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Posts Tagged ‘Aquaculture’

I obviously don’t have photos, because I haven’t built the units yet, but I’m really excited about the next generation of Aquaponics units I plan to build this fall.

I’ve been playing at this for a year, with mixed results.  On the whole, my fish have done swimmingly (sorry, couldn’t resist).  Some plants have done well; my basil was phenomenal.  Some other starter plants have thrived.  Quite a few veggies have burned up, due to first, being too close to a grow lamp. A recent batch, including a tomato plant that was growing like it was on steroids, steamed in my garage during a heat wave.  I was pretty steamed, myself.

Using waste water from my aquariums to fertilize container plants has been an unparalleled success. Plants we had given up on have revived and new plants have grown like we’re putting something illegal in the water.  I couldn’t be happier.

Now it’s time to get down to some serious plant growing and fish rearing.

First, I’m going to build a greenhouse this autumn.  My goal is to build it 60′ by 30′ and 10′ tall.  I want to put 4 units in it; two raft systems and two flood and drain systems.  I will be using 250 gallon fish tanks, so I will be able to keep a good number of fish going.  Since I intend to stock fairly densely, I’m going to add a settling tank to each unit to catch solids.  I’ll make the tank from blue barrels to keep costs down.  I will also include a bio filter for each unit, though I can’t decide whether I’m going to use a submersible or an exterior one.

Here’s the exciting part (for me); I’m going to use 6′ diameter kiddie pools as sump tanks and use those to house my Giant Redclaw Crawfish.  Four units is the perfect number to keep a breeder tank, a nursery tank and a grow out tank for males and one for females.  Each system should only require a single pump.

Because I’m going to house both fish and crawfish in each unit, albeit separate tanks, I will add extra grow beds and extra filtration.  The solids tank will be drained regularly and the waste will be combined with rabbit manure to make what I believe will be the finest natural fertilizer on the planet. I’ll use that in my raised beds and container garden.

I almost forgot, but I plan to use my two large aquariums as breeding tanks for Tilapia and Coppernose bluegill.  I am going to put a single flood and drain growbed over each one of them to add extra grow space.

Making it work in real life will undoubtedly have more challenges than making it work on paper, but I am extremely confident. Our Edible Suburb is about to come of age.

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Basic Unit Courtesy Affnan Aquaponics

Aquaponic Gardening is the hottest thing since Justin Bieber.  And for my money at least, is a whole lot cooler.  Aquaponics is a symbiotic gardening method that uses a recirculating system to grow both fish and plants.  The short version goes like this, as the fish breathe and poo, they create solid waste and put ammonia into the water both from their excrement and from gill activity.  Ammonia is  bad for the fish.  The water is pumped out either directly into a grow bed, or through a bio filter of some kind where bacteria converts the ammonia first to Nitrites then to Nitrates.  The plants use the nitrates (and other micro nutrients) as food.  The water is thus purified and pumped or drained back into the fish tank as fresh water for the fish.

This is simple and mimics nature.  It does, though, have a few minor problems that require inputs and therefore impact sustainability.

The pH in the water needs to be monitored and occasionally adjusted.  This is easily done by adding some calcium in the form of crushed sea shells or even egg shells.  The plants require iron which must be added.  A tablespoon of chelated iron every few months does the trick.  I have also heard that suspending some old angle iron, rebar or even nails in the water and rubbing them periodically as they rust, will add iron.  I have not tried that one.

The recirculating allegedly requires only a fraction of the water normally associated with gardening, which is great for the environment and the budget.  It is also this recirculation that creates the sustainability restrictions, and in an emergency situation, could be a fatal flaw.  It requires electricity.

First, electricity is required to run the pump or pumps in the system.  Secondly, depending on the variety of fish, electricity is needed to keep the water temperature at a suitable level.  For example, the most popular fish in American Aquaponics Systems is Tilapia.  Tilapia will quickly die if the water temperature drops below 55 degrees F.  Also, many plants won’t grow in cold water. And lets not forget that if you’re growing inside, electricity is needed to power the grow lights.

I’m aware that both passive and active solar can provide ways to heat water in the cooler months.  I also know it’s possible to use heat generated from wood stoves, if properly vented, but the water must still be transported through the system and that is a problem.  Every system I’ve seen, whether floating raft or flood and drain has at least one pump.  This is troublesome for those of us who want to be as sustainable as possible.

Currently, most affordable solar pumps will only work during daylight hours, so the water stops circulating during the dark periods.  This is fine for the plants, but fish will quickly die if there is not enough oxygen in the water.

I’m not sure what the answer is.  For now, we’re just using electricity and compromising my principles, but in the long run I have to find a solution.

Perhaps investing in a bank of batteries and solar panels will help, but that will require an ac/dc inverter.  Even then, I don’t know if a system will run all night.  It might demand that we run the circulation during the day and use the battery bank to run air stones through the night.

Perhaps there is a way to use a a siphon that runs continuously.  My instincts tell me that would work for a barrel ponics or other small system that has a single grow bed, but might not work as well with larger, multiple bed units.

I am not an engineer, so these challenges vex me terribly.   I want to know that in the event of an extended electricity outage that we can continue to use fish and plants together to assist in Our Edible Suburb.

A workaround might be to drain 20 or 30 percent of a tank on a daily basis, use the water to water traditional raised beds and replace the tank water with dechlorinated tap water, well water or captured rain water.  If the tank is large enough and the stocking density low enough, this might work during warmer weather as long as enough water is turned over daily to prevent ammonia build up in the fish tank or to cause oxygen to be lost.  A simple siphon  running from the tank up into a bucket filled with filter media that drains directly into the  fish tank, might just eliminate both of those problems.

