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VermiPonics

Vermiponics
Unlike most hydroponic grow beds, there are thousands of Red Worms in this one!


I can’t remember exactly when I first stumbled across the “aquaponics” concept, but I DO know that it was quite a few years ago and that I was completely floored by the fact that fish waste could be used to successfully fertilize plants (for those of you not familiar with the term, “aquaponics” is simply a morphing of hydroponics and aquaculture). I thought hydroponics was a really cool idea to begin with, but based on my fascination with ecosystems and “nature” in general, it only made sense that I would quickly gravitate towards this approach…at least mentally, anyway.

You see, unlike vermicomposting – something I’ve been fascinated with for probably about the same amount of time – I still have yet (as of this writing) to actually set up any sort of aquaponics test system! I certainly have lived vicariously through the aquaponics activities of others, however!

I’ve been a member of the S&S Aquaponics email listerv for many years, and HIGHLY recommend this incredible information resource for anyone who has an interest in this sort of thing (be warned though – the volume of emails can at times be pretty heavy). To get signed up, all you have to do (if I’m not mistaken) is send a blank email to:
aquaponics-subscribe@townsqr.com

Over the years, as I’ve become more and more involved (and obsessed – haha) with vermicomposting, I’ve naturally started dreaming up various ways to incorporate worm composting into the aquaponics process. Probably the most logical idea (in my head, anyway) has been to simply add Red Worms to an aquaponics grow bed, since I know how well they can thrive in very wet conditions – assuming they are provided with at least some oxygen. To me it seemed like the ultimate habitat, since apart from the high moisture, I knew the worms would also greatly appreciate the rich microbial buffet laid out before them. Add to this the fact that worm bi-products have been shown time and time again (via academic studies) to help stimulate plant growth via various mechanisms, and it seems like a no-brainer to stock a grow bed with them.

What’s a little strange, though – in a “hindsight-20-20″ kinda way – is the fact that I’ve never even considered the notion of setting up a bioponics system (“bioponics” just referring to a natural hydroponic system in general) without ANY fish involved at all!

Well, thankfully that idea DID cross the mind of Jim Joyner – a LONG-time member of (not to mention prolific contributor to) the S&S Aqua list mentioned above! Unlike yours truly – as far as aquaponics is concerned – Jim not only talks the talk , but he also walks the walk, having set up multiple thriving plant growth systems over the years. Needless to say, when I first caught wind of Jim’s “aqua-vermiculture” systems a couple of months ago, I certainly sat up and took notice – but it was only recently (after the topic came up again on the email list) that I finally decided to contact him to learn more about what he’s been doing.

As I discovered, Jim is not only incredibly knowledgeable and experienced, but he’s also a very nice guy, and he seemed more than happy to let me share his photos and some of his information (adapted from posts originally submitted to the S&S list) here, and just generally help me out in any way he could.
8)

One thing Jim would probably like me to emphasize right off the bat is the fact that his work in this area is only in the “preliminary” stages of development. I don’t know if it’s modesty or his engineering/science backrgound (or a little of both) coming out, but rest assured that his efforts thus far have still been very impressive!

In a nutshell, what he has been doing is growing various crops in five 4′x8′x6″ “flood and drain” gravel beds, in which he has also stocked Red Worms. Initially, he fed his worms only rabbit food (13-15% protein) – which the worms consume readily – but he found that nitrate levels in the system were on the low side. In an effort to boost nitrogen, he decided to start feeding with “de-fatted” soy bean meal as well, so as to bring the total feed-protein level up to 32-34%. The the soy meal does not break down as readily as the rabbit food though, so he does some form of pre-composting (although refers to it as “fermenting”) with it before adding it to the beds.

As efficiently as the system seems to work (for both plants and worms), Jim feels his current set up is a little “clumsy”, since it can be difficult to feed the worms and tend to the plants in a shared bed. As you’ll learn later, he has plans to create a system that has separate plant/worm beds (while still being linked, of course).

