Friday, June 27, 2008

2 mortalities

The two jumpers from yesterday floating on the surface at the evening checkin. That sucks. The smaller one was partially eaten, indicating that the fish are eating. This is a good thing.

Plants in the gravel grow bed are good. Plants in the dwc bed are not. I think they need more aeration.

I am one fish death away from believing that a leachant from the barrels is causing my fish deaths. The fish are healthy and feeding well inside, but outside they go off feed, and die within a couple of weeks. Perhaps I should define an interim stage between this year's project and next years, with a different primary tank and growbeds.

I am not going to move any more fish outside until i get the water clear and a couple of weeks with no deaths.



I checked on the fish this morning to find the deck wet and the water level down about 6 inches. EEK! The fill hose for the gravel grow bed had pulled up and was splashing out of the growbed.


Tonight I have to make Mr. B's birthday cake, and I'm going to steal some time to wire those in place. That could have killed the fish, the plants in that grow bed, and burned out the pump. It would have been awful.

The seedlings in the garage are doing okay. It looks like I massively overplanted the oregano and will be culling a LOT of seedlings. They were really tiny seeds, maybe I should have done them instead of letting the kids do it. Also I put a wall-wart timer on the growlight in the garage. 8 hours on, 1 hour off, 7 hours on, 8 hours off.

This learning process is starting to change me. Until yesterday I was afraid to touch a live fish without a net or glove. Two of the transfer fish jumped out of the tank. the first I scooped up off the deck and plopped back in the tank. The second flopped off the deck and into the hole for our as-yet-unpurchased above-ground pool. I jumped off the deck and grabbed the fish of the ground, scrambled back onto the deck, and pushed him around in the water for a minute until he perked up. As for my fear of touching fish, I'm so over it.

Thanks for the pointer to the Local greenhouse company. That is AWESOME! Their complete setup with ventilation will be 1/4th the cost of where I was looking. I was a little afraid of going the pvc covered route, but this is to good to pass up. I did some research on heating and cooling a greenhouse, and it sounds like the best place for the tank is inside the greenhouse, and not a separate structure. This is because the tank has a significant thermal mass, and will help regulate the temperature. If I exactly copy the UVI system, I'll have nearly 30,000 gallons of "thermal mass". I am still afraid that there will be too much heat in the summertime.

Reading the greenhouse from left to right, here is the layout. (Still a work in progress)
Fish Tank(s), Insulated and partially sunk in ground -> Pumps ->
2 Gravel flood and drain growbeds plumbed to allow one to be off line for maintenance and still keep the system up.
1 large or 2 smaller DWC Pools running the length of the greenhouse. Constructed of concrete block. I am still undecided on whether to line the pool with PVC pond liner, or "do it right" and line it with concrete. If I'm leasing Farmland then they might not appreciate this kind of structure on the property.

The decision of where to put the planting and harvesting operation still needs to be made. I'm leaning towards planting on the growbed side and harvesting on the far end, but the seedlings don't need the same nutrient density that the full grown plants do, and the nutrients will probably be more dense closer to the tanks.

Really really optimistically with this less expensive greenhouse, I could bootstrap this and be profitable in one year.. Conversely, if I screw up abysmally we could keep it under $5,000 or so. That is still a pretty big "learning experience", but better than having $20k on the line.

TODO: Research Water turnover rates at UVI.
TODO: Research materials that buffer pH between 6 and 8. Shell grit is 7.6.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Moving FIshies.

Brenden and I moved 5 additional fish into the system. The plants definitely need more nitrogen. Another pumpkin plant has come up, and I think one of the cucumbers. The corn is on track is going to be 6 inches tall by Saturday. Wow, this growing thing is cool.

I found this video taken in the greenhouse at Epcot. We have to go see that while we are there. ;)



Partial Water Change

I did another 40% water change last night. I also got a glimpse of the white fish, so they are both alive. I still don't think there is enough aeration in the tank.

Some of the seedlings in the nursery tray under the bed have sprouted. I moved them out under the lights. Also, another plant has sprouted, the pumpkins I think. The corn is doing good, about four inches tall now. If it keeps up then mom should be impressed at Brenden's party Saturday.

