Aquaponics - Updates 30th July

Sow new seeds yesterday, Celery and Chives I use a small plastic meshed tray. I should have use smaller pebbles sowing seeds, they mignt get washed down and not germinate.

Chillies forming after flowering and looks good. Yellowing of leaves are not that significant. Looks like that rusty nails do it job.

Tomatoes flowering and yet to form any. The plants are recovering, few tomato plant I have to remove due not doing well. I expected this and I transplant more then required, the removed plants are just surplus.

New Fern (what do they call this) coming out and they are everywhere. This is a good sign, my intention is to propagate these fern and plant them on the upper part of my perimeter wall.

Selom (water celery) above was planted from cuttings last week and now show sign of growth. I ate them raw as a salad and for own consumption they will be more then enough, these are fast grower.

Aquaponics - Seeds

Fresh seed for my grow beds, Chillies (those small super hot), Lettuce , Chinese Chives and Chinese Celery.

I normally sprinkle those seed direct onto grow beds, may try to do differently with these. Chilies I have tried, lettuce and Celery did before but nothing to be proud off, Chives is something new to me with Aquaponics.

I'm testing out various plants that can be grown, since our climate here differ from other area. Not much documented on equatorial region Aquaponics, this give me the chance to help others in this region. Some of those that successfully grow in Australia or the United States may not be able to be grown here.

I wish they have Equatorial Strawberry... :(

After that last pump incident nothing much else to do, the setup doing fine. I'm going fishing again later this afternoon and hope to get myself few more Tilapia for the tank.


Aquaponics - Tilapia Breeding

All of the Tilapia in my tank were bought from local aquarium shops and of the red variety. I am planning to breed them so that I do not have to get new fingerings.

Tilapia is a mouth breeder, they can be easily breed in captivity and a fast grower. This makes them ideal as a food fish. With fish in the tank and backyard breeding this is a good sustainable farming.

To breed Tilapia I need good breeder. All Tilapia from the same source is not a good choice as breeder, in-breeding will cause bad gene. It's best to get Tilapia from different shops in different location over a period of time to make them genetically far from each other.

Another option is wild Tilapia, they are the best option to ensure genetically of very different origin. However wild Tilapia, there will be risk that they might bring parasite or disease into my tank. At aquarium shop they sell solution to make sure parasite can be eliminated before introducing these wild Tilapia or any other into the tank.

What better way to get wild Tilapia then go fishing for it. Near my home there are many water catchment area, after a few years these catchment form beautiful man made lake. They are teaming with Tilapia for the picking.

So with a fishing rod in hand,, I spend slightly more then an hour at the catchment area and the result were 4 juvenile Tilapia each about 4 ~ 5 inches long. Tomorrow I'll try to catch few more. These will make good breeder with my Red Tilapia.

Aquaponics - Pruning Tomatoes

Tomatoes is an easy plant to grow, and they are one of the favorite with Aquaponics. Good crop will depend on whether they have enough nutrient and sunlight.

Those they get from Aquaponics bed and the sun, we can assist on having a good growth by pruning the plant to have a strong and healthy crop.

How do you prune a tomato plant ?

Steps below are general guideline that being practice on how to do it.
Tomatoes do well if they have only one main stem. We need to prune any shoots that grow from the main stem, as shown in picture above. This will ensure a healthy main stem.
Once the plant start to flower, we need to prune the shoot immediately above the first leave after the flower, as shown.
Photo above shows the shoot already cut, leaving the leave above the flower. After this 2 shoots will grow at that point. Remove one and leave the other to grow.
The shoot will grow into main stem and start to flower. Repeat the process again, cutting the shoot above the leave above the flower.

This method is for a fast growing type of tomatoes, for slow growing variety. After the first cut let both the shoot grow into 2 main stem. After that maintain as above to have only 2 main stem.

Aquaponics - Mistakes

Below is my current setup, 2 mistakes made on this setup which may be helpful to avoid.

1. I use 1 pump for all the grow bed.

This arrangement if the pump fail then 4 bed will be at risk, if its clog then it will also be a problem. My pump clogged and the water inflow was drastically reduced, this cause oxygen level to drop and distress the fish.

Now I am running a 20 watt venturi power head to provide emergency aeration. This pump work so well in aerating the tank I may put it permanently for this purpose.

2. My 2nd mistakes was to locate the pump in a difficult location to get at.

No matter how good is the pump it will one day fail or it may get clogged. I've learn my lesson and now relocate the pump to a more convenient location to get at. It need to be clean periodically.

I hope to make minor changes to the setup, for one I'll reuse those individual pump and have them accessible easily.

Aquaponics - Water Level

I am sure most of us want to find out how high the water in our growbeds, especially those using Flood and Drain (Flood and Flush) setup.

I am having problem with one of my growbed, so need to monitor closely its water level to make sure it cut-off promptly.

Below is a simple level indicator made up from Fishing float and a PVC tube.

Above is a diagram of the indicator, its self explainatory actually. Just get a fishing float and stick in a piece of rod or straw or something.

I use that mini kebab skewer made out of bamboo. Its just a bit short. Need to find something longer.

Picture of same above, and below at high water level.

I buried a bigger outer tube, so that I can use the smaller inner tube on other beds. I use it to check water level since I experimenting this setup, that permanent outer tube is required.

You can use only one tube in each bed and just use the same float at all places as needed.

Picture above at lower water level, I do need something longer. You can use more then 1 float at the end of the stick and an end cap with hole drill to make it neat. Also the stick marked in inches or mm to have a reading.

Not much of a device but it does get the job done.


Aquaponics - Updates 23 July

I have release those Tilapia fingerlings and about 20% died during the last 5 days. They seems ok now and I decide to release to give them space for recovery.

The plants doing OK, I can't say well yet since its just short of 2 weeks since I transplant them. The chillies and tomatoes are flowering, will see what happen.

Above Chili plant flowering.

Tomatoes flowering, these are few of them.

Over the last few days, its been raining. Its odd for this time of the year for it to happen. Water level is high in my tank, so far it still ok I can see the grow beds drain pipe.

This grow bed is the one that giving me problem until I do the remedy as yesterday's post.

Cheers for today.

Aquaponics - Bell Valve Update

As in previous post, with multiple grow beds and a single pump will be a bit of a nightmare to do the water balancing. Dynamically each bed water inflow will be affected by adjustment of the other.

As such out of the 4 grow bed, 1 gives me endless problem with its flushing action. The other 3 work without fail. The last bed the one black in color will not cutoff water.

The water will continue to be balance in and out causing a low water situation in the bed. This is a no-go for me.

  • Update : This alteration to the bell dome is no longer required, the cause of that one growbed don't work so well is already rectified : Here
I need to find a remedy for this problem. I have tried extending the down pipe, increasing the water level using extender, installing a reducer on the down tube all do not work.

Its been unreliable for the last 1 week, the irony is the other 3 works and continue to work and they are all identical.

Finally, I decided to drill a Breather Hole, 1 inch from the base of the Bell, as in photo. This allow an offset to the water balance that refuse to stop, at last it cut out without fail.

So if anyone having same scenario, just try this one. I am trying to redo part of the Bell Valve to eliminate this occasional "Odd One Out" Bell Valve. In the mean time this is a "patch" for it.

Bell Valve How to

Aquaponics - PH Test

Finally I manage to test my tank water. It's about 7 the alkalinity may go up, will check again next week. Grow beds are new so its unstable.

If alkaline goes up then I will add vinegar like distilled malt vinegar or apple cider, can't be harmful to fish and plant since its organic.

Test kit above, requires 5 ml of tank water with 5 drop of test fluid. A color chart is provided to check pH value, its idiot proof. I use syringe to get the exact amount of water into the test tube.

Will get the ammonia and nitrite test kit next.

BTW Someone suggested to pour Guinness into the grow beds, he say Guinness have a lot of iron this may help provide iron to the plants.

Anyone can confirm this... the Irish may have something up their sleeve with aquaponics I guess. Interesting suggestion, will the fish get drunk ... :) I wonder.

I was in Dublin for a few years of my life, its a beautiful place and very friendly people.

Aquaponics - Updates Current Setup

This is my current setup, completed last weekend. Once done nothing much left to do, just daily routine spending minimal time on checking plant growth and feeding the fish.

That's the beauty of Aquaponics it require very little time to maintain.

Since I have time to spare, below is a diagram of above system. The Prefilter is not a necessity its there so that I could experiment on it, you can have a system without it.

Grow beds are placed on wooden beam across the concrete tank. With this setup grow beds are on top of the tank, so leaky beds is not much of an issue.

I use pebbles for growth media, wish I have other type of stones something lighter. Each bed is about 200 kg that is 440 lbs. This is the reason why I decide to abandon the canvas fish tank due to its fragile frame will not survive a 200 kg x 4 beds.

I am adding more fish batch by batch, as my previous post 160 Tilapia fingerlings. I expect out of that 160 about 10 ~ 15% will die in the first week.

The plants are doing alright, iron as I use that pipe may have some problem. Water circulation may not reach it, I am monitoring it closely.

Currently I am running the pump 24/7 to make sure the plants recover after replanting . I am going to put the timer on with pump running only during the day, hopefully by next week. I need to check on the plants condition first before doing it.

OK that's all for today.

Note :

Water distribution between multiple grow bed is quite a task, one valve reduce or increase will affect the other. Its a balancing job that require a lot of practice. Another way is to use one pump per grow bed then its much easier.

A "fix it" for the occasional Bell Valve hiccup : Check Here
How to make the valve : Check Here

Aquaponics -Tilapia Fingerlings

All grow bed done and plant transferred and nothing much to do now, just sit back and wait.

So without wasting time I bought new Tilapia Fingerlings, 8 for RM 1.00 (USD 0.30) I bought 160 total cost RM 20.00 (USD 6.00) good price for it.

Above are those Tilapias the red variety, and I use a basket with fine plastic mesh wrapped around to contain them. Otherwise they may be fish food for the other bigger fish in the tank, especially those Yellow Tail Catfish (Patin) that "Senior" in the tank.

I'll add more fish slowly, on a monthly basis to make sure they are balance with plant growth.

Another shot of same, basket placed underneath water outlet so that aeration and fresh water circulation within the basket.

On the plants, Tomatoes show sign of new root growth, that's good. I just hope there's enough nutrient and Iron in the water to ensure good growth.

Aquaponics - Updates 15th July

New setup completed last weekend, was too tired to update. I did 4 grow bed by mixing old growth media and new, this hopefully will accelerate grow bed maturity.

All plants from old set moved to this, and I am a bit worried that they might die. I run the pump 24/7 to ensure a faster recovery.

Those Tomatoes plant already starting to bear flowers and chillies are doing fine too. After the replanting, let's see whether they will recover.

No problem to the fishes, they are doing well especially with extra space provided. I put on hold on getting new fingerlings, I want to see some progress on the fishes then I'll add more.

Aquaponics - Fern Transplant

New setup done, with 3 growth bed. These Fern will need to be transplanted to the new bed.

I am reluctant to move them, because they've just recover and doing fine.
Well it need to be done.
Those Fern are starting to do well.
Above one of the Fern, showing the roots. It have small hair like root, it was not like this when I planted it. This is sign of good growth.
Close up photo of the root, there are sign of new Fern coming out from the roots. That also a good sign, looks like Ferns are good choice for Aquaponics.
BTW the Tomatoes, also need relocating, they are too close together. The tallest is about 2 ft tall.

I've move them to new grow bed, its not matured yet so I am worried that all the plants will not do well once on the new bed.

Aquaponics - Updates 8th July

After transplanting, Tomatoes plant doing well, so well I'm afraid they will take over the grow bed.

Some of them already more then 1 ft tall, I need to have some support soon, and my new setup must be completed by this weekend to save some of these plant. Let see whether they produce any Tomatoes.

Chillies are struggling in between those Tomatoes, I have to transplant those as well.

Aquaponics - Updates 7th July

Updates on Bell Valve, I did cosmetic changes to the valve. Following are photos of valve with some minor alteration.
Above valve with 4" cap from sewage venting system, make it neat and prevent gravel entering water flow area.
Cap removed, bell dome in position. This dome is not touch most of the time so I guess its ok to have it capped.
Bell dome removed, shows the stand pipe with 50 mm adapter opening with extender pipe (ring) in place to make water level higher.
Shows picture with extender pipe removed, this will make water level lower.

I hope to finish the setup by this weekend, need to do water inlet in grow beds, pipes going beneath grow medium.

How to make Bell Valve check : Here
How to make Bell Valve Aquaponics System check : Here

Aquaponics - Updates 5th July

New setup almost there, grow beds in position with water inlet done. I am testing this setup, Bell valve in place but not finalized.

Water feed are subdivided using ball valve few adjustment needed to get it equalized between grow beds.

I have done 3 grow beds, 4th will be added later from the old set, and that flexible tubing just water returning to tank due excess.

Water feed to grow bed will be via tube buried within the grow media, that will need to be done next.

Bell Valve in position, outer tube that white tube are drilled only few rows on the bottom. I am not that happy with this tube it's a bit thin, thinner then the one I use previously so its difficult to glue to grow bed.
Bottom of grow bed, with water outlet from Bell Valve. That slanting tube is from pump to feed manifold. One of the bed is flushing.

BTW, those that want to make the Bell Valve as illustrated in my previous post. It is best to have the water outlet at an angle as it leave the grow bed. Photo above is an example of such angled outlet.
Excess water just let it return. I am thinking of using rain gutter on top of the brick wall to have more grow beds , then I may use grow pipe style of planting in those gutter.

Prefilter not installed, that's next in to do list.

Scraps, PVC collected over the months of experimenting and redoing. Never discard these, I reuse and if anything new to try I use it again.

Prefilter - Updates 5th July

I'm building my new Aquaponics setup, Bell Valve and Grow Bed already done. Prefilter need to be upgraded to 20 mm pipe input from current 15 mm.
Above photo, are the components necessary for water/solids separation part in the filter. Other item needed are casing made of PVC pipe 100 mm and another end cap with hole drilled at the bottom for ball drain.

From left to right are :

  • 40/20mm (1 1/2" - 3/4") Tee attached to a 20 ( 3/4") mm water tank adapter.
  • 100 mm (4") end cap drilled 2 holes, top and side - for 20 ( 3/4") mm water tank adapter.
  • 20 mm ( 3/4") pipe cut a slanting wedge (optional to cut it slanting)
  • 20 mm ( 3/4") water tank adapter.

The Tee is cut at 2 part, 1st at the 20mm connection and 2nd at one end of the 40mm this to ensure the assembly fit inside the end cap.
After assembly this is how it looks like, use silicone sealant to ensure no leak on both connection.
Another angle of the complete end cap that needed to be assemble to form a filter.
This how it should look like from outside.
The new filter end cap with separator part ready to replace the old end cap with the 15 mm inlet and outlet.

Link to filter design is here.

Aquaponics Tips - Iron Deficiencies

Nutrient supplied to plants in Aquaponics are from the fishes and the fish food dissolved. These sources of nutrient lack Iron, in Aquaponics Iron deficiencies result in yellowing of leaves.

There are commercial products that address this and there also some methods that are practice of old.

Chelated Iron is one common commercial product use, it is added to water via grow beds every about 2 ~ 3 weeks or so, this will cure plants of the Yellowing Leaves symptoms.

Blood meal also a source of Iron can be added to provide Iron to plants.

Old Farmers practice rusty nails and scrap metals in a bucket of water, and pouring it near tree trunk that have yellowing leaves interest me.
Does it work, those old timer may not heard of Chelated Iron, but they sure do have a lot of nails and scraps.

To practice what those farmers did, I collected scrap iron from around my back yard and put it in the tank.
At first I put it in the filter, but recently I found some long iron rod, those that for construction work they are too long for the filter so I use PVC water pipe to hold them.

What’s needed is a PVC pipes big and long enough for the job and 2 end caps. Drill holes along the pipe and place iron rod inside, capped the pipe and throw it in.

You can attach a string to it for easy retrieval or just without.
Photo shows the PVC pipe and Iron inside and this one with it in the water.