Soylent Aqua/Hydroponics


Continuing the discussion from Soup recipe - Soylent swappable muggle food:

For those who are curious, there’s a large number of available hydroponics systems for home use that don’t require much upkeep - generally 1-3 hours a day. Basically come home from work and do your “gardening” and fish feeding.

Your major source of protein would be the fish (many systems recommend tilapia for optimal yields), though you would probably be best supplementing this with plant proteins, mostly shelling beans like soy or chickpea, which may be a bit more work, but dry very well. Using other beans would save time and energy in the harvesting, but add more sugars and starches, which you may be perfectly fine.

Lettuce and other leafy greens provide high yields and fast harvests, as well as high vitamin A, C and K content. Spinach is probably a good bet here, in terms of the tradeoff between overall flavor and nutrition.

From here, you need to add some other carb sources - tomato yields are good, and they preserve rather well with very high vitamin content. You have fiber and starches come from your beans.

I’m pretty sure grain beds are not feasible in an aquaponics/hydroponics environment, thought I’ve yet to see anything either way. It’s mostly irrelevant anyhow, since the harvesting would be very time and energy intensive for comparatively little yield.

Greens, beans, and fruiting vegetables are definitely the way to go.

I’ll see if I can cook up a recipe that will meet the minimum aquaponics yield for fish, since that would probably be your largest constraining factor.

Another thing to keep in mind - someone has to prep that fish. I’ve heard that many grocery stores are perfectly willing to gut and prepare fish you bring to them if you talk to them about it first.


As someone that has been involved with aquaponics for a decade, I can tell you, it’s not as easy as it looks, and it’s certainly not as simple as just adding fish food and picking some tomatoes. The learning curve is significant, and if you are doing anything lower than 300 gallons, you likely won’t produce much. For something that even comes close to producing the calories you need, it will take up a LOT of space and consume huge amounts of electricity.

It should be noted that you actually don’t need fish. They are just the nutrient source for the plants, but they add a considerable amount of complexity to a system. You can use other animals, like earthworms, as the nutrient source.

AP is not more efficient in terms of space or resources than other methods of growing, though many people will claim that it is. In practical terms, if you have a wicking bed with square foot gardening, you can meet and exceed the AP yields without an electricity requirement (while still using little water) .

Forest Gardening is the most space and energy efficient growing system around, and will require considerably less labor than any other method to maintain.


I was working up a post about the electrical usage; based on their numbers (2.8A @120V) the base system would run ~$31/mo of electricity in my area, not including the cost to run high intensity grow lights and (?) of additional A/C usage to dissipate all the heat if you do it in your house. Insert joke about high intensity grow lights in a residential environment here. And they said 2-3 hours per day maintenance - this defeats the entire purpose (for some of us, anyway).


As always, I appreciate the information, insight, and enthusiasm that the soylent community has. :smile:

For right now, I’ll post my [preliminary aqua/hydroponic recipe.][1]

In one of links in the OP, the company offers a basic two table system (their second tier) with a claimed optimal yield of 215 pounds of tilapia a year for $7k. This was the upper bound for my fish. That same system claims a yield of ~1,300 heads of lettuce.


I thought the point of the fish in aquaponics (vs hydroponics) was to be able to eat the fish as a part of your food source? I’d imagine hydroponics is more efficient in both time and cost if you’re not going to eat the fish and aren’t looking to be completely self sufficient. (My fiance’s father has his own farm and provides his own water/electricity with sun panels and rain tanks, and he’s looking to take the step to aquaponics to become self sufficient.)


@addy the point of AP is to produce nutrients for the plants. If you want to raise fish, then there are more efficient, and less costly methods. Hydroponics is more efficient on a lot of things, but there is still a considerable cost, labor, and energy consumption to consider. AP won’t make anyone self-sufficient, because you still have to feed the fish and provide micronutrients and trace elements. Running an AP system on solar power is no small feat, and it will take many years to cover the initial cost.

@isaackotlicky those projected yields are based on running 12 months out of the year and could only be achieved by an expert, if even possible at all. I’ve not seen any systems produce a lb of fish for each gallon of water. You’ll be doing really well if you achieve 1/3 of those yields from that system.


