Thursday, December 16, 2010

Water Quality Graphs

I finally got around to transferring my water measurements onto a spreadsheet. Bascially, when you have time to do this, you know your system has stabilized!

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

So far, so good.

There is not a whole lot to update this week. The plants are looking really good. Growth is very noticeable. The color is deep green and healthy.

My fish tank appears to be suffering through an algae bloom. I constructed screen covers for the whole thing and for the sump tank. I also put a makeshift lid on the swirl filter. Hopefully the algae levels come down in a few days.

Water PH is 6.6 and is holding. Haven't added acid for 1 day now. Amonia is at 0.25ppm and nitrates are around 10ppm.

Here are pics of the various plants:

Basil. This is what they looked like when first planted 6 weeks ago. (originally planted in the bathtub bed, and then transplanted into this grow bed.

That's a lettuce trying to come up under the shade of the basil plants. I should have moved it to another area of the bed where it would receive more light, but forgot. It's doing OK regardless.

Basil, three radish plants, and rosemary.

Rosemary, mint, oregano, purple basil.

Lettuces and spinach, 1 week after planting. Most are noticeably bigger than when planted, others do appear to have "taken".

Tomatoes and sweet peppers (left hand row), other stuff are various herbs and spices.

More lettuce and spinach.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Back in Business

Got my fish back in the main tank and got the swirl filter hooked up this weekend. My main tank had required a repair job prior to being able to convert to a CHOP system.

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.

Tank repaired. Here is what it looked like during the "surgery". The floating basket is for my fingerlings. There must be 100 or so of them, but I have not counted them (nor would I know how without putting them in mortal danger). That 3" pipe is an overflow pipe for the tank to drain into the swirl filter. It extends to the bottom of the tank, where there is a 3"-2" reduction. This helps it grab solids near the bottom and send them to the swirl filter. The reduction adds some suction power I am told, but I have yet to confirm this. Since there is no vacuum created, I do not quite see why a reduction would increase suction, but then again, I am not a fluid dynamics expert. I think the amount of suction would depend on the amount of water being pumped into the tank, since this determines the amount of water leaving.

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.

Click here to see what these looked like when first planted into the bath tub bed. They were transplanted from the bath tub bed to this bed 2 and a half weeks ago.

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!