Monday, October 24, 2011

New video added

Something is wrong with blogger.  I am unable to embed a video..

pls see the link below for the latest video..

Spring 2011 #1

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Spring is here and I have killed my fish!!

Spring is FINALLY here!!

A lot has been going on...  Sorry for not posting for so long.  Fact is that not much has been happening.
I managed to kill all my trout by sheer stupidity.  Re-planted my DWC system with some tomatoes and basil.  Also made a fishtrap with some success..  I further added a new growbed, and I introduced a few local bass to my system.  Feeding them with "reject" koi from a local breeder.  I still have some tilapia that made it through the winter.  Planning on having a number of litters to feed the bass.  Check out the pics..

Plants currently in the system:
* 1 tomato that survived the winter (doing very well)
* a bunch of new tomato,s different varieties
* cucumbers
* peas
* squash
* corn
* mango
* chilli
* paprika
* green peppers
* basil (two types)
* Thyme
* Parsley
* lemon Balm
* Oregano
Wow.  Did not realise it was that much...


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I am still alive!

Long time no post.

It is winter now and things are not so good.  The weather is too cold for summer crops and it appears too hot for winter crops.  My cauliflower and broccoli have both gone to seed because of hot weather.  Spring is upon us, so I am starting new seedlings so that I can get a head start...

I have Trout in the system right now, and they are getting quite big.  Will be eating some of them soon.  The Chest freezer is back in commission, and working AWESOME!  - it is nicely sealed (it took ages) and the tilapia are as happy as, well fish in water.  As soon as the system water heats up, I will put the remaining trout in the chest freezer, and use it as a keep-cool tank.  I plan to add a block of ice every day to keep it chilly.  The tilapia will then move back into the system.  I also plan to trap some bluegill fish and use that in the system.  Will post pictures soon!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Chest freezer out of commission

So the freezer somehow sprang a leak.  had to top up the water every few days.

Decided that I should do away with the liner and rather fix up the freezer properly.
This is proving to take longer than I had hoped.  As in going on 2 weeks.
Result is that most of the tilapia have died..
Those that are left are probably genetically disposed towards tolerating the cold weather..
Bruno my dog had a field day.  He ate every last dead fish..
For some reason I am unable to add pictures to the blog today.  Will try gain later..

In other news, the trout are doing very very well!
They are eating like starved banshees.. will be eating a couple of them tonight!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Fish are balmy in the freezer!

We had a couple of fish deaths from the cold.  I lost maybe a dozen or so fingerlings and one plate-sized guy,  You may remember old Geoffrey from an earlier post.  I took hm back outside since he was all better and the cold water promptly killed him.  And I did not shock him.  I lowered his temperate overnight before taking him outside..  Oh well.  A memorial service is scheduled for old Geoffrey.  Felt really bad about it.

Decided to do something about it.  So I got me a beat-up old 350L chest freezer..  
(while my wife rolls her eyes)

So why would I use a chest freezer if I am complaining about the cold?   - because the freezer is very  very well insulated and will keep the heat inside.   Of course the freezer is not turned on   :-)

I lined it with black plastic. 
Getting it in and neat is quite difficult...  Involves a whole lot of patience.  That substance that I have soo much of.

But a bit of packaging tape helped it along..  Was worried about the lid pinching the airlines, but it appears ok.  (If I put my ear to the closed lid I can hear it bubbling away inside)

Please notice the all important lid-closing device on top...  Will install some sort of latch to keep it closed.  Later.      And please also notice my helper on the side..  She felt the needed to check he seal personally..

And this morning, I checked the temperature again:   28 degrees Celsius!
And they seem happy!

Woo hoo!!
This is fun..

Next steps:
I would like to measure the effectiveness of the insulation.  So I will be monitoring the temperature in the tank (it should go up and down as the heater switches itself on and off) - from this I could figure out how much power I am using to maintain the temperature.  I have the option of adding more insulation, but I think 90% of the energy loss at this point comes from the cold air that is getting pumped in via the aerator.

Tomorrow I am getting trout for the AP system!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Rafting update

An HSM is an aquaponics term, short for a Holy Shit Moment.  Defined as an indeterminate period of time during which all hell breaks loose in an aquaponic system, and where serious intervention is required.  In some cases accompanied by severe fish losses and lots of swearing and running around like a mad person .  Examples include broken pipes, serious biological imbalances (nitrite spikes etc), and in some cases, you get dogs OPENING YOUR FRIGGIN' DRAIN TAP.  I lost maybe 1000L of water today.  This is the 3rd time.  No idea how they do it, no idea how to stop them from doing it.  Maybe I should apply liberal doses of chilli to the handle... <GRIN>
Luckily the super clever design of my system will never leave the fish without water, so I did not lose any fish because of this

First winter casualties
Arrived at the smallfry tank this morning after our first particularly cold night, and (apart from the HSM) found two little bite-size dead guys.
Here is one of them.  I assume they could not handle the water temp dropping below 18deg C.  I am convinced not all of them will die, because tilapia are flourishing in our local dams, which get as cold as 12degC in winter.  But I am worried.  I would prefer not losing half the fish..  And the water is not even that cold yet.  I need to make a plan and quickly..

