Frequently Asked Questions

General | Home Food Production systems | Commercial Systems

What makes Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® different?

Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® have been developed over a 20 year period and come in sizes for all applications, including commercial, home food production, education and mission/social projects. They are designed to produce fish and vegetables in the most efficient and productive method possible. The systems come as complete packages with high quality, food-grade components and detailed assembly and operation manuals. Nelson and Pade, Inc.® uses a science-based design that incorporates valid scientific research as well as knowledge gleaned from over two decades of experience designing, operating, researching and improving aquaponic systems. Commercial systems include our patented ZDEP® system which increases production and reduces waste.

Have you sold many?

As of June 2015, there are over 12 acres in Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® around the world, with sizes ranging from home food production to commercial. In the next year, that number will likely double or even triple.

Why buy a Clear Flow Aquaponic System®?

Place your order, receive the shipment, assemble the system, add fish, add plants. Buying our system eliminates the need to invent and design a system, find and order the fish tanks, filter tanks, raft tanks, plumbing parts, water pump and aeration system. It all comes as one science-based, proven system with easy to understand assembly and operation manuals, developed by Nelson and Pade, Inc.® who have a longer history and more experience in designing, building, operating and refining aquaponic systems than any other company.

Do you offer training?

Nelson and Pade, Inc.® believes that success in aquaponics comes with a science-based system, proper training and tech support and we offer all three. For people in the knowledge-gaining process, we offer a variety of learning opportunities. Tech support for both system assembly and growing is included with all of our systems and many of our customers enroll in the Nelson and Pade Grower Program.

What is the Palleting Charge?

This charge covers the cost of time and materials for packaging, palletizing and preparing systems for pick up or freight shipment.

If I attend a Master Class, do I get a discount on a system?

YES, follow this link to our incentive page.

Why doesn’t the optional equipment come with the system?

Clear Flow Aquaponic systems® are complete system packages and include all of the components in the aquaponics loop: all tanks, filter tanks, tank stands, grow beds, plumbing, pumps, valves and the aeration system. There are additional items that some people need and others do not, depending on their climate, crop choices, infrastructure, etc. These items are listed under optional equipment.

Do I need a controlled environment greenhouse?

No matter how good your aquaponic system is, it will not function to maximum capacity if the environmental conditions are outside the comfort zone for the fish and plants. A controlled environment greenhouse can provide natural sunlight, proper temperature, humidity and ventilation. Modern greenhouses are designed for every climate, from the tropics to northern climates with extreme winters. Nelson and Pade, Inc.® offers the NP-series Greenhouse that includes bio-security features and natural ventilation.

What is Bio-Security?

Bio-security is a combination of equipment and procedures that you implement to keep your food safe. Essentially, our bio-security program keeps pathogens and pests out of our greenhouse so that our crops stay healthy and the food is safe to eat. We achieve this in our Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® in conjunction with controlled environment agriculture.

Can I grow in a warehouse, basement or garage?

Yes, but you’ll need to provide a full light spectrum with grow lights, the proper temperature, humidity and ventilation. Remember, plants evolved outdoors, under natural sunlight. When you bring them indoors, you’ll need to provide the light and environmental conditions they need to grow. One beneficial use for an existing building is to use it to house the office, packaging area, fish and filter tanks and then build a greenhouse on the south end for the plant production. Buildings also typically have a lot of infrastructure (electricity, natural gas or propane, water, driveway, bathrooms, etc) that can be an asset as you start and operate your aquaponic business.

Do you offer installation of your systems?

Yes. We offer various levels of assistance for installation. These include 1. Remote Assembly Guidance. 2.Dry fit: A technician will travel to your site and help you set all components in place, assemble the plumbing components and show you examples of assembling the raft tank frame. 3. System assembly: One or more technicians will arrive onsite to completely assemble the system and glue all of the plumbing, preparing it for filling with water. 4. Technicians will be available for filling the system with water, starting and testing all components and providing an overview of how it all works.

How does the tech support work?

All Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® include a given amount of assembly and grower tech support. It is assumed though, that you have read our manuals, have basic mechanical and plumbing skills and have attended one of our grower workshops or other training opportunities.  Standard Tech support is via email. This gives you a written record of the response and allows us to quickly direct your question to the best member of the Nelson and Pade Team to answer it.

Most new growers enroll in our Grower Program so that they have easy access to our support staff throughout the year.  Learn about the Nelson and Pade Grower Program.

How can I learn more about aquaponics?

Nelson and Pade, Inc.® is known around the world as the leader in aquaponics education. We offer the 3-day Aquaponics Master Class®, our Extended Stay Learning Program and the Nelson and Pade Grower Program. Plus, in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, we have developed and offer the first-of-its-kind 3-credit, full semester aquaponics course. Join us for any of the learning opportunities.

Why do your systems cost so much?

