Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Aquaponics and a tiny pond

I still haven't added the tilapia to the aquaponics system, but I think the tank may have nearly finished cycling this weekend. In the few weeks we've had them, the females have gotten a little bigger but the males have more than tripled in size.

Grow bed about 2 weeks after planting seeds

The plants are doing fantastic in the grow bed. I've been adding small amounts of fish emulsion both to help with the tank cycling and also to provide some nutrients for the growing plants. This picture is about 10 days worth of growth from the last post's picture.

Finally, I've made a tiny pond on the tiny farm! This roughly 45 gallon pond will serve to grow duckweed to help feed the tilapia. I'm hoping to eventually grow 100% of the food for the tilapia on the property. To build it (after my usual sticking my shovel through some irrigation lines and repairing them) I used leftover pond liner from the aquaponics set up, rocks that were already on the property, plants that came free with my tilapia, a handful of duckweed from the fish store ($1.30) and a pair of gambusia fish to eat mosquito larvae ($2.49). Total cost: about $4. I could have gotten the gambusia free from friends with ponds or the city of Phoenix, but this particular fish store (Phoenix Tropical Fish) took the time to really help me with questions a few weeks back so I thought I'd give them some business, even if it's just a couple bucks.

Pond area: BEFORE


I'll add some plants around the outside of the pond when the weather cools down a bit. The duckweed is spreading rapidly and the water hyacinths are blooming, so it's been a pretty good payoff for a few hours of very sweaty digging and rock piling.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Aquaponics sprouting!

Some free cucumber seed being put to work

I planted some cucumbers and summer squash for the fall season in Phoenix. I was a bit hesitant to just throw the seeds in the hydroton (clay balls) as I thought they would just get washed down to the bottom, but lo and behold after three days, my cucumbers have sprouted. I planted 6 seeds each from two different varieties and every single seed sprouted, so apparently they do stay put fairly well. In a couple of months we'll see if the tiny seeds like lettuce and herbs perform the same.

I am still cycling the tank, so the fish are still indoors as I'm trying my best to not kill them. In order to prevent the tiny tilapia from getting sucked into the filter once they do go in, I've devised a simple and cheap mesh cage for my pump. I bought a small roll of fiberglass mesh used on window screens and sewed it into a tube shape. Using a couple of my zipties I tightened it around both the cord and the hose fitting.

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I will remove this after the fish get big enough to not get sucked through the normal 3/8" holes in the pump cage so I can pump some solids out. These will be filtered out using aquarium spongy filter media that will be placed underneath where the water comes out of the pump into the grow bed.
The progress so far is exciting!