So What’s the Deal With Chlorine?


In this pic, we see a comparison of the chlorine level between DC tap water and from an aquaponic system with the same source water. Five months ago this 30-gallon aquaponic system was treated with a small bottlecap-full of a solution to remove chloramine (“total chlorine”). Despite frequent top-offs from the same tap, there is still no chloramine detected in the aquaponic system, whereas the tapwater has 3ppm.

Municipalities add chlorine and sometimes chloramine to disinfect public drinking water. The DC Water website states:¬†“The drinking water delivered by DC Water contains chloramines.”

Chlorine (“free chlorine”) will off-gas and dissipate naturally. But chloramine (“total chlorine”) needs to be actively removed.

Unfortunately, the same chlorine and chloramine that keeps our drinking water safe can kill our aquaponic “biofilter”: the large bacterial colony that converts fish waste into plantfood. So check with your municipality and address your chloramines if necessary so you dont kill your bacteria and your fish don’t choke on their own toxic ammonia. ūüôā

Jimbo’s Backyard System in Northern Virginia

Jimbo's System

Check out Jimbo’s backyard aquaponic system in Northern Virginia.

Jimbo is pushing the limits of personal food production — his system can grow about six-hundred¬†heads of lettuce at a time in his own backyard! He uses a 300 gallon IBC Tote as his fish tank, and two 20 x 4 grow troughs for his plants.

Our country relies on a wasteful and inefficient food system that contributes to pollution, resource depletion, income inequality, and poor health. Jimbo shows how we can use aquaponics and permaculture methods to produce more of our own food on our own terms!

Visit the Tomahawk Permaculture website for more info.



Home for the Winter

Home for the Winter

Here is Niraj, Founder and Director of Cultivate the City, in one of his new rooftop greenhouses near H Street in Northeast DC.

And, in the bucket to the back left is the winter home of our goldfish from the JO Wilson aquaponic system. The fish will be fertilizing this vertical tower of strawberries. We even brought over some of the “bio-balls” from the JO Wilson biofilter to ensure¬†an adequate bacterial colony to convert¬†the fish waste into plant food.

Room for Improvement…

Room For Improvement...

Here are some decent roots on our young aquaponic kale at J.O. Wilson Elementary School, but¬†roots ain’t gonna pay no bills! (unless they are root vegetables.)

Unfortunately we got this system, “The Cardinal”, started late in the year. We only added about 10 goldfish to start and we weren’t able to pump out any significant veggie¬†volume. (But we did conduct numerous science lessons with students.)

We shut The Cardinal down for the Winter to protect it from the weather. (The goldfish are staying warm with Cultivate the City in a mini aquaponic system growing strawberries in a rooftop greenhouse.)

2017 will be about maximizing the production of high-quality crops, quantifying our production, and standardizing operating procedures.

Know Your Fish Weight

Fish Weight

In an aquaponic system your plants are ultimately eating fish food, the fish are just the middle man. Therefore, its helpful to know how much your fish weigh to calculate how much they are eating and how much plant growth they can support.

The key ratio of an aquaponics system is fish food to plant grow space. Leafy green plants will require between about 20 and 50 grams of fish food per day per square meter of grow space¬†(assuming a fully utilized space). Fruiting plants like tomatoes and cucumbers will require a higher ratio between¬†50‚Äď80 grams per meter squared per day. (Somerville, et al 2014)

Once you figure out how much fish food your plants require, you work backwards to figure out how much fish you need. And this is based on a standard fish diet of about 2% of their body weight per day.

If you are adding too much fish food then your water quality can decrease as surplus nutrients build in the system and there’s not enough plants to filter the water. Conversely, not enough fish food and your plants won’t have enough nutrition. So know your fish weight!

The Knight, Until Spring 2017….


We started this system, “The Knight”, a bit too late in the year. It took a while for the bacterial colony to establish¬†and there wasn’t enough time to achieve robust growth before the winter months. But we’ll be ready for the Spring!

Starting in Spring 2017, all Anacostia Aquaponics systems will have a specific¬†goal for the year for fish weight and plant production based on each system’s characteristics. We will do our best to maximize production and quantify how much each system can produce.

Factors that will affect each systems’ goals include: system size and type; source water pH; access to light; owner preferences; and other environmental considerations.

(This system is named “The Knight” because it’s in a backyard across from Ballou High School in Anacostia, Washington DC. Their mascot is The Knights.)

Anacostia Aquaponics Partnership Program

Anacostia Aquaponics is in its “Partnership Program” phase. This means that we looking for partners who want to grow with aquaponics. We will design, construct, and help you produce with an aquaponics system for the cost of materials alone. This will be a two-way street, we will learn from eachother to improve the practice of aquaponics and expand aquaponics food production in DC.

Here is our brochure: Anacostia Aquaponics Partnership Program

Why are we doing this? 
Aquaponics is a highly efficient method of growing plants and fish in a symbiotic, recirculating, soil-less environment. It can grow significant quantities of food even in urban areas like Washington, DC. And aquaponics uses LESS THAN 10% of the water compared to traditional soil farming. If we are to meet the dietary needs of our rapidly growing urban population without ruining the environment, our economy, and our health, we will NEED to grow with efficient and local methods like aquaponics.

But aquaponics is hard work. It involves constructing and plumbing a water-tight recirculating system that requires an electric pump and aeration; and it involves balancing plants, fish, and water quality to achieve appropriate growth.

Despite these challenges, there are over a thousand aquaponics systems of many different types and sizes that are flourishing across the country, including many large scale commercial systems. (See examples in our brochure). And the University of the District of Columbia has several large systems in operation as well.

We need your help to work with us to improve the practice of aquaponics so that we can employ it to a level that our city begins to reap the environmental, economic, and health benefits of a better food system.

If you are interested in partnering with us to advance aquaponics in the DC metro area, please email We will send along more information and can set up a time to visit your site for a consultation.

Here is our brochure: Anacostia Aquaponics Partnership Program