Thinking about next year, I am considering getting a shed and putting an intex pool in it for the fish, or possibly putting it in the garage and running pipes for it. Related to that, I did some research on plumbing and have decided to use Pex tubing for the flexible pipe and PVC for the fixed installations. Pex is sturdier than the vinyl tubing, drinking water safe, and has a wider variety of fittings available.

The plan is getting more detailed.
Shed/Garage(Tanks+Fish) -> Flood and Drain(Gravel Growbeds(Tomatoes/Herbs/?)) -> DWC(Lettuce/?)

If the numbers work on this, then maybe we can use the revenue from the spring and summer crops to put a greenhouse up for the winter? There is a person in Franklin with a commercial greenhouse frame (32 feet by 96 feet) (Frickin huge!) for $1200, but it would need to be covered and I don't know how that works, AND I don't have anywhere to put it.

TODO: Talk to a produce wholesaler about what type of products they need.
TODO: Find (cheap) lease-able land for agriculture near La Vergne or thereabouts.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

This is fishkeeping.

This morning's water tests were quite surprising. Ammonia, Nitrates, Nitrites, all 0, or too close to call. The pH was 8.6! The Ammonia and nitrites were much higher, so apparently the system has cycled. Yeah. If I can figure out what is killing them, I can add more fish!

I did a 50% water change and noticed the smaller Tilapia hanging at the surface. His eyes were sort of glazed ver and he was rather pathetic looking hanging at the surface. He kept swimming into the outflow from the Flood and drain growbed, and this is a clue, I think.

Cause of death could be...
1. Low Dissolved Oxygen. I don't have a test for this. I added a bubbler to the tank and a fan blowing across the top. Hopefully that is a step in the right direction.
2. Something leaching from the Barrel. - ? Another water change or two may be prudent.
3. Effects of the High pH.
4. Territorial behavior from the other fish I added.

I'm discounting #4 as an option, since another fish looks ill and he was tankmates with the other transfer. Currently the plan is to repeat the high range pH test tonight and see if that is an effect of the Algae or something of that nature. Brenden is going to help me make a PVC spraybar for the growbed Outflow to increase the circulation. We'll also refill the water-change barrel for future use. Finally I WILL get something to block the sunlight from the fishtank tonight.. Even if it is just a cardboard box. The possibility exists that it is a parasite or infection, but I lack the appropriate equipment and supplies to run cultures and stain the slides. Trial and error will have to do.

Here is a quick DIY. Air bubbling out of the end of a hose is better than no aeration, but an airstone is a lot better. More bubbles = More surface area. If you don't have time to run to the store, take a length of Aquarium airhose and block one end with a pebble from the growbeds. Using a thumbtack, punch a number of holes into the airhose. Then zip-tie it to something heavy, connect the aquarium pump, and drop it in the tank. Viola! Instant airstone.


Monday, June 23, 2008


The "beta" fish, that is the one that tested the external system while the others tubbed around the aquarium, died. My assumption is that the pH swings from the algae plus the increasing ammonia levels plus the temperature swings from our nicer than usual weather plus the stress of adding two new fish to "his" tanks was more than he could take. I will run the tests tonight and I filled the vertical 55 gallon barrel for a water change tomorrow.

I performed a basic necropsy of the carcass and did not note brown blood disease. Sad.

Following the adage, I only have kill 9,999,999 more fish until I'm an expert.


and seeds too!

... I forgot to mention... We started Eggplant, squash, spinach, and oregano in rockwool yesterday. The spinach and oregano are to fill in some of the DWC holes, and the vining plants will (hopefully) grow off the back of the growbed and trellis the porch railing. They are under the bed germinating right now.. unless the kids found them that is.


Saturday I put in the DWC Raft and transferred the remaining seedlings into it. The lettuce seedlings in the garage had easily doubled in size since Wednesday, and the basil looked a lot sturdier. I also tidied up the deck a little.

In other news, this morning I fed the fish and checked on the plants only to discover... I have Corn! Five or six of the stalks popped through the gravel some time Sunday. I only planted these on Wednesday.. WOW! :D This farming thing is kind of cool. If you click on the picture you can see the sprouts running down the center of the gravel growbed.

We went to the Farmer's Market sunday as well, and I picked up a blackberry vine and blueberry bush. Those are probably safe from the aquaponics bug for now, but I might take a cutting or two or ten next year. ;)

My water is obscenely green, and I haven't seen any fish since I put them in. :( I _have_ to get some shade on the tank ASAP. My son's b-day party is this weekend and I'd like to have the water clear(er) by then, but that probably won't happen.