Rafting update
Here are the promised pics of the rafting system.

The cabbage are doing particularly well.  I have some pots open where I plan to plant a second batch..
Some nice roots growing out of the pots and hanging into the water.  The water is well aerated to keep the roots from rotting.

Making chillisauce!
 I had WAY too many chillis harvested, and I don't really like the taste when raw, so I made chillisauce!

DO NOT TOUCH EYES OR NOSE when handling chilli.  And if you are male, DO NOT GO PEE!!!  (Or if you do, go freestyle!)

That is all I am going to say about that..

Recipe?  Comment to the blog if you want it.  I used lotsa chillies, some fresh paprika, 2 red peppers, 2 red onions and a LOT of sugar.  yum.

Luckily I do not make a huge mess when cooking.  

The result..  A very sweet, medium hot chilli sauce.  Sort of tabasco plus sweet chilli sauce plus a truckload of sugar.  Plus maybe some more sugar.

Did I mention it tastes sweet?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Winter is coming!

Sorry for the long silence!  And thank you to all my new followers! - it is awesome to blog if you know some people are actually reading the crap you are writing.

The tomatoes are doing very well, I am harvesting maybe 1kg of ripe tomatoes per day, plus a few handfuls of chili and paprika.  Way too much for normal day-day use.  I pick them when they start to go pink, and have them turn red in the kitchen.  If I don't use it right away, it goes to the freezer, where they are collected for ketchup day.  Paprika tastes great.  Sort of sweet like a green pepper..

Made my own ketchup the other day!  It was great fun and it tastes AWESOME.   Used my own tomatoes, paprika, herbs and an onion. Tastes somewhere between regular ketchup, tomato-and-onion mix and salsa...  Will do it slightly different next time, but I am very very happy with the results.

The raft system is taking off.  This is an old pic taken the day I planted the seedlings.  I have cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and some basil going there.  great fun!  Will do another post to show the roots coming out the bottom of the netpots.  very cool.

Also, I have not mentioned my worm farm before.  Today I peeked inside and was particularly impressed by the sheer number of worms that are packing in there.  They just LOVE rotten bananas!.  Every now and then I chuck a bunch of them into the smallfry/fingerling tank, and then I sit and watch amused as they tear the worms apart.  The chickens also love a few worms, and I normally chuck another 2 or 3 onto the growbed and watch how quickly they graft down in-between the gravel.  Of course the worms are very good to have in the growbed.  They help to process any solids that arrive there from the incoming water, and of course they also help to get rid of any dead roots (especially when your plant has reached the end of the line)

Winter is coming..   Tilapia depressed
Weather is turning cold.  Water is cooling down quickly, and the tilapia are not too impressed.  They sit in a huddle and complain to each other, reminiscing about the good old days when you could go and swim around without getting your fins frozen stiff..  They have now all gone on a hunger strike to get the politicians to turn the heating back on..  I feed them less than 50% of what I used to, and then I still from time to time notice them not eating the food.  I normally try to remove uneaten food because when it starts to rot it gets all mucky and gross.  It is good practice to check the tank 5-10 minutes after feeding to make sure they are eating.  If I catch them not bothering with the food, I stop feeding for 2-3 days, and thereafter they are more likely to come and catch a sniff at the food.  Maybe I should feed them some happy pills.  Prozak?

I am considering getting some trout for the winter.  Will have to eat them all before summer is back.  No idea how well the trout and tilapia will like sharing a tank.  I could move the tilapia all into the small tank, since they are just sitting around being depressed anyway, but I think it would be interesting to see a bunch of depressed tilapia together with some really excited pink trout..  Maybe the trout will cheer them up?

Mozzie fish and sick dear Geoffrey.
Brian gave me some mozzie fish to help fend off the mosquito invasion.  I have them in a heated aquarium tank trying to get them to breed.  I want a whole gazillion of them.  No success yet.  The sick make tilapia is in another tank, getting back to normal.  He had a case of white spot, which I cured with some medicine, and thereafter his fins started rotting away.  Gave him antibiotics and whatnot.  He seems happy now.  Not depressed like the others because his tank is sitting at 33deg C..   My wife decided he is to be called Geoffrey.  Now we will never eat the sucker...  He actually has some personality.  He was watching me cook the ketchup in the kitchen with a "are you sure you don't know what you are doing?" look on his face.

