Transplanting - Easy Does It

My Tomatoes seedlings already 2 weeks old, its time to trim its population and some minor transplanting to ensure space between plants for good growth.

Tomatoes is a soft stem plant, they can be easily damaged especially seedlings and what make it worst is the growth medium used are gravel.

Care must be taken not to damage those seedlings, while replanting them.
I use a simple home made protector to keep plant undamaged while the insertion takes place.
Above protector, made up of PVC tubing. Cut about 6" in length with one end like a wedge and a slot made along its length.
Seedling is place inside protector via the slot, and loosely held in position.
Wedge in diagonally so that no gravel will travel up the pipe then slowly release seedling through the slot, and tidy up the gravel.

This way I manage to protect the seedling and my fingers too.. those that have experience it know how painful it could be sometimes.

Setting Up A Simple Aquaponics System

How to setup an Aquaponics System ? This post I try to briefly explain a very simple setup, its important to start simple so that we learn and progress as time goes by.

It is not advisable to start with complex or large system. It is also ridiculous to start with a tiny system, it’s only meant for show case and school projects.

Size of Fish tank and Grow beds are the two determining factor in Aquaponics, in theory the size of grow bed is directly proportional to the size of tank used.  A 1:1 ratio is a rule of thumb, however smaller grow bed to tank is acceptable but not the other way round for obvious reason where insufficient water available to grow beds and fish.

What Tank and Grow Bed size to use ? Try : Here

In the illustration I recommend a 100 gallon tank and a 2’ x 3’ grow bed for a start. This size is an estimate but it’s roughly there.

Simple 2 Growbed Over Tank with Bell Siphon

It is best to start with a simple water management system, shown above the raised grow bed using a Timed Flood and Drain or Continuous Flow Flood and Drain setup. This is the easiest to make and the least can go wrong. As you progress, this system can be adapted to make use of more growbed or fish area utilizing various method of water management with minimum changes as example in photo and diagram below.

  • Timed Flood and Drain make use of stand pipe and leak (drip) hole
  • Continuous Flood and Drain make use of a Siphon.

More Growbed Over Tank with Bell Siphon

Here is the sketch.

For a start, I do not recommend any system with lots of moving parts or those with Sump Drain reason being the extra pump and parts is just additional item to fail or need maintenance. It is too much for beginners to worry about. 
In above diagram, Timed Flood & Drained or Bell Flush system, water are fed to the grow bed by using a single pump, estimate about 800 ~ 1200 Liter/hr 14 ~ 20 watt power rating (on Timed Flood and Drain you can use smaller pump), and water returned to fish tank are by gravity. A tiny drip hole is needed in the stand pipe on both this methods, this to ensure during pump “OFF” operation water are drained slowly, to promote the Aquaponics process.

If 25 mm siphon is used, a recommended 1000 l/h water flow for each siphon for its operation. If you have 2 growbed with individual siphon then its 1000 x 2 l/h pump total capacity is needed.

Bell Siphon

Growth medium use normally gravel or Hydroton (LECA) which is popular now, roughly 10 ~ 20 mm in size, not too small and not too big. 

Gravel Growbed

Hydroton Growbed

Small pebbles can cause water logged and bigger could be difficult to handle while planting. Gravel height should be about 1” above water level, or the stand pipe height initially,  with time as the plant grow this water level can be adjusted lower by using a shorter stand pipe.

Timed Flood and Drain, use timer that readily available, most people set it at 15 minutes ON and 45 minutes OFF continuously with some changes to cycle during night time. Bell Flush system, the pump is switched ON continuously during the day and switched OFF at night, however it can also be run continuously 24/7.

I switch OFF at night for power saving and noise issue, with pump OFF its advisable to have an aeration pump running to ensure oxygen are sufficient.

Below is a diagram of  CRAFTS, for installation where you need more growbed and fish area as you progress and don't want to add complex rearrangement but modular in approach.

What Fish to use… ?

For those that like ornamental fish, KOI is a good choice, common gold fish also another option. These fishes are hardy and able to tolerate varies water condition.

For those that want fish for the dinner table (like me), its depend on your area, over here in  hot humid rainy equatorial climate I recommend;

Barb families, Perch, Mansheer, Gourami, Tilapia (Red Variety is best).

I don’t recommend Catfish and Snakehead, they are predator fish and also they are air breather.

Air breather like Catfish, Snakehead and Climbing Perch (Puyu) will tolerate extreme water condition, as such you will not learn much on how to manage water of an Aquaponics setup.  However they are the easiest to get you started.

Fish like Tilapia is quite hardy, but they still need dissolve oxygen, so using these types of fish will make you conscious of water quality and oxygen content.

What Plants to use ?

Again depending on your region and whether you are using a Green house or not. Most leafy vegetable were grown, there are cases where carrot, beet and radish were use. Tomato is a common vegetable for Aquaponics.

On plant I leave it to your imagination.

Note :
  • How to make a single barrel Aquaponics set : Here
  • CHOPS is not a simple system but check : Here
  • CRAFTS - Constant Return Aquaponics Feeder Tank System : Here
  • Ornamental Set - A smaller Option : Here
This page will be revised over time to take into consideration various improvements on either methods or material used for Aquaponics.

Video Updates 26th June 2009

Video updates of my Aquaponics System.

I am conditioning the fish tank and hope to complete setting up within this next 2 weeks.

I will use Bell Valve system for about 4 grow beds on top of the tank, with enough space left to carry out various setup that I'm trying to check out.

I am confident Aquaponics can provide food for the family therefor I decide to make a permanent setup and stock more fishes and vegetable.

Currently I sourcing Red Tilapia fry, since they are hardy fishes and taste good too.

Of Algae and Oxygen

Algae or Phytoplankton are microscopic plants. They are very tiny can't be seen by the naked eye, green color water is a sign of algae present.

Is Algae bad for Aquaponics ?

There are bad and good sides to Algae.

The good part are

1. They are a natural source of food to the fishes.
2. Like all plants, they produce oxygen with sunlight.

So what's the bad part about algae ?

1. Like all plants, they consume oxygen during the night.
2. They use nutrient from the water.

Most people just cover their tank or pond to ensure no algae present. However in my opinion if we could control algae using its good properties, we can have a better Aquaponics system.

Fish waste that exist in the water need oxygen to be broken down into nutrients, in normal fish pond, this rely heavily on oxygen found in the pond. If the amount of fish waste is too much, this breakdown process can cause depletion of oxygen and kill the fish.

Fish waste broken down are use by algae as nutrient and if there a lot of sunlight, in turn will produce more oxygen. This cycle continues throughout the day. At night is where the danger lies, Algae, Fishes and Microbes that breakdown fish waste will all compete for oxygen. If there is not enough, something will need to give way,, usually fish will die.

Early morning, is the time where oxygen content is at its lowest. During this time we should look at the fishes, whether they are gasping for air at the surface. If they are, then you have oxygen problem.

In Aquaponics, breakdown of fish waste to nutrient are done by organism in the water and growthbeds. They need oxygen to do this hence in Aquaponics setup, flood and drain system are employed to ensure oxygen are readily available to the organism.

Is algae good for Aquaponics ?

I would say yes, because it provide food for the fish. We need to understand how to control algae and benefit from it. One way to have enough oxygen in the ponds is to provide aeration, this will ensure fishes, algae and microorganism have enough oxygen to do their best for our setup.

To acheive this balance is the hard part, however with trial and error we should be able to make improvement in the system.

Time Out - Tribute to The King

Let me fill you heart with joy and laughter... I'll be there

Rest In Peace ... Brother..

Aquaponics - Ceramic Waterproofing

Finally, decided to go on the semi-permanent approach, use ceramic tile to cover the access hole.

This big panel is 24" x 24" ceramic tile and the smaller 16" x 16" , both were cemented to floor covering access hole. Should have though about this earlier its cheaper then using canvas.

Finished doing above about 30 minutes ago, well workmanship is not 1st class but I'm confident it will hold water :)

Resun Penguin

Bought a Resun Penguin 4500 pump as photo below for my new Aquaponics setup, this pump suppose to deliver 4500 liter/hr at 0 height.
I am expecting something like 3500 liter/hr for my usage. Still a lot of water. On application this afternoon it emptied the tank about 2500 ~ 3000 liter in less then 30 minutes.
That good, so water turn around is more then required. For grow beds I think its too much, will probably bypass the excess water into a filter or let it circulate in the tank.

This pump is rated at 110 Watt, it must be economical to operate. I intend to use only this one pump to supply all my grow beds.

Waterproofing Goes Wrong

Drained my concrete fish tank after a week of conditioning. Waterproofing using canvas and sealant not that good. Its OK for short term but for long term I don't think I can rely on it.

Upon close inspection found sealant peeling off, exposing canvas. Long term with fish inside I am worried it may fail. I decided to rip off all canvas and sealant, tomorrow I will use cement to sealed the panels "Temporarily".

As long I know where to "break" the concrete to get to the panels I guess it OK, from experience that access panel is use only maybe once in 20 years.

OK, then I will break the tank floor once every 20 years.