That's all for now,
Fishfarmer Ellie

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Plants and Piccies!

Yesterday we planted a bunch of seeds and some of the seedlings into the aquaponics system.. As of yersterday it is fully operational. :) We planted corn, sunflowers, pumpkins, cucumbers, daisies, and tomatoes as seeds, and basil / lettuce seedlings.

Here is the system. (Ignore the mess. That will be tidied up shortly.)

And here are our little plants...

And here are our little seedlings, waiting on me to finish the DWC raft. Have patience little plants. ;)

That's all for now. Tonight is Ty's Birthday dinner. We are going on a date!


Monday, June 16, 2008


Over the weekend Brenden and I spent a couple of hours fiddling with the auto siphon, and we now have a fully functional auto siphon on the gravel bed AND a second raft bed. With the decreased water volume I had to go back to a 1/2 inch hose for the siphon, but all is well!

(Really happy to have that working!)

The Beta-fish* went in the final aquaponics system yesterday, and I'll be planting some plants as soon as I get another couple of bags of gravel. There are Lettuce and Basil seedlings under a grow-light in our Garage, just begging to be transplanted outside.

Ty even seems a little excited. :D

Always fun..


* The Beta fish isn't really a Betta, it's a Tilapia. Beta is a software development term for "test". This test fish goes in first to make sure it is safe. If he lives, then the other fish can join him. Kind of cruel, but life is that way sometimes.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Feedin Time!

Last night I checked the TAN levels and they were down to 1. Yeah for the joys of chemical filtration. ;) I them after the kids went to bed and and they went after the pellets like little pirranha. I think they must have been fed sinking pellets at the farm, because they prefer the sinkers.

In other news, Brenden and I worked on the half-barrels and have 1 functioning flood and drain growbed with an autosiphon. YEAH!!!!!!!! :D I also realized, the the system as I had envisioned it will not work. I was going to have 1 raft bed (25 gallons) and 2 gravel beds (50 gallons). Unfortunately, that means that at least once a day my poor fishies would run out of the water. (50 gallon fishtank - 50 gallons of growbed = unhappy fishies.) Unless I want to raise mud skippers.. (they breathe air) ..that just isn't going to work. I could add a sump, but I am at the point of needing the most expedient solution to solve the crowding problem.

So anyway, one gravel bed, 2 raft beds. That will work just fine for now.

Tyanne and I saw one of the males building a nest in the aquarium. We'll probably have fry here in a couple of weeks. This is not a good thing. I am crowded with the 27* fish I have now, WTF am I going to do with hundreds more?

Still having fun..


* The very observant among you may note the sudden increase in fish count from 22 to 27. I got a decent picture of them when they were huddled in the corner of the tank and I have 25 Tilapia and 2 cichlids. Apparently the fish farm guy threw in some extras. ;)

Monday, June 2, 2008


Yesterday Brenden and I took another stab at a Fluidized bed filter. It didn't work, but I think I understand the physics now... at least I'll be asking smarter questions.

In other news, one of the males is digging a nest, so I'll have fry here in a couple of weeks. Sadly, I have _NO IDEA_ where I will put them. Brenden helped me chop up another barrel into a tank, and make a set of growbeds. I'm going to get the fittings for those on the way home and start that cycling. Right now it looks like this..

tank -> 2 gravel filled half-barrel growbeds -> loop autosiphon -> tank

One fish is in the outside tank and getting along just fine. The tanks are translucent, and I am expecting that to become an algae issue. Maybe we'll paint the outside?

The FBF can be plumbed into the system once we get the rest sorted out. For now I need somewhere to put fish. The ammonia in the tank is holding at 2ish, but the nitrites are climbing, and nitrites kill fish. Speaking of the aquarium, I popped open the canister filter and there were maybe.. MAYBE... six or so plastic media bits for the bacteria. (It should have been stuffed with them) :( I filled it up with ammo-carb, and hopefully that will help pull down the Ammonia. I got the Ammo-carb instead of Ammo-Lock because I wanted the biofilter to do most of the work, but now I see that was a mistake. We will just have to wait and see what happens.