Vermiponics System
A pretty serious set-up in its own right – but Jim Joyner has plans for expansion


What’s interesting about an aqua-vermiculture system, as compared to a typical aquaponics set-up is that (based on Jim’s findings) you can essentially feed the worms the equivalent of 30% less food (than would be fed to fish), while still producing the same nutrient load for the plants! This in itself is pretty amazing, but here are some other advantages of the worm-centric approach:

Red Worms in Vermiponics Bed
Red Worms thrive in the rich, moist (yet oxygenated) grow bed environment!


I mentioned above that Jim has plans for expansion this year. Here is what he has in mind:

1) I am modifying the present system (pictured above) by adding a 4′x4′x10″ bed with gravel for worms only. I will take most of the worms out of the growing beds and put them in the special bed. (Having some worms in you beds is still a good idea; they clean up convert all manner of wastes to nutrient.)

2) I am building a new larger system (3000 sq foot GH). I will grow the plants in 5, 4′x96′x6″ rafted water beds (much like UVI* except they don’t need to be as deep). Water will flow constantly through them. The worms beds will cycle every 6 to 12 hours to flush nutrient from the beds into a common sump. I will likely do the cycling with.a bell siphon in a storage tank.

3) For my garden, I am creating a aqua-vermi-composter. Essentially, it will have one 20 gallon tub water storage tank (imagine it setting on the highest level, This will drain every 12 hours (via a bell siphon tripped by the rate of water flowing in from a garden hose.) into two 20 gallon tubs about 4/5th filled with gravel and worms. The two tubs will drain directly into a 300 stock tank. I will dip or drain the liquid from this to feed my garden in the summer, particularly heavy feeders like corn. this has no pump (nothing is recycled), hardly any moving parts.

*UVI is the “University of the Virgin Islands” – widely known for its work in the field of aquaponics


As you might imagine, I am certainly looking forward to receiving future updates as Jim’s new systems are set up and put into action this spring. I want to take this opportunity to send my sincere THANKS to Jim for agreeing to assist me in putting this preliminary article together. I would encourage everyone to pop by Jim’s “Morningside Buying Club” website – it doesn’t have anything to do with worms or aquaponics, but as you will see, Jim and his wife operate a really interesting (and beneficial) business.

All of this “vermiponics” stuff has my mind reeling at the moment, and you can be sure this won’t be the last you’ll read about it here! In fact, I am currently in the process of setting up my own mini test system and I hope to bring you a post about that a little later in the week!
8)

By the way, if you want to learn a little more about aquaponics in general, you might want to check out the aquponics page I added to the Compost Guy website quite some time ago (in need of some TLC – but still some helpful links there)

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Written by Bentley on February 1st, 2010 with 39 comments.
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Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Derek
#1. February 1st, 2010, at 9:38 PM.

Wow, that’s really fascinating – I had no idea that you could combine the two types of systems. It makes sense, though. Nature is always working on everything in a holistic manner, with no separate pieces, so why wouldn’t complementary systems work together?

Thanks for the info!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Igor
#2. February 1st, 2010, at 10:22 PM.

Very interesting

I was wondering … do you think diluted vermicompost tea would work in such a system? I mean, fairly diluted tea circulating under the floating containers.
Would you call it Organic agriculture?

cheers

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Igor
#3. February 1st, 2010, at 10:23 PM.

or, is it the case here?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Matthew Wilson
#4. February 2nd, 2010, at 7:10 PM.

That is a pretty cool concept. I will be reading more about that.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#5. February 2nd, 2010, at 8:32 PM.

Derek – glad you enjoyed it, and I totally agree re: natural systems – which of course is why they provide the best models for us to follow! (too bad we typically don’t!)
————————
Igor – the thing with this type of system vs simply using worm compost tea as the fertilizer solution is that in this case you are constantly producing fresh castings (since the worms are constantly being fed), thus keeping nutrient levels etc effectively “topped up”. I suspect that the plants would suck all the benefits out of a reservoir of compost tea fairly quickly.

