures are regulated so the maximum temperature the plants can comfortably tolerate is never reached and the lowest temperature that the particular plant can grow at, produce the best possible conditions for growth.

To have a warm garden in the winter time takes some planning but once it is in place, it will produce prodigious amounts of happy food. For a plant to have all of the nutrients and water it can possibly use delivered to its roots before it even needs them means the plant can grow a quickly as possible because there are no limiting factors.

  • All of the food (nutrients) for the plants arrives before the plants need it, or want it.
  • The water is always available and it is refreshed a couple of times a day
  • The light levels are always perfect in the structure
  • The air circulates in a gentle fashion to help with pollination and to help avoid dampness in the structure
  • The temperature is pleasant and varies a bit so as not to be monotonous
  • There are no bugs or weeds or poisons or harsh chemicals used to contend with, ever.
  • The water in the Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems turns over ENTIRELY twice a day. Plus, all of the heavy fish poop has been removed and rerouted so it never flows into the Grow Tray or has contact with the plants.

As a result of an ideal environment:

  • The plants grow faster than the seed packets say they will
  • Food grown in an aquaponics system is much healthier than ‘regularly’ grown plants, and as a result, they are healthier for you, they TASTE BETTER and are higher in nutrition.
  • The food in an aquaponics system is grown without any chemicals (think about it; if chemicals were used, it would kill the fish). The growing food is more beautiful with each passing day
  • The plants mature in less time and require 90 to 95% less water than their dirt-grown friends
  • The plants stay clean and dry at all times
  • They are harvested when they are at their peak of ripeness and maturation which means their flavor and nutritional content are always at optimal levels
  • They are simply the best vegetables on the planet.

One of the (many) key reasons plants in Portable Farms® grow so quickly and so LARGE is because the plants roots are bathed in warm water that is loaded with nutrients and are supported by warm gravel in a warm building. What more could they possibly want or need? Portable Farms® spoil the plants and and cater to their every need for comfort.

Interior of a Portable Farms Aquaponics System. Photo taken January 3, 2012.

Interior of a Portable Farms Aquaponics System. 

To provide the absolute ideal conditions for growth and health to any living being, gives them everything they need to be their best. This is true of plants in a Portable Farms® Aquaponics System, raising animals and even raising children. The raising children thing is much harder actually. At least we don’t have to eat them. 🙂




Start the process of having your warm garden by taking the Aquaponics University Aquaponics Online Course today and have warm healthy and delicious plants in only a few weeks.


Growing Marijuana in Aquaponics – Part 1

Marijuana Growing in Aquaponics – Part 1

By Colle and Phyllis Davis 

Read our Three-Part Series on Marijuana Growing in Aquaponics

Marijuana Growing in Aquaponics – Part 1

Marijuana Growing in Aquaponics – Part 2

Marijuana Growing in Aquaponics – Part 3


One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is, “Can I grow marijuana in my Portable Farm?”

There are  many variables to this question but,  “Yes,  you can grow marijuana in aquaponics.”

In this series, we discuss the different ways to grow medical herbs in aquaponics, the necessary modifications to produce the best results, and the pitfalls of single cropping and mixing herbs with other plants in the grow table.

  • In our first year of offering the Portable Farms Aquaponics Systems training in 2008, the most common general question we received was, “How does that thing work?” meaning aquaponics.
  • The next question was, “Can I grow marijuana in aquaponics?”

Step back for a moment. When we launched Portable Farms in 2008, the herb was illegal in most places in the US, including California, where we lived. Supporting an illegal activity with the use of our technology gave us pause and our lawyers warned us against pursuing anything related to marijuana. We would not be doing anything illegal by selling our systems for the purpose of growing marijuana by our customers, but we were advised to avoid anything that could draw negative attention to our young and thriving company. We took their advice.

About that time, a competitor of ours in the aquaponics business decided to grow marijuana and they both went to jail. We wanted to avoid any implications or suspicions that could create legal problems.

Now, 12 years later, the laws have changed in about 19 states that allows their citizens to grow small amounts (generally 6 to 12 plants) of marijuana for personal use. Disclaimer: Check with the laws in your state for laws related to growing marijuana. *Disclaimer, we accept no responsibility regarding legal advice or updated rulings regarding growing marijuana plants for personal or medicinal use.

  • A list and links posted below (our thanks to  for their thorough reporting of all-things-related to marijuana) regarding states where growing marijuana is legal and states where it is prohibited).
  • As you have may have guessed by now, marijuana and the growing of marijuana along with offering advice has been a legal-slippery slope for us. Our company, PFAS LLC, is moving from only giving a few general suggestions on the phone to customers who inquire about growing marijuana to today — we have now begun writing and publishing growing advice for the maximum production of marijuana and other herbs in aquaponics. Our reluctance has once again been prompted by moving our residence and corporate headquarters to Virginia, a state that does not currently allow the use of marijuana or the growing of marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes. We are law abiding citizens, but also aware of the demand for information regarding the link between aquaponics and marijuana. We do NOT grow marijuana. FULL STOP.

Information for Growing Herbs in Aquaponics

One module of a Portable Farms Aquaponics System

Growing herbs requires research for each plant to determine their watering needs. Many herbs require less water than the vegetables or greens that are grown in Portable Farms. In fact, many plants prefer loose sandy soil over aquaponics growing for that very reason.

All Portable Farms® Kits are commercial kits designed to support Grow Tables up to and larger than 200 sq ft (18m2) and work even for the smallest Grow Table installations. The difference is the timing of the water flow.

Aquaponics is best known for growing greens. Image above is a tray of Romaine Lettuce.

If you want to grow a few ‘herbs’ in your regular Portable Farms® Module, plant a few and see how they mature. You may find they require less water than two water cycles per day.

Changing the timing on the water pump to once a day with a longer cycle still gives you great vegetables, and your herbs will be happier. If you are only growing greens, changing to once a day timing will slow their growth a bit because they love water. Herbs, not so much.

Fish joke: We do not yet have data on whether the fish get the munchies from the new plants, but when someone has good data, we will see if we can share it with you.

Mixing plants in a single Grow Table means compromising on production because of the different moisture needs. Tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, and peppers dislike wet roots. They need plenty of water in the morning, but not in the afternoon.

For example, lettuce, Swiss chard, bok choy, kale, mustard greens, and collards enjoys two water cycles a day. This water need is why raft culture works well for them; their roots are in water all the time. Herbs prefer a much dryer root zone and become waterlogged and unhappy when over watered.

Next, in this series on growing marijuana in Portable Farms Aquaponics Systems, we will cover modification to the basic Module layout to produce a more abundant crop. You can still use some of the Grow Table for regular vegetables, so you can grow your herbs and vegetables at the same time.

The following list by provides information regarding growing cannabis in all US States.


It is not legal to grow marijuana at home in Alabama.



Adults aged 21 and older can legally grow marijuana at home. The grower does not have to register with the authorities. One person can grow up to 6 marijuana plants, although only 3 of the 6 plants can be mature and flowering at any one time.

If there are at least two 21-year-old adults in the same household, that household can grow up to 12 plants at the same time. However, the limit does not increase if there are more than 2 adults in the household.

Sources: n-now-legally-possess-at-home/


A qualifying patient or the qualifying patient’s designated caregiver who has been approved by the Arizona Department of Health Services may cultivate medical marijuana, so long as the qualifying patient resides more than 25 miles from the closest dispensary.

Any individual who cultivates medical marijuana must do so in a surrounded and protected area.  The individual can grow up to 12 plants.

There is no higher limit if there are more than 2 qualifying patients who reside in the same household.



It is not legal to grow Marijuana at home in Arkansas.



Anyone who is above the age of 21 can grow marijuana. Each residence is allowed to grow 6 plants, no matter how many adults reside there.

There is a difference in what Prop 215 and SB240 says about growing marijuana by a medical card holder. The former states that a medical card holder can grow as much as needed, and the latter states that only 6 mature plants or 12 immature plants can be grown.



Adults over the age of 21 can grow marijuana. The individual can raise up to 6 plants with 3 plants flowering at once. A house with multiple qualifying adults can grow up to a maximum of 12 plants.



It is not legal to grow marijuana at home in Connecticut. There is no producer’s license for medical marijuana in Connecticut.



It is not legal to grow marijuana at home in Delaware.



It is not legal to grow marijuana at home in Florida.



It is not legal to grow marijuana at home in Georgia.



It is legal for registered patients and registered caregivers to grow marijuana for medicinal purposes in Hawaii. However, growers must register with the state government, and they can grow a maximum of 10 plants



It is not legal to grow marijuana in Idaho.



While it is illegal to use marijuana for recreational purpose in Illinois, the use of medical marijuana is allowed. However, it must be procured from a dispensary. Only companies have access to the medical marijuana cultivator license, making it illegal for individuals to grow marijuana for any purpose.



It is not legal to grow marijuana at home in Indiana.



It is not legal to grow marijuana at home in Iowa.



It is not legal to grow marijuana at home in Kansas.



It is not legal to grow marijuana at home in Kentucky.



