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As far as the plants go, I’m happy to report that the initial spindly and anemic growth has been replaced by much more robust growth.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 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.