We have designed these highly productive systems, sourced the parts, wrote manuals, built and packaged the systems for you. We use very high quality components, water pumps and air blowers and we use food grade tanks, liners and plumbing to keep your crops and you safe. If you sourced out equivalent quality parts, you would spend just as much or more, but not have our designs, our 20+ years’ experience available to you, our assembly, operation, SOP and GAP manuals, or our tech support. When you look at the quality and longevity of the materials, the design, manuals and support we offer and the production and ROI Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® provide, you will see they are a great value. Plus, they are 90% made in the USA.


Home Food Production Systems

What comes with the system?

Clear Flow Home Food Production Systems are complete system packages and include all fish tanks, hand-crafted cedar tank stands, filter tanks, grow beds, plumbing, parts, pumps, valves and the aeration system, plus detailed assembly and operation manuals. All parts are included and cut to fit! Holes in tanks for drains and seals are pre-cut. When you receive Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems®, just follow the directions and put the pieces that we ship you together.

What else do I need?

Our system plumbing ends at the drains of the filter tanks. You’ll need to connect the system drains to your drain. We don’t supply this because we don’t know how you will route the plumbing to your drains.

You will need to supply the PVC pipe and connectors to route the air between the air pump (or blower) to the tanks that require air.  We do not supply this because it is impossible for us to project how you will rout the airlines. For commercial systems, you supply the polystyrene sheets.

You will need a source of potable fresh water (without chlorine and without contact with any copper pipe), electricity, a place to put the system (greenhouse-best choice, building-2nd best choice, outdoors-least favorite choice). You can look at the optional equipment for Home Food Production Systems to see other items that you might want to purchase, such as grow lights, fish tank windows or supplies.

Can I assemble it?

You will need to follow directions in the assembly manual, assemble the tank stands, set the stands and tanks in place, insert seals, assemble and glue PVC pipe and assemble and glue the aeration system. For first time assembly, allow 1-2 days to assemble the F5, 3-4 days for the Home Garden and 5-6 days for the Family Plus.

What can I grow?

Our Home Food Production Systems are designed for and intended to grow a combination of garden crops, such as lettuce, greens, herbs, beans, peas, cucumbers, peppers, cabbage, broccoli and more. You should grow what you like to eat. The fish can be tilapia, blue gill, koi, goldfish or another fresh water fish that does well at 74℉.


Commercial Systems FAQ

What comes with the Commercial System?

Clear Flow Commercial Systems® are complete system packages and include the fish tanks, all filter tanks, hand-crafted cedar or powder coat metal tank stands, easy-to-assemble raft tank frames and custom fit liner, sample raft and conical bit for drilling holes, accelerated plant nursery table and channels, plumbing, parts, pumps and valves, an air blower and the aeration system, plus detailed operation manual, Standard Operating Procedures, Good Agriculture Practices template and a project timeline. And, commercial systems include the patented ZDEP® filtration and plant growing components. Holes in tanks for drains and seals are pre-cut.

What does NOT come with the Commercial Systems?

Some straight lengths of PVC pipe are not included because you can buy them locally and not have to pay for shipping. Our system plumbing ends at the drains of the filter tanks. You’ll need to connect the system drains to your drain. We don’t supply this because we don’t know how you will route the plumbing to your drains. You will need to supply the PVC pipe and connectors to route the air between the air pump (or blower) to the tanks that require air.  We do not supply this because it is impossible for us to project how you will rout the airlines.

The polystyrene sheets for the rafts and raft tank walls and media bed walls are not included with the Commercial Systems. In most cases, this product is available locally. We do provide specs, so you purchase the right items. If it is not available locally, we can provide it for an additional cost

If you have a concern about finding the straight lengths of PVC pipe or the polystyrene sheets locally, we can provide a quote to have them delivered to you.

You will need a source of potable fresh water (without chlorine and without contact with any copper pipe), electricity, a place to put the system (greenhouse-best choice, building-2nd best choice, outdoors-least favorite choice). You can look at the optional equipment for Commercial Systems to see other items that you might want to purchase, such as grow lights, fish tank windows or supplies.

For a commercial operation, there are other things you will need to make it a complete business. For instance, a delivery vehicle, office equipment, packing tables, sink, storage cabinets, scale, produce cooler, etc.

What crops can I grow? What is most profitable?

We offer our Commercial Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® in two versions: Farm Market Systems and Commercial Systems.

Farm Market systems are generally smaller and grow a more diverse mix of crops such as cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, peas, beans, etc., that can be sold retail, direct to the consumer. Commercial systems are generally larger and designed to produce a great deal of lettuce, greens and leafy crops in one very efficient system. Commercial growers usually grow all leafy crops and sell most of what they grow wholesale to grocers, institutions or brokers.

What about fish?

Most of our growers raise tilapia because they are very hardy, fast growing and, when raised in our Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® using our methods and purge process, they taste GREAT. Other fish, like blue gill and catfish, and other fresh water fish that do well at about 74℉ can also be raised.

What is the patented ZDEP® ?

