Aquaponic Gardening

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I started messing around with tilapia 2006-2010

2010 - the end of july i had to take  my system down

i am currently trying to get a piece of property to set up a scaled system.

basickly i dont have a system that is running

but i want to share my last 4 years with aquaponics

with members.......

 

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The space around my tunnel I used for planting different ornamental grasses.....used in gardens around Port Elizabeth area. Pricy when you buy. All my waste water would then go to plants on the outside in soil. I started growing clivias, red sunflowers........

 



Small

Clivia seeds,yellow seeds yellow flower plants

 

Different type clivia

Clivia collection grew bigger every year.

So, linked to my system I grew other plants that did and can make a small income. Pay for the fish food and some of my water testing.

Morning Harold
Yes the dam is a welded mesh and liner from Hydrex.
The dam was 23000 l and to make things a little easier I later cut the mesh down to half the high.
Everything with this pilot project was done by me and with the lower dam things were easier to manage.

In this photo you can see the higher dam and then after I cut the mesh and made lower.

The red sunflowers I took to a florist and they took what I had...........only did this exercise once but from this to me showed very keen interest in sunflowers....another posible small income..... every little  income helped with getting the cost down.

The red sunflowers were something not really grown around here and the people loved them.
As visible you can see that one plant had more than one flower. On some of the plant I counted 20 plus flowers.
Yes you can only grow certain time of year but if you include this into the big picture the Aquaponics side of the venture becomes cheaper to run.

Ornamental grasses

 

 

Growing these grasses also using backwash water out my my system......also sold to landscaper and gave me a small income.
The grasses were maintenance free so no labour needed to maintain. Planting growing and selling
All these small made the Aquaponics side of things cheaper.

Then adding to this I started growing indigenous trees’ bought plugs from a surplier and planted them into small black bags.

Yellow woods

Thorn trees

 

 

You can see the grass, the yellow woods and red sunflower were all planted around my tunnel and all feeding of my system.

 

All adding value.

I wanted to let no water or waste go to waste.....everything had to be used in my system cycle. What did not go to the plants or system I wanted to rework and use....that is where worms played a big role.
Worms I started messing around with when I bought my first fish 2006 and had a plan of feeding them to the fish......I bought a handful of worms from somebody and started working experimenting with them and getting to know what you can do with worms.
I am self employed and do mechanical designing so I always have old drawings that have to be destroyed and after seeing they the worms love newspaper I did a test of feeding my old drawing to them. Soaked in water and keeping moist they did well. But during this time all did not go well.....I went away on holiday and left my then grown population in the summer sun.....not thinking and when I got back finding my biggest worm drum rotting and smelling like a dead dog....all the worms were dead...worms giving of the smell....boiled
But that did not put me of it was a valuable lesson learned.
My worm farm I grew into a medium size 2006-now. I then came up with the idea of selling worms. Came up with a small household worm farm and started selling them.

 

My small worm bin as i sell them.

 

Vermicastngs

 

In my backyard I have worms in everything that can hold them....and
On the farm where my tunnel was I had 2 x 3 meter long worm bins.
How many worms....I don’t know but lots......grew and kept on growing in volume.

1 of my worm beds

 

Now in my opinion worms were vital to my system in many ways....
Worms in the system breaking down the waste from the dam...nutrients back into water for the plants and cleaning filter.
From the worms in my worm beds I got all the nutrients I needed to keep my plants growing well....
Always using the vermicastings and brewed worm tea on plants in my system.
From the worm beds I always had extra vermicastings that I could sell....another small income...Aquaponics became more feasible.
I think and believe by adding all these factors to Aquaponics ...are the way to making Aquaponics less risky and cheaper.

                                                 I tried to keep things as simple possible
My dam had a centre outlet and this is a ball valve I made and used mainly for electricity breaks. The valve closed as water level dropped. Worked well

Going to bigger systems there is a must for min cost.
My 0.75 kW pool pump pumped in cycles of...
From my dam the water flowed with gravity directly into my grow trays. (500mm lower)


In this Ø50 mm water line from the dam I had a tap to control the flow into my grow trays.


