Category Archives: Inspiration

Fanatic Idea! – The Downtown Urban Farming Initiative


The Downtown Urban Farming Initiative (or DUFi for short) is a project I came upon through a discussion I had with my mother-in-law whose company is helping to assist in making it a reality.

In essence, it brings in local agriculture to otherwise derelict plots of land and makes the area viable once more by providing the ability to grow healthy food choices, promote good health and spur economic growth through entrepreneurship and tourism.

The Dufi Team

The Dufi Team

What makes this initiative so unique is that unlike ones that have been implemented in large cities such as New York and Detroit with success… smaller towns, with fewer resources are often unable to start – let alone sustain – these programs due to lack of direction, limited financial resources and a shortage of dedicated human capital. Their approach is a distributed urban farm program aiming to resolve the weaknesses of other programs by engaging small businesses as key partners in the downtown farm.

The Volunteers

The Volunteers

Right now, their latest project is being modeled and implemented in Historic Downtown Bryan, Texas. Downtown Bryan is passionate about supporting and advancing commerce, culture, and community. They actively work towards these goals through economic development, support of local art and culture, and community engagement. This environment creates the perfect conditions for the incubation of the Distributive Urban Farming Initiative and the creation of living classrooms that will serve both the local community as well as others seeking to replicate the model.

Artists Rendering

Artists Rendering

Providing local produce to local restaurants is just one aspect of their approach to spurring economic activity around the gardens. The gardens enhance lots that are otherwise unused and create attractive spaces for special events, providing another source of revenue to support farm operations.

The project however does need to get the ball rolling and needs pledge support to make it happen. The expansion will only be funded if at least $15,000 is pledged by Dec. 9.

I’m asking for all in the blog space willing to make a great gesture, to give a little support this holiday season to make this idea a reality 🙂

PLEDGE YOUR SUPPORT TODAY!

Aquaponic Bang for Your Hard Earned Dollar – Some Lessons I Learned w/my Build..


I’d say that as AP’ers the biggest factor in what we build (and for that matter maintain) comes down to two simple components, space & money. After going through my first build there were many things I’d liked to have known prior to my putting stuff together that would’ve made my progress a bit simpler and with less headaches (both in design and cost). So I feel that the best thing I can do is share those lessons with the community at large, in hopes that some of what I share will help those of you with your own builds.

My Initial Siteplan

SIZING

First get a good handle on the size of what you wish to build before buying a thing. This ultimately comes down to how much grow bed space your going to have overall. If you’re indoors, this is going to be small most likely, so determine the square footage of grow bed space, then that’ll determine what you need as far as the number of fish and finally the size of your tank.

For example, say you have a grow bed that is 3 feet by 5 feet by 1ft = 15 sq ft. With that you can determine the amount of fish you can have for that system. In this case a safe number that I used was 84% of 1 sq ft of grow bed space to 1 fish (so 15 sq ft x 0.84 = 12.6 rounded up for 13 fish). For that same number of fish, the size of your tank can be determined by roughly 2 sq ft of water per fish (this is at a minimum, the more water you can use in your system, the better, as this will help stabilize temps, nutrients, Ph, etc.) 13 fish = 26 gallons minimum (again, if you can provide a larger tank with the same number of fish, all the better for your system).

Now you may ask why I went with these figures? The answer lies in that as a beginner I wanted a few things right off the bat, stability with my system, as well as knowing I’ll have a good ratio of plants to the amount of  fish poo. If you put in too many fish, they’ll produce too much poo and the fish essentially die from toxicity because there are not enough plants/bacteria to help clean the water. Some will argue my findings and that’s fine, but I’m basing this off my own system and have had great results so far with headaches being kept to a minimum. As the fish mature, they will produce more poo over the same period of time.. food for thought.

Seaweed ExtractREPEAT PURCHASES

These are going to be items that will continue to be used in your system for the duration of your use of it. Fish food, seaweed extract (nutrient booster), testing kits, sometimes starter plants (if you decide you don’t wish to start from seed). All of these items will be ongoing, so if you find these items with a low overall cost prior to your build, you will save money over the long run. Plus consistency in the products you use will not throw a potential kink in your system down the road that is unforseen.

