Aquaponic Gardening

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Does anyone have any experience making their own compost?  And using fish remains?

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@Converse-Your contribution is greatly appreciated!!  Your idea has stopped me from wasting money as I am able to rustle up one bin and have plenty of foil I wish I was somewhere I could go chicken and pig crazy. 

My grandparents built their home with their own hands on a few acres of land in August, Arkansas and had chicken and pigs. I was just a toddler then.  Eventually they got rid of the farm animals and just grew vegetables and I was raised as an adolescent snapping peas and running from snakes.  We even had the occasional rabbit family which made for a nice meal.  We would go hunting and fishing on an occasional basis.  It was a great experience and it gave me so much character and appreciation for nature.  It is something I definitely want to pass on to my children.  My decision to compost is due to the future problem of having a ton of fish guts to discard when I gut my tilapia.  I would go to a fish farm with my grandfather and watch as they would gut the fish for us and thinking "why don't we do this ourselves?"  I even played with some kind of air-filled organ that looked like one of those long balloons twisted in the middle.  I played with that thing for a week before my grandma finally got rid of it.  We even jarred preservatives and made different colored lamp-oil for our kerosene lamps.

With all that said, my goal is to recreate this sustainability and farm culture for my close and extended family.  I believe that AP and vermicompost may be the best way for me to get there here in AZ.  So I thank all of you who take the time to contribute knowledge to a starter like myself.   

@ Jon, thanks for the pics.  I am a visual learner and my mind has been thankfully stimulated!

Correction: I have plenty of those foil catering trays from the dollar store. 

Great, detailed information! 

  Jon, Thanks for the photos of your BSFL set-up.   Now I know what to do with at least part of my old garden hoses. Such a pratical design.Your photos and description make it possible for others to duplicate, and operate on a decent budget. Thanks!

 Here is a correction to my post yesterday.  It was a punctuation error, AND it changes the meaning of what is written.  There should have been a comma between "top, sides and bottom" when describing where to put holes in your vermicomposting bin.   Otherwise, it states that holes should only be on the top-side and bottom, which is incorrect.  You want air circulation holes all over. Oops! ....Remember, holes on the "top, sides and bottom"....

Do the larvae crawl up inside the hose or on top of the hose?

Jon Parr said:

On top of the hose, like a ramp not a tunnel. To do it again, I would make the the hose into a loop set angled to mimic the biopod, not a spiral. When the larva are ready to exit, they leave the pile and hit the wall, whereby they either turn left or right and march along looking for an exit. Those that turn left find the ramp, but those that turn right don't, at least until they flip a u-turn at some random point. The loop would fix this. I have found some dead grubs inside the bin, apparently unable to turn right. Reminds me of Ben Stiller in Zoolander

@Converse,
Let's eat Grandma! or Let's eat, Grandma! LOL!
Our inner bucket has holes at the top only for aeration, and at the bottom for drainage. The outer bucket doesn't have any holes at all. It's working great, but part of that might be due to the air pump. I have used the drippings on plants and they've responded very well. But it's good to know more about it! 

@Jon,
I had to look up Biopod to know what you were talking about.  That makes sense! As a left-hander who has had ex-race horses who couldn't turn right, I understand the need to serve both left-walking and right-walking larvae.

I thought the larvae went through the hose. Good to know they walk on top of it. Does your drop into something at the end? What do the larvae do when they get to the end of the hose?

      

To answer Sheri:

        I am sure you may be getting satisfactory results...but the best results possible, possibly not.  By properly adding holes on the sides of the inside bucket as well as the outside bucket there is better aeration available, less chance of anaerobic pockets (or the whole thing going anaerobic). Better aeration means the redworms work more efficiently throughout the bucket or bin.  There is no need to add the added cost of using the electricity to run an air pump for vermicomposting.  Vermicomposting is simple and very mobile and requires no electricity, and can fit into the tightest of budgets..  A problem that people can run into by running an air pump close to their vermicomposting bin is the vibrations slowing or halting the redworms normal habits of eating and reproducing.  If the pump is set on the bucket, or near the bucket, the vibrations will distrub the redworms.  If the hose is too short the vibrations from the pump will travel down the air hose into the bucket and disturb the redworms. If it is noticable enough, the redworms will even attempt to leave the bucket enmasse. This is because redworms use vibration detection as a means to avoid predators.  They can feel birds hopping on the surface above them, and moles digging nearby.  Redworms can move at a suprizingly fast rate. Keep your vermicomposting buckets/ bins away from vibrating equipment. 

  If your vermicompsting bucket is wet enough that you have constant drainage (enough to use to water with), you DO need that air pump to keep things from going anearobic.  You are not operating the bucket at the proper moisture levels for the best and fastest vermicomposting rates.  It would also be very difficult to separate the worm castings from the rest of the matter in your bucket if it if very wet.

 

   As you can tell though, vermicomposting can be a very forgiving endeavor, due to the fact that redworms are very adaptable.  There are many ways to accomplish vermicomposting.  Some are more efficient that others.  It can be done expensively or in a budget-minded fashion. There is nothing wrong with thinking outside the box though.

 

    Here is a point of education for you.  I am sure this is your practice due to just not knowing the risks involved:   Using the leachate from your vermicomposting bucket is like playing Russian Roulette with a loaded weapon.  The liquid that collects at the bottom of your bucket is a petri dish for bacteria.  If is sits for any time you will have good and bad bacteria growing.  Think about the food you put in your bucket.  Liquid that is in excess drains through the food matter in the bin which will all be in various stages of getting slimey and sometimes even moldy before the redworms consume it.  Redworms are secondary decomposers. Think about it this way: Would you go to your refrigerator and take something that has gotten rotten and run water through it and then spray that water on your vegetable plants?  This liquid that sits  in the bottom of your bucket will have the bacteria from these differing stages present in the vermicomposting bin, and will bloom there.  Using this on your plants CAN have satisfactory results.  Many people use this with impunity. However this is playing  with fire.  This is a much too risky practice to recommend to anyone to use in conjunction with an AP system.  Those bacteria can be the bomb that kills or an AP system (fish and plants) that someone has spent a LOT of time and $$ getting up and running. If I knew someone was using this type of liquid on their plants, I would certainly steer clear of buying any vegetables or fruit from them. Just a word of caution for you....Now if you want to use this on your own plants you are growing for you and your family's own consumption, that is your business...This is certainly not a good/safe practice to encourage others to engage in.
 

 

My aim is not to blast anyone, but to help people fine tune what they are doing, if they care to, and get the best possible results from their efforts.  And also I hope to help others just starting out, to get a great successful start on their vermicomposting efforts.  Vermicomposting can be a great addition for an AP system...or just a regular garden.

- Converse


 Sheri Schmeckpeper said:

@Converse,
Let's eat Grandma! or Let's eat, Grandma! LOL!
Our inner bucket has holes at the top only for aeration, and at the bottom for drainage. The outer bucket doesn't have any holes at all. It's working great, but part of that might be due to the air pump. I have used the drippings on plants and they've responded very well. But it's good to know more about it! 

 

Ah, good and logical information, Converse, thank you. I use the compost (and heretofore the liquid) for my potted plants, including gardenias, hibiscus, lantana, etc. not in my AP system. I have plenty of redworms in my AP medium, doing their worm thing and reproducing like crazy. I haven't felt the need to add any nutrients or additives to the system.

I'll reevaluate our bucket when I have some time and consider your suggestions to improve it. Good is good, better is better.

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