Water heating..
The cold water is a bitch.  I have been considering different options of trying to get the water temp up.  One would be a solar water heater system.  This would help to get temperatures up in daytime, but at night it would plummet again.  Was thinking I could preserve a lot of the thermal energy if I insulated the main fishtank, maybe add some styrofoam rafts on top plus some foam around the sides, then switch off the pump during nighttime.  Not too sure of my story, but I heard somewhere the plants don't need the water so bad during the night, so I could halt the pump after sundown, which should help to keep the water from losing all of its temperature.  Thoughts anyone?
If I had the space and a steady supply of organic material, a compost heap would have been an excellent water heater option...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Raceways arriving..

Lots of cool news..

Firstly, my all-new stainless steel raceways have arrived.  I will be using one for a growbed (gravel filled, with flood and drain cycles)  And the other will be used for DWC (Deep Water Culture) AKA Rafting..

Here my father-in-law was somehow talked into spending the hottest part of the day helping to get the stands into the back yard...  Notice the endless patience as he holds the frame up while I am messing around with the camera..

 And here they are.  They are each 2.4m x 200mm x 700mm.  Massive!!!
Notice the filter frames.  The water will enter the raceway on the left, and then move through two separate filter cartridges before entering the raceway proper.  The cartridge frames are shown here.  I have two spares, so every few days I can just swop out the filters for a clean one.  The idea is to filter as much muck out of the water as possible, or else the muck will tend to clog the root systems of the floating plants in the raceway..

As you can see, the plants are doing VERY well...I counted a total of 35 tomatoes on there..    At a harvest average of 500grams each, that will be about 17 kilos of tomatoes!! And we are still growing, with at least twice that number of flowers showing!

'nuff said!

This little purple plant is in fact a Mango tree!  I had the pip from a mango in my worm bin (another story altogether), and it germinated in there.  So I stuck it in the growbed and it appears happy as a clam.  Will have to get it its very own growbed soon...

This was once a happy and vibrant sage plant.  And then my dog Lisa decided it might be a lot of fun to maybe rip it out of the pot and leave it on the paving for a day or 2.  By the time I picked it up to get it into the growbed, there was no soil left around the roots.  It was in really bad shape.  The leaves are all dead, but the stem appears green and alive.  Watch this space.  Should be interesting to see how it recovers..

And this is Lisa.  The destroyer of gardens.  And anything else of value.  Also wanted for the theft of hearts..  She is a great dane, and 8 months old.  Lets hope she does not start to get curious about the growbed or any of the plumbing...

Last but not least I have an updated video of the system..  Enjoy!

Find it interesting?  PLEASE COMMENT

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tomatoes are showing!

 The tomato bushes have been really going like a boeing.  The cultivar is called Ox heart, which grows tomatoes upto 1lb in size.  This guy is already about the size of a tennis ball..

They are also apparently an indeterminate varierty, which means they do not grow into a fixed shape, which means they can grow very very long if you string them up.  So I put up some 3.6m horizontal poles which I will use to string the tomato plants as far as I can.  I am hoping for more than 10m.  (will add more string-ups when it gets to the end of the 3.6m poles..)  Also notice the welded mesh I installed to try and keep the tomato plants in check - they have been swamping the poor chilli plants..

Speaking of which. the chillies are all doing very well.  One paprika in particular is looking very good...

In other news, I have moved the smallfry outside.  I counted 140 of them!  I now have all the fingerling females in one tank and all the males in another, and all the smallfry together in a 3rd tank.

Last but not least, I am trying another experiment.  I like to call it "open loop aquaponics"  In open loops, the water is fed to the plants but not circulated back.  I connected a solenoid valve to the pipe coming from the pump, and fed a pipe all the way to a lemon tree that is planted in soil.  The lemon tree has had a rough time from dry conditions.  The solenoid valve is switched on twice a day for 20 minutes.  The solenoid valve normally requires a high pressure to properly open. 
I do not have much of a high pressure from the pump, so it only lets through a trickle.  Which is exactly what I want.  Twice a day, a very small amount of nutrient-rich water is dumped at the lemon tree, I would guess it to be less than 2 litres a day.

Monday, January 31, 2011


Hi again

Today I present the holy fish..
This is what happens if you have too many males in a tank with too few females. 
The males pull out their '38 specials and start shooting the females?
friggin unbelievable..

Other than the hole, the fish appears to be OK..

Saturday, January 29, 2011

New SLO design, Video tour

Hi there

Long time no blog..
Today I put up another fishtank and built a pretty cool Solids-removal system for it.

The solids removal problem:
In aquaculture systems, solids need to be removed.  Why?  Well how you you like to swim in your own poop all day?  Seriously, the fishpoop solids can start to rot and create ammonia and all sort of nasty things we don't want.  Plus its nice to have a clean tank to show to visitors..

