Slight setback after doing so well

Posted in: Aquaponics by Adrian on April 15, 2014

Well, my growbed is going crazy!  I have cucumbers growing rapidly and the cos lettuce is ready for picking!

The fish tank has been ready for fish for about a week or so… or should I say….was ready for fish – I had the Ammonia and nitrite levels back to zero and the nitrate levels almost zero….I consider low nitrites OK in a fish tank.

I saw it WAS ready for fish because this afternoon the darling little 4 year old decided that he should put our floor mop into the fish tank!. I think even the mop bucket made in there too…Not happy Jan!  Like, who knows what was on that, I certainly wouldn’t be sucking on the mop so I wouldn’t be eating anything fed from it!  Not to mention that there could easily be something on it which would kill the fish should I have added them.  I only had to look at him and he would run crying.  In fact he didn’t come out for 5 minutes after I got home….He knew how was unhappy with him.

So, we decided to empty pretty much all the water out this evening (all but about 50 litres) and refill!  I have added some Charlie Carp (see an earlier post about this) to give it a little ammonia spike and get the water cycle happening again.  If I test the water in a few days and there is no ammonia or nitrites then I know that the bacteria in the grow bed has survived and is doing it’s job.

I am doubting (hoping) the plants didn’t absorb too much contamination from this!

Will try and post some pics of the growbed in the near future – I had a few other things to worry about tonight!

Maybe one day I will be able to laugh about this….

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Update 22 March 2014

Posted in: Aquaponics by Adrian on March 22, 2014

Things are looking good.  I have been religiously checking the water for any nitrites.  Ammonia has been at about 2ppm all week so I was expecting nitrites to start to rise.  But realising that to go from Ammonia to Nitrites I need some bacteria.  To aid this, I rinsed out some sponge media from my aquarium into the fishtank of the new setup.  Last night I showed nitrites of about .25ppm!  It is now starting to come together!

On the gr0wbed side, all the surviving cucumber plants have bloomed with flowers and the strawberry seems to be shooting new plants!  I don’t know what it is called when they do that but there must be a name!  The two tomato plants which were struggling seem to be coming back since I moved them to a shallower part of the grow bed.

Pretty stoked about the way it is going!

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A few enhancements to get ready for the fish

Posted in: Aquaponics by Adrian on March 16, 2014

I made a few enquiries about getting fish this week….It seems that it is about a month too early for rainbow trout – They need water which is constantly below 20 degrees….Mine is about 22 degrees!  The other option would be Silver Perch – these would take a few years to grow big enough to eat so I will have to wait for the trout.  This give me time to properly cycle the tank ready for them.

For those not so acquainted with fish keeping, cycling the tank is important.  It is often done with the fish in the water but has an effect on the fish which could kill them – there are other ways!  The cycling process basically involves adding ammonia into the tank.  This in turn creates nitrites and then nitrates.  Since ammonia and Nitrites are harmful to the fish, it is preferable to do this without the fish!  To add ammonia, I have used a fish extract called Charlie Carp – a fish extract used in gardening.  I only started this yesterday, so I only have ammonia at this point but hopefully it will get moving soon….

I have also decided to add a few seeds to see how they go, 4 heads of corn and 2 iceberg lettuces.  When I say 2 lettuces, that is 2 pots and several seeds in each, so there could be a number of them.  I have simply wrapped the seeds in tissue and placed them in a seedling pot filled with clay media.  I don’t know if this is how it is done but we will soon see!

Seedlings in paper towel

Seedlings in paper towel

I have also had a little clean up and cable tied the plant liner to it’s support as it was sagging a little.  easy process, drilling 2 holes and a cable tie.

Cable ties along 1 side to hold liner in place

Cable ties along 1 side to hold liner in place

That’s about it for this week….not much to do but probably good as there was not a lot of time to do it!

 

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It’s running!

Posted in: Aquaponics by Adrian on March 16, 2014

Sadly, I haven’t had time to post over the last week or two but this time has seen some advancements in the building of my setup.

The slabs went down pretty quick one evening ready for the unit to be put into place and for the plumbing to begin.

Jake inspecting the setup

 

As I said, I had been convinced to run the pump 24×7 and not use a timer.  So this made the plumbing really easy.  I filled it up with water and tested it all out.  No leaks and it all looked ready to add media.  Uh Oh….My source for media at $20/bag had disappeared from Gumtree – I can only presume he sold it.  Anyway a little searching on Gumtree found another dealer selling it for $33 a bag – more than $20 but much better than the $45 from the shop around the corner.  After some discussion he even delivered it free!  Tony of Life Aquatic rocked up with 5 bags on his ute, checked out my setup and said it looked ready to go – Good job!  Tony does this for a living so if you need any advice or supplies, give him a call.