Very useful always have this setting tool in the out flow line available flexibility.
After the tap in the water line I split my pipes into 8 x Ø50 mm outflows into my grow trays.
This is also where I would add my makeup water into system allowing a very slow constant adjustable feeding back into to the system.
This also helped as a breather. On the far end of this pipe I had to add another breather and that was how I got my flow equal to each grow tray. And I had a tap for maintenance access to cleaning pipes easy.

 



The other tap was also for maintenance/direct from dam outlet.


In my grow trays I ended up with 25+mm stones.
From my grow trays my water flowed through the grow beds and into my duckweed dam that was a level lower. (800 mm)
From my duckweed sump into a 210 liter drum sunken into the ground.

This gave me the advantage of having an extra level.
This was my pump sump and using a level control in this sump I circulated my water back to the dam under pumping pressure in cycles of 10 min of and 18 min pumping. (Piping from pump to dam Ø40 mm)
Pipes from grow trays into duckweed sump and into pump sump Ø50 mm pipes

.........free..... Oxygen.



So in short my water flow through my system had 19 let’s call them waterfalls and using the pumping of the water under pressure.... from my thinking solved part of oxygen problems in my system.
In the water line from my pump.


I had a tap and a y split of the water. The water into the dam stayed in Ø40 pies but on the end I blocked it off and drilled some 2 mm holes. In this section of pipe I y split again into hosepipe diameter and this was used to circulate the dam water anticlockwise in my dam.


At the bottom split to normal hose fitting this water went to my makeup tank which was a 210 l blue plastic drum. From this drum gravity kicked in once again and running this water back into the system line after the tap and before entering the system.




OPTION 1

24 HR. CYCLE CONSTAND FLOW
KEEP WATER IN DAM TO KEEP BALL VALVE OPEN ALWAYS
THE VALVE USED FOR SAFETY FOR POWER BREAK/

OPTION 2

 FLOOD DRAIN CYCLE
WATER LEVEL MUST BE MAINTAINED IN DAM
OUTFLOW CYCLE 10 MIN
PUMP CYCLE +-17 MINS
THE SYSTEM SEQ. WILL BE.......
1 PUMP STOPPED / DAM FULL / BALL VALVE OPEN
2 PUMP OFF / WATER LEVEL IN DAM DROPS / WATER RUNNING INTO GROW TRAYS
3 PUMP OFF / WATER LEVEL DROPS AND BALL VALVE CLOSES IN DAM
4 PUMP OFF / VALVE CLOSED IN DAM / THE WATER VOLUME IN MY GROWTRAYS THEN RUN TO
MY DUCKWEED / PUMP SUMP
5 RISING LEVELS IN MY PUMP SUMP START THE PUMPING (CYCLE) BACK INTO DAM
6 PUMP PUMPING / DAM FILLING / BALL VALVE CLOSED
7 PUMP PUMPING / DAM FILLING / BALL VALVE OPENS
8 PUMP STOPPED / DAM FULL / BALL VALVE OPEN
9 PUMP OFF / WATER LEVEL IN DAM DROPS / WATER RUNNING INTO GROW TRAYS
.............. HOPE THIS EXPLAINS WORKED WELL AND EASY TO RUN AND MAINTAIN

In my system if 100 mm WATER LEVEL DROP’s IN DAM THAT WOULD = 1500 liters (water out of dam)
My dam water level dropped +-70 mm ... so the pumping cycle of water into dam = 17 min. = 1050 liters water back up to level. (Very simple but to me close enough.)
Pump pumps for +-17 min. To replace water in dam

Hi Francois,

Your teaching skills with added diagrams here are well appreciated. There is so much information available here it will take some time for most to digest. I'm sure it will be well received by many who may be considering AP as a source  of income in these times.Thanks for sharing.

