Aquaponic Gardening

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There has been some (much?) chatter on other AP forums about using redworms in your media beds to "process" your solids.  I love this idea!  Not only are the solids removed, but the plants benefit from the vermicompost.  I added about a pound of worms in my six beds a few weeks ago, and I'm hoping that they are happily going to town in there.

So here are my questions...

Do you use worms in your system?  How many to use per square ft of bed?  When do you add?  Do you feed them something (food scraps) besides the delicious fish solids?  

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I usually dose right under the water inlet of my grow beds so that the iron and/or maxicrop gets diluted as it washes down into the bed.  It is usually rather strong stuff undiluted.  I expect there is some salt content in the maxicrop that undiluted might sting the worms a bit and cause them to try to escape it.

Catfish says-

"They're welcome to come down the standpipe and bathe in the pond if their little eyes sting! Hee hee hee"

I'm sure some of them do go that rout.  I've found worms in my sump tank and the pump basket and hiding in the threads of the 300 gallon fish tank plug.
This is a great idea, thanks for sharing!

Amy Youngs said:
Glad you started this discussion, Sylvia. Some great ideas here for worms as solids filters. Recently, I got very excited about "vermiponics" when I learned about the experiments Jim Joyner was doing. He has a system running that has no fish in it and he shared his experiences on the S&S aquaponics listserv. Bentley Christie wrote an informative blog post about Jim's work here: http://www.redwormcomposting.com/gardening/vermiponics/

My own vermiponics experiment has been running since April and is based on this information, but uses instead a vertical approach, with a succession of buckets filled with clay ball media and plants that are watered with a solar powered pump on a timer. One bucket is full of media and worms. I feed them a pound of kitchen waste, plus a cup of rabbit poop and a handful of shredded newspapers each week. There are a couple of guppies in the 8 gallon water reservoir, which I put in there just to keep mosquito larvae from populating in there. So far, so good - no other fish needed, no fish food, no aeration and no solids filtration needed in this system.

The attached pic shows my current setup. I'll be making a larger one in Denver, Co for an exhibition that opens at the Redline gallery on July 5. More info and pics here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/amymyou/4727997718/in/set-721576242157...

I have just started(1 month or so) a 5 gallon bucket composting system with a small red wiggler culture and already harvested worm tea. This little bin also made me aware of how much trash families do collect. Espically amazed at how much cardboard get used in food production.  Needless to say after only a couple days I realized I need a much bigger compost!!

Also, I added six red wiggler worms to my growbed(small growbed) when the bed substrate was mixed sized gravel. I removed the gravel to add hydroton and didn't find the worms.  The time between adding the worm and changing substrate was one to two weeks. My thoughts:

1. The system was still too young and the worms had nothing to fed on in the bed and died?

2. They burrowed too deep and drowned?

3. Syphon power sucked them to the lower tank?

4. Possible escape from unfavorable conditions? (I didn't see any signs of this though)

Either way, I do plan to use worms directly into the bed when the culture gets bigger. Just hopefully with better results!

worms may simply have alluded your search and still be in there.  As long as the water is well aerated, the worms won't drown in it.  I've got worms living in my pump catch basket completely submerged all the time.  If worms are drowning in your water, it is a sure sign you need more aeration either by air pump or circulating and splashing the water more.

 

Worms don't need a huge amount of food to survive but if they died you wouldn't find them since they are so full of all the good decomposing bacteria that they vanish quick unless they crawl out in the sun and turn into crispy worm fries.  I've found worms down in the sump and in the pump basket so they can certainly take a ride down the drain, I figure where ever they want to live is fine with me.

 



Murray Hallam said:
Worms are the Aquaponics secret weapon that is for sure.
I actually add food scraps to the grow beds using a worm feeding station in the corner of the grow bed. Works very well.
That's great to hear Murray; i was affraid that rotting vegetables on the bed would foul the water.
I'm cycling up my new system.
Homefire

I have plenty of aeration and the flood and drain cycle is fairly quick.  I guess this is like other organic reactions.  If you put all the peices together nature does the rest.

TCLynx said:

worms may simply have alluded your search and still be in there.  As long as the water is well aerated, the worms won't drown in it.  I've got worms living in my pump catch basket completely submerged all the time.  If worms are drowning in your water, it is a sure sign you need more aeration either by air pump or circulating and splashing the water more.

 

Worms don't need a huge amount of food to survive but if they died you wouldn't find them since they are so full of all the good decomposing bacteria that they vanish quick unless they crawl out in the sun and turn into crispy worm fries.  I've found worms down in the sump and in the pump basket so they can certainly take a ride down the drain, I figure where ever they want to live is fine with me.

 

then I expect there is a good chance that you still have worms in there
I suppose the worms themselves would be added nutrients if they die. Does anyone know the life span of red wiggler worms? I wonder of there is a fair amount of natural death and cannibalism of the corpses in worm colonies?

Richard Wyman said:
The nutrients in any AP system is added as a component of the fish food. Just because it hasn't been broken down does not mean that you are not adding nutrient to the system.

As food is the only thing added to your system, you are therefore adding your only nutrients when you feed your fish.

TCLynx was correct in saying we only add nutrients when we feed. Worms do not create nutrients out of thin air or water.
I'm sure there is quite a short life span, die off and probably worms slurping up worms (which happen to decompose very quickly by the way,) otherwise at their rate of growth and reproduction during optimal conditions well we would be inundated in worms.
With good conditions redworms are supposed to live about a year.  I have no idea what living in a growbed does to this lifespan.  They will spawn three to four eggs during their lifetime. Each egg will produce 1 to 4 or more worms.  The thing that keeps them in check  is the amount of food available. As they reach the limits of what they have to eat reproduction slows.  If food increases then reproduction increases again.  Very efficient little workers for us

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