Sunday, September 30, 2012

My First Aquaponics System - part 1

Our First AP Tank, minus the fish and air pump
We chose to start out with an outdoor system in our backyard using an IBC tank due to space constraints in our yard, where the water is located/easy to get to, where electricity in the yard is located until we get our solar system connected, where the plants would get the best sun without being in too much light at the wrong parts of the day, etc. We also will have one indoors to compare the two methods.

My goals in setting up both systems was to spend the least amount of money for the biggest bang for our buck. I chose to use an IBC tank with water in the top instead of grow medium, a floating raft made out of foam much like the one I'd seen on a tour with Dr Brooks, with grow medium just in small cups floating in the foam. We put a 130-170 gph pump in the lower tank where the fish will be, and pumped water from that up into the top portion under the rafts. Eventually this will be solar powered, but for now it's simply drawing electricity from the house. We drilled 5 holes in the top part so that it would trickle over into the fish tank below, returning the cleaner water (in theory) from the grow bed to the fish tank below. We realize we may need to add an extra filter to the system since we are using less grow medium, but we're learning as we go and going at this a bit piece meal. As the water falls it does aerate the fish tank water a bit, but we'll also be adding an air pump which will pump air under the rafts and also through a couple of air stones in the fish tank to oxygenate the water and aerate the plants which are currently just floating around in tiny cups full of grow medium soaking in water. 

We started our tank in fall which may be the worst time of year to do it, but by the 3rd day, I went out to add the 2nd half of the foam raft and move cups around, only to discover our lettuce had 3 of 4 cups already sprouting, and by the 4th day, all 4 cups had 2 to 4 sprouts each. Makes me a little anxious not having fish in the tank yet, because I worry that we do not yet have nutrients going to the plants, and the nutrients they provide themselves in their seeds is minimal, so eventually they'll need that bit of added nutrients, and I'd like to get the system cycling before adding fish in if possible. Going to add some sea weed as recommended by a few local AP enthusiasts tomorrow after a trip to a local aquarium store to look at and hopefully pick up at least one air pump and some air stones. Also looking online, so I think I might buy the air pump setup meant for our indoor tank and use it outdoors right now since I don't have any fish in it yet and can simply use all the air for the plants, and then I can move that one indoors once the larger pump arrives from online. 

Our First TINY Lettuce Sprout

So far so good. Even tho we're only in our first week, I'm hopeful! 

Things yet to do: 

Buy and set up thermometer (I killled the first one via drowning)
Buy and set up air pump
Buy and add small bit of sea weed
Locate, buy and add fish (Channel Catfish for now and possibly some Prawns, then later when it warms back up after winter, may add some Tilapia)
Locate, price, and buy fish food
Build worm compost and breeding set up
Visit and possibly pick up some duckweed, black fly larva and red wigglers
Further investigation on temperature and heating elements in case we'll need to heat the water out back for the catfish and possibly prawns
Further investigation, planning and eventual set up of solar power and deep cycle marine battery to run the whole system

And of course set up the indoor system as well. I will keep you posted. 

1 comment:

  1. demystifying cycling the system: