Tomatoes anyone?

Aquaponics - 3 Comments » - Posted on February, 13, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Just a quick update on my Aquaponics Sytem’s here in Canberra: I’m doing my best to make myself sick of Aquaponic tomatoes – so far I’m still loving them. They’re sweet, delicious, and they look fantastic.

Here are the pics, have you ever seen toms so lovely? I’m not sure what those red ones are, but they’re fantastically regular and bright red. The images look like they’re fake (they’re not! Click them for the high res versions). The smaller ones are Tommy Toes, the yellow one is a Wassippicon Peach, and the others are Black Russians (I think). This is from one picking session, new ones are ripening up every day.

These are from an earlier harvest session:

In this photo you can see how the tomato has escaped my growbeds. That’s AP tomato growing round the base of the tree!

This is with about 15 small Golden Perch feeding the system (hence the visibility of hydroton). 99% of my toms have that “perfect” look, there’s no blossom end rot, or splitting or blemishes on the skin or anything. They’re fantastic.

Canberra Aquaponics: Trout season ends in December

Aquaponics - 2 Comments » - Posted on January, 18, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Well, Trout season ended just before Christmas. Here in Canberra, we get days of up to 38 degrees, my water temps were getting up to 27 and the trout really REALLY didn’t like that. It’s O2 starvation – as temperature rises, the saturation level for O2 drops. So basically it gets to temperatures where you just can’t get enough O2 into the water and they go belly up. In the mean time though, I’ve been having plenty of trout.

This was taken way back on the 12 December 2009. I pulled out a whole heap to give some to the owner of the leg there, and for a family function.

And I’ve been pulling out a couple every now and then if we have someone over. This photo was taken on the 18th December.

And then finally, just before Christmas, I took the rest of them out. I was going away, and there was no way I was going to risk having my “crop” die and go manky while I was away. We’d been lucky up to this point – the days had been hot, but the nights had always been cool. I wasn’t willing to push my luck. So the rest of them were pulled on 22nd December.

So I have a freezer full of trout.

So do I run an empty system? Of course not. It’s Silver Perch time. This is a bit of an experiment because I don’t think we’ve got a long enough hot season in Canberra to grow them to a decent enough size for them to last a cold season. Really, we’ve got 8 months of 20 degrees or less (water temps) and 4 months of greater than 20.  Silver Perch like it hot.

Because my old system is … well … old, it is a lot more established and in my mind safe. So I received them 22nd December and I put them in the old system. I got roughly 150 Silver Perch and 20 Golden Perch delivered to my door. They didn’t like this much, with 25 DOA. Very disappointing, don’t think I’ll get them from there again.

And the rest were not happy at all – when they’re stressed they “flash”. They’re trying to rub their bodies on the bottom/sides of the tank to get off the nasty’s which are bothering them. This is very handy because you know they’re not well. So how do you fix them? SALT. Good old fashioned NaCl (not the stuff with anti-caking agent though!). Up the salt by 3 parts per thousand (ppt) – the fish can handle this no worries, the nasties cannot. It also acts like a bit of a stress relief tonic for the fish. 1400L of water means roughly 4.2kg of salt. That’s a lot of salt. I think this photo has 2kg in it.

Unfortunately this means the strawberries suffered (they can’t handle salt at all), but at least I saved my fish.

I should also point out that my old tank had lots of bloodworms in the tank. The trout didn’t seem too interested in them, but the Silver Perch… well … I’ll let the photos do the talking. The first photo is taken on the day I put them in. The second photo is the next day.

They cleaned it up good and proper!

This is the Golden Perch going into the big system. They were twice the size of the Silver Perch, and so they were eating them.

So now I’ve got about 100 Silver Perch in the old system, and 20 Golden Perch in the big system. That’s not many fish to sustain a heap of plants. So how are they doing? Well they’re doing OK. I’m wanting my tomatoes to fruit at the moment, so it’s probably a good thing that I’m not bombarding it with Nitrates. I’ve put in a massive dose of Seasol, which is a good source of Potassium.

Worms do a great job of cleaning up in the growbeds.

And my tomatoes are setting fruit nicely.

So all is well (touch wood).

An Unfortunate Link & Capital Aquaponics Launch

Aquaponics, Dreams, Environment, Software - No Comments » - Posted on November, 30, 2009 at 11:05 am

I’ve recently told some people about my blog on Aquaponics, and that they can just search for “Aquaponics Canberra” in google and it’ll come up. Well, it does, but unfortunately it comes up with my old system, where the vegetables looked lanky at best and the fish were at their worst. I have since solved that problem, and for the last year have had great success with both the old system and pro system, but still “Aquaponics Canberra” links directly to the blog containing sick fish.