While recreational marijuana remains outlawed, medicinal use is allowed. It is not legal to grow marijuana in Louisiana. The only legal growers in the state are the agriculture centers at Louisiana State University and Southern University.



Only adults who are above the age of 21 can grow marijuana. In each residence, a maximum of 6 mature plants and 12 immature plants can be cultivated



It is not legal to grow marijuana in Maryland. It is only allowed for medicinal use, and it must be purchased from state-licensed dispensaries.



Only adults who are above the age of 21 can grow marijuana. In each home, up to 6 plants can be grown. If there are more than 2 adults, 12 plants can be grown



Adults who are older than 21 can grow up to 12 marijuana plants at home.  Medical caregivers can grow up to 12 plants for up to 5 patients, meaning that caregivers can grow up to 60 plants for patients and an addition 12 plants for themselves.  Caregivers must register with the state.

Sources: hings-know-lighting hat-to-know-about-the-law


It is not legal to grow marijuana in Minnesota. It is only allowed for medicinal use, and must be purchased from one of the 8 Cannabis Patient Centers located around the state.



It is not legal to grow marijuana at home in Mississippi.



Growing marijuana for recreational use is illegal in Missouri.  Beginning in July of 2019, Missouri will accept applications for medical marijuana cards.  The state plans to allow medical marijuana cardholders to grow marijuana at home in “an appropriately secured facility”.



Patients who require marijuana for medicinal use can grow up to 4 mature plants or 12 seedlings. However, growing for recreational use is not allowed.

Sources: -i-have-if-im-on-the-montana-marijuana-registry


It is not legal to grow marijuana for either recreational or medicinal use.



Any individual above the age of 21 can grow marijuana at home but only if there are no state-licensed retail marijuana store within 25 miles of the home.

An adult can only grow up to 6 plants and a maximum of 12 plants per household. Registered medical marijuana user may grow up to 12 plants provided they live 25 miles from the nearest marijuana dispensary or if the person is unable to travel to a medical marijuana dispensary due to illness or lack of transportation.


New Hampshire

It is not legal to grow marijuana at home in Hampshire, for either recreational or medicinal use.

Source: ivation-stalls-in/article_31976612-522d-11e8-95e7-774e9da58d0c.html

New Jersey

It is not legal to grow marijuana for either recreational or medicinal use.


New Mexico

A Qualified Patient who has a Personal Production License issued by the NM Department of Health can grow a maximum of 12 seedlings and 4 mature plants. A single location cannot have more than 2 personal production licenses


New York

It is not legal to grow marijuana at home in New York.


North Carolina

It is not legal to grow marijuana at home in North Carolina.


North Dakota

It is not legal to grow marijuana at home in North Dakota.

Source: aregivers%20-%20Updated%206-21-2018.pdf


It is not legal to grow marijuana at home in Ohio.



A registered medical marijuana patient who needs marijuana for medicinal use can grow it. Only 6 mature plants and 6 seedlings can be grown at a time.



It is legal to grow marijuana provided you are older than 21. For recreational use, 4 plants per residence can be grown. Patients registered with the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program can grow up to 6 plants.

Sources: NAPROGRAM/Pages/top20.aspx#patientlimits


It is not legal to grow marijuana at home in Pennsylvania.


Rhode Island

Qualifying Patients that register with the Rhode Island Department of Health can grow up to 12 mature plants. For residences with more than 2 adults, there is a limit of 24 mature plants per residence.


South Carolina

It is not legal to grow marijuana at home in South Carolina


South Dakota

It is not legal to grow marijuana at home in South Dakota.



It is not legal to grow marijuana at home in Tennessee.



It is not legal to grow marijuana at home in Texas



It is not legal to grow marijuana at home in Utah.



Adults older than 21 can grow marijuana. The limits vary depending on whether the marijuana is for recreational or medicinal use.  For recreational use, 2 mature plants and 4 immature plants may be grown per residence. For medicinal use, registered medical marijuana cardholders can grow up to 2 mature plants and 7 immature plants



It is not legal to grow marijuana at home in Virginia



Cultivation of marijuana for recreational purposes is not allowed in the state of Washington.  However, registered medical marijuana patients may grow up to 6 plants at home. If the healthcare practitioner determines the patient requires more than that, they may authorize up to 15 plants.

Sources: e-washington.h /PossessionAmounts

West Virginia

It is not legal to grow marijuana at home in West Virginia.

Source: 2004202017%20-%20rev.pdf


It is not legal to grow marijuana at home in Wisconsin



It is not legal to grow marijuana at home in Wyoming