I think spraying the crops with tea as an additional practice might be helpful though, especially since they’ve been shown to help fend off disease and pests, apart from providing fertilizer value.

You can only call it “organic” (publicly – haha) if you are “certified” to do so. I would think that if you only used “organic” rabbit food etc to feed the worms you could get certified. Hopefully Jim will be able to chime in at some point with his thoughts on this.
—————————-
Matthew – I thought you might like it!
;-)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com John H. from Orlando
#6. February 3rd, 2010, at 1:03 AM.

I really like this topic. I want to set up my own system. I researched the costs of raising my own tilapia a few years, but thought it might be too much work. I like the idea of using the nitrates from the fish waste to feed hyponic beds of vegetables.

Now if I can develop a taste for worms, I’ll be all set. Do you have any decent recipes and preparation tips to share? ; )

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com catherine
#7. February 3rd, 2010, at 12:01 PM.

This system is really interesting. I wonder could you adapt it slighlty, have two beds, one with worms, one with plants, and just keep circulating the water between the two? In other words, have a central tank, spray water onto the worm bed (spraying will oxygenate) collect the water at the bottom, return to tank and spray onto plant bed. Each circulation will collect nutrients from the worm bed and deposit them in the plant bed, with the plants ‘cleaning’ the water for the worms.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Tibor
#8. February 3rd, 2010, at 1:17 PM.

This is very interesting. I’ve read many articles about Acquponics and this just seems more interesting with better effects. Is there a way you could get us here some schematic of that system? Just for my imagination, I don’t want to build it from scratch. :) Thanks for the article.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com catherine
#9. February 3rd, 2010, at 2:21 PM.

I should add to my post above- I mean that the plants would be in regular soil/ compost rather than gravel or hydroponic medium- that way the watering of the plants/ soaking of the worm bed only has to be done every day or so, and could just be part of a regular watering regime- not needing any more fancy equipment than a watering can!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#10. February 3rd, 2010, at 2:53 PM.

John – I have certainly toyed with the idea of setting up fish systems (I had my mind set on Yellow Perch) numerous times, but like you said it was the complexity/work (not to mention space) involved that always held me back. I WAS firmly committed to at least trying out a small goldfish, garbage can system at some point, but now I think I’ll just start with the worms!
————
Catherine – I think your adaptation is somewhat similar to what Jim is planning to do this year (ie completely separating the worms and plants altogether). The issue that MIGHT arise when using strictly soil/compost would be plugging of drain holes (in case of super low-tech) and clogging pumps etc (if it was a little more advanced). I also think that the gravel could be left for longer before needing to completely change it.

What I’m going to be doing with my test system is mixing a special grow bed gravel with some shredded cardboard and dryer lint so that it’s not so rough and jagged in there.

All I will be using is a small submersible fountain pump which circulates water from the reservoir tub to the worm/plant bed (which will then drain out at the bottom)
——————
Tibor – the system described above was created by Jim Joyner, so I can’t answer for him re: schematics. I myself will be setting up a simple system in the next day or so and will certainly share how I have but it together.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Tibor
#11. February 3rd, 2010, at 3:36 PM.

Thanks Bentley, I’m already looking forward to reading about it.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jim Joyner
#12. February 3rd, 2010, at 9:20 PM.

Maybe I should call it hydro-vermiculture or even hydro-vermi-composting.

No matter what we call it, what I have found is that the combination of water and worms affords either a lot of flexibility to do unthought of things or a lot more efficiency to do what essentially we’ve been doing all along with vermiculture.

Jim

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com taropal
#13. February 10th, 2010, at 7:39 PM.

Wow, Thanks Jim for this excellent idea. I have about 30k worms and it is perfect experiment for the warmer months to come. My worm bins usually stay on the dry side and it will be an eye opening experience to see how they survive mostly in water than bedding. Please keep us posted on the expansion…

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Uncle B
#14. March 4th, 2010, at 4:52 PM.

