Sad News

I came home today to see that two fish were floating in the water.  Sad.   Maybe I jinxed it – I was surprised that I had no casualties so far.   I wish I knew what it was…  Hopefully the rest will be ok.

We had a little green frog vistiting on the side of the fish tank.   I think he jumped to his current location; he probably can’t get past the metal bar…

2 Weeks In

Here’s the status of the sprouts after 2 weeks in…  Artichoke doing well in the back left corner, and lettuce has some good sprouting as well.   I’ll need to separate those two some more when the sprouts get bigger and are easier to move around without damaging them.     The broccoli in the back right corner is more iffy… two sprouts are good, and some are languishing, but might pull through.    Kale seems to have only one or two sprouts in the middle right, and just the one cluster of arugula in the front right, though it’s the fastest grower.  No spinach made it.

Good news is I have two spinach and three arugula sprouts growing inside that I’ll transplant when they get bigger.   The whole thing looks sparse now, but I’ll probably have to move some of the artichoke plants to the other growbed eventually….

Water tests are decent… need to feed the fish more, I’m thinking.

  • pH: 8.0
  • Ammonia: ~0    (fish pee)
  • Nitrite: ~0         (intermediate molecule in the nitrogen cycle)
  • Nitrate: 5 ppm   (fertilizer)

25 New Pets

The kids and I went to Danbury Fish Farm yesterday and got 25 (perhaps a couple of extra) 4-8″ blue catfish, which have all successfully transferred to the fish tank.  I fed them today – they didn’t eat while I was standing there watching them, but after I put the cover on the tank, I could peek in and see them nibbling on the fish food.   When the water clears up a bit, I’ll get some pictures up.  Right now it’s still dark from the organic seaweed fertilizer I added the other day.

Lessons Learned So Far…

a.k.a. “Things I would do differently next time” if I were to build another or add on to this aquaponic setup.   You’ve probably inferred some of these already if you’ve been reading previous posts.

  • Far and away the most obvious would be to get growbed media that does not have mulch in it and is all of a usable size.   Washing is generally a given, so that’s not an issue.   I may need to get more for the last growbed, let’s see if I learn this lesson well enough.
  • Get IBCs that do not need a lot of cleaning, ie: no glue!  Very important for not slowing things down.
  • The pump in the sump tanks has an inlet that is a couple of inches off the bottom.   This means that a couple of inches in the sump tanks will remain when I run out of useful water level.  I could add some pH-neutral spacers in the sumps to take up that space, I guess, but if doing again, I’d create a fourth mini tank of sorts attached to the piping between the three sumps, and sink it 3 –  5 inches deeper.   Perhaps a 5 gallon bucket?   At any rate, it could be easier to get to, and the sumps would be able to fully drain before this tank ran out.
  • Grass.  The sump tanks were placed right on grass, which in itself is not a problem, but the grass all around it is hard to get to – the mowers certainly can’t get to it.   So I have foot high grass between the sumps and the fence that I have to trim now and then.   I’ve put some spare boards behind one to kill the grass and it’s working fairly well.   Still, there’s grass all along the sides that is getting high.   I like the more natural look, but not the overgrown look.  For now I’ll just keep trimming now and then.   Perhaps I’ll add more boards in the back and maybe some sand (no, that will disperse eventually) 1-2″ gravel on the ground around the sumps.   What I really don’t want to happen is for the yard guys to come along with a weedeater and slice open a sump by accident.   Might need to put up some protective boards.
  • Lawnmowers – the yard guys use a mower that sprays grass everywhere, most irritatingly in the sumps.   It took a few times, but now I have a decent set of covers on two of them made out of painter’s drop cloth.   The third still has a blue tarp, but I’ll fix that eventually for aesthetics.
  • Evaporation – in addition to grass getting out, the three sumps have a large surface area exposed to air, which probably causes a lot of evaporation.   Covering the sumps with something better than the drop cloths may reduce that somewhat.
  • I still don’t know how the fish tank is going to play out, having settled a little off-level.  Doing it over, I would have filled it with water and let it sit a week before doing plumbing to see how it settled, then adjust the dirt underneath if necessary.   As it is, we might be OK for a while.
  • Plants – I’ve seen that about half the seeds I sowed didn’t make it, more like 2/3… they likely got washed away.   If you have all the seeds in the world, this is not a problem… but might be better to start seedlings the traditional way and transplant them later.   I’m currently doing spinach and a little more arugula and kale to fill in the gaps.

All in all, though, I’m pretty happy.   The pH is a little high, and I have more rocks to clean and fish to get (tomorrow, perhaps?!), but things are going well.  It’s even raining and filling up my rain barrel now.