|Our first spinach came in on it's 4th day in the tank!!!|
So part 2 is mostly about us finishing the building process of a simple and somewhat theoretical AP System I had in mind, which is to use the floating raft technique but with an IBC container type system. I don't know how well this system will hold up and to how many fish, but we will see. I planned to cycle the system for about a week with just plants before putting fish in it, so we do not yet have our catfish, but that's OK because it is giving me time to call around town and see who has the best price on catfish, or decide if I should buy them online and pay for shipping.
|6 inch air stone disk under the large raft|
We moved a table over near the tank and plugged the air pump into the new extension cord which reached over there easily. Some day I still plan to make the whole system run off solar, but for now we're running it off the power in our house. The Air pumps we have running 24/7. You can see the larger air stone in this photo. I would have liked to buy 2 this size, but the store only had one so the other is a bit smaller. They are aerating the water right under the plants, and the bubbles are moving air right up to the plants which I was advised is important for raft systems like mine.
|moved the hose up out of the water to prevent backflow|
So yesterday I unplugged the pump which is pumping water from the lower tank and moved the hose so that it is no longer under the water, but is pumping the water out into the air which then lands in the tank creating a small amount of aeration, and making it so that no water will flow backwards into the lower tank when the pump is off, allowing me to (theoretically) turn that pump off periodically and save some electricity. I waited to see how well this worked out, and even with the slight drip we have coming from the middle of the top tank, the water in the top tank was only an inch or two lower which means that it's just sitting there for a time, and not circulating, but the air bubbles up there are still moving the water around, so it's not likely to go stagnant just briefly.
|Air Pump is working!|
|Rainbow Chardling (just one tiny leaf)|
At this point I plan for some blue channel catfish to live in the lower tank because they tend to do fine with temperature changes to the water, and eventually we plan to add some Tilapia down there too once our brief winter is over and the temperatures are stable at a warm enough temp for Tilapia to be healthy. I'm also going to put some prawns in there to help keep the tank clean. I've considered raising feeder fish for the Catfish up in the top tank, but haven't put this into motion yet obviously. I am going to buy some goldfish today or tomorrow and get them set up there to try it out and continue cycling the system, then when the catfish are big enough some of the goldfish who live through the initial trials could be put in the lower tank as feeder fish.
Once it's all built and regulated I suspect I'll spend a lot less time on it. If the book I'm reading is right the only things I'll need to do at that point is spend a couple minutes a day feeding fish, possibly dealing with bugs now and then, and occasionally checking the water's PH. Some people I know who do Aquaponics farming on a small backyard scale, do not check PH, they go by the way the water looks and the fish act. I'm still debating between methods. If I find a cheap water testing kit maybe I'll go that route, but the ones I've seen are pretty expensive, and I'm trying to keep the cost down. Speaking of costs, I think that getting an above ground pool off craigslist is probably the best bet for an easy, off the shelf, low cost system and allows more space for raising fish AND growing plants. I just didn't have a space in my backyard that was big enough which we were willing to give up to a whole pool for Aquaponics. But I see them on craigslist periodically and all people want is someone willing to move the thing out of their yard. Free pool plus the cost of gas is a GOOD price to start an aquaponics system. Maybe some day I'll go that route if we decide we want to expand. For now, we're happy tinkering with our IBC unit.
Found out there will be a big Halloween shindig at the GardenPool.org and talked to Carlie about it. We'll be signing up for that. The cost is 5 cans of food each which will go to those who need it more than us, and in exchange we'll get to learn about Black Soldier Fly colonies (for fish that feed off the top) and raising duckweed plus have the opportunity to pick up a black soldier fly colony starter kit and some starter duckweed which I'm hoping will grow on the top of the lower tank providing some cover/shade/hiding spots for the catfish, as well as food for the tilapia. Also from what I've heard the Tilapia will teach the catfish to move up to the top and eat so they may end up eating the duckweed as well since they're a fish that eats both creatures and plants.
Next steps for us:
Get some goldfish to test the system and eventually to be feeder fish for the catfish
Get red wiggler worms (to eat excess produce, use their poop in our traditional gardening, and feed some to the catfsih now and then)
Set up a worm tower to replace or supplement our current composter
Set up indoor Aquaponics system and start fishless cycling
Visit the local feed store and see if they have fish food that would be appropriate for the catfish
Get catfish fry
Get tilapia fry
Get Duckweed started