I can eat a pound of fish, directly – no matter the markets the prices the rest of it! What do I do with a pound of worms? Feed them to game fish, and eat a pound of fish again? thos sounds plausible to me and for a light bodied little fella looks like a free lunch too! I like ot!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Taropal
#15. March 5th, 2010, at 2:28 AM.

Well. That is great point Uncle B. No one that I know personally are hungry enough to eat the worms. If you mail the worms to me and I will pay you some cash compensation to cover say 10# of Catfish or Talapia. Would that worth the effort? Or the same 1 # worms can turn into 20# fish…

I asked one of the local aquaponics expert, why you would not feed the worms to the fish? His simple reply is this: Instead feed 1 pound of worms, sell the worms and buy 50 pounds of fish feed and give that to the fish instead. (With that 50# feed, ~20# fish meat would come.)

Sure. Now it makes sense to me now….

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#16. March 11th, 2010, at 3:04 PM.

Yep – it all depends on what your main goals are. Obviously if you are a fish person and want to raise fish, it makes sense to go that route. If on the other hand you are a worm-head like me, the vermiponics approach makes the most sense. Not sure yet how one would effectively harvest the worms for sale (if that was something you wanted to do), but I DO have some ideas there.
;-)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Taropal
#17. March 11th, 2010, at 3:36 PM.

Hi Bently,

I am like you, rather to harvest the worms and do better with it. It will not be a easy task to pick out the worms in the pebbles. There are a few harvesting techniques such as baiting/traping or even “light” harvest to drive the worms down deeper can mean a difference. Either ways, it will take some time to complete. The mechanical harvesters will not work for this as the pebbles will not seperate from the worms for sure.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com AP
#18. June 6th, 2010, at 4:34 AM.

Guys, This is fascinating as a biologist and industrial engineer and a dedicated sports fisherman this all makes sense. The economics of what to do with the worms is probably flexible enough to leave it up to each person. I would not worry about that too much. Have you tried the old art of grunting your worms for collection? They will come to you, instead of you trying to reach out to them. For those of you who do not know what grunting for worms is, basically it is a method to send vibrations through the soil to “panic” the worms. The most basic method consists of a stick buried in the soil and sticking out and then heavily rubbing another stick or metal object against the exposed butt of the stick making a grunting noise that translate into vibrations into the soil. If done correctly the worms around a few feet away from the stick will come out to the surface in mass. There is controversy about why this behavior. Some suggesting it replicates what moles do when hunting for worms and hence producing this reaction to flee in the worms. Anyhow. Just my 5 cents.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Greg
#19. August 27th, 2010, at 10:18 PM.

I’m interested to know if there is any research or if you have any idea on how often the worm bed could be flooded and drained and still have “happy” worms. I’m developing a broader concept which I will be prototyping in India in about 1 month. It is a bioponics (I like “Ecoponics” as a term) with fish and worms in the cycle. My system gest “filled” in the morning and will automatically created ebb and flow “waves” throughout the day with about 1 hour cycles and only about 5 minutes for the worms to be flooded each cycle. Is 5 minutes per hour too much for the worms to be “happy”?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jack Daw
#20. August 31st, 2010, at 7:14 PM.

Hi Bentley, is there any progress report from Jim or some new schematics/pictures?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#21. September 3rd, 2010, at 2:05 PM.

Sorry for not responding in awhile, guys!

AP – I have seen a video on “grunting”. It looks totally wild!
Those worms would probably be good for bait and/or live food, but not for vermicomposting/vermiponics (since adapted for live in soil habitats) though.
———————–
GREG – If the water is oxygenated, you can basically keep worms in there indefinitely. I’ve read about composting worms living permanently in a koi pond filter! So, 5 minutes per hour would be nothing for them
———————–
JACK – I’ve had some exchanges with Jim, but I’m not 100% sure how (or even IF) his planned project came together for him. I will definitely post something once I know more

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Roger Pilon
#22. September 12th, 2010, at 11:39 PM.