ONE TIME PURCHASES

PUMPS

The pump I chose was an Aquascape’s Aquaforce 2700 Solids Handling Pond Pump which pumps 2700 gallons per minute (on level ground). I over-sized my pump in order to take advantage of the fact that this can still pump out a great deal of water even after it is pumped vertically by nearly 14 feet (flow volume decreases considerably over various heights for all pumps, so be sure to check this when determining your own designs). For me I wanted something powerful, with a good head height, had a built in screen to keep the fish out and one that didn’t chug down electricity like a demon (pump is rated at 147 watts continuous). This pump also gives me the opportunity to add additional grow beds down the road.

For your own pumps, determine a good value based on water volume needing to be moved, head height (vertical flow of water over distance) and  the wattage rating and of course how that all relates to price.

EHEIM-Jager-Aquarium-Thermostat-Heater-300WHEATERS

Here is another place where you can build using scrap materials and put together your own solar water heaters to heat your tanks throughout the day (mainly for outdoor AP setups, though it can be used inside if you provide a good enough pump to get the water from the SWH to your tank).

For alternative heaters, I went with EHEIM Jager Aquarium Thermostat Heater 300W. I did this primarily because I did not think to plan ahead and build my own SWH system for my tank. These heaters are rated up to 260 gallons each, I bought two for my 840 gallon tank. Turns out, you’re more likely to save a good deal of money by buying multiple smaller heaters than one gargantuan one. Plus, they can be spaced throughout the tank to heat multiple areas at the same time. Each has its own temperature regulator, so when reached they will automatically turn off. These are VERY important for those in colder climates. Mine are huge to be sure, but you can find heaters sized to fit your particular tank setups. The main negative remark I have for these is that they will eat a bit into your electricity bill. If you can build/plan your own SWH setup before hand, you will definitely start saving from day one!

BUILDING MATERIALS FOR GROW BEDS/FLOATING RAFTS/NFT

These are another area where real savings can be had!

  1. Always buy used or recycled materials. Craigslist and FreeCycle were two places I went to find materials from people that were just throwing the stuff out! This can be wood, PVC, cement mix and other building products. Start here and stock pile the materials you will need for your build ahead of time.
  2. For anything that cannot be ‘salvaged’, again shop around online (out of state, nix the tax, save 5-10%).
  3. Another recommendation is that if you have to build with new materials, look at speaking to a contractor to buy the materials for you. These guys are able to get materials ‘at cost/wholesale’ versus retail. So you arrange a fee for them to use their shopping power to your advantage. The savings here can be as much as 50%

A WORD ON TANKS

This is a special note to those who plan to build outdoors and make their own tanks… USE THE GROUND!!! i.e. don’t build a tank.. dig one. If I had it all over to do again, I would’ve saved a considerable amount of time, money and sweat if I had just dug a hole (possibly lined it with concrete) and then just laid a pond liner in said hole. Much easier to do, much less time spent, much cheaper option.

A FINAL WORD

So as with all things AP, its a learning process. I’m still learning myself, there is much more to share.. and I feel that all of us have an innate need to be a bit more self sufficient in our lives.
I WISH YOU GOOD LUCK IN YOUR OWN ENDEAVORS!

Drop me a line if you have questions. I’ll do my best to answer them 😉

Aquaponics… The Other ‘White’ Meat…


Alright… what’s that title got to do about AP? Just that if you’re into gardening of any kind.. this is definitely THE best alternative way to go (I’m biased, so sue me) ;

The system provides both plant and animal harvests, you deal with less headaches usually associated with traditional dirt based farming (weeds, pesticides, herbicides, making sure you water regularly, etc.) Plus its scalable, can be used inside and out and pays for itself in self satisfaction.

Cabbage

Beets

To whit, I bring to you some humble images from my garden as it currently stands. Growth has been great, although I will admit that the one thing I wasn’t ready for was the fish and water temperature. Now that Winter is fast approaching, the key for me was to keep the water temperature up as high as possible. To do so, I’m mainly relying on a couple of large aquarium heaters rated at 300 watts a piece. Not the ideal, as I’d prefer a solar water heater option and not have to pay for the electricity, but that will come in a few months time when time and funds permit. So in the interim, the heaters will have to do. So far, water temps have not dropped below 64 degrees at night.