As you can see, I have more questions than answers.  Aquaponic Gardening may very well be the chosen garden method of the future.  It has incredible potential. It has, though, a few steps to go, before it is truly sustainable.  Until then, we make compromises and try to become creative in our inventions.  Or, at the very least, to steal ideas form other people.  So, if you have any ideas I can steal, please feel free to share them…

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I could not be more frustrated, or more elated, with my aquaculture, aquaponics projects. First, the goldfish in the goldfish garden are absolutely smashing. They are tough, hardy fish.  The floating raft with greens that I have in the tank is doing so,so.  I think the sunlight is a little too indirect and I may supplement with an led grow light.

The Tilapia are positively thriving.  They are eating like little pigs and I believe some of them have actually grown, already.  We will get a grow bed attached to their tank very shortly. I couldn’t be happier with them.  They dart around like little under water jet skis. I adore them.

The Red Claw Crawfish are another tale altogether.  I have only two of the original 18 left.  One male and one female.  I’m trying desperately to save them.  If I can keep them both alive, then all will be well and we’ll have plenty of new ones in a few months.

I am at a total loss to figure out what went wrong.  It’s a genuine mystery.

I set up a new, smaller tank for them this morning.  I’ll let it cycle for a bit before putting the crawfish inside.  Top ups will be done with rainwater from our rain barrel to see if they like that better than de-chlorinated inside water.  I’ll have to warm it up before adding it, but that’s only a minor inconvenience.

I will use an aquarium bio filter and a home made one at least until we can get a growbed on their tank, as well.  I might not even put a bed on theirs and simply use the nutrient dense water on traditional plant containers when I do water changes.  We’ll see which seems to make the most sense.

 

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It's a Boy! The Red Claw Gives It Away

The day is finally unwinding.  I’m not, but the day is. And what a day it’s been.

The rumblings of potential issues began last night when neither Brittan nor I could sleep.  B was over caffeinated while I was suffering with a back issue.  Stuff happens. We ended up with about three hours sleep.

When we arrived at the farm today, we expected to load two cows and get them to the processor. What we did not expect was a flat tire on our trailer.  The trailer that weighs 3000 pounds in low humidity.  I grabbed a can of fix a flat and the air compressor and went to work.  It was not a big deal, but trusting a 2 hour round trip on the interstate with wife, truck, trailer and cattle to an aerosol can of foam and air is stretching common sense just a little.

It took us nearly three hours to get one cow loaded. The other one was not going to cooperate.  Fortunately the one we got in was Chuck the bull and he was the most important. In the end, Diane got a reprieve for a season.

B and I were flat out pooped by the time we got on the road.  The drive was fairly uneventful and we spent it with mixed emotions.  We’ll miss Chuck, but this is what we raised him for. On the other hand, we were all excited about coming home to a box of 18 Giant Red Claw Crawfish (sometimes called freshwater lobster) to begin our aquaponics garden in earnest.

Before we could get home, we needed to get some hay for the animals, so we unhitched the horse trailer and replaced it with a utility one and sped down the road to the feed store.  By the time we got back to the house it was 4:50. In the mailbox Brittan found a note that said the Post Office did not deliver the Crawfish. They were at the Post Office and would be delivered tomorrow.

I had ten minutes. Ten. Fortunately, you can see the Post Office from our house. It’s a one minute drive. I raced over there only to find a line of people mailing Christmas Boxes.  Naturally the man two in front of me had 13 boxes to be shipped all over the world.  By the time I got to the desk it was after 5.

I handed my card to the nice lady and she went to get my box. She returned empty handed saying it was still on the truck and the truck was long gone.  My shoulder fell. I groaned, “but it’s live fish. They will be dead by morning.”  She apologized and gave me a dispatch number to call.

With no expectations, I called the distribution center. The line was busy. The line was busy for 6 minutes. I kept trying. I eventually got a very nice lady on the phone.  I told her my situation. I ended by saying, “They’ll be dead by morning.” to which she replied, “They smell like they might already be dead.”

I was not comforted.

After what seemed like a decade, she said, “You know what. I’ve got a truck leaving for the main Acworth office. If you can meet the driver behind the building, I’ll get you your box.”  Folks, that’s customer service.

Brittan and I jumped in the car and headed down the road. The main office is on the other side of town and it was rush hour, which means there’s no hope for rushing.  When we finally arrived, the driver was waiting patiently. He was so nice. As he handed me the box, he said, “I sure hope the little guys are alright.”

Tonight I am very happy with the United Postal Service. They went above and beyond what they had to do.

We got home and opened the box to find our Crawfish very much alive.  As the series of photos shows, we acclimatised them to the water before releasing them. Once released, they seemed to very much enjoy their freedom, while our male cat, Cash, thought all his Birthdays had come at once.  He did everything but climb into the fish tank.

We will keep them together in this one tank for a few days, then split them into two tanks.  Once the females are full of eggs, we will set up additional tanks for nursery and grow out.

One of the Crawfish does not seem to be too perky, but the others appear to be off to a good start. We’ll know more tomorrow.  All that’s left to

do tonight is shower. Even the pigs won’t come near me. I can take a hint.

First, Acclimatise The Fish

 

 

 

 

 

 

Close up of Red Claw Getting Acclimated

 

 

 

 

 

 

Releasing The Crawfish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Needs Cable?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Milling About in the New Digs

 

 

 

 

 

 

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