What started out as a mishmosh of Tupperware containers, cardboard, and Duct tape is now a functioning system of pipes, drains, and plastic that turns a standard fish tank into a self-cleaning aquarium and garden — all in one system.
The AquaSprouts system was first developed by Jack Ikard in high school after coming across an old 10-gallon fish tank in his back shed. Ikard, 20, is now a sophomore at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas, and has since improved on the unit. Now he’s looking to get it noticed.
“The idea is to be able to see the fish and to get the benefits of aquaponics,” Ikard said.
Aquaponics is a technology that mixes fish and plants. The closed-loop system combines water-based planting, or hydroponics, with fish cultivation. Aquaponics has become a hot topic in recent years because it’s seen as a good alternative to traditional agriculture since it doesn’t use environmentally-damaging fertilizers and requires less land to grow the same amount of food.
“Our system is a good learning tool to expose people to what aquaponics is,” said Ikard.
AquaSprouts works like most aquaponics systems, but on a smaller scale. Every 15 minutes, water combined with waste from the fish tank is pumped up into a grow bed filled with clay pebbles. The poop-filled water feeds the plants. The plants, in turn, filter the waste from the water. The clean water then drains back to the fish tank. Everyone’s happy.
Te only thing you may need to do to keep the aquarium in good condition is maintain the pH levels of the water, according to the AquaSprouts website.
The AquaSprouts system — which does not include the fish tank — is designed to slide right over the aquarium. The kit includes a grow bed, clay pebbles, a pump with a timer, and even an attachable light bar in case you don’t have enough natural light in your home for the plants to grow.
The only things beside the tank that you’re responsible for are the fish, plant seeds, and food for your new marine pets.
Ikard says that you can use almost any type of fish that are able to live in a 10-gallon freshwater tank, such as guppies, goldfish, and tetras.
The choice of plants depends on your taste-buds, but lettuce, Swiss chard, basil, cilantro, oregano, and other herbs and leafy green work well. Peppers, baby tomatoes, and flowering plants are also options.
Ikard and his co-founder, fellow student Shannon Crow, have turned to popular crowd-funding site Kickstarter to back their project, with the goal of raising $US100,000 by April 3. The campaign launched on March 3 and has raised close to $US12,000 after six days.
A $US149 pledge will get you the AquaSporuts system and a 10-gallon fish tank as a special offer. The Kickstarter money goes toward materials and complex molds needed to build the system on a large scale.
The next step is to “create a brand of different sizes of aquariums,” Ikard said, “and to think about a bigger system that grows more food and edible fish.”
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