One angle that we should not forget is the third world one. Aquaponics is one key element to solve hunger worldwide BUT with one Achilles heel. In Africa for example, what would hungry people lacking protein, do with the fishmeal? Eat it to survive or give it to fish? The idea to use worms in certain aquaponics systems rather than fish is just simply fantastic! Feed the world with worms and aquaponics! Eh Eh Eh! Why not!

Roger Pilon, Editor
Hydroponics Aquaponics Monster Directoy

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Cianoy
#23. November 2nd, 2010, at 1:37 PM.

I’ve been wondering if vermicast can be used as a nutrient substitute for hydroponic plants. I found this site again (like when I was looking for mushrooms growing in worm bins).

Anyway, I’m thinking of just spraying the worm bin with water then allow the leachate to flow into the hydroponic reservoir (I’m not sure what it’s called). I keep thinking the worms might catch a cold if I submerge them several times a day in water.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com maximus
#24. January 8th, 2011, at 5:08 AM.

I will start an aquaponic pilot project in egypt in a desert area where there is no soil, but luckely available water.
The profitability of raising fish is marginal and the main gain will be growing veggies, so I would like to try vermiponics as well. Because we will be in an hotel premesis we can get veggies left over from the kitchen for free and we could then fully recycling it. I understand this is not the same as soy protein meal, but I rather go for a low cost solution. Additionally it is my intention to discharge the sludge from the fish solid settling tank into the same vermi tank. The tank will use a flood and drain cycle (can you suggest the dry and wet period, since we have in summer 42C°, 107F°).
Now in aquaponic the fish grow bed area is quite well documented But I have no idea on how big the vermi tanks need to be and how mush feed needs to be provided for let say 10m2 grow bed. Can you help out ?

Cheers

Maximus

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Greg
#25. January 12th, 2011, at 4:07 PM.

Maximus, I just installed some prototype GrowFrames in India using some vermiponics and aquaponics. I think it is best now described as Ecoponics…when you have an entire ecosystem. Some worms to feed the fish, fish waste with gravel bed producing nitrogen as well as the worms adding their castings to the mix. I even make floating fly traps on the fish tank to help feed the fish for free. Check out Ecoponics Wave GrowFrame on Facebook to see more.

My thought for you is that the temps in the summer are similar to the temps in India I was challenged by (not to mention a cold winter). My GrowFrame concept doesn’t use any electricity, which is important in my mind in conditions where power can be hit or miss. Don’t know about Egypt. Water temps are something to be concerned about. I’m having to put tanks into the ground so as to use the earth’s natural cooling to help keep water temps at a point where you won’t cook the worms.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com J Pizzle
#26. April 22nd, 2011, at 8:25 PM.

Hey folks, good read. Just so you know, worms are no strangers to aquaponic GB’s. Many including myself use them in 12″ deep beds, twice the volume of GB to fishtank size. Worms effectively reduce the solid portion of fish waste into water soluble plant nutrients. Without them, we would have a hard time fruiting our produce. Aquaponics is great for greens and veging, but weak on flowering/fruiting. That’s where worms finish the job. Another thing to consider is ph. Fish tend to favor 8, whereas many plants tend to favor 6. No matter how I abuse my system, and note that my well water is 8.1, my AP/vermi system stays glued to neutral ph of 7, which is acceptable for both fish and plants. I am building another wing to the growhouse right now to supplement the heavy nutrient drinkers like tomatoes and ‘herbs’. This final fruiting chamber will take plants veged in aquaponics,bl but moved to a similar system without the fish for fruiting. This final stage will be ph adjusted to 6, to improve nutrient uptake, and will be fertilized with chicken and rabbit poo too rich for the survival of fish. I assume the worms, which will already be present from the AP portion of the grow, will thrive. I assume this because I have seen pictures online of redworms by the kajillions in aerated septic tanks. I’m not sure how the low ph will treat them, though. Any thoughts?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Allan Smith
#27. May 13th, 2011, at 11:13 AM.

