Thursday, December 16, 2010
For those that are interested, below are my pH, amonia, and nitrate measurements. Unfortunately, they only go back about two weeks. There were some pretty major disruptions to my system in the time before then (gravel switch and then the tank repair job) so who knows if even those measurements would have been very meaningful. I know they would have made for some interesting charts, as my pH got up to 8.6 several times when I had the old gravel, and my nitrates ventured into 160ppm several times which led me to do some water changes.
I think these graphs capture the "tail" end of the maturation of my system, as pH, amonia, and nitrate all appear to abruptly stabilize. I have not added any phosphoric acid since last Saturday (5 days ago), so I think we're in for some smooth sailing.
Very bad news on my fingerlings. Last weekend, I pulled the floating basket up out of the water to check on them and found several dead fingerlings. This led me to semi "panic" and I decided to give them a salt bath. I had seen recommendations on giving finegrlings a salt bath once a week, but I do not know how much salt is the right amount. If I measured correcty, I gave them a 10% salt bath for one hour. I then put them in the sump, not back in the floating basket, which seemed a bit constraining.
Every day since then, I or my caretaker has pulled anywhere from 15-30 dead fingerlings off the pump filters in the sump. I do not know what is killing them, but I'm pretty sure they will all be goners at this point. Whatever it is, it is not affecting my big fish (so far, knock on wood).
I definitely need to identify the source of the problem so as to not repeat it. In the meantime, time to find more fingerlings or play some romantic music for my big fish to propogate again.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
I'm very glad to have things back to "normal". Having the fish in the sump required me to run one grow bed at a time, and I was constantly worried about the fish stressing out in the smaller space and with the drastically changing water level.
Pictures of the fixed tank and swirl filter below. Also, I decided to go with a much simpler and less costly sump container. It is now a much bigger hole lined with pond plastic liner. The first picture shows the sump. It only looks dirty because the liner is clear and the dirt you see is the earth underneath the plastic. You can tell it's crystal clear by how visible the pumps are underneath the water. This plastic is used in commercial tilapia farming, is UV-resistant, and is supposed to last 5 years. I think I'll get a little more out of it in my semi-shaded and small-scale operation.
New Sump. The Fish Tank outer wall is to the left. Don't let muddy floor fool you - it's transparent lining over a hole in the earth.
New Swirl Filter. Water is gravity fed from the fish tank the via the 3" overflow pipe which discharges water about 2/3 of the way down the tank in counterclockwise direction. It exits through a 2-1/2 " inch "funnel" near the tope of the barrel which is connected to a 1" drain pipe that send the water to the sump. This type of filter works in two ways: first, by discharging the water below and making it travel up, that provides time for solids to fall out of suspension; secondly, the swirl effect caused by the vortex in the middle causes water on the outer perimeter to spin much more slowly than water in the middle, also providing time for solids to fall out. Once in the sump, water is pumped both back into the fish tank and to the grow beds.
The barrel is a "blue barrel" of about 200 liters.
The run from the fish tank is long and awkward, but that's what the space I have allows. I've wound up changing much of the original plans, but I think it will ultimately make for a better system.
The plants are doing much better now that the PH levels are under control. They appear to be growing more quickly and are definitely greener and more healthy-looking. I got a handle on the situation starting last week, with the careful addition of phosphoric acid. It still has not stabilized, but I believe it is on its way. Washout from the gravel is completely ruled out as affecting the PH. A sample of the gravel soaked in water yielded stable PH after a small addition of phosphoric acid, and held over a week.
Below are the latest pictures of the plants. The squash plant died back when I transplanted the plants from the bath tub to the large grow bed, and my jalapenio plant died this week. That one had already been dying in a dirt pot but revived in the AP system - until this week. Now it really looks like it's kicked the bucket.
I am not dissapointed by the plant results. AP system take a while to stabilize anyway, during which time plant growth is weak. That, plus the PH problems in the beginning and the transplant of the bath tub plants did not lead me to have evry high hopes to begin with, so I am pleasantly surprised.
My next plan is to set up a floating raft system as part of this system. There is plenty of space for it and it is reported to be the best way of producing lettuce. An additional filter to take finer solids out before sending the water through a floating raft system will be needed.
The bath tub bed went back into operation this week. I could only run two beds with the temporary sump/fish tank. Lettuce and spinache (barely visible here) were planted. Can't wait to see what they look like next week!
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Sunday, November 14, 2010
- Took down the large grow bed, cut the table legs down, and refilled it with new gravel.
- Installed a second large grow bed and changed the gravel in the bath tub grow bed.
- Dug a hole for our sump tanks. These are two interconnected "blue" barrels.
- Built a steel, lockable lid for the valuable equipment area.
- Built a swirl filter and stand.
- Reconfigured the pump to function out of the sump, from where it fills the tank and the grow beds, in a "CHOP Mark 2" setup.
Friday, November 12, 2010
The plants in this bed aren't doing as well. They are the ones that suffered through the siphon-failure last week. In any case, I'm happy they're even standing!
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
I'd written about my main fish tank pump before. It's a Little Giant brand pump, and here are the specs for anyone that's interested. It works in-line, or submerged. I have mine submerged. So far, it's worked great, and it's easy to clean. I assume pump technology is pretty well advanced, and have faith this thing will perform for a long time. However, I am planning on getting a second pump ASAP, just to have on the shelf in case I need it. These are mechanical devices after all, and if there is one thing I've learned over the years, it's that if something can go wrong, it eventually will - usually when it's least convenient!
My air pump I had to get on line. The local aquarium market is aimed a small household fish tanks, probably for people with a few gold fish and such, which I consider extremely boring and a waste of time and money. I mean, if you can't eat it, and it's not a dog, what's the point?
In any case, I tracked down a nice air pump online. This delivers 16L of air per minute, through eight outlets:
The air tubing is sold separately, as are the air-stones. Right now I only have four air-stones hooked up (because I didn't buy enough tubing), but that should be way more than enough air for the amount of fish and water I have.
I'll be posting the specs and set-up for my battery-back-up pump system hopefully this weekend. After that, I hope to get some plant and fish action soon, or there will not be much to write about for a few weeks!
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
I installed these laundry baskets in the tank today in preparation for hopefully getting more fingerlings this weekend. They're meant to provide shelter for fingerlings - a place the can be away from the big fish. I don't know if this is really necessary or not, but it seems like a good idea I got off Murray Hallam's site.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
The phone rang Tuesday evening. It was my caretaker at the farm, where my AP system is. I didn't leave him with with very many instructions, and this is a completely alien concept to him, and just about anyone else in Costa Rica (hydroponics is fairly well know, but aquaponics? - fuggedaboutit). The main reason for the lack of info is he leaves Saturday at noon and I didn't finish getting everything set up until Sunday. I didn't even get the fish until Sunday. So Sunday I left the farm and went back to the "real" world, without being able to give him almost any instructions. I left everything in the hands of fate and my trusty (and well-tested) back-up pump.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Saturday, October 23, 2010
This grow bed is a used bath tub. If I could have fount five more of these, I would not have bothered with the water-reservoirs for cattle.