Corn

With a drop in temp, the Talapia are not as voracious with their food, so their growth has slowed down as a result. I get into this in more detail on my previous post.

Eggplant

Kale

The plants on the other hand are doing quite well. Everything in the AP is thriving. I’ve got a couple of plants with some nutrient deficiencies (corn and lemon balm). I’ve made efforts using Seaweed Extract to help give the system a nutrient boost once every nine days, but I feel this has more to do with the waters Ph and the reduction of the roots ability to absorb the nutrients. Thai BasilIts not a deal killer as far as the plants go, but definitely something I’m going to stay on top of to see if it can be remedied down the road.

I took the liberty to buy a batch of lady bugs as of late to help with a small infestation of some tiny black bug that creeped up on our squash plant. We released these at night as this helps them stay put longer and hopefully hang out for a while to feast on whatever our AP has to offer. Pablano PeppersI’m happy to say that they eliminated most of the pest problem (the rest we simply snipped off and fed to the chickens). Summer SquashThe hope is that they will reproduce in the system and make it their permanent home for a while. But I must say, they do a great job chowing down on anything that might be an issue.

Another item that was recommended was to add in a few Marigolds to the system. TomatoesApparently bugs do not like the smell of them. So we placed them evenly down the length of the beds and they also add a nice splash of color.

All in all, the experiment seems to be chugging along quite nicely!

Future Updates to the Aquaponics Greenhouse..


I always figured that once I got to the growing stage of my build, things might taper off on the project front. As things currently stand, I’m still needing to add about 4-6 more grow beds. But I’m also thinking about other items that will be needing to be addressed within the next few months.

SOLAR WATER HEATER


The first item that has come up on the radar has to do with keeping my fish tanks/grow bed water at a higher temperature during the cooler fall/winter months coming up. I thank my friend John for bringing this idea to light.

My buddy happened upon a system which works simply by running water through black hosing along a fence line and then returning that water to the tank in some fashion (see example above – not my system by the way).

Normally, Talapia can handle rather colder water temps without issue to their survival. What does crop up is their ability to grow. Optimum temperatures for Talapia would be an 83-87F degree water temperature. At this temperature, the fish are in their ‘happy zone’, which means they eat the most and grow the fastest at this temperature range. Currently my water temps are now hovering between 75-78F degrees. So a noticeable change of nearly 10 degrees has occurred just in the past month. I had thought burying the tank would offset this much of a change (which it does, but it just progresses more slowly), but I didn’t take into account (or at least didn’t put much concern into) the flow of the water from the tank through the plumbing and grow beds. These actually act to help heat or cool the water depending on surrounding temps.

The main expense is limited to the tubing and connectors and then running the lines in an area that can collect the suns rays throughout most of the day. This system also has the added element that the cinder block upon which it is laying can also act as thermal mass storing heat to some degree. So even after the sun sets or gets shaded over by clouds, there is still heating going on to the fluid flowing withing the lines.

FISH TANK & GREENHOUSE LIGHTING

Another project I’d like to tackle in the near future has to do with setting up some type of lighting for both the fish tank and the greenhouse itself. For both I’d ideally want them to be running on a 12 volt system running off a battery and using a solar panel(s).

For these items, I’m most likely going to purchase them over the counter, versus trying to build them from scratch myself. My electrical know-how is limited at best and I’d rather not electrocute my fish 😉

I did make an attempt at adding lighting into the tank using a rope light, but found that it created too much reflection on the waters surface to see the fish. It will need to be waterproof and submerged to be truly effective at seeing what the fish are up to at night.

For the greenhouse my thought is either using rope lighting or possibly LED Christmas lights running off an inverter. This will keep the setup simple and since its modular I can add/remove strings as needed and place them along the PVC ribs of the greenhouse itself. I can also setup a switching element near the entry way to turn them on or off.

Fanatic Learning Curve! – Things I’ve Learned on my Aquaponics Journey!


