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Category Archives: aquaponics

Aquaponics: Lights! (camera and action to follow later…)

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Stephan got in the lights he plans to use for aquaponics.  They are called metal hallide lights.  I thought they were going to be LED lights, but they aren’t.  They are high pressure sodium.  I don’t have any idea what any of that means, but the important thing is that these suckers are BRIGHT when they are turned on.  Almost blinding.  And they’ve got that foil around them to reflect the light, too.

They aren’t lower energy like LED lights are, but they are definitely high output.

He’s got two of them, and he thinks that will be enough for the 96 square feet of grow bed space he has.  But much experimentation remains.

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Plan C = Plan A

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Earlier this week, there was a big package on our porch.  “What’s this?” I asked Stephan, since it was addressed to him.

“Lights for aquaponics,” he replied.

I was confused.  I had thought the plan was to use a greenhouse so that we wouldn’t have to have lights (or at least not as many, since we might eventually need supplemental lighting.)

“Oh,” Stephan said when I told him this.  “I guess I didn’t let you in on my entire thought process.”

Basically, after doing a lot of reading and research, he realized that building a greenhouse was in fact going to be more expensive than purchasing lights, and while he still wants to do that eventually, he feels that at this time, it makes more sense to get started in our room above the garage, where we’d be planning to have the set-up all along.

So now we have lights.  We have grow beds, the fish tank, air pumps, and a heater.  We still need grow media, but Stephan knows where he is going to get it.  Then we’ll need seedlings, and a couple of months later, the fish.  There is a local aquaponics operation that will sell us tilapia fingerlings (baby fish) at the best price we’ve found.

I’m starting to feel like maybe we might be possibly almost there.

Aquaponics Supplies

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We got some stuff the other day to further our venture into aquaponics.

First, some pumps to keep the fishies aerated and happy.

Also, a heater, to keep them toasty warm.

Happy fish will help grow yummy veggies, which means for happy me!

Rethinking Aquaponics

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As we’ve been doing some gardening over the past couple of years, we’ve learned some things.  First, our back yard is in only partial sun, so some things don’t grow well there.  The community garden is in full sun, but is more exposed to wind and frost.

In conjunction with those things we’ve learned, Stephan has been thinking about aquaponics.  The space we were planning to do it in is not heated, and it would need grow lights.  Stephan started thinking that putting the operation in a greenhouse would at least eliminate the need for lighting.  He asked what I thought about it.  I said, “Well, I’m guessing it would cost more initially, but then the electricity costs would be lower.”  Stephan said that actually, the initial cost would not be that much higher because he was planning to get LED lights which are pretty expensive.  (The LED lights would have a lower electricity cost than fluorescent lights.)

So, the plan at this point is to put a greenhouse into the space where our little backyard garden was the past two summers.  That means a lot of moving of all the stuff Stephan built and assembled in the space above our garage.  I’ll take photos as we get there and start working on this project again.

Ready, Freddy.

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Something about spring makes me want to get to work on stuff!  I want new projects.  Of course, looking toward a summer where I won’t be working 40+ hours a week is nice, too, and I know I will actually be available for projects (most likely.)

I’m excited about our garden this year.  I know, I have said I don’t really enjoy the work a garden requires, even though I love the produce.  But maybe, just maybe, since I won’t be feeling such a time crunch in working and doing all my other housework, I’ll have time to actually enjoy working in the garden.  We have a meeting about the community garden on Saturday and can probably start planting lettuces and peas and maybe potatoes as early as Sunday.  Which is good, because I just bought some potatoes at the grocery last week, and they’ve sprouted eyes like crazy already.  We might cut those babies up and grow some Russets ourselves.

Another reason I’m excited about the garden is that I think it might give me / us a chance to connect with our neighbors more.  We’ve lived here for 11 years, and sure, we know people in town, but maybe not to the extent that I’d like.  Subbing at the schools means that sometimes I see kids around town that I had in class, and that’s simultaneously weird and nice.  I’ve never taught in the school district where I’ve lived before, so this is a new experience.

Chef got some money for his birthday to help out with his aquaponics project which got stalled for lack of capital.  I don’t know how much time he’ll have to put into that now that we’ve doubled (?) the size of our garden, but I’m hoping he will be able to make some progress on that.  I admit, I’m not that interested in the mechanics of getting it going, and that’s really largely because I don’t understand it all very well.  I mean, I get the basic concept, but I don’t have a very mechanical mind, so I’ll let him do all the start up and then when the strawberries are growing, I’ll be happy to harvest them.

I’ve enjoyed seeing birds this spring.  Chef and I visited my parents a few weeks ago, and my mom has bird feeders all around the house.  It was fun to see the birds visit and have a snack.  I have one ceramic bird feeder that a friend made me on her pottery wheel, and my mom gave me another when I was at her house.  Alas, it was crazy windy yesterday and the one from Mom blew off its hook and the roof of the feeder cracked.  I don’t think it’s a critical break, though, and I hope to hang it up again.  Right now I’ve got cracked corn to feed the birds, but I was told that birds aren’t so crazy about cracked corn, so I don’t know how well that will attract them.  (Plus, now all the cracked corn from the one feeder is all over the ground since it flew out when the feeder fell.)  I may have to experiment with various kinds of feed.

Springtime as also made me think again about raising rabbits.  That’s a project that won’t happen for a while because it will take money to buy or build the hutches and to purchase the rabbits and their food.  (I was also thinking about bees, but Chef thinks rabbits will be an easier start-up than bees.  He already has experience with rabbits, after all, and bees are totally new to both of us.  Also, I found out an old college friend just started raising chickens, and I’m totally envious.  We want chickens, but apparently there is an ordinance against it inside town limits.  Phooey.)

I want to run more this spring and summer, and ride my bike, and go hiking and canoeing and camping.

Do you start dreaming in the springtime too?

What exciting things are you up to this spring?

Aquaponics on Hold

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The leak in the fish tank is fixed.

There are now three bell siphons working or mostly working.

The pump works.

Chef knows where he’s going to get his fish, though that won’t happen until he’s had plants growing for about a month.

I think he knows what he’s going to use for a grow medium in the grow beds.  (In case you didn’t know, you don’t use dirt.  Pebbles or gravel or some such thing works better.)

We’re making lists of what kinds of things we want to grow.  It will be nice to have fresh, homegrown produce all year long.  My contributions to the list include strawberries, basil, cilantro, rosemary, ginger, bell peppers, and carrots.  Chef wants cabbages and tomatoes, too.  We tend to ogle over seed catalogs (though Chef’s more of an ogler than I am.)

(If ogler is even a word.)

(And even if it’s not a word, he still is one.)

The original goal was to have things up and running by the end of the summer, which technically would be September 20th or so, but in my head it’s August 31.

Will we make the goal?

Right now, we have to wait until we have more money before we can move forward.

Tubing, Pumps, and Siphons

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Chef’s been working on the aquaponics in whatever free time he has.

He’s got the supply tubes hooked up.  They aren’t totally finished, but it’s a good start.

He’s also got the pump in the fish tank, but since it’s dark in there, it was hard to get a good picture.

One day, Chef told me it was time to test one of the bell siphons, so I went up to check it out.  First we had to fill the grow bed with water.

Then we had to see if the siphon would work to drain the grow bed into the fish tank.

I took some video of that, but it turned out kind of boring, just watching water flow.  However, I did video Chef’s explanation of how the bell siphon works.  You’ll get to see that tomorrow.

Anyway, the test proved that the siphon worked!

You can’t really see it in this photo but the water is coming out of the overflow tubing into the tank.

The first one he had tried a couple of nights earlier didn’t work and needed some tinkering, but this one worked just fine.

And then he discovered there is a leak somewhere in his fish tank and we had water all over the floor… and through the floor, dripping onto my car in the garage.  Ugh.  Chef’s working on fixing that, but the leak isn’t really obvious.  The liner is brand new and double thickness, so we’re surprised it leaked at all.  And not very happy about it as you might imagine.

But at least the siphons work.