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. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

My system in detail

Its about time I introduce you to my system in some proper detail.  I am constantly chopping and changing. The idea is to get you up to speed with the current state of the system, that way you can keep up with the latest updates and modifications..  Please see the Design page I have added to the right..

Now for the news..  I am the proud grandfather of a litter of smallfry! - Checked the Fishtank (FT) yesterday, and there they were!!  I removed them and put them in the smallfry tank together with the fingerlings I had there.  This morning they were gone..  Apparently Tilapia (that is the fish species I have in there) can be a bit cannibalistic when they are still small.  

Good news, is this afternoon, I had a new bunch of smallfry in the FishTank, and I promptly added them to a clean fishtank indoors.  They can stay there and grow untill they are big enough to go into the smallfry tank (whose fingerlings will then be moved to the main tank)  Cool thing is now I can check out the babies all the time.  You are not as lucky, being stuck with one lousy photograph:
This is SO COOL.  The smallfry are really really small.  I am talking 4-5mm in length.  Some of them got sucked up into the overflow, and ended up inside the sumptank.  Amazing thing is I saw some of them inside the filter! - those fish had to survive the gravity ride down the overflow into the sump, then getting rudely picked up by the big bad pump, and carried under pressure into the filter!!! - some of them probably also ended up in the growbed.  They won't survive that.  Oh well.

In other news, the drain of smallfry tank started getting clogged up by poop and all sorts of gross stuff.  The clogging makes the water level rise until it starts to overflow.  Not cool.  This has happened before, and it causes the entire sump tank to get drained.  Anyway, I started by cleaning the drain a bit, and then I noticed the entire smallfry tank had more poop than a sewage farm. Thought I'd go the whole 9Y and clean the tank.  So I proceeded to remove the standpipe thingy I have in the drain of the tank, cleverly covering the hole using a halfbrick.  I then proceeded to go around swishing like crazy in my poop-scooping efforts.  In the process I somehow bumped the brick, opening the drain, and immediately the fish proceeded to race each other down the drain..  Now the fish are already bigger than an inch in length, and the drain is a one inch pipe for the first few feet..  Luckily I have a union on the drain, so I could disconnect the drain before it got to the sump.  I had about 2 feet of pipe totally clogged up with suicidal idiotic fingerlings!!.  And they were lodged up pretty tightly like sardines.  Had to force them out by blasting the drain with a hose pipe, then running dementedly all over the place picking up a dozen or two fingerlings flopping about, gasping, wondering why the world was sitting on its side all of a sudden.. 
Managed to finish the day with only two dead fish...  New Rule:  NEVER have any open drains around the fishies.  They are sorta dumb...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My first post via email

Hi again

Wanted to check if I could really post via email...
While I am here, I will give another installment on the story..

Aquaponics (AP) uses 3 main methods to house the plants.  These are Deep water culture (DWC, also referred to as Rafting), and Flood-&-drain growbeds.
I did say 3 methods.  The third one is called NFT, and I am not going to discuss that now..

My current system consists of a FishTank (FT), a Swirl filter, a SumpTank (ST), a Grow Bed (GB) and a Smallfry fishtank.
Today I will discuss the swirl filter.  Basically a conically shaped plastic container, where water is pumped into the container at its midsection.  The water enters at an angle, so as to create a circular flow inside (also called a swirl or vortex).  Solids tend to move towards the middle in a vortex, and they collect at the bottom.  Clean water exists the filter at the top.  In my filter, I also have a lot of japanese matting inside, (drifting on top) which provides a whole lot of surface area for my bacteria to live in.  (biofiltration)

I hope this post-via-email thing works...

Beginnings: Basics of Aquaponics and my first Fish Tank.

Welcome to my Aquaponics Blog!!!

Lets start with the basics:
What is Aquaponics? - It is the combination of Hydroponics and Aquaculture.
We basically have a bunch of fish that crap in the water.  The water is pumped in a circulating system through a system of grow beds where we have plants that thrive on the fish waste.  A nice little eco system.  The plants keep the water clean, and the fish supply food to the plants.

 The above is an over-simplification..
What happens in detail, is the fish crap contains a crapload (sorry, had to do that) of ammonia.  The ammonia is broken down by a colony of bacteria (not scary things, but the good kind) into Nitrites.  There is another bunch of bacterial critters who in turn break down the Nitrites into Nitrates.  And the plants happen to love Nitrates..
Where do the bacteria live?  All over the place.  They need lots of surface area to cling to, so the sides of the fish tank, the sides of the plumbing, and of course the grow bed provides the surface area that is required.

This is my fish tank, when I first put it up: 
I cover it up so that the algae does not have such a field day (they need sunlight)
In Aquaponic-speak, we refer to the FishTank as the FT.  And Aquaponics is often referred to as AP.  On top of the FT you will notice a plastic 25Litre container that I cut open and filled up with gravel.  I pumped water in there to run through the gravel.  The idea was to use the gravel as additional surface area for my colonies of bacteria.    In aquaculture, the place where the bulk of your bacteria are housed, is called the bio-filter..

I will be adding some more information soon.  My system consists of much more than the above fish tank, but I will take you through it step by step, as I went along..  Please comment if you feel like it, and send this blog to people who may be interested.  I will be much more likely to update the blog on a regular basis if I know there are people who want to know..