Hey, if you’re here for the aquaponics, why not follow me over at Northern Aquaponics, where I talk about doing aquaponics in a cold climate. Not that Australians and Californians aren’t welcome (keep the sniggering down), but, you know, it’s different. I’ve mentioned here that I want to move outside to a bioshelter type greenhouse and I’m going to blog my progress over there. Of course, I’m still going to talk about my indoor system, because that’s a legitimate way (and who knows, a better way?) to go if it’s cold outside.
I even made a facebook page for the blog, so you might want to like it, and see whatever else that’s kind of relevant that I find and share in my online travels.
See you over there!
Indoor aquaponic garden
Eight weeks ago, I decided that everything worked and nothing leaked and it was finally time to start growing fish and veggies. I powered up the pump and it has been running ever since. Shortly after, I planted a few plants and a lot of seeds, and shortly after that I installed the goldfish. My system was cycled almost immediately, thanks to a donation of used filter floss from my daughter’s mature aquariums.
As far as the plants go, I’m happy to report that the initial spindly and anemic growth has been replaced by much more robust growth. We’ve been eating salad greens for a few weeks now, and the rapini was wonderful. I never manage to catch rapini at the right time when I grow it outdoors, but this bunch was perfect, and no flea beatle damage! I keep planting seeds to have a continuous harvest.
The “poopies” eat out of my hand.
The goldfish appear to be doing well. They are growing and their colour is nice and bright. Their water is clear, and more importantly, the ammonia and nitrite levels are consistently zero, and the nitrate levels are very low. This means that almost all of the waste is being processed by the system and used by the plants. One of the original fish died, and I replaced him with three more, giving me a total of 10 fish. I’ve been feeding them generously to make sure the plants have enough nitrogen. The fish don’t mind.
I still test my water parameters daily, which may be a bit over the top at this stage, but since the system really runs itself aside from me adding feed, I like to do something. I’ve been recording the water values and anything else I do to the system in a paper notebook, and also in a diary on a site called OurResearch.net. This is an Australian university research project on aquaponics systems that anyone can participate in. The idea is that many people will add their data and everyone has access to information from other systems. So far there aren’t that many people participating, but the diary displays data in table and graph form, so it’s an interesting way to monitor changes over time.
I’m still very excited about the aquaponics project. I haven’t had any horrible disasters and everything works much the way I anticipated it would. As a proof of concept, I’m declaring this project a success. I’m already thinking about expanding and moving into a greenhouse, but I would miss the constant water sounds from the basement. Maybe I’ll just have to build another system outside, instead of moving this one.
A chubby goldfish
After getting the aquaponics system all set up in the basement, I had no appetite for spending any more money on this project. One thing I did buy, and I’m very glad I did, is a digital scale. If you are doing aquaponics or thinking of it, I recommend you do, too. My scale was only 15 bucks, but it does everything I need: it holds up to five kilograms, it has one gram accuracy, and it has a tare function, meaning you can zero the weight of the container.
The thing that prompted me to buy the scale, was the issue of how much to feed my fish. I don’t have very many fish, and I want to maximize their ammonia outputs without over feeding them. Young fish can be fed 2 – 3% of their body weight per day, but I had no idea how much that was. So I weighed my fish. It turns out that my fish were about 12 grams each, times 8 equals 96 grams of fish. So I can feed them 2 – 3 grams of dry food per day. My next problem was that I feed a frozen gel food in addition to pellets, and I needed to find out what percentage of the gel, by weight, is food and what is water. I weighed out some gel food and microwaved it until it was hard, then weighed it again. It turns out to be about 20% dry food, so now I can figure out how much to feed. I usually feed about 8 grams of gel and 1 gram of pellets per day, about 2.5 grams of dry food equivalent.
In another post, I mentioned that I add iron to the water to prevent iron deficiency in the plants. The recommended rate is 2 mg of pure iron per litre of system water, every 3 weeks, which in my system comes to 14 grams of 7% chelated iron. I don’t know about you, but I’m not very good at eyeballing powdered iron, and the scale takes all the guesswork out of it.
Today’s rapini harvest
I’ve also been weighing my harvests. I keep a system journal with all the water parameters and everything I do or add to the system. Knowing how much is coming out of the system is just as important as knowing how much went in.
So if you are making a list of required equipment for your aquaponic project, don’t forget the digital scale!