That afternoon, I filled the grow bed which immediately washed clay dust straight into the fishtank!  Anyway that eventually cleaned itself up.   At this point the system is ready for some plants.  I even got Chris’s approval!

Thumbs up from Chris 20140303_143633_800

The following weekend saw me at Bunnings buying seedlings!  This place seems to be consuming plenty of my money lately – You know what it is like when you go in for a thing or two….and get 5!

Planting the seedings is much cleaner than traditional gardening – no digging the soil over adding composts etc….Take the seedling, wash off the dirt in a bucket of water to expose the roots and plant it in the clay grow bed!  I planted some Strawberries, 3 varieties of tomatoes, capsicum, cos lettuce and cucumber.  This is now starting to look like the real thing!  To feed the plants without having fish, I have been adding in some seasol.

All Planted!

All Planted!

The kids seem pretty happy with my work (and even keen to help at times)….Let’s see how long that lasts!

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A few choices made

Posted in: Aquaponics by Adrian on February 22, 2014

After struggling to find some of the pipe sizes at Bunnings for my auto siphon, Yesterday I took a trip to my local aquaponics shop – Hydroponics Express.  They managed to convince me that a few of my choices in design of the system was wrong.

But firstly they warned me about using the IBC – they really have to be clean – oh yeah I said, I have scrubbed and scrubbed it.  It must be clean!!  The young guy suggested that I give it a quick blast with a high pressure washer to make sure it is really clean.  So, today I yanked out the Karcher and blasted it!   It would appear that it still had some product in there – not a lot but maybe enough.  Remeber the product it was basically like glue so it dried up clear on the container.  It was only noticeable as under high pressure, the spray deflected off it differently!  Certainly is clean now!

The next discussion with him was around the plumbing.  I was planning to initially use a Bell siphon – a bit of simple plumbing that when it fills with water, acts as a siphon to empty the tank.  This is a widely used method but with this method the pump is usually run for about 15 minutes every hour and the growbed drains afterwards.  The suggestion (and the method they use at the shop) is to leave the pump running continuously and run a slow feed into the grow bed.  The drain is set to a height to keep most of the growbed flooded – almost to the top of the media.  The media looks dry on top but is flooded not far below.  The pump is mostly pumping back into the fish tank to keep their water moving about and just a trickle run up to the growbed.  This is enough to keep the water in the growbed rotated and thus filtering the fish water.

They then said that they have a kit with everything I need to set this up.  Even an eductor to keep the fish aerated as there is less flow coming from the grow bed than with a flood and drain setup.  My problems solved – I got the kit!

IBC Plumbing Kit

IBC Plumbing Kit

I also discussed media with them.  I was leaning towards using pea gravel for the growbed media.  He advised me that this would not work – I don’t actually believe this as there are many success stories on the net where it is used.  However, after looking at expanded clay, I do believe that this is a better choice.  It is much lighter than gravel.  It would be much easier to work with and also much less weight on the framework supporting the growbed.  I didn’t buy this but will in the near future.

What’s next?  I have to lay half a dozen slabs to support it all and then start the assembly….Maybe in the cool of the morning…Stay tuned!

 

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Aquaponics Project

Posted in: Aquaponics by Adrian on February 8, 2014

Here we go with a new thread in the blog.  Those that know me know I have not posted in a while…But I thought I would try and blog my way through my latest project.  Hopefully it will be of interest to someone else to see how I go about it.

Aquaponics is simply the co-habitation of fish and plants.  I feed the fish, they poo in the water, I feed the water to the plants, they filter the water which is passed back to the fish!  I end up with a feed of veg and fish!  Simple really??!!??  Well we will see about that!

Being a bit on the techy side, I have already started to think about how I will go about automating this project.  Maybe automating the operation of the pump and drain?  Monitoring water flow, level and temp??  Either using an Arduino or Raspberry Pi (they are very small computers for the non techs!).  These can all be adapted at a later stage but for the time being it will be a conventional setup!

There are commercially available aquaponics setups available but I feel that they are 1) a little costly and 2) no where near as much fun to setup!  So I am working on converting an IBC (intermediate bulk container) into an aquaponics setup.  An IBC is basically a 1000 litre plastic/pvc container with a steel frame.  It will only be a small setup but only a little outlay which is a little loss if for some reason I do not continue with it.  Most of my reading on how to do this was of course on the net, I found the site  “IBC of Aquaponics” particularly useful.