Normally I wouldn’t really care, but I’ve just launched a business: Capital Aquaponics – I figured that I’ve learnt so much over the last 3 years (and there is a LOT to know) that I am now able to design a system that effectively side steps all those pitfalls that most people fall for when they’re starting up. Not only that, but I figure I am now able to go over someone’s house and pick out the best locations for all the components such that we can utilise any sloping land, light and shade sections of the yard, thermal masses etc etc. So I’m going to provide a service to those who just want to skip the painful startup and learn by mistake methods of building systems and help them design and install a system which will maximise the chance of a succesfull crop. Oh, and because I have built systems from all sorts of materials (bathtubs and IBCs, barrels, BYAP systems), I can pretty much do it for any budget.

I’m going to be selling my knowledge rather than kits, because I think kits are going to become more and more common as this Aquaponics thing really takes off. I’m all for someone going and building their own, it’s a fantastic hobby (gardening for engineers/blokes really), but if someone just wants to produce edible fish and vegetables on their backdoor in a really cool, sustainable and ecenomic way and NOT have to learn everything about the different techniques then I can do it for them.

Anyway, we’ll see how it goes. The site is pretty rudimentry at this stage.

The OLD system

Aquaponics - 1 Comment » - Posted on November, 24, 2009 at 4:33 pm

The last time I talked about the old system was back in this post way back in Feburary. At the time, I’d just managed to figure out that Nickel was leaching into my water from the bathtubs, and killing all the fish. Not one to admit defeat (apparently the Gemmell family motto is – unbelievably – “Dying but not defeated”), I fixed up the system and it’s been running amazingly well every since. Here’s what I did.

I lined the bathtubs with bubble wrap and pond liner (EPDM), which is as safe as. The bubble wrap gives it an extra layer of insulation – you can imagine a metal bathtub would act like a massive heatsink, it’s in direct contact with the water, so it was inducing big temperature swings in the water which also stresses fish. So I killed two birds with one stone when I lined these beds.

The system had been left without fish, and even without cycling water, for about a month. So I was dubious as to how quickly it would recover. I was pleasantly surprised.

Just 10 days later.

A month later and they’re still growing strong.

The watercress is damn near escaping, and that bok choi you can see next to it ends up being this monster a good 4 months down the track (I was away!)

This was with a load of 50 trout. Notice how clear the water is – this system is a bit more mature, and seems to handle solids really well. The water is always sparkling clear.

I dunno what happened (brain tumor maybe?), but I didn’t take any further photos of the fish in this tank. Sorry folks.

The growbeds currently look like this:

We’ve eaten or frozen most of our trout – there are about 20 left in the big system, though water temps have been up as high as 26 degrees, so I don’t know how much longer they’ll live (but I’m going to find out!).

And it’s just not a blog post if I’m not in it looking like an idiot (note that this bag contains the only brown trout that I had in the system).

The moral of the story (if you got this far) – LINE YOUR BATHTUBS. It serves a double purpose – stops nasties from the bathtubs getting into your water, and helps heat retention.

Continuing AP Success

Aquaponics - No Comments » - Posted on October, 28, 2009 at 4:02 pm

It’s been a damn cold spring. I’m not really complaining because it means I’m able to keep my trout growing longer – once the water gets up past 24 degrees they’ll start to struggle. In the mean time however, I am harvesting about 10 fish a week. They’re up to about 30cm now. I have recently cleared out my growbeds to make way for the spring/summer veg. I had a LOT of flowers in there, and when I cleared it out I found celery underneath! Oh and a couple of artichokes which are starting to fruit.

Me and my growbeds. You can see the artichoke leaves sticking out the side there.

This is a shot of my aquaponic flowers in the first bed, with the second bed in the background.

A sweet pea flower.

Some kind of odd cricket on my strawberry plant (EDIT: It’s a Katydid which eats soft bodied insects, so it’s beneficial. I found out through this site).

This is one of the daisy plants. They outgrew everything, including silverbeet. Yes, I’m wearing a flower. Shutup.


5 Trout = 1kg. You can also see one I’d smoked the previous day on the left there.

Me + AP trout = happy.

Unfortunatley because I cleared out some of the bed it now looks like a bomb has hit it and is no where near as impressive. It’ll be back.

I have about 75 trout left. I’m currently exploring options as to what the hell I’m going to do with them all. I’m having just about every family member or friend over for a smoked trout dinner, but I’m still not going to get through them all (plus I’m going to be damned sick of them). Someone has suggested a vacume sealer and a good freezer…  it should keep up to 6 months in that. I think ideally I would like to cold smoke them as this preserves them.

I’ve been talking to a guy at work who’s big into trout. He’s of the opinion that the flesh is pale because it hasn’t been receiving enough Calcium. I’ve read this somewhere else as well – that you’re supposed to feed them yabbies and crickets and stuff to get them to have red flesh and strong flavour. Might have to start breeding yabbies….

Food And Fish

Aquaponics - No Comments » - Posted on October, 20, 2009 at 8:45 am
I can’t believe I didn’t post this before now! About three weeks ago I was able to finally eat fish I grew in my own back yard. It’s taken a good 3 attempts, but I’ve finally got through to the eating end of the season. I had some friends around and we fished out 4 trout, smoked them, and ate them with crackers.

All four are rainbow trout, the one at the bottom is a male which is why it has a deeper body shape, a hooked jaw, and milt:

Spring growth has kicked in, here’s me being an idiot in between my two growbeds:

Finally, smoked for 15-20 minutes and served with crackers.

I have another 93 trout left, so I might need a hand because trout don’t like temperatures over 24 degrees C (i.e. they die). So I have to get all 93 out and a batch of Silver Perch in.

Stuffed Photos

Site - 1 Comment » - Posted on October, 13, 2009 at 8:56 pm

I have recently moved from hosting in America to hosting here in Australia. From a ping of 240ms to 33ms – it’s now lightening quick for me. However, my gallery2 installation had comments turned on, with the default settings, which allowed anyone to post. So of course it’s filled with 1.6G of spam. Subsequently I was unable to export my gallery installation and import it here. I foolishly went into the database and cleared the comments table….which just left a whole bunch of broken foreign keys. I imported what was left and tried to run a database sanity check plugin, but it consumed too much memory and halted….. so now I’m just going to start from scratch.

Sorry for the broken photo links, I’m going to fix them up real soon.

Spring Aquaponics

Aquaponics - No Comments » - Posted on September, 16, 2009 at 9:09 am

Well, it’s spring. This throws up challenges for AP’ers here in Canberra – today we have a temperature range of 1-21. That’s 20 degrees C of temperature change in the day. We’ll see how my systems handle it, the 1500L system is 12 degrees and the 3000L one is 11.5 – both perfect for trout. I’ll check again tonight. Other mainenance – potassium does not get into the system easily, and nor do trace elements. Buffering with Potassium Bicarbonate will both buffer and add potasium, but it’s damn expensive (until I find a new source). So in the mean time, I’m relying on sea weed extract.

A friend came over on the weekend and REALLY wanted a fish to try out his trout smoking skills, so I let him fish one out (lucky dip) and this was the result.

A little over 200 grams and 24cm long(ish). I know there are bigger ones in there. But there are probably smaller ones too.I’ve got another 2 months of growth before it gets too warm for them!

Here’s some pics of the grow beds. Note that I’ve got a lot of native australian flowers in there – the two of us can’t possibly eat all the produce from these systems, so I have to “bulk it out” with flowers… I need to to dose them up with Potassium quick smart so they actually flower.

Here are some bad pics of the growbeds:

Brocolini went to seed as did the pack choi. We’ve been eating silverbeet solidly but it’s still outgrowing us. I guess I’ll take a few bags of it in to work to give away.

Fruits of my labour

Aquaponics - No Comments » - Posted on September, 10, 2009 at 4:45 pm

Well it’s that time again: Time for me to pose with vegetables from my Aquaponics system(s) here in Canberra.

A basket full of rocket and arugula:

Bok CHoi Ahoy!

Without the roots, 5.25kg

I ended up getting 10 mini bok choi plants off it, and a stack of massive leaves

So my aquaponics is obviously doing quite well. Fish are healthy and active:

Oh I should mention, the pH of the system was 6 or below when I got back from overseas – this was causing the plants to “lock out” trace elements. Not sure which one exactly, but I added a few kilograms of shell grit to the system which has buffered it back to 6.4 which is good for fish and plants (though I would like it a little higher).

The Good Aquaponics System – Part III

Aquaponics - No Comments » - Posted on August, 5, 2009 at 10:49 am

I’ve been overseas for the last 2 months, and the system has been under the custodian ship of the lovely Eleanor. She did remarkably well – the professional system is still going strong with zero losses. Unfortunately Ele turned the power off to the old system and forgot to turn it back on, killing all 50 fish. She was very upset. I wasn’t too worried, I seriously expected to return to zero fish, so I’m really happy to have 100.

The system is operating, but it was getting a little bit healthy. Nitrification is an acidic process, so the pH goes down, and you need something to buffer it. This is usually some sort of Carbonate. I had been using Potassium Bicarbonate, but obviously the buffering effect had worn off, because when I measured pH when I arrived home it was 6. And that’s as low as my test kit went, so who knows how low it actually was. Potassium Bicarbonate is quite expensive, so I went and bought 20kg of shell grit (commonly used for chooks), which is Calcium Carbonate (i.e. limestone, chalk, garden lime etc). I’ve put this in the beds and the pH today is 6.4. On with the photos:

The beds have filled out nicely

But the plants aren’t exactly healthy:

And some weeds have really taken ahold!

But I think this might be due to the low pH. pH has a big impact on uptake of nutrient. I’ve also dosed it with chelated iron (just incase).

Some of the fishes dorsal fins have gone white at the tips, so I’ve dosed with salt (it’s now at 4ppt) and I’m told that this is a sign of stress – could be pH again. Just as a side note, 4ppt in a tank of my size is actually 10kg of salt. That’s a bucketfull!

So they’re eating, and they’ve grown, and the plants are doing pretty well. The water temperature is between 6 and 10 degrees C, which is fantastic for trout. I haven’t had the growbeds freeze (I keep the water running the whole night) which means that the bacteria are still alive and doing their job. Things are looking good for an October harvest (touch wood).