Aquaponic Gardening

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Just to reassure all that everything is fine before I even tell the story (though it isn't very dramatic that way, it isn't that dramatic a story anyway.)

It was labor day weekend and I was about to go out of town for 9 days and I noticed that the air volume coming from the air pump seemed to be far less than normal. Well dang, it's a holiday weekend and I can't get the replacement diaphragm kit for my pump before I leave. I'll just have to hope and pray there isn't a prolonged power outage while I'm away since only the air pumps switch over to battery backup power during an outage.

While my fish will survive normal day to day operation just fine without any supplemental air, that air becomes their lifeline if the power goes out. I do run the supplemental air all the time though since I find it does improve the water quality a little and the fish eat even more when they have the supplemental aeration running full time.

Now as if the worry over the air wasn't bad enough, I had another part fail that same weekend. This other part was a little plastic nub on the flap of the backwater valve which is a key part of my low pressure automated valve that runs the indexing valve in my constant flow situation. Argh, I've never found a local source for these backwater valves!!!!! I put in an order for a replacement but no way it was going to arrive before I left town.

So, what the heck am I going to do to keep all the plant beds happy, keep all my bacteria alive and keep the AP system ticking over and the fish alive till I get home? Well I opened up the indexing valve and removed the innards so it would simply act as a 6 way plumbing coupling and allow flow to go to all the beds. I then removed the automation portion of my automated valve and set it in the open position. Now I had flow going to all my grow beds at once. Using some plumbing bit and whatnot, I adjusted the flow to each bed so they would all get a share. I flipped the stand pipes so that the beds would all be constant flood. At this point I had to add more water to the system since with the beds all constant flood the sump started running low. Once topped up, all seemed to be running fine. Will just have to see how things do when I get back.

Finally to my utter disbelief, I walk into the garage to show the neighbor where the fish feed bin is so he can re-fill the feeder if it becomes empty before we return, I realize that the $$ smart battery charger for my AGM deep cycle battery has died some time in the past 6 hours!!!!! Argh!?!?!?! At least we have a battery charger (standard little one for charging car batteries and stuff) so I hooked that up and made sure the battery was charged up and switched it down to the lower amperage float charger. And another worry, if there is a big power outage that is long enough to drain the battery down much, the float charger might not be enough to really re-charge the battery very well when the power comes back on. Sigh. But at least I'm covered for a first outage while gone.

It is still the hot season so the fish want to eat heavily and having a mix of sizes of catfish in the one big tank, I didn't want to restrict food much since then the little guys would become targets of the big ones. I've already noticed some injuries that probably indicate some fighting going on in the tank though none of the fish seems to be suffering much from the scraped or bitten fins I'm seeing.

Long story short, I should have ordered the spare parts long ago. Diaphragm air pumps need replacement parts every year or two and I long ago through I should probably build a spare automated valve to have on had, I had just never gotten around to it. So please, if you think you should probably have a spare on hand, listen to your gut and get it. Now you don't need an exact spare for every single part of a system. But you do need enough or similar enough that if something goes down, you can still patch together a stop gap until you can make proper repairs.

Now I suppose I did manage the stop gap though I think the reduced aeration did have an effect (excess uneaten feed) while I was gone. If I had the air pump re-build kit on hand, I could have made the repairs before leaving town and the only result would have been two unhappy plants from the constant flooded beds. Well let me correct that, only one of the plants seemed unhappy (a pepper plant looking all wilted and soggy because the water inlet was right next to it) the other plant doesn't actually seem unhappy (a tall papaya plant that was tipped over but otherwise seems quite happy and I've now stood it back up and supported it a bit.) I don't expect the pepper to pull though but the papaya will be just fine.

So, I'm back home and have gotten the re-build kit for the air pump (plus an extra to keep on hand since both my air pumps use the same re-build kit) and have made the repairs to that, air is all good again. The replacement backwater valves will be in my hands this afternoon and I will have the automated valve and indexing valve back in operation tonight or tomorrow (mosquito dependent.)

Time to start shopping for a longer lasting charge controller for my battery backup, and well perhaps a new battery might be in order soon too!!!!

Has anyone else ever felt like" when it rains, it pours?" I'm just hoping that the "bad things come in threes" is accurate right now since that would mean I've already dealt with the three things.

Ah well, I hope others can learn from my story.

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