Bell & Swivel Combi - A Wild Idea

This is just an idea, I never done this. What if the bell valve is combine with a swivel valve for multiple grow beds or a large bed with multiple Bell Valve.

The idea is, synchronization of bell flush will occur due to swivel valve is the one that start the flush. This is made possible by making the High Water level of the swivel valve higher then the level for the Bell Valve.

Bell valve will not flush as water reaches its high level, just overflow, since the high level of the swivel is not reach yet.

Common manifold will be filled, but no flushing action yet. Once High level reaches on the swivel valve the flush started. This will cause the bell to assist swivel flush and continue till finish.

As I said its just an idea... I'll try this out one of this days. I am toying with this idea because if you have large grow beds, you can use more then one Bell valve to make the water flow out faster and where synchronizing the flush is required.

Prefilter Updates 23rd June 09

It will be sometime before my new aquaponics setup ready, meanwhile the old one need to go on. Fishes, after my last addition is doing fine, but there are too few plants on the growbed to clean the water properly.

I hook up a prefilter to one of the bed, so that water will have less fish solids as it enter. It a quickie job since this setup is temporary while new one conditioned. I use a 30 watt aquarium pump for filter inlet.

Diagram above is type of filter used. I will check on the effectiveness of this filter after a week, if a lot of fish solids drained out then its good. Click here for detail diagram of filter.

Fern doing well, I can see new roots forming and new fiddle heads sprouting out. These fern was subjected to a few transplanting while I'm moving the beds. It will take another 2 weeks of so for them to recover.

Tomato and Chili seeds we sprinkle on the bed, it germinate and give it another week or so I'll trim down to ensure healthy growth.

As I mentioned previously, I don't expect the plants to do well, it need at least 2 to 3 months for growbeds to mature at best about 4 months.

Sony PSP and Guppies

Pond seal has dried up, I decided to fill her up. I put half the water this morning and another half later today.

Water felt alkaline to touch, I trow in few fresh lemon in to take care of the high PH value.

Both my daughter did well in school, wife asked, what they want as a gift. A Sony PSP was suggested, but both my daughter said they want Guppies.. so guppies it is :))

I bought them a nice small aquarium those with pump and light build in, together with stand and some guppies for them to keep.

They made a wise choice, I can't stand it if they waste their time on a 4" idiot screen. Fishes need commitment that will teach them to be responsible.

Flushing - Unexplained

I have pump problem, it will not cause flushing (that's what I though)

What happened was, with a lower rating pump about 12 to 14 watt (Lower Blue), it flushes but sometimes it don't cut out. This I yet to figure out why it happen, anyone have any idea.

Below 12 watt (Red) is just not enough water in to cause siphon, beyond 45 watt (Upper Blue) is will not cutoff due more water in then out.

The best operating ranges is about 20 watt to 45 watt ( Green)

Something weird here, I always thought that flushing did not cut off with too much water. But that lower blue range is just can't be explain (not yet anyway)

A New Fish Pond - Part IIc

This probably last of this pond series, I've completed waterproofing those access panel using heavy duty plastic coated canvas and sealant.

Panels are sealed with Silastic sealant (Acetoxy Silicone Sealant) then canvas is stick to pond floor covering the panel with a layer of Silastic, spreading it outward to form a seal.

How I wish I have aviation grade PRC 1432 sealant.

Finally 3 layers of pond seal around the canvas. The photo was taken at night, so a bit fuzzy.

Tomorrow is "D" day, water in... :)

Catfish Aquaculture

A month back I went to an Aquaculture setup that rear Catfish and Climbing Perch, what follows are some photos of the place.

Catfish are rear in canvas enclosure above ground and ground water are use to replenish or during water change. They have 30 pool 4'x15'x2.5' in size.

Aquaculture water management is a problem, due to it need to be filtered and change regularly.

I think its difficult to make money from Catfish Aquaculture. Fishes were sold wholesale at RM 4.50 - 4.70 per kg. you need 2 kg of fish feed to produce 1 kg of fish, price of fish feed is RM 2.10 ~ 2.30 per kg.

RM 4.20 minimum of feed needed to produce 1 kg of fish, that only give you about RM 0.30 per kg of fish. It takes 4 months minimum to rear, electricity, water and wages will set you back into the red.

So who are making money ? Not the farmers but those guys that sell them canvases, frame, fish feed, fish fry and then will buy their fishes and sell for a profit.

What a ripoff !! So for those that interested in rearing catfish or contract farming,, do your simple maths don't listen to their consultant.

This setup is closing down after 2 years of operation, its loosing a lot of money yearly.

Hungry catfish everywhere. Its a waste, only if all or some of this can be converted to Aquaponics

Above is a "Ciku" tree, nearby.

