Today I had the rare opportunity to visit the farm and my AP system during the week. I had to pick up Tora, a Malinois half-breed 10-month "pup", and bring her into town to get her fixed.
As I posted last week, I was surprised to find my nitrate levels were through the roof. I was initially very pleased to see this, until I began to really think about why this shouldn't be possible. Also, a full 30% of my readers (Ready), commented about how this was likely due to something other than the presence of nitrogen fixing bacteria. He suggested the chicken waste, which in an earlier post I had indicated was likely to be in my gravel, was the likely culprit. If so, and if more chicken waste was being somehow added to the system, this could pose a serious problem.
Well, as it turns out, someone (me) had suggested to my caretaker, Carlitos, that Tilapia were such hardy fish they could eat anything, even chicken shit. Well, sure enough, Carlitos took me up on my suggestion and was feeding them a few pellets per day (four to be exact). Mystery solved!
Now, even with this gross introduction of nitrate to the system, nitrate levels were down today compared to last Saturday and Sunday. When I added the extra bed, I also added more water to the system, so that obviously helped. The good news is that nitrite levels are now detectable, as seen in this nitrite and nitrate test:
Those nitrite levels were not detectable in my weekend test. So, some bacteria has apparently started to make itself evident.
Other than chicken-poop, we were feeding the fish dead bugs and dog-food pellets. The dog food pellets did not prove very popular, but they did eat them, grudgingly. Both of these ideas were spawned by my desire to avoid buying fish food, and by wishful thinking that I'd get my own fish-food supply system going soon (duckweed or worms). Well, today's realization and experiences led me to go straight to the agro supply store and pick up real fish food:
That's 14 kilos for about $22. Enough to feed my existing fish for a very very long time. Of course, I'll be adding more fish very soon. The fish loved the pellets. Of course, after a week of dog food and chicken shit, who wouldn't?
My other "mystery" revolves around my PH levels. The water I used to fill my tank comes from a natural spring. Its PH is around 7.0-7.2. The water in my system, for whatever reason, is at PH 8.0. JAG suggested I check my gravel. I did so by filling a small container with natural-spring water and checking the PH before and after adding gravel. After letting the gravel sit in the water since Sunday to today, the PH is at 8.0, so sure enough, it's the gravel.
I am not quite sure what to do about this at this point. Changing the gravel is a huge proposition and I am hopeful I can get the PH down over time. Maybe hope is not a good strategy. I have read of systems going from 8.0 down into the preferred 6-7 range over time, but I do not know if their high PH situation was caused by gravel or something else.
For now, I am content to wait, watch, and see how the plants behave. The ones I planted in the bath-tub appear OK. One, a jalapeno plant, I took out of a planter because it looked like it was drying out and getting ready to die. Since being in the AP system, it has recovered significantly.
The Jalapeno plant is the big one on the left. Everything else is basil (mostly), one cantaloupe, and there are two asparagus crown I took out of my dirt garden and am testing here.
I went to the nursery last night, picked up plants for the other bed, and planted them today:
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.
And here is Tora, who made today's progress possible: