Tag Archives: aquaponics

Aquaponics-Grow bed maintenance

I had to make some changes in the greenhouse this winter which gave me the opportunity to take a closer look at my grow beds. The grow beds had a high concentration of fish solids making it difficult to maintain clean water and a proper ph balance.

These tanks have been in operation for over 3 years so I guess that’s not bad considering how lax I have been cleaning the swirl filters, which removes 80% of the fish solids. Note the mud like substance in the photos as well as the algae buildup in certain areas of the grow bed.

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The only real option I had was to remove the grow media and rinse it through strainers to remove as much of the solids as I could before returning it to the grow bed.

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Hopefully I will never let it get that bad again, but I know my fish and plants appreciated the clean out.

 

 

 

Maybe I Should Have Gone Bigger

When we first built our greenhouse on the side of our house a few years ago, I thought this is more than enough room for what we will ever do in here. Wow, was I wrong!

Putting in the three 300 gallon fish tanks, with the grow beds, gutter garden, and potted plants seemed to be about perfect, but this year when an opportunity presented itself to acquire some 4 to 5 year old citrus trees, I took it. I now have a total of 6 citrus trees which must be protected from our mid-Atlantic winters.

Lemons, limes, mangoes, and banana trees have made a home in our greenhouse. To make room I had to eliminate one fish tank and build a step-platform to hold the trees. I still have 2 fish tanks which is more than adequate to keep my grow beds alive. Here are a few pictures of our overcrowding.

 

 

 

Project expansion-Barrel Garden & Aquaponics

A few days ago I wrote about many of the projects I had been working on since it was almost impossible to get outside between raindrops to plant the garden.

I talked about the potato barrel project, which since first installing, I have expanded quite a bit since I had so many extra barrels. (Some already cut for AP tanks) The potatoes seem very happy in the new “digs” so I thought other plants might feel comfortable as well. I have not decided what else I am going to plant yet-other than a couple of barrels of red potatoes-but I have no doubt that my wife will soon let me know what I am thinking about.

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Another project I had been putting off but really needed done was to paint all of my fish tanks and grow beds in the greenhouse.  I have had a real issue with algae, and although I have kept Plecco’s (algae eaters) in the tanks, the issue is still out of control.

So I finally took the time to paint the exteriors of all my tanks and grow beds flat black. This will keep the sunlight from penetrating, thus reducing my algae growth. I also bought black bucket lids to put on to20160512_171615 20160512_171622p of my swirl filters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hopefully this solves my issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hop on to experimentation

I have had many ups and downs over the past several months. From epic fails to neglect, I have learned that I need to pay closer attention to my aquaponics systems. So I am starting another experiment.

I just completed writing on how I neglected my system over the winter and the issues it caused. One of the best ways to keep a system in balance is to keep it planted at all times.

I planted some herbs, garlic, and onions, which have all done well in the system previously. My wife had just purchased some Hops plants for one of the garden beds, so I thought what a perfect time to experiment with something new.

Hops-yes the hops used for beer making-are a very prolific plant and can be extremely invasive if not cared for properly. They also like a moist, sunny area to grow, but do not like sitting in water.

My thought was putting it in a fill and drain system which would allow the roots to get watered 3-4 times an hour but they would not sit in water full time if I used a large container and set it near the top of the grow media.

I dug into the grow media to find the water level when the bed was full of water. This was about 2″ below the media surface. I then filled a large planting pot with media and planted the hops in it, being sure that some of the roots were at the very bottom of the pot with the majority of the plant toward the top of the pot.

20160420_075002 20160420_075010I then set the pot into the hole I had dug in the media bed and pushed the media up around the sides of the pot to hold it firmly in place. Hops tend to grow to around 20 ft tall and since I only have 10 ft from the top of the grow bed to the top of the greenhouse, I put a cage in the grow bed so I could espalier the growth as it gets too big. The large pot, I am hoping, will keep it from spreading too far in the grow bed.

I will post an update once I see it taking hold and growing-or if it becomes another failed attempt at growing plants not usually in an aquaponics system.

Aquaponics-Can’t neglect the system

This last year  has seemed to quadruple in speed. So much has happened and changed that I did not even realize how much I have neglected my aquaponics systems in the greenhouse.

You know you have not been paying attention when you find moss growing on your grow media! The grow bed above “B” tank in my greenhouse has collected a large amount of fish poo in the grow media, allowing for moss growth on top and around all the edges.

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Honestly this past winter, I did not grow much in this bed and kept feeding the fish as normal.  The tank is currently over-crowded with about 30 adult tilapia fish, which produce a large amount of waste.

I have a swirl filter attached to the system to help eliminate heavy solids, but I have not kept up with cleaning and draining the swirl filter on a regular basis. The swirl filter with an over-populated tank should be drained every other day and cleaned about once per week. Through the winter, I probably drained it every 2 weeks and cleaned the filter once a month-very neglectful on my part. Truly I am surprised I have not lost fish from the tank as the ammonia levels are way out of control.

I dug down into the grow media a few inches and found the majority of fish waste was contained in the top 2-3 inches of the media.  I took off the top few inches and rinsed it thoroughly before replacing into grow bed.

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I  added a pound of red wigglers to the bed, which should reduce the amount of solid fish waste, since they feed heavily on the waste. Planting the bed full of herbs or other plants will have a significant impact as well.

Over the course of the next few weeks I will drain the filter daily and clean the filter two to three times a week. I am hoping within the month this will clean the majority of the waste from the system and get it back in balance.

 

Dreaming of Fish Poo Plants

I love to hear stories from people discovering the joy of aquaponics.

NipplesAndJoysticks

Written by Jackie

Living through our 20’s are tough for most of us – it’s the time we make some of our biggest decisions. We have moments of clarity and joy, scattered with moments of inquisition and uncertainty. We question the time we spend on this planet earning money, and whether more money and stability is worth sacrificing happiness. Through our love of the environment, science, and community, Sean and I discovered aquaponics, and the possibility of a tiny business selling plants grown from fish poo. Sounds exciting right?!

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Catfish Added to Aquaponics System

For the last five years I have fueled my aquaponics entirely with Tilapia Fish, but this year have seriously considered expanding our systems with catfish. Have not as of yet, but probably will before summers end.

Symbi Biological

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After a little bit of a wait, I finally got some catfish to help power the system. They’re really small at about 4 inches. Not sure if we should be calling them kitten fish at this stage. I’ll have to check on that. After the big fish kill from the aerator diaphragm failure, I wasn’t sure how many hybrid carp I had left in both tanks. So to make room for the catfish, I emptied the tank with the least amount of fish “stashing” most of the water from the 500 gallon tank into the rest of the system. Earlier in the day, I noticed the sump tank was low and figured if I clear the swirl filter to lose about 100 gallons, I could isolate the fish tank by closing the valves and use a pump and hose to empty it into the rest of the system saving my…

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Aquaponics-EPIC FAIL!

Our second full year in the greenhouse with the aquaponics systems has been wrought with a few mishaps and mistakes. Nothing major-lines burst, junctions break, heater burnt out, air pump stopped-but today I woke up to an entire tank of dead tilapia fish!

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It happened in my constant height tank, which was the first of the type that I had built. I had cleaned out the 3 stage filter last week during our warm weather snap because the water was starting to turn a little too brown. I checked the ammonia level, which was high but thought it would go down after I cleaned the filter.

I never cleaned out the grow bed. Honestly it never really dawned on me as I had the 3-stage filter and the gutter garden circulating water for filtration in this tank, but I did not grow anything in this grow bed over the winter.

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This morning, after removing the fish, I took off my 3-stage filter and it was already full of sediment. So I looked under my grow platform and it was 1-2″ deep in solid fish waste! The ammonia level was through the roof, so no doubt why all the fish died.

Needless to say I am pumping all the water out of the tank and cleaning the grow bed so I can start the system fresh with new fish. We had been talking about changing this particular tank to a cold water fish, so we would have 1 tank that did not need heated. I guess that decision is now made.

Unfortunately, I was planning a neighborhood fish fry next weekend to utilize the fish from this tank. Most were 14-18″ long and 5-6#-perfect for a big fish fry! I guess the fish fry will be postponed for a while!

As with everything, there is a learning curve, one just hopes for no sharp turns like this! But with this epic fail, I have a chance to start fresh and utilize my new found knowledge to become even better with my aquaponic gardening.

 

 

 

Measure to Manage-Aquaponics Nutrient Analysis Report #3

Every 6-8 weeks, I post my photometer readings for the aquaponics system water. The biggest change I’ve made this term is using rainwater exclusively. I should also add that I lost a bunch of…

Source: Measure to Manage-Aquaponics Nutrient Analysis Report #3

Exciting interview about Baltimore Aquaponics

I have officially been in business as Baltimore Aquaponics for about a year now, although I have been doing business for almost 4 years in the aquaponics industry. As a growing business in the Mid-Atlantic region, I have started to gain the attention of industry leaders. Just recently I was interviewed by The Aquaponic Source, a renowned aquaponic trainer and retailer in Colorado.

A little background: My start came when I got a call from a friend who wished to see an abandoned fish farm that had come on the market. (Being in real estate for 26 years, I had many friends and previous clients which contacted me anytime they wished to see or sell a property.) I didn’t think much about it at the time, but I did go through the process of securing an appointment to view the property. Little did I know that I was going to receive a very solid beginning education into this new-to-me concept of aquaponics, during the tour of the farm.

His education and excitement piqued my interest to further study the concept. In my research I came across Sylvia Bernstein’s book on Aquaponic Gardening: A step-by-step guide for growing fish and plants together. I became enthralled with the process and dove in head first to educating myself on all things aquaponic.

I have since had many conversations with Ms. Bernstein and her help as been invaluable in insuring proper setup and maintaining the mini eco-systems. Since her company was in Colorado, I thought extending her educational reach to the east coast just made sense, so I opened Baltimore Aquaponics to start an educational side to my business.

Teaching aquaponics has been fun and rewarding, watching budding enthusiast’s grow in knowledge and see how their systems evolve. I look forward to future classes as well as growing relationships with former students.

A few months ago, Ms. Bernstein contacted me and said that she would like to do an interview with me about my business that she could post on their website. I was all too excited to comply, since she was such an integral part of my business growth.

Although she has since sold the Aquaponic Source, she is still very involved in the industry. New owners JD and Tawnya Sawyer have been full time aquaponics researchers, educators and farmers since 2009 and have fully dedicated their lives to the development of sustainable food systems for our planet.

You can see the resulting write-up from the interview on their website:

www.theaquaponicsource.com