Because aquaponics is such a new growing method, relatively few books have been written on it and most of the university studies have focused on commercial systems. The best place for a beginning, or even experienced, aquaponic gardener to gather knowledge is to explore various online aquaponics community options. The biggest of these is the Backyard Aquaponics forum run by Joel Malcom (“earthbound”) from Backyard Aquaponics in Perth, Australia. This forum has thousands of members and has been active since at least 2006, maybe earlier.
Since the Australians have been doing home aquaponics largely on a year-round basis and on a bigger scale than we have here in the U.S. (see previous post about Australia, America and Home Aquaponics) they are an ideal “brain to pick” about aquaponic growing. There is a cadre of very dedicated, and very knowledgeable, people on this forum that are happy to help the newbies. I find the downside of relying exclusively on this forum as a U.S. gardener, however, is that because they have been mainly growing in a year-round climate I need to be selective about some of the advice that is given. Another issue is that often products are recommended that we can’t get here, and fish and crustaceans are discussed that I haven’t even heard of (yabbies and marron, anyone?). Not a lot of tilapia love going on. Finally, the sheer size of this forum can be intimidating.
A good source of information in the U.S. continues to be the aquaponics list-serv run by Paula Speraneo of the famous S&S Aquafarms. To subscribe, send an email to: email@example.com in the body (or message area) type: subscribe. This is the information source Joel turned to before starting the Backyard forum. It also has many knowledgeable people giving generously of their time to help with a huge range of aquaponics topics, including Travis Hughey of theBarrel-ponics design. The downside of this community is that you need to join in order to witness the dialog – no anonymous hovering like with a forum – and in joining you are signing up for a flood of emails. These can be automatically filtered into a sub-directory through most email services, however, so don’t avoid this valuable resource just for that reason. The other downside is that there isn’t an easy way to see archived conversations.
Another community option is to go with a new community. While you won’t have the accumulated knowledge of a forum or the size of a long established list-serv, you will have the opportunity to interact on a more personal basis with a smaller group of enthusiasts in a newer environment that brings together photos, video, chat, forums, etc. I’d like to put in a plug for the Ning site that I started last month called Aquaponic Gardening Community. Still “intimate” (update 4/22/2011 – we’ve now grown to 1500 members and ARE a robust source of information and conversation), but has already attracted some very knowledgeable, interesting people including Anne McCarthy of the Vancouver Island University program, Affnan from Malaysia who is known for his wonderful videos on bell-siphon systems, and Aron Arnold who created the world’s first aquaponics music video.
I’ve also started a Facebook community if Facebook is more your style, and I also tweet @aquapon. My recommendation – spend time in all four (Backyard Aquaponics forum, join the list-serv, join aquaponicscommunity.com and fan the Facebook community). You will get something very different, and very useful, from each.