Heating the water is a must for Talapia, another cost that needs to be contained. In my system I tried to use compost doing this. Back then in my garage I used a geyser element but cost of running was high. So when I did my pilot project I experimented with compost and the sun and these are some of my ideas I tried. If they worked is another question.... can they work...yes I believe if set up and managed.

 

 

I ran double pipes under black plastic back to the dam. Later I used compost over these pipes.

 

 

Compost heater

 

Heater in winter coat

 


 

Here in Port Elizabeth our summers sometimes get up to +-35 deg and in winter my water temp went down to 9 deg. So in short in summer having fish in a plastic tunnel is a very big no but in winter yes you need the plastic over the tunnel. My plastic over my tunnel lasted for 2 winters and 1 summer. Going into the next summer the wind finally won the battle.

 But with this time I had my plants and fish inside the tunnel it gave me enough time to get a feeling of the advantageous and the disadvantageous. In summer I had to whitewash the plastic and winter try and close most of the holes.

 

The wind proofed me wrong 3 days after the whitewash


During winter my plants did much better in the tunnel. After the wind did the damage I come to see the difference and me with so little experience in growing plants and fish could to very easily see the difference. Plants needed the warmth. My plastic tunnel covered an area of 96 sq.meters.my plant and fish were in the tunnel but my duckweed sump and pump sump and pipes were on the outside of the plastic area.(something I will change if....) Plants, duckweed and pipes in plastic tunnel can help with temperature.
The plastic had another advantage being...keeping the don’t want insects out. My grow trays were on ground level so that was one of the challenges with my system. Having grow trays razed from the ground is a good ++++ but going to a bigger system I believe to keep cost down you have to keep as simple possible
All my grow trays I made myself. I bought a roll of plastic liner 2mm thick and folded my grow trays. Very easy and possible to do in your backyard. I used a Flat surface, Stanley knife, Hammer Chisel and Type to get the plastic folded and trays made.
Very easy and cheap and will last for years.

My grow trays rolled up when i took my system down...roll up and go.....unroll

 

Then with the growing media in my system I also took the long road. Starting off with a mixture of different size quarry stone.
Good anchorage for the plants roots but soon to find myself wanting to kick myself.
Separating the smaller stones was a very valuable lesson....back breaking but to me had to be done. The smaller stones caused problems in my system. I eventually ended up with 25mm and bigger stones. My grow trays were 4 wide and 2 narrow. The 4 wider trays became a management problem to much work....So while I separated the stones I did the modification to all my grow trays. (Took me a long time) Now I had my systems grow trays back to my original design 8 narrow trays.

Wide..No working space maintenance head ache

8 narrow trays

 

 

Space

 

 

The 4 wider trays were something I did after making the/my first tray...make wider less grow trays to make. Also backfired on me. Lots of extra work. My system had 8 outlets into grow trays but up to this point I was using 6 of the outlets.2 off the outlets were blanked of because of the wider trays. Having this more space the daily running and maintenance improved 100%.
With this Aquaponics experience of mine I really took the long hard road always telling my wife that I had done all the wrongs so the rights have to start happening sometime.


Then I also tried different ways to grow the plants in the bigger stones.

 

I reworked these i got the idea from.......murray's forum

they worked well. At the time we were not able to buy these localy... or so i was told

so i made them....reworked standard pot with slits down side...as good as...

 

 

 My wife, her mother and me sowed these bags

lots...

They worked well fulled with finer stones/media to anker the roots.

 

These spinace i had growing in my sytem for more than a year and i only took them out with the strip down of my system.

 they grew in the bag and stood up to our strong winds...

 Finding ways to get the plants better anchored in the bigger stones was a concern after the wind damage. My beans, peppers and some other’s could not handle the wind. I used different ways and these are some. I feel the best is to rather try and do something to the wind because I had great success planting directly into stones without wind. Planting plants into some form of planting bag....cup...???. all becomes more work and adds to cost..

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