I thought I’d run through a few of the things I’ve learned during this building of my Aquaponics Greenhouse, just as an FYI for those who may be interested.

PRE-PLANNING

When starting out with this project, like most, I had no clue about how to really go about it. So I started with doing a little research (my fav’s being YouTube and various AP Forums). First was to determine what type of AP setup I wanted to go with and its size (there is NFT – Nutrient Film Technique, Floating Raft and Flood and Drain) I decided on the flood and drain system primarily because it had the most information out there on how to do it. I also didn’t want any system with standing water in my greenhouse that might provide a nesting ground for mosquitoes.

When coming up with whether to go with a pre-built system or doing it on my own, that was a no-brainer. I like building my own things when I have the capacity to do so, plus you get a LOT more customization options and its typically MUCHO cheaper to do.

So when designing my system, the first thing that came into play was location within the yard. I wanted to distance it a bit from the house, but also wanted to be sure it got the most daily sun as possible. I went with the length of the greenhouse going East/West along my yards North wall and that seemed a perfect location. The other aspect was placement of the fish tank. It needed it to be near enough to the greenhouse area and also low enough to not require using a sump tank to return the water to the fish tank. I wanted this type of setup because keeping the system as SIMPLE as possible in terms of plumbing and additional mechanical requirements was a priority of mine. So I placed the tank on the West end of the Greenhouse within 4 feet of the entrance and dug a hole to bury the tank itself (more on this later).

I sketched everything down on paper and then came up with my overall dimensions and a parts list.

The three most dominant materials I needed during the building of the tank and grow beds was 2×4’s, 4×8 OSB Board and deck screws. When starting this, I tried to use as much reclaimed timber as I could find. This helped with eliminating potential waste and helped reduce my overall costs. It can be a bit more time consuming, but I found much more satisfaction in taking materials from a previous derelict project (in this case and old shed) and turning it into a new, useful project.

SOME POINTS THAT NEED POINTING AT

So with my initial materials in hand and a bit of gusto, I got going.
Now this is where you start finding issues you initially don’t plan for, some of the items that came into play for me where these..

  1. Find a Mentor – If you can find someone locally who has been working their own AP system for a while, they are going to be your single best source of information and inspiration. They have already gone through the process of putting a system together, getting materials, cycling it up, purchasing fish/plants and more often than not, finding those little hiccups that creep up that most people never see coming. It is wise to find such a person in your area and establish a good relationship with them. Having an extra hand (as well as an educated one) can save you a LOT of headaches.
  2. Grow Bed Width – I originally was going for a four foot width to reduce the need to cut the OSB and cut down my production time. I found that this seems logical in theory, but it does not work well in practicality when actually using a grow bed. Midway through building the first of my beds I realized the reach across the width was going to be too much of a reach (since one side of the bed would be butted up against the outer wall of the greenhouse). If I could have accessed both sides of the grow bed, it wouldn’t have been an issue. Plus my wife has a shorter reach… so 3 foot width was decided on versus 4 feet.
  3. Too Much Sun – I originally thought, you can never give a plant too much sun… HA! Lesson learned. Plants can get burned just like people, so yes, shade is something that may be required. In this case during our ridiculously hot summers in Phoenix, I had need of using shade cloth (85% screening) to help my plants to not get burned. This can then be removed during the winter to help add sun when necessary.
  4. Plumbing – Piping is cheap, fittings are where things can get expensive. Pre-plan your plumbing as much as possible to help reduce your overall costs. I also recommend never going below a 1 inch diameter PVC. I used this both for plumbing the grow beds, but also to build my hoop house. My recommendation is to not go with smaller diameter PVC, the cost savings is minimal but the overall strength and flow rate capacity is considerable. Stick to 1 inch or larger diameter PVC when working on your build, you’ll appreciate the benefits in the long term.
  5. Grow Media – Much fuss has been made about Hydroton and its benefits. I cannot argue that. But the stuff is cost prohibitive, i.e. expensive. The alternative I was pointed to with Cinder Rock (also known as Lava Rock). The benefits of this material are these. Its very porous so there is plenty of surface area for all the good little bacterial cultures that are needed for your system to find a home. This also helps with keeping the roots moist. The Lava Rock is also considerably lighter than river rock, so when you buy it by the ton, you get that much more to add into your system (this is also a blessing when you are trying to get this material loaded into your grow beds as well). Its inert, meaning it does not have trace minerals that will be harmful to your system as some other stone is prone to have (these trace minerals can be harmful to either your plants, fish or both). Lastly, it is more easily available or sourced locally.
  6. Water Volume – Simply put, the more the better. More water volume does two great things. One.. it keeps major fluctuations from happening in you water quality. I went with about 800-900 gallons for my setup. The second is temperature fluctuations. More water equals a lower variation in the waters temperature over time (not of much issue for the plants, but big deal if you want to keep your fish happy and healthy).
  7. Thermal Mass – This is also where burying my tank was a requirement. Thermal Mass is the equivalent of having a temperature buffer for your fish tanks water supply. By burying my tank I am afforded a free regulator that can keep my waters temperature from dropping below 65-70 degrees in the winter and from going over 90-95 degrees in the summer. Optimally the fish prefer a honky-dory temperature of 85 degrees to be truly happy, but by adding in this buffer protection via thermal mass, it helps add an additional bit of insurance that my fish will live to a ripe old age.
  8. Non-Permanent Structures – The Hoop House used for the Greenhouse was designed to be a non-permanent structure. I did this for a couple of reasons. First I did not want to get into permitting issues with the city or county. Second if the structure needs to be removed down the line (either from a personal need or if we sell the house and a potential new owner would prefer not to have that in their back yard) I can do so with little fanfare.
  9. Research Recurring Material Needs – This can be fish food, plants, water testing solutions, additional hardware needs, etc. Do this well in advance to know you’re getting a quality product at the best price. This can add up over time, so the savings you make here will stay in your pocket where it belongs 😉

