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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

We are Moving

Easy aquaponics is moving to we could not get the domain name we wanted so we had to change our blog's name.

- Grant

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Step 6 - Plant your seedlings

Once you have assembled your system and you have added your water and growmedium, you are ready to start cycling your system. Basically this comes down to running your system without fish for about a week until your bacterial collony is established. I like to start by planting a few plants at this time as well.

Although you are able to start you plants from seed in an aquaponics system, I prefer to use seedings. This is where this start to get a bit wierd and seem to go against common sense. Nobody ever said this was going to be logical, just easy.

Get a bucket full of rain water or if you have good enough water(see step 5) then use tap water. Start by carefully removing your seedling from the tray. Wash the roots gently in the bucket of water to remove as much of the soil as possible without damaging the roots system too much(a little damage is inevitable).

Then dig a hole in your gravel(or grow medium of your choice). Place the seedling in the hole a gently cover the roots with your grow medium. This part just freaked me out the first time, I just could not get past the idea of planting plants in stones instead of soil.

Now that everything is set up you need to keep your plants alive until you have added the fish. I do this by adding liquid plant food called seagro. Be sure to use organi stuff only from now on or you could end up poisoning your fish or yourself. Check out this video clip to see how I do it. I also throw about a handful of fishfood into the system at this time. It will breakdown and begin to rot which will create amonia and this is just what your bacterial need to feed on so that they can establish themselves in your system.

You will want to keep testing the water over the next few days, when you start to see an increase in the level of nitrates in your system you know you are getting close to the time where you can add your fish.

- Grant

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Step 5 - Water and PH

This one cost me dearly. Do yourself a favour an buy a good test kit before you start adding water to your system. You need to test the water BEFORE you add it. I could not figure out why my PH was 8.8 no matter what I did. I lost my 1st batch of 25 Tilapia fingerlings within hours of adding them to the system because of this. They came from a supplier whos water is PH6 and I added them to water which was PH8.8(my test kit does not test higher than this).

So after many hours of research on the net I found out that water has something called a buffering effect, and no amount of PH down or other similar product will change it. You see there are always chemical disolved in the water which you cant see with the naked eye which cause this buffering effect. So everything you do to change it only works for a short time before your water returns to what it was.

These PH flucuations are far more damaging to your fish than a constant high or low PH(within reason). I farm with Tilapia and they can handle PH ranges anything from PH5 to PH11(some sources say even more) as long as it is constant and there are no sudden changes in PH. You can add fish to a system that has a big difference in PH to where they come from, but you have to do it VERY slowly.

That is why it is important to test the water from your supply before you add it to the system. If you find your water is very high or low in ph you could try filtering it through a reverse osmosis filter. We have one of these for our drinking water and although it is slow I was able to keep my fish alive with it. You will need a lot of water so this is not ideal. Larger scale models are available but I found that they are too expensive.

The answer for me turned out to be rain water. Check out this clip on my rain water collector. Aquaponics reqires a lot of water to star up, anything from 100liters to 5000liters depending on your requirements. I needed 300liters for my systems so the rain water was ideal.

Testing the water is crucial in any aquaponics system but for me the 1st test is by far the most important of all.

- Grant

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Step 4 - Grow Medium

It is time to choose the stuff you are going to grow your plants in or your grow medium. In aquaponics like hydroponics you need a good grow medium which has the following characteristic:

  1. Is stable and does not break down over time.
  2. Is readily available in case it needs to be replaced.
  3. Provides good support for your plants.
  4. Does not leach anything into the water, this is important because you could poison your fish and yourself, or play havoc with you PH.
  5. Must be easy to work with.
  6. Is affordable, this was number one on my list but I figure not everybody has this requirement so I put it lower down.

I chose 13mm gravel or crushed stone and I have never been sorry except for the very first time I added it to my system. This stuff needs to be washed repeatedly to get all the dirt off it. If like me you are impatient to get going you will not wash enough and you will end up with sediment buildup in your system which could well damage your pump or worse kill your fish. 
I have no idea what this sediment is or what affect it has on your system but I do know it sticks to everything like this photo shows.

The greyish stuff stuck to the PVC pipe is the sediment I am referring to. It sticks to just about anything, you can just imagine what it is going to do to your fishes gills. 

Anyway Backyard Aquaponics has a great magazine which I can recommend to anybody. In Issue 3 (trial by media) they discuss the pros and cons of 4 different grow media. They also have great looking kits for sale if you find yourself in Australia for a day :) 

- Grant

Monday, October 26, 2009

Great websites

Check out this site, they have a lot of PDF files which look pretty good to me.

- Grant

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Step 3 - Pumps and things

So now it is time to continue building our "easy" aquaponics system.

You will need a good quality pump. Find a submersible pump that has at least a 1meter head (head is the maximum height that your pump can push water). I prefer a pump that has a 2 meter or more head. I just feel that way the pump does not have to work so hard (that is just my personal preference).

The flow rate of your pump is also important because too little and your bell siphon may have trouble starting and too much and it can’t stop. You can use a 22mm PVC pipe in the centre of you bell siphon instead of the 25mm if you have a pump with a low flow rate. I started with a 22mm piece because you can easily go bigger but it is a real pain to go smaller once you have a 25mm hole in the grow bed. It turns out the 25mm is better suited to my pump size.

You will also need plastic piping to get the water from your pump to your grow bed. I got mine from the building supplies shop that sold me the pump. I attached a piece of 22mm PVC pipe to the outlet end. This helps me to move it, the PVC pipe is nice and hard and I can just jam it into the grow bed without digging out any of the gravel. Check out the video clip here.

- Grant

Friday, October 23, 2009

Disaster strikes again

Everybody you talk to in aquaponics will tell you to have a backup plan for when your pump fails. Everybody like myelf thinks they will get to it when they have the time or the money, and end up forgetting about it.

Well last night my submersible pump failed, the scary part is that one of the divisions of our company sells online backups for your data. Here I was, 8pm in the evening, failed pump in hand and all the stores are closed. I don't even know anybody who could lend me a spare pump.

I can't tell you how thankful I am for the 50 bucks I spent on a small air pump and an air stone. That was the only thing keeping my fish alive. I had to fill the growbed by hand and leave if full for a few hours before draining it through the syphon on my way to bed.

So almost first thing this morning I was at the hardware store to purchase a new pump. I spent about 35 minute just reading the lables(a habit I got from my wife when she buys food - or just about anything) on each type of pump. Finally I came across a box that was help together by sellotape and was priced ar 80 bucks and when they rang it up at the till it was only 70 bucks. I told them it was cheeper than the shelf price and they said because it was the last one it was priced to sell.

It turns out that this water fountain(pump with fountain atachments) was missing the foytain parts but was basically brand new. I installed the pump and after a few minor adjustments it was up and running and all is well again. Anyway you can check out thevideo clips here.

- Grant
ps I did not forget about the diy guide. I will post the next steps soon, but you can bet I will be mentioning the backup pump in the equipment list