I need someone to tell me where to go … :)
Point me toward any PDF’s or other documentation about how to size my grow beds in comparison to the size of my volume of worms. I ordered and received 3 lbs of red wigglers and have, just this week, ordered another 5 lbs of same. What size grow bed can I nurture with that volume of worms ? I’m the proud owner of 4 300 gallon IBC totes, 4 55 gallon plastic barrels and a couple wooden box-style rectangular grow beds that I’ve just begun setting up here in the central part of northern New York, USA ( near Canada ). So as not to take up any more of your time than necessary, I’m hoping someone can point me to already-established systems / documentation.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com paul smith
#28. May 16th, 2011, at 1:44 AM.

I take weeds from the garden, (roots, dirt and all,) and other scraps from the kitchen, then I steam them for about 20 minutes, to kill seeds and to open the plant fibers. I blend the scraps to a thick slurry and add some EM, “Essential Micro-nutrients,” to sweeten the mix and let the whole thinig sit for a week to meld. Then I feed a cup at a time.
My Question is: When feeing worms in the vermponic system, when you feed the worms while flooding the worm bed, wouldn’t you just wash the worm food out?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Cheryl Huskins
#29. May 19th, 2011, at 12:33 AM.

Just found this site today and sounds interesting, surprised that no one has thought of this concept before this. Possibly might be a good plan once up and running for someone handicapped or elderly . Will be watching to see what develops.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com LandTrees
#30. September 23rd, 2011, at 9:52 AM.

Hello Bentley,
Congratulations to your article. You have spoken out of my heart (and mind). We operate a 6000 square facility red worm farm in Panama and for some time we have been researching how to adapt a vermiculture with aquaculture and/or as a stand-a-lone vermiponics. I do have one present concern though that I have not seen addressed or have missed.

The worms produce Humus Fertilizer and Humus Liquid.
What do you have in mind to try and separate both? An accumulation of humus in your growbeds will eventually provoke to clean out the system or your media. Have you tried using a system where you only drain the liquid (humus liquid) which you feed then via the waterflow to your plants and keep the humus away from the GB’s? Maybe some system with laundry bags where underneath you collect the liquid for such purpose?

Would like to know your comments about this. Again, congratulations to all what you have shared with us here. People like you and Jim Joyner will make this a better world!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com AG
#31. February 9th, 2012, at 5:52 PM.

To landtrees i am in panama and am looking for a place to buy vermicompost worms right now…anysuggestions?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Greg
#32. February 10th, 2012, at 9:27 AM.

AG,

I would get them from your backyard or anywhere else you can dig up worms. Wash them off, you’re good to go. I’m doing that in the different countries that I’m setting up systems using worms.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com AG
#33. February 10th, 2012, at 1:46 PM.

I was under the assumption that you couldnt just use regular earthworms because the change of environment/temperature will shock them and cause death.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com alyssef
#34. March 23rd, 2012, at 10:48 PM.

Hey guys, this article is fascinating! I’m pretty new to this, but I’ve been working on a design for the past couple months that use this idea in a small apartment, indoors. I’ve set it up so there’s a compost bin full of red wigglers and other bugs that compost food waste (I’m working on the filtration so only liquid, not humus comes out). Water oxygenates in a reservoir before being pumped to some planters that are tiered, before draining and flowing back into the bin to get more nutrients. So far so good, although I think now I should try the EM that Paul Smith mentioned, and maybe start putting worms in the planters as well.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Shane
#35. July 13th, 2012, at 7:39 AM.

I have an aquaponics setup in my back yard.

I just added a worm bin to my little urban farm this week to augment the compost bin we already have running.

Vermiculture seems to fit in very well to the whole aquaponics recycling ecosystem.