ZDEP® is an acronym for near Zero-Discharge/Extra Production. It is a patented system that drastically increases plant production and reduces or eliminates any waste. Solid fish waste, which is removed from the main system, is processed in the patented ZDEP® filter. Then, clear, nutrient-rich water is returned to the main system to increase plant production. The solid waste can be used to grow additional crops in media beds or outdoor gardens. Learn more about the ZDEP®

What is an accelerated nursery?

Our accelerated nursery dramatically increases plant production using a 2-stage transplant method. This moves your crops through the system faster and, therefore, allows you to harvest and sell more plants every day.

Do I need a fish nursery?

Our commercial systems each have four or six fish tanks, which are stocked using a staggered method (one tank every 6 weeks when using tilapia). We recommend stocking the tanks with 50 gram fingerlings. If you can purchase 50 gram fingerlings, you don’t need a nursery. If you can’t find fish that are stocking size, then you should start them in our nursery system. This is a very efficient method of starting with fry (very young fish) and growing them to stocking size. Our fish nurseries include plant grow beds.

Do I need a purge system?

If you are raising fish to eat, we highly recommend a purge system. Using our purge system and purging techniques, your harvested fish will have a clean, fresh taste. The meat will have a firm texture. With any farmed fish, if you don’t purge them, you will likely be disappointed in the quality. If you are raising ornamental fish, like koi or goldfish, you don’t need a purge system.  See our Fish Purge Systems.

Do I need a seed germination system?

We recommend starting all plants from seed in an aquaponic system and it is most efficient to start the seeds in a smaller germination system than in your main culture system. Our commercial systems include the automated germination systems to provide proper water flow to the grow cubes that the seeds are started in. Using our germination system and techniques, lettuce seeds will germinate within 24 hours and the first green shoot will emerge within 48 hours.

Can you provide me a financial analysis, ROI and estimate of how much money I can make?

There are too many variables, such as climate, crop choice, budget, size, system, environmental control choices, infrastructure, management and marketing abilities and level of investment for us to provide a one-size-fits-all answer for how much money you can earn. We do provide projections for how much you can grow, electrical requirements for the system and estimated labor. From there, you can work through the numbers to get an idea of the rough costs. If you are going to the bank or looking for investors, consider our project planning services in which we work through all of the numbers and provide a very detailed report that gives all of the information you’ll need for your business plan.

What are the SOPs and GAP manual template?

The SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) and GAP (Good Agriculture Practices) template are tools that you’ll need to implement a food safety and bio-security program. Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® in a controlled environment allow you to grow safe, healthy food year-round. Our SOPs and GAP template help you set up programs to keep the food safe and free of contamination as well as keep your operation running efficiently. The well-developed and valuable tools are only available when you purchase Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems®.

Can I assemble commercial Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® myself?

If you have mechanical and plumbing skills and don’t mind taking on a project, you can build the commercial systems yourselves once our technicians do the dry-fit with you. But we strongly recommend that before you do so, you attend our Aquaponics Master Class® and Extended Stay Learning Program, in which we will teach you the ins-and-outs of system assembly and operation.

The installation involves assembling the tank stands, set the stands and tanks in place, insert seals, assemble the raft tanks (no concrete required) and media beds and put the liners in, assemble and glue PVC pipe and assemble and glue the aeration system. The other option is to have us help you with the installation, using one of our assembly services.

How are the raft tanks made?

Our raft tanks are easy to assemble and do not require concrete, concrete block or any back-breaking labor. It typically takes about a ½ day to assemble our metal raft tank frames, insert the side walls and install the underlayment and food-grade liner.

Should I bury the system plumbing or place it onto of a concrete floor?

The system is intended to be set on a concrete or other solid floor, or it can be partially buried so the plumbing is out of the way. If you install it on a floor, you should consider building decking or ramps over the plumbing, so that people don’t trip on it. If you partially bury it, it is more work initially, but a cleaner installation. If you plan to pour a concrete floor before receiving any aquaponics equipment and want detailed custom floor plans for plumbing, electrical, etc, you will have to pay a design fee for that service.

Can I build my Commercial greenhouse?

If you have the skills and tools, yes you can build your greenhouse. If you’ve never built a greenhouse and don’t want to waste time figuring it out, you can hire a greenhouse builder to get it done professionally. Often, in hindsight, the people who build their greenhouse wish they had just hired a contractor and gotten it done quickly, giving them the chance to get into business and earn income faster.

Is this available as a franchise?

Our complete system packages essentially include everything that comes with a franchise. But we don’t charge a franchise fee. Why pay other companies (especially less experienced ones) a franchise fee when we include it for free?

What is the “Success Package”?

The Success Package saves you money on the services and training that will get you up and operating your commercial aquaponics venture successfully. The Extended Stay Learning  Program, our Assembly Guidance and the Nelson and Pade Grower Program provide you with the training, technical support and guidance you need to get started and become successful in commercial aquaponic farming. The Success Package makes these services available at a discount at the time you make the system purchase.