THINGS I’D HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY

  1. Fish Tank – I would not have built a tank, but simply dug a deep enough hole and then lined it with pond liner to create my tank. I would have saved a good deal of time and money this way. I would’ve also gone twice as big.
  2. Grow Beds – I’ve currently got 2, but will be needing to build 2-4 more in the future. If I were to start this project again, I would’ve got them all knocked out at the same time with the design still fresh in my memory.
  3. Get Some Extra Hands – I’m a bit stubborn when it comes to asking for help. I like to do things on my own. But I’ll emphasize it now.. when help is needed, don’t be afraid to ask for an assist from either friends or family. I could have saved myself a good deal of blood and sweat if I’d simply asked others to lend me a hand every now and then 😉
  4. Prep the Land Better – I look at the setup I have and if given another opportunity, I would’ve prepped the ground a bit better by working on getting the grade leveled out a bit better. Truth be told I would’ve preferred a concrete slab for the greenhouse, but then that gets into permitting issues and a permanent structure setup. Had my yard been bigger, I would’ve gone that route.
  5. Went Even Bigger – Yes, for most people having a 12×40 greenhouse would be considered quite a decent size, for me I’d have preferred a setup that was easily double that. Course funds and the wife were the main reasons this did not come to be, but its food for thought down the road when version 2.0 comes out 😉

Fanatic Growth! – Aquaponics Can Do No Wrong!


With all of life’s ups and downs, it sure is nice to have something to come home to where everything is just working right 😉

The AP Greenhouse has been a big goal of mine and now to see the fruits of my labor (pun intended) starting to come into their own, its just a big warm and fuzzy right where one needs it 🙂

I’ve done soil based planting since I was a kid with my Grandparents out in their big garden in their backyard. But the sheer SPEED at which the plants we’ve put into the new AP system grow is just incredible!

We decided to give everything a try.. we’ve got Swish Chard, Kale, Basil, Corn, Fennel, Peppers, Eggplant, Tomatoes, Leeks, Garlic, Lettuce, Pumpkins, Beets, and Chives. That’s not to say that some things didn’t quite take.. we did try Yellow Squash and Strawberries, but they did not make it. After a bit of research we believe its because the waters Ph is still too high for these varieties and so the nutrients aren’t being absorbed through their roots.