I decided to start keeping red worms mainly to help in composting all of the solid fish wastes that I pull from the pond skimmer filters (later mixed with yard clippings, dry leaves, peat moss and fruit/vegetable scraps before adding to the compost bin), but I’m also hoping the worms do well enough that I am able to feed the fish a steady supply of excess red worms.

After reading a few articles about red worms living directly in the aquaponics grow beds, I just decided to relocate a few worms from my compost bin in to the grow beds to see how they do!

If the worms can survive the flood and drain cycles (three times a day for about 25 minutes each time), then this would be an ideal place for them to reside. I believe they will be okay, since the water is highly oxygenated and constantly moving. In fact, I have already found a few large worms (I think they were just typical earthworms) at the bottom of my pond’s bio-filter/waterfall. They were living 1 foot underwater in the bio-filter medium.

My aquaponic grow beds tend to accumulate solid fish wastes as a fine silt (even after the water is passed through several filters.) In addition, the network of roots (from previous crops) can be almost impossible to fully clean out of the grow bed medium without bleaching and scrubbing or other harsh and tedious cleaning efforts.

So, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my new red worms will help improve my aquaponics setup by cleaning the grow beds too!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Roy
#36. February 1st, 2013, at 5:44 PM.

Sounds like what I am working on.
My worm bins over a tank dripping in vermi-tea.
Water pumps from the tank through my bed.

Will post more in a few months when it is functioning well.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Mars
#37. April 29th, 2013, at 3:43 AM.

I heard that these red worms can eat fish waste and coffee grounds. I wonder if you could create a dry bowl feeding compost dish that stays out of the main system while allowing the worms to come up and feed. I am going to try keeping them in a traditional aquaponics grow bed to convert fish waste to nitrogen and oxygen. My biggest concern is that the worms consume most of the fish waste before the plants can eat, but perhaps they share well. We’ll see. bonus: tasty treat for fish on occasion.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Corey Ballew
#38. September 5th, 2013, at 12:13 AM.

Hey great article!

I have also been planning on incorporating vermiculture and hyrdroponics. I am working to develop an indoor vertical farm in Chattanooga at a historic building in downtown Chattanooga. The Parkway Tower is a 20,000 sq ft building with five stories. I am looking to develop the first two floors for an indoor vertical farm and a micro-brewery and meadery. On the third, fourth, and partial fifth floor I will be developing LEED Platinum Condo Lofts and a rooftop garden. Also on the first floor the ceiling is about 30 ft high since the building was an electric substation in the 1920s and housed electric transformers. Does anyone know what the tallest vertical garden and hydroponics systems are?

I also do worm composting on my apartment balcony with the Worm Factory and BSF grub composting with a DIY stacking kitty litter container system. Does anyone have any experience in combining Black Soldier Fly Larvae in composting with a hydroponics system?

More info about the Parkway Tower Eco-Development project: http://www.chattanoogan.com/2013/8/21/257480/Ballew-Seeks-To-Buy-Parkway-Tower-For.aspx

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com merlin
#39. December 12th, 2013, at 1:23 PM.

It seems that running this system with the traditional fish (nitrogen cycle) approach would work like a dream. I envision a verticle system with the bottom floor being 300 gallon loaf tanks, IBC’s, or 55 gallon drums (vertically placed and interconnected) filled with water and fish. The second floor being a worm bed at the bottom (6 inches or so of pebbles) with high walls (say 12 inches). Using a ebb/flow system the entire 12 inches fills with water and the plants are grown using the RAFT hydroponics approach. This eliminates the need for a solids filter (swirl filter) between the fish tanks and the garden because the worms will readily devour fish poop and uneaten food. You then take the worms and use them to feed the fish offsetting a % of fish food costs. It does reintroduce the disadvantage of needing a controlled temp/ enviro for fish, but for ideal plant production you want to do that anyway…… or would the fish not be able to survive in worm-tea water?… any thoughts?

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