Sunday, July 25, 2010

Progress Report - Week 6

It's been an adventure!

The pH has been refusing to stabilize as low as I want it.  I get it down to the low 6's and it's back up to 8 the next day.  I suspect it's because of the stuff the aquarium guy gave me.  We won't be doing that again.  So I was using vinegar to lower it, then it would pop right back up, then I'd be worried about adding more vinegar to the system (and wanting to purge whatever was buffering it so high) so I'd do a water change, and the cycle would start over.  I even threw out my back during the last water change.  So, I posted my concern on the AquaponicsHQ forum and Crusty is helping me.  He's suggested I stop fiddling with it for a while and just monitor and post.

On the positive side, I'm FINALLY getting signs of Nitrates!  I've had no measurable ammonia, nitrites, or nitrates.  And starting yesterday morning I'm getting definite confirmation of a working cycle.  Yay!!!

I also put some plastic mesh filter material under the water outflow in the growbeds, to filter out any solid matter... though I can't see how it would get through the filterbag I've got over the water pump in the fish tank.  But everyone keeps saying you need to filter up there, so I'm doing it.  If I don't have anything stinky in those new filters next month, I'll probably conclude that I don't need that in my particular set up.


I'm now up to about 35 fish.  And they're happy and healthy and flitting around like crazy.  No deaths so far since the very beginning.  (Knock wood.)


The basil is still growing very well.  The tomatoes, parsley, and dill plants I gave up on.  The seeds I've had sporadic semi-success with.  I'm sure a lot of the difficulty is the drastic water quality fluctuations.  The garlic chives are doing the best.  And I'm starting to have some hope for the cilantro.  Other than that, things aren't looking so good.  In fact, I suspect I'll be removing most of the rockwool.  (Which also causes high pH, so removing it can only help the water problems.)  I'll probably plant some more seeds this coming week, but I'm not yet sure what I'll plant them in.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Progress Report - Week 3

Nitrites and Nitrates are still undetectable.  I think there's little doubt at this point that the PH neutralizer the aquarium guy sold me included some resident chemical that kills ammonia.  Even though I *specifically* asked him not to give me anything that would affect the ammonia, nitrites, or nitrates.  Clearly he didn't understand what I'm trying to do here and I won't trust him again for anything except fish.

So meanwhile I did a 1/3 water change and dosed with some seaweed extract to provide some food for my plants (since that was the solution recommended by an actual aquaponics expert).  Wow, the extract says to use 1 capful per gallon of water, and I've got a 30 gallon tank, but I still only used 1 capful.  And the tank looked like someone had brewed some Lipton tea for an hour in there.  I couldn't see 2 inches into the tank.  But it's cleared almost completely now and the fish have been happy and active the whole time so I'm not going to panic.

Yesterday I hooked up the second growbed.  The seedlings were getting big enough and not getting enough light so I wanted to move them up under the LED, and putting in the second growbed seemed like the best solution since I planned to do it eventually anyway.  It's leaking a bit around the drain fitting, but the original growbed did that at first also.  So for now I've got a bucket under there and I'll keep an eye on it.

I took the original drain hose and put a "T" on it to run both beds out through the one line:

And I did the same on the line from the pump, to fill both beds:

And once I was sure it wasn't running too hard, I moved all the rockwool squares with their seedlings directly into the beds.  The hydroponics guys say it won't hurt the fish, but again I'm listening to people who only know one side of the story, so we'll see how it goes.

Later this week I'll get a second LED light (or maybe one bigger one).

Meanwhile, I've got two beds!