How is it normally done in AP systems?
In AquaPonics, there are two main methods to remove solids.  
Pump-in-Fishtank (PIFT): 
The pump is located on the bottom of the fishtank.  The pump picks up the solids from the bottom of the tank, and typically the solids are dumped in the growbed, where earthworms will take care of it..  Problem is that the solids are picked up OK, but only around the pump.  The opposite corner of the fishtank will remain poop-filled, and you will need to manually siphon it out, or maybe grab a net.

Solids-Lifting Overflow (SLO):  
 The fishtank has a pipe along its bottom with slits cut into it.  The pipe elbows up the side of the tank and from there heads out to the sump.  Sounds good, and works sort-of OK.  Problem is that again, the bottom pipe does not reach everywhere, and again you have some poop sitting in a corner.  A second problem is the size of the cuts in the SLO.  If you make them big enough to always pass all the solids, then, if you have smallfry, you run a real risk of getting some smallfry sucked in.  If you make the cuts small enough to keep smallfry from getting sucked in, then the cuts are likely to get clogged by poop and debris.  Not good.

So what is my idea?
I noticed that in indoor aquariums, the Under-gravel filters work wonders in collecting fishpoop.  In a typical aquarium, the poop sort-of collects under the filter plate until you eventually get around to cleaning it.  These filters work by creating a negative pressure area under the filter plate (which itself is covered by gravel).  Fishpoop gets sucked down through the gravel, through slits in the filter plate, into the cavity below the filter plate.  The reason it works so well, is that the filter plate and gravel diffuses the negative pressure, so there is suction all over the bottom of the fishtank, as opposed to one or two areas, as in the typical AP setup.  The other cool thing is that smallfry do not make a habit of swimming down deep into the gravel, So you have a system that can pick up all solids without any risk to the smallfry

My idea is to create an under-gravel filter that collects solids in the same way, but the solids are not collected and stored, but removed via SLO.  We create a filter plate with a negative-pressure area under the plate (solids collection cavity), and have gravel above the plate.  Solids are removed by a SLO mounted inside the collection cavity.

This is how I did it:

Solids-lifting overflow pipe assembly:
SLO pipe assembly
The pipe assembly features a split design that helps to spread out the suction beneath the filter plate

SLO Pipe Assembly showing cuts
Some cuts in the pipes allow the solids that are collected under the plate to be removed..

Filter Plate

Filter plate with cuts.  Cutting a perfect circle is not very easy.. 

Filter plate strapped to pipe assembly

SLO + undergravel filter mounted inside Fishtank
Completed Fishtank.   

Notice the dirty water, because of the gravel I added to the tank

Video Tour:
I finally made a video.  Enjoy!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Tomatoes are going like a boeing

I checked the tomatoes again today.

I swear those plants are popping steroids.  I am sure I am exaggerating, but they appear to have grown an inch overnight. The first week went by without much apparent growth.  I think the seedlings take a small while to recover from the planting, and the roots need time to spread and to go down deeper into the growbed.  It appears they have the hang of it now, and it is just crazy..

Doesn't look like the chillies and peppers are growing at the same sort of rate.  Not much apparent difference between the aquaponic guys and the potties.  But maybe I should have them next to each other for better comparison.

Busy inventing a new solids-collecting system for the fishtanks.  Problem is always to effectively remove solids without running the risk of losing fish via the same holes that are supposed to pick up the solids..  Will give more info soon...

If anyone is reading this, I would love for some of you to leave some comments...  Maybe a question or two?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Earth vs Aquaponics: Some comparison photos

Hi again.

Its been 2 weeks since I have planted the tomato seedlings into the growbed.  Interesting thing is that I kept two of the seedlings apart and planted them into a pot with potting soil.  I watered each of the two potty plants every day (twice on the really hot days), and they seem to be doing well.  But if I put the plant next to those in the growbed, there is just no comparison...  In the picture I have the two potties and next to them a row of the exact same tomatoes, planted the same day..

VERY goodlooking tomato plant in growbed..

Potty plant, in good shape, but not close... 
Notice how the potty plant is very thin and its green is sort of pale when compared to the one in the Growbed..

COOL huh?

In other news, my peas don't seem to have made it.  They were planted out the same day as the tomatoes, but I think the sun burnt them too badly..

One other thing is I have finally installed a GSM Commander on my setup.  The GSM Commander is used to monitor for power failure, and also control my irrigation system.  I plan to hook up the aquaponics to it in all sorts of ways.  Going to be monitoring temperatures, flood/drain cycles, flow rates and who knows what else..  The big battery is for powering the big 12v air pump that will provide my emergency aeration.   Notice the huge amount of empty space left for the undefined stuff I am still going to add..

NEXT: I will be posting a proper video tour of the entire setup.