I found a cheap ($70) IBC through gumtree which I was assured would be safe to use for aquaponics.  It had previously had a waterbased emulsion so would clean up “easy” with water and dish washing detergent!

IBC as purchased

IBC as purchased

The first stage was to cut it open and clean it out.  Cutting it was a pretty easy task – the plastic liner easily slides out so once removed, it was just a measure and cut with a jigsaw!  I cut the top to about 300mm to for the garden bed and the remaining as the fish tank.  The bottom piece should hold about 700L of water….Reasonably adequate as a fishtank!

Bottom Half - The Fishtank

Bottom Half – The Fishtank

Grow Bed

Grow Bed

The cleaning was a little arduous as the emulsion had began to set – it formed a very thin plastic like liner in the tank – about the thickness of cling wrap!  But an afternoon with a scourer, chux and dishdrops got through this task (No I am not used to these tools as we have a dishwasher!).  I then filled the base with water and allowed it to soak for several days.  It was during this time that I discovered that this emulsion was very good at sticking to the hairs on your arm!

It was today that that the fun began as I cut the frame to match the liner.  Mostly with the grinder – one of my favourite tools in the shed!  The barwork was easy to cut and there is a cutout for the lid of the tank to poke through in the base.  The top part of the liner actually goes into the base of the frame and vice-versa.  I did however cut out a hole for the entire lid and later realised that the lid will actually sit comfortably in the frame and I only needed a hole for the plumbing!  No harm done – it should still sit OK.

Growbed frame

Growbed frame

Fishtank Frame

Fishtank Frame

 

It occurred to me that the growbed frame really needs a good scrub too as any runoff from rain etc may run down and contaminate the fishtank – That is a job for tomorrow!  I gave the cut steel a coat of coldgal and once dry it was time to try out the assembly – Really as I was simply curious about how it was going!!

Sample Setup

Sample Setup

This is not quite how it will sit, the growbed will actually sit about 100 further back to allow for better access into the fishtank.  This is accomplished by placing some rafters under the growbed.

Growbed Rafters

Growbed Rafters

Well, that is where I am at at the moment.  What is next?  I think I will relocate it to it’s final destination (I cannot easily move 700 litres of water!), fill it and start work on the plumbing.

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Got back to the top end about a month ago.  This time, I took the opportunity to visit Litchfield National Park.  Here are a couple of stitched images from in the park – Well worth a visit if you are up in the Darwin region.

Florence Falls

Florence Falls

Wangi Falls

Wangi Falls

As always, these are available from my redbubble site:  http://www.redbubble.com/people/adylord

Fogg Dam – Northern Territory

Posted in: Uncategorized by on March 21, 2010

Had the chance to visit the Northern Territory and drove from Darwin to Jabiru on the edge of the Kakadu National Park.   On the way home, I stopped at Fogg Damm near Humpty Doo on the Arnhem highway.  It was a fantastic place with plenty of birdlife (and a croc roaming about – Thankfully I didn’t see him!).  This is taken from the lookout at the far side of the dam (only the bird life was a little more scarce over on this side).

Fogg Dam Wetlands

Fogg Dam Wetlands

As with my other work, this is available for purchase in a number of formats (post card, poster, print etc) from my Red Bubble site – http://www.redbubble.com/people/adylord/art/4853056-1-fogg-dam-wetlands

 Hopefully will have the time to upload other pics from the trip soon!

North Beach – After Dark

Posted in: Uncategorized by on January 8, 2010

Well…6 posts last year, I think I need to post a little more this year!

To kick off my photographic fun for this year, I joined a small group last Tuesday for some beach shots at sunset and then well into the evening.

Both of these were taken well after sunset.  The first being a zoom in on the rocks shooting with 1 second exposure.  The second however is  a 15 second exposure.  Good fun was had by all.

As always my work is available from Redbubble (http://adylord.redbubble.com)

Rocks

 

North Beach After Dark

North Beach After Dark

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RSPCA Cupcake Day

Posted in: Uncategorized by on August 16, 2009

OK, I know this is not my usual photography related post but I feel this is for a worthy cause!
Tomorrow (Monday 17/8/09) is RSPCA cupcake day. This is an event aimed to raise money and awareness of the RSPCA by creating animal themed cupcakes and offering them for sale. Pauline. my wife,  decided that she as she is known in her workplace for her cupcakes, she would like to participate. We spent a good bit of today in the kitchen and made 48 cupcakes (yes me too!). These are the results of our efforts.

If somebody participates in cupcake day in your organisation, please give generously as this is a very worthy event.

Cupcakes

Puppy DogElephantMonkeyPussy CatRSPCA

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