I know those are annual yields, not per catch/harvest yields. That’s why the recipe uses comparatively little fish (around half a pound per day) and supplements the remaining protein requirements through beans.

A head of lettuce weighs between 1 to 1.5 pounds, so their optimal harvests translate to 1,300 - 3,200 lbs. a year of produce. Even if we assume 1/2 weight for the harvest due to inefficiencies, that’s still 650-1600 lbs. of produce annually. The recipe I linked requires a little over a kilo of the assorted vegetables a day, which translates to just under 900 lbs of produce for a full year.

I may not be an expert, but that’s certainly within the realm of the possible for those with the time and ability.


Even your ~200 lbs of fish meat a year is not realistic from a system like that. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to produce maybe 100 lbs of live fish in a year (after several failures and years of learning) 100 lbs of live tilapia makes about 40 lbs of tilapia meat. And it’ll take 200+ lbs of food to raise the 100 lbs of tilapia.

Same goes with the lettuce. It’s not “1300 lbs of produce”, it’s 1300 lbs of lettuce, which has low nutritional requirements. And you won’t get even close to that in reality, MAYBE 400 lbs of lettuce plants. But, assuming you won’t be eating the lettuce roots and all, the weight of actual food is considerably less.

I’m not saying you can’t produce that much food, I’m saying you won’t be able to produce that much food from that system, especially as a beginner. If you want to learn about Aquaponics, I highly recommend a forum like or

For a beginner, it is wiser to start with simple and efficient gardening, and then work up to managing fish, etc.


Again, I appreciate all the expertise that you and this forum is providing.
I wasn’t about to jump into it myself, I was merely doing to research on it in general, and you’ve added valuable perspective to that optimism.

Just as with us, GIGO - so plants need a nutrient rich source to be able to grow healthy produce.

So what we need is soylent for plants to help make soylent for humans… :smile:

@rob and @JulioMiles may be right - soylent algae is probably the easiest route to sustainability. Now THAT would be much easier to aqua/hydroponically grow…


Finding an algae combination that met all the requirements would be something of a nutritional Philosopher’s Stone.

I’m designing a 2500 gallon tank system that will be divided into 6 subtanks inside a 10’x20’ greenhouse. I’ve gardened all my life until recently, as my apartment doesn’t have the space for it. I’ll be moving into a house in August or September, and I’ll have plenty of room for it. I’ll be getting a passive solar water heating system, and will insulate the greenhouse (and with 2500 gallons of water, maintaining a temperature range for aquaponics doesn’t require electrical heating.) It requires more upfront investment, but the larger the aquaponics system, the more stable it is.

Algae and seaweed - - have a lot of fiber. I’m not sure if 2000 calories of seaweed is going to be pleasant, unless you can remove some of the fiber. For example, Arame, the first seaweed in the list, , has 48g of fiber per 100g of seaweed. It does cover a lot of vitamins and minerals, though. It may be the natural multivitamin analogue we need to shore up the gaps for other foods. The high levels of iodine are also a concern. There is a definite place in this process for seaweeds and algae, however.

I’ll start adding nutrition data for different types of seaweed and algae that I’m able to find data on.

350g of tilapia a day would provide the RDA for b12 and almost all of the protein. Using it as a base might work out really well. You’d have to come up with 1500 calories from other sources, like potatoes, leafy greens, beans, and tomatoes.

Chicken coops and yeast bioreactors might also be viably sustainable. The goals should be to minimize processing, meet the US RDA minimums on all counts, and minimize the complexity required to produce the meal.


Here’s my favorite system:


single cell protein (algae, fungi, bacteria, etc) might be another option, as well. it can grow on a variety of substrates.

also, insects are generally some of the most efficient animals, in terms of feed conversion.

There is an algae/fish polyculture using tilapia called greenwater. It’s basically using algae to soak up the nutrients from the fish, similar to plants in an aquaponics system. The advantage is that is low energy for the amount of fish, and relatively simple to manage. You could filter the algae to produce some carbs and vitamins, use the fish for protein, b vitamins, and omegas, and then fill in the holes.

Synthetic vs naturally occurring micronutrients

Also, don’t forget about fungi/mushrooms. They can grow on waste materials, have good protein profiles, and are very efficient compared to plants and animals. Plus, they are easy, even for a beginner: