Posts tagged plants

Aquaponics Project

What’s aqua-what? Hydroponics?

Well, hydroponics is plants in water instead of soil medium. Aquaculture is usually the cultivation of aquatic creatures for food (i.e. fish, prawns, etc). Aquaponics is both together. I think wikipedia has a better description than what I can write (see Wiki entry).

In a nutshell, it’s combining the aquaculture (in my case, Fish) with the hydroponics part. If you’ve kept any fish before, you’d definitely realize that they do produce a fair bit of waste. Otherwise, pet shops won’t be trying to sell you that fancy filter and pump kit plus no matter what, you’d still end up cleaning and changing the water eventually.

Well, let nature do it for you is the name of the aquaculture game. The waste the fishes produce is actually pretty good for plants. So hence my project.

I’ve an outdoor man-made pond with about forty odd Tilapia fishes. They eat and shit a lot. That’s because most of them are edible size by now. Just so you know, these are the 4th generation in my pond (yes, life finds a way to breed) and edible size means over 1.1kg (approx 4.5 lbs). I put a pump in to push the water out into a poly tank what holds hydrokorrels – I can’t find the brand or type I use but this link is pretty close.

The water fills up and gets flushed down and back to the pond. The challenge was that most plants don’t like their roots drowned under water. The roots tend to rot quickly. The solution was inspired by the toilet bowl. Taking some physics lessons, a simple siphon can be created with off-the-shelf PVC pipe parts. This siphon works when the water reaches a certain level. Once the water reaches the right level, it will immediately begin the flush phase where it actually dumps all the water rapidly.

The challenge is to find a fill rate fast enough to trigger the siphon effect but yet slow enough to allow time for the roots to breathe between fill cycles. After some careful tuning, my Laguna 8,000l/hour pump fills my growbed tank in about 10 minutes but dumps the water in 70 seconds.

The diagram is below. Basically the outer 84mm cap is to prevent dirt, leaves and other stuff from clogging the siphon. It does also help you to adjust/tune the water level by creating a barrier to hold the grow bed medium (those hydrokorrels) away from the siphon proper. You won’t need to remove everything just to make adjustments. For the return pipe, the siphon effect is stronger with at least one bend (elbow joint) plus a pipe length of at least half a meter or twenty-odd inches.

Here are my growbed and pond photos.

Adjustment valves to tune the water going into my other filters/hydroponics troughs and the growbed. My 8000L/hr pump is too powerful for a single growbed at the moment.

The return valves/pipes into my pond.

Sweet basil, Thai basil, Mint, rosemary and spinach growing nicely.

The siphon assembly.

My basil and 3 day-old spinach plants. Spinach grows pretty well and fast. I get to harvest them every ten days.

My Tilapia fish. Hardy and dirty. Just what’s needed for the plants. They’re edible too and fast growing.


Peanut harvest

Early on a Saturday morning, we woke up early to get in some exercise. We were supposed to go on a trail run but nature had other ideas. It was pouring outside and while it slowed to a drizzle after an hour, it was still going to be a wet, wet morning. Well, if life handed you lemons, you make lemonade. Okay, I had no lemons but lots of rain. That made the ground pretty much soft. Good time to dig out the peanuts we planted over three months back. Out came the shovel and we started digging. Pretty much several seconds and a few holes later, we had peanuts… Now to decide whether to have them broiled, baked, boiled… decisions while my dog goes after a couple of garden frogs that had come out to play.

Insect Eaters

Had a full weekend with chores, meetings and photography of a certain kind. Anyways, here’s one photo I approached it using some tips I picked up from Louis’ workshop. Yes, I know it’s a tiny pitcher plant but who says wedding photography and macro plant photography are different. In case you’re wondering, it’s for my brother-in-law’s new blog.

Weekend activities

Well, this weekend has been much more restful than the last but still packed with little chores and things to do. Was up early on a Saturday to send my wife’s car in for servicing and then it’s off to the market for groceries. The hardware shop came next to replace my leaky faucet. That took quite a large amount of effort and back-breaking labor — I wonder who screwed the original faucet in, but heck, it was so tight I had to use a wrench and hammer at the same time!

Then while we had to cook dinner for a pot-luck birthday dinner we were to attend later, I figured I might as well do some gardening. On the 12th floor that is and it was really a strange feeling. I mean here I am potting plants and getting my hands dirty with soil but it’s 12 floors up and I’ve tiles for the floor. I can’t wait to get my feet back onto the ground!