Welcome to Cold Weather Aquaponics!

Cold Weather AquaponicsThis website and blog is devoted to helping those who live in zone five or colder to grow plants and fish together with a minimum of cost and energy use.

In case you were wondering, zone five is freeze-your-pecans-off cold! It corresponds to average winter minimum temperatures below minus 10 degrees fahrenheit (not windchill). At these temperatures, with a mild wind, you get frostbite in thirty minutes.

Hard as it may be to believe, you can raise fish in liquid water and grow live plants in zone five without spending all your hard earned cash on heat, chopping wood all winter, or maintaining a twenty-yard compost pile like Jean Pain.  

Through the use of a variety of techniques I’ve read about or developed myself, I’ll show you how to keep everyone warm and alive when it’s cold-as-Pluto outside.  These techniques include the following:

  • Passive Solar Greenhouse Design
  • Insulated and Air-Sealed Fish Tanks and Grow Beds
  • Insulated Piping
  • Multiple Layers of Thermal Protection for Plants
  • Fish Selection for Cold Hardiness
  • Plant Selection for Cold Hardiness and Freeze/Thaw Tolerance
  • Efficient Water (Not Air) Heating
  • Programmable Temperature-Dependent Pumping Controls
  • Strategies for Maximizing Nitrification in Cold Water
  • Aquaponics-Integrated Hot Tubs (Seriously)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADon’t worry if some of these strategies go over your head.  I promise to explain them in accessible language with lots of diagrams, examples, and videos.

I’ll post blog entries about once per week, start offering products as soon as I can, and generally try to be as entertaining as I can manage on little sleep (baby on the way very soon).

You’re welcome to look, but based on my searching nobody else on the internet is actively trying to push the envelope on inexpensive and energy efficient cold weather aquaponic growing. Maybe that’s because it’s a little crazy. But heck, we’re already living in the frozen tundra, so why not make the best of it?

Feel free to contact me directly and post whatever comments you feel like on the blog. I’ve got skin like a astatotilapia, so as long as they’re not blatantly self-promotional, totally off topic, or personal attacks on other commenters I’ll leave them up.  

I’d welcome your feedback and debate about the best ways to pull off this absurd and wonderful goal. Together we can accomplish something awesome.  


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15 responses to “Welcome to Cold Weather Aquaponics!

  1. Good stuff, I’m on the 5a/4b line in Maine and have wanted to build a passive aquaponics greenhouse with a rocket mass heater for a while, just have to convince the wife to let me 🙂

    One thing, from trolling forums I seem to remember there being an issue of heating the water and not the air which would cause the water to evaporate quickly and create too much humidity.


    • Thanks Anthony. Great to have you! That is such a great question.

      Most of the stuff I’ve figured out over the years revolves around exactly that question. It’s complicated. To give you a really good answer, I’d have to get into a fairly lengthy discussion of enthalpy. I hope to get into that in a post very soon, but for now I hope you’ll be happy with a short answer.

      The short answer is yes, it does cause more water to evaporate and that is a problem. But heating the air costs a lot more money, which is a much worse problem if you’re a cheapskate like me. Also, there are effective ways to mitigate the evaporation such as air sealing your grow beds and fish tanks. Also stuff that I’ll talk more about. Make sense?


      • Yes, I suppose even without getting a fully airtight seal minimizing open space and airflow would greatly reduce evaporation. It is an interesting thought and ties well into root zone heating which supposedly works very well in soil greenhouses. Reducing the flood and drain cycle at night would likely also help so long as the roots don’t get too cold. Closing in the beds also greatly improves heat retention in the water, I’m sure.


      • It answers my question in more detail, but really you already answered it in the comment by saying you seal off your beds.


  2. Thanks to Reddit user GrandmaGos for correcting an error in the original post.
    Zone 5a sees average minimum winter temperatures (coldest temp. in the average winter) of -10 to -15. Where I live in Zone 5b, we see -15 to -20 (although this year, we hit -24, which is still friggin cold).
    Sorry for the mistake. Read the chart wrong.


    • Hi AlbertaHomestead.

      Thanks for the feedback – you made my day!

      It looks like you have a new greenhouse starting up in Toronto. If you send some pictures, diagrams, text, etc… I can post it here. It would be great to learn from each-other. You might get some helpful feedback from the CW Aquapons as well.


  3. I think that your explanations and engineering will have a much wider audience than just the extreme old zones. After this winter, we are all ears. Pushing the envelope is always where you learn fastest -or die trying. I will be trying to retrofit my small home built greenhouse with some of your ideas. Even down here in balmy New York, every BTU is costly.


    • Hey Terry. Welcome to the group! Thanks for the feedback.

      Balmy New York – hilarious! I think you’re zone 5, unless you’re right in NYC. Buffalo is colder than Madison and gets more snow 🙂

      Keep your eyes peeled – I plan to offer some more stuff in the coming months that will save more energy. Just got to get manufacturing and testing sorted out so I’m confident in their reliability.


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