The 5th Circle of Aquaponics Hell

Start of a new project…

Okay – For those 2 people out there that actually pay attention to this blog at this point, I want to apologize for the REALLY sporatic nature of this record. As you know, I mostly do this so I can reference back to it for my own interest of where I have come from and the baby steps I am making towards knowledge.   🙂

In the continuing saga – for those of you who don’t know, I have been working with an aquaponics facility up in Silver Bay called Victus Farms. It is a really cool initiative, and deserves it’s own blog post at some point, which I will do at some future date. For general information at this point, the above link on it’s name will take you to the UMD website.

So, because of that work, I have been inspired to start down my long put off project of getting a home aquaponics system set up, with the fun twist that it is an in-apartment setup, bringing it’s own slew of challenges and limitations.  My plan was to get a nice, linear thought-out post setup to get this going, but it is iterating so fast from my “learned lessons” – read royal mis-steps – that I wanted to at least catch those up so far before things get too far out of hand.  I think part of my mission/destiny in life is to really show how things should NOT be done to save other people the heartache, so here goes.

So… Aquaponics 101 or less, just to give a reference to my beginning work.  Firstly, you need an aquarium to hold the small fish, and there has to be a way for that water to exchange with your planting area so the plants can use the nutrients that the fish produce (fish poop, etc).  The plants clean/uptake the nutrients in that water, and thereby clean said water for the fish’s swimming/living pleasure.

So – at Victus, this is accomplished by running pipe from the fish tanks to the plant area based on gravity.  First hurdle – drilling a hole for said pipe through the glass of the aquarium.  That is WAAAAY harder than it perhaps sounds.  Two fish tanks later (glass shatters quite easily, even with the right tools, i.e., glass bit on a drill), we have a drilled aquarium.

Okay… The next bit is going to require imagination, because it messed up so fast (in days) that I didn’t get a chance to get good pictures…  🙁  Many expletives have been deleted in the creation of this post.  I received 18 or so fish, buggers are hard to count, and put them into my set up tank (picture below).  They were doing reasonably bad, but surviving.  Evidently, I have much to learn about water quality, but I had done enough of a good job that they were surviving if not thriving yet.  They were eating, and I was working on getting the system positioned for the next phase of getting an automatic water pump system from the plant area back to the tank, when I, swearing again omitted, heard a really bad sound of glass cracking.  In repositioning the tubing from the tank to the plants, I had cracked the aquarium.  Much dramatics later, and some probably really irritated fish hysterics of being poured from their new home just as they were getting happy, I had the tank emptied into it’s very temporary home while I re-think and go re-buy another tank.

So – PETA be danged – the new very temporary system is below.  I am trying to be respectful of these little fish, but at the same time, let’s all remember that they are fish that are smaller than minnows at this point, and their natural mortality (non-Joel assisted) is extremely high, so… well, I’m doing the best I can…

At a later point, I will go back and explain what the broken tank system above was successful at, and what the design was supposed to accomplish.  I think the design was solid, but, aquarium glass being as fragile as it is, it is not flexible enough to be moved and re-positioned, which I find is necessary in the tight apartment spaces that I work with.

Today, I’m off to the stores to find a new tank and some creative solutions for the next phase… More pictures to follow, and perhaps even a success story.

On the positive side – I have fish, I have plants that are happy growing from fish water, and I have a list of things that I don’t need to experiment with, as I know they don’t work.  …And Pretty Fish Gravel – Cobalt Blue rocks are probably not the most “natural” setting, but they are pretty.  🙂

Categories: Aquaponics

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