Google Earth/Map Coordinates for the place is : 103° 23.335'E 3° 28.821'N and the photos are all Geotagged.

Update : 15th. Sept 2010
This Aquaculture venture already closed about a year back.

The ciku tree is still there :)

A New Fish Pond - Part IIb

The pond is completed earlier today, I need to waterproof those two access panel.

Let it dry for a few days then over the weekend I'll get some plastic coated canvas to cover the panels.

Cement tank need sometime to be conditioned, otherwise it maybe fatal for the fishes. So it'll be a wadding pool for a month or so.

The guy that made the pool said, best to use Pineapple peelings, just leave it in the pool for few days and check the water quality.

The old fashion way he said use a cheap fish, those not so tough one. If they survive then its ok. I think getting a Ph meter is a better option for me.

A New Fish Pond - Part IIa

Looking good, few more days to go..., then a month of water leak test.

Pond (actually I don't know what to call it) is almost done, left the bottom bit to do. Hope It'll hold water.

A New Fish Pond - Part II

With the help of a local Handyman my new pond starting to take shape. Lets face it, I can't do it myself.. so I chicken out.

Pay someone to do it, then I just concentrate on other things like making money to pay him.

Pond is about 15'x4'x2' and its an over the ground enclosure, that is big enough for lots of fish. I intend to have two pond in my backyard, one reserve for fingerlings using PVC tank that I use earlier and this concrete pond.

Inside as can be seen is a sewage access and a water drain access, these two giving me hard time to ensure they are made watertight. Buildings bylaw won't allow me to close those panels with concrete.

What I'll do is to have a piece of pond liner cut out slightly bigger then the access panel and water proof it from the top. I got to do both access panel, one is metal the other is made out of concrete.

Plan B is, if all else fail, I'll need to get a pond liner tailor made to the dimension of the pond and slip it in, this will cost me extra cash. I'll have to do this if everything else fail.

Once ready, I need to just fill it up for about 1 month of so, checking for leaks, and to ensure acidity level checked. Rule of thumb old farmers style just wait for algae to grow. I need to put few fishes, those really "tough guy" type to have mosquito under control. The Climbing Perch is just the right candidate.

BTW This pond should holds about 2500 litres of water.

A Hole in One Saw

Aquaponics setup need holes to be made in growth beds, fish tanks etc.. I use the common hole saw as pictured.

Get few of these to cover common sizes that you need, d
iameter of which should more or less match diameter of pipe used.

Above photo, smaller saw is for 15mm pipe and bigger one for 25mm, I need to get a 50mm Hole Saw for my next project.

"Crown" on this bell are made by 15mm Hole Saw.

Solids Prefilter - Part II

Updates 2012 : After practicing Aquaponics for some times, I do not use a pre-filter anymore.

This is another variation of solids prefilter that I post earlier. The different is I stick a swirl adapter to swirl the water causing solids and liquid separation.

Diagram above shows swirl adapter, the rest is self explainatory.

Photo of swirl adapter
, if your filter casing is big, you could use two elbow at the end of the adapter to cause the swirl.

If a "U Turn" won't do it,, just turn the water around to get it loose.

Sunken Bell

I do alter the bell for trial and error, sometimes I will come across this situation where it is below the outer pipe causing problem to lift it up.

Bell shown in a position where you will have difficulties lifting it up

A simple way to lift it out is by using "sucker" that come with aquarium pumps or even cup holders. Just stick it on to the dome.

And lift it up.

I experiment a lot with bell length, one way of extending it is to use spacer, made up of the same pipe. Insert spacer first then the bell pipe. If bell pipe not holding in place due to it short length.

I will use RTV sealant, reason for using this sealant, is that its easily removed if I need to do more adjustment. If I use the PVC pipe glue,, then its a permanent fixture difficult to redo.

Pump Problem

My pump just not good enough for the job. I'm using a small pump about 12 ~ 14 watt rated, reason being my grow beds is small.
The problem with this type of pump is it easily get clogged up.. then the siphon will be compromise.
I have to use a higher capacity pump, 30 watt to make it trouble free. The only issue I had with this higher capacity pump is, water cycle its to quick... not a problem to the siphon, maybe I need a bigger grow beds. now.. :)

The higher pump capacity rating below.
I have to get a better pump for my new setup.

Another possible reason to the pump problem could be, after the last incident of dead fish, I run the pump 24/7 this I do to cycle the new grow beds faster.

Running the pump in this condition do not give it time to self clean. Previously I switch off the pump at night, this give time for the fishes to clean debris or foods solids sticking near the pump inlet.

I'm going to put the Timer back on... and cut the pump at night. This maybe a cheaper option.. :)