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‘Quaquaponics’ – How to set up Aquaponics with Ducks!

You don’t need to eat fish to set up a backyard aquaponics system! Ducks are a great alternative and produce a huge amount of nutrient for growing veggies (not to mention providing eggs, meat and snail and slug control!) and they’re generally good friends to have around. At the Farm of Fluff, Chris and James set up this ‘quaquaponics’ system with a few bits and pieces we’d collected from the side of the road — and so far it’s doing brilliantly! You need a strong pump and good filtration to cope with the large particles coming through though! (We found a whole tomato blocking the drain one day, so check and clean regularly!)


  1. Great idea! One of those “why hasn’t THAT been thought of before” ideas.

    One major benefit over a fish-based system – if the power goes out, all your ducks don’t die.

    But the massive amount of netting and fencing you can see in the video tells of a major downside – birds get into, and destroy, everything you build. You either contain them and lose the benefit of free ranging (no weeds or grasses are left, no slugs, disease build-up, etc) or you let them range and they find the one tiny container of the one special seedling that you tucked away and have lunch.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. I wondered about this option for cold climates where maintaining fish cultures overwinter is too expensive energetically. If you were to shut something like this down seasonally, how difficult is it to ‘kick start’ in the spring…in terms of re-establishing appropriate bacterial culture in the beds and getting the system equilibrated?

    1. Depends on how cold your winter is. At 0 degrees Celsius, the nitrobacter will die so you’re starting from scratch every spring.

  3. Hi Charlie,

    The system looks awesome. Great video too. Nice to see recycled materials.

    Regards. Chris

  4. Great thinking. I was struggling with the idea of having lots of fish trapped inside a barrel, so this with no doubt the best solution to my problem.
    What´s the minimum investment to do this? Is it just the water pump and a filter right?

    Thanks a lot for posting..

  5. Be careful ducks are warm blooded and can carry salmonella. If you don’t like fish try “gatorponics”. Gators are cold blooded and can’t carry salmonella.

    1. The statement that gators, a reptilian cold-blooded animal, cannot carry salmonella is false. Reptiles are capable of harboring salmonella! Any pet store can tell you that their turtles, snakes, and lizards can give you salmonella if you don’t practice proper hygiene.
      Practice basic biosecurity and talk to a veterinarian about how to treat/prevent salmonella in your flock.

  6. Great work. I reckon it is fantastic but you are going to have to be very careful about the bacteria. Some bacteria will even embed themselves in the leaves of the plant and potentially not be able to be washed off. This is particularly dangerous with vegetables that are not going to be cooked before consumption. It might be worth switching to a pure source of water for a time before consumption but I have no idea how long the bacteria would take to die off or purge.

    There are some types of vegetables that would be effected differently and vegetables that could be thoroughly cooked would be the safest.

    Direct fresh splashing with duck water would be the greatest risk so maybe only flooding the roots from underneath would reduce the risk – but it will not eliminate it. Of course you could feed some of the greens to the ducks and get the nutrients back in your eggs!!!

    I am a supporter, but just be careful, bacteria can be dangerous. Serious gastric illness makes you feel like you are going to die and some people do. Some people don’t fully recover and suffer serious physical and mental disabilities as a result. Keep yourself and others around you healthy so you can continue to practice good and smart permaculture.

    Be careful when handling any of the unclean produce that you thoroughly wash your hands and don’t cross contaminate to other other fresh fruit etc. These sorts of food supply may become essential in the future. Well done.

  7. This is ingenious! The name itself “Quackuaponics” is hysterical but I could see how this can work. The only thing is that I’m not so sure that eating vegetables fertilized with duck poop is very appealing. I do know that there is fertilizer made from chicken poop and it works pretty good though. Great idea!

  8. Hi there!

    It has been a while since this was posted, so I hope Charlie Jones has his email notification on! :D
    I’d be interested to know how this system has survived the test of time?
    For me it raises questions such as:
    – How did it do in winter?
    – What kind of pump do you use? And does it run all the time? I will be on a solar powered system and for now cannot really afford much. I have two 24v PV cells that will charge a 12 v system, I will have a converter to 220v. You can imagine I can’t afford to run a 700w pump all the time.
    – Would a flock of say 5 or 6 ducks be enough to possibly heat a greenhouse? I plan on running my shower and sinkwater through a heat exchanger inside the bathtub so it won’t freeze over winter. Also I’m planning to add a day to night heat storage device such as described in another post on permaculturenews.

    Cheers for any ideas and updates!

  9. Inoculating.your duckponics system regularly with EM-A “effective microorganisms” treatment will help reduce the bacterial risks by promoting a healthy and diverse microbial environment… Will also help keep all the muck broken down!

  10. That’s so exciting! Who knew the potential of ducks in farming technology! Just have a few questions for you:
    – How long did it take for you to start cycling with ducks?
    – What kind of ducks worked best in your system?
    – Did you also incorporate fish, and if so, was there a population imbalance because of natural predation?
    Great work and keep it up!


  11. I too am preparing to set up a duckponics system. I would second the concerns about the risk of salmonella – it has been shown that salmanella can infiltrate the plant through the root system; some plants are more at risk than others, but best practice is to only grow crops you will cook thoroughly or that you intend to use as duck fodder. The monthly EM-A supplement is a good idea too – add to the water and spray all around the duck pen, yard, an your plants.

  12. Hey Charlie,

    How did your system go over time? I have been running quaquaponics for about 2 years with moderate success. Some issues with water hardness – which I have overcome. Now the high phosphate in the duck poo has caused alge bloom using up all my ammonia and dropping the DO. Did you come across this and how did you combat it? Trying several things – running it through coir and added a product called “splosht”.

  13. I would like more information on how it did over time. The I am going to put up 2 green houses and was going to do aquaphonics but now I think I would like ducks. I live where the winters are not predictable and I saw a guy loose all his fish twice. Everything I read is about ph balance of the water the plants are getting. I am very intrigued with this

  14. Better yet: use clean water (small amounts) to sprout different kinds of seeds for duck fodder; lots of animals will relish this; (videos on YT for a search) sell the duck eggs, they’re huge and a delicacy. In a separate greenhouse to eliminate the salmonella issues, use koi or goldfish (cold climate hardy right down to zero degrees) for your AP fertilizer, or just compost tea works well with a few mineral supplements. The combo gives you the protein and the greens growth. Vermiponics of your compost to feed both the ducks and the fish, thus eliminating one of your biggest (and most unsustainable) costs, fish food. Bulk seeds for sprouting for fodder is pretty inexpensive, and I’ll be willing to bet that you’ll be the only source for duck eggs in your local area. If you’re near fancy schmancy restaurants to sell to, so much the better. Full circle comes when you use the clean water you’re irrigating the sprouting seeds with to top off your AP tanks from the water loss from transpiration and evaporation.

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