Sunday, October 18, 2009

Trenches dug

Trenches have been dug for the plumbing. All of the return piping will be 90mm stormwater pvc pipe. I will have two returns to the sump. This diameter should be more than enough to cope with simultaneous draining. I have decided not to use the olive barrels as extra sumps, as I am pretty sure that the sump and the yabby tanks will be more than enough. There is potentially room for another growbed, and I will add an extra sump if I add another bed.

Should get the pluming done this week ready for the gravel by the weekend.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Grow Beds Arrive!

Big day today! Grow beds arrived so off to the garden supply to get besser blocks and sleepers. $$$ later, and enough material for 6 stands at home. Stands built, ready to plumb next weekend. I have decided to go with 2 yabby tanks under the grow beds, these will slow drain to about the 250lt mark and will help to "top up" the sump. I will also bury two 220 lt olive barrels and equalise them with the big sump, so total sump of almost 1500lt with an extra 500lt slowly topping it up (maybe even a float valve for this?). I will build a kiddie cover for the yabby tanks not too dissimilar to the sump cover and have the top removable.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Grow Beds Tomorrow

Grow beds being delivered tomorrow. Can't wait to get cranking! Need to get concrete blocks and sleepers for supports. Assignments, corrections and reports can wait!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Damn Birds!

Birds got to our aqua-strawberries again today! So screwed on some hoops (1 1/4 inch poly pipe) and dropped over a bird netting. Doesn't look too bad (bad light so no photos) and will keep the bloody birds at bay!

Second pump arrived today. Will probably use this pump in the big system and when my little system needs an upgrade/refurbishment, will use the sump pump in that one.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Vegie Planning

Sat down to plan out what vegies to grow in the aquaponics tonight. At the moment we have:
strawberries (which the birds are getting to - need to net them)
snow peas
basil (sweet)
basil (purple)
wild thyme

These current beds will be revamped and be dedicated for:
basil (both)
spring onion
wild thyme

The new system will have as a summer crop:
corn - three varieties
tomatoes - three varieties
beans - three varieties
capsicum - three varieties
egg plant

The dirt garden currently has:
spring onion
sugar snap peas

The aquaponics and dirt gardens should provide more than enough fruit and veg plus some.

Plenty of fish as well. I am going to buy or build a smoker for the trout!

Hayley is becoming the master of preserving, there is still 1/2 a jar of sundried tomatoes left from last seasons crop (and we eat heaps!)

Most of the fruiting trees will have their first "real" crop this year and should flourish next year.

Apricots went crazy last year and will again this year. Just need to net the fruit this year to save them from the damn birds (lost half to birds last year).

Monday, October 5, 2009

Getting the seedlings ready.

Full moon is out so time to plant some seeds. Hayley has got some seeds going in the mini greenhouse and most of them will go into the dirt garden. These seeds will be specifically for the aquaponics system. I'll keep these seeds inside on the mantle piece above the gas heater. Should keep them nice and warm and aid germination. Once the leaves are up, I'll take them outside and put them into a makeshift greenhouse.

Pump arrived!

My sump pump arrived today! 9500lt/hr on a float switch. Also ordered a 24/7 pump and will see which best suits my application in practice as well as uses the least amount of power.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Waiting waiting waiting...

Grow bed tubs due to arrive this week. Will have to go out and get some bessar blocks and sleepers ready.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Here is a plan of my intended design:

The Big System!

The makings of the big system begins. I have 4 IBCs, 3 of which I am using for fish tanks and 1 I am using as a sump. I am designing a CHIFT PIST system (Constant Height In Fish Tank Pump In Sump Tank) with 6-8 growing beds and a NFT (Nutrient Film Technology) system to grow lettuces. After a bit of discussion with some fellow aquaponists, I am only using 1 IBC as a sump and will be using 2 olive barrels as supplementary sumps. This system will have 40 silvers, 40 trout and 40 murray cod (providing I can get a hold of them) and enough vegies plus some for the family. The other system will be fingerling raising tank and hospital tank.
First came the moving of an established japanese maple, then digging a big mummer of a hole!

Next was making the hole big enough to fit the tank in. The boys "helped" with the digging.

Next a platform over the sump with a trap door for safety and access. Tanks in place and waiting on the growbeds before starting the plumbing.


Now that the bug has really taken hold, I have expanded my test system to 6 growbeds.
I have a total of 750-800lts of fish tank, 640lts of growbeds, 7 rainbow and brown trout and about 20 silver perch. The fish are coming along really well, with the silvers starting to eat now that the weather is warming up. The trout go crazy over the food and there is one in particular that is what I call "short and stumpy". The plants are going great guns, and my wife keeps harvesting my test plants, so it's difficult to compare dirt garden vs aquaponics. It would seem that aqauponics wins hands down as far as I'm concerned.


My aquaponic journey started early this year when I read an article in a gardening magazine about the concept. It looked easy enough and made environmental sense to me so I investigated further. I jumped onto Murray Hallam's site and was blown away with all the info that was available. I joined a couple of forums, and met a few people and the aquaponics journey was well under way.

The price of aquaponic systems was and still is out of reach, but I rather enjoy the idea of recycling as much as possible to make a cost effective system.

After a bit of research, I finally went with 2x500lt tanks linked together, and growbeds made out of olive barrels. I picked up some silver perch and I was off!

There were a couple of silver deaths, due to lack of experience and in total I had 6 silver deaths. I was then introduced to salting the system. This got the fish back to good health and once cycled, the plants took off.

Friday, October 2, 2009

What is aquaponics?

Well rather than reinventing the wheel, here is what the pros have to say:

Aquaponics is based on productive systems as they are found in nature. Aquaponics can be loosely described as the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics and this is where the name aqua-ponics originates.

Hydroponic systems rely on the careful application of man-made nutrients for the optimum growth of plants. The nutrients are made from mixing together a concoction of chemicals, salts and trace elements to form the ‘perfect’ balance. Water in hydroponic systems needs to be discharged on occasion as the salts and chemicals build up in the water which becomes toxic to the plants. Aquaculture systems focus on maximizing growth of fish in tank or pond culture.

The fish are usually heavily stocked in the tanks often, 10kg in 100L of water. The high stocking rates often mean that the tank water becomes polluted with fish effluent which gives off high concentrations of ammonia. Water has to be discharged at a rate of 10-20% of the total volume in the tank once a day, every day. This water is often pumped into open streams where it pollutes and destroys waterways.

Aquaponics combines both systems and in doing so cancels out the negative aspects of each. Instead of adding harmful chemical solutions to grow plants, aquaponics uses highly nutritious fish effluent that contains an almost all the required nutrients for optimum growth. Instead of discharging water, aquaponics uses the plants and the media in which they grow to clean and purify the water, after which it is returned to the fish tank. This water can be reused indefinitely and only has to be replaced when it is lost through transpiration and evaporation.