The other fascinating aspect is Fish.tv. Watching our Talapia grow has been grossly entertaining. Its been about 5 weeks and they are now four times their original size. We started out with 50, and I’m ecstatic to say we have yet to lose one fish!

The system itself has had very little need of intervention. The siphons have  been doing their work splendidly without adjustment. We have had to top of the tank on occasion. We now average about 1 to 2 – 55 gallon barrels a month (through evaporation).

On occasion, bugs have crept up, but it has taken little work to keep them at bay. Usually I will clip off the infected leaves and either toss them in with the fish, or give the chickens a treat every now and then.

Overall, it has been a very productive month. The wife has been regularly clipping off a few of the herbs to assist with various dinner preparations. All our chickens are now laying eggs now that the heat has dissipated. We now routinely get about 3-5 eggs a day!

I’d say by next month we’ll be able to start collecting on the eggplants and tomatoes!

Good times! Good times! 🙂

A Weeks Worth of Eggs
(Minus 6.. we were hungry this morning)

Introducing the Talapia into the Aquaponics Greenhouse Tank!


Its been a long road to get to this point.
Just over five months.. of planning, saving, building, redesigning, saving, building, sweating bullets and then saving and building again.

As with all projects, this will always be a work in progress, but at this very moment in time I’ve been able to cross that threshold of wanting to build an Aquaponics system to actually having a full fledged system up and running with all the elements that make a system whole.

Design.. check..
Hoop House build.. check..
Fish Tank build and installation.. check..
Grow Bed build.. check..
Plumbing and Pump install.. check..
Adding in Water and Cycling Start Up.. check..

AND finally.. FISH!!!.. uber check!!!

I purchased 40 Talapia Fry to start up my system up with (20 per growbed). These little guys measure about an inch in length and I was able to find a local breeder to purchase them from. Transport was pretty simple. Used a 5 gallon kitty litter bucket that had an air stone and a cap full of Hydrogen Peroxide to make the 1 hour trip. All arrived safe and sound. Did a last minute check on the water (Ph still a bit high, but will be working to bring that down to around 6.8 to 7.0 in the next few days).

We introduced the fry into the system at night as we picked them up mid-afternoon. I had placed the bucket into the water to equalize the tank/bucket water temperature for a couple of hours. All Fry made it in with no floaters to speak of. So we thank our lucky stars for that little miracle!

Added in a splash of food for the night and left them to explore their new surroundings. Will be checking in on them over the next few days and see how well they have taken to their new home.

An Overview Of My Aquaponics Greenhouse!


Wanted to provide a bit of an overview on the entire setup since my cycling is almost complete and fish will be going in tomorrow…

2nd Grow-Bed Complete – Also Added Some Shade Cloth to my Aquaponics Greenhouse!


I’ve gotta say, the progress is getting very good at the moment!

Last week I was ecstatic that I was starting my cycle and this weekend (i.e. Labor Day) I was able to get my second grow-bed completed and get some shade cloth put up on the greenhouse.

I also made some small modifications to the siphon outflow pipe by adding in another section of 4″ PVC that I custom cut to cover the areas where the outflow pipe merges into the main drain. I did this to help reduce algae, evaporation and potential bug issues.

This day was a bit taxing as the heat has just been murder lately 😦

It was also the reason for the shade cloth being put up. My good friend John has noticed a marked improvement on his plants health since he put up some of the stuff himself. It screens about 85%, which may sound like a lot.. a lot that is till you’ve lived in Phoenix in the middle of Summer. Plants that are not native to this region will burn just as sure as you will in the Valley of the Sun, I guarantee!

My numbers as of late have been improving since I started my cycle.

  • Ph – 7.6 (about a .8 drop in less than a week and I have not added any Muriatic Acid to produce this result, all natural)
  • Ammonia – .25 ppm (I went ahead and added another dosage today as that reading is getting a little on the low side.. and for good reason..)
  • Nitrite – 5 ppm (the natural bacteria that produces Nitrites have been going to town! These hungry little buggers have been eating it up!)
  • Nitrate – 2.5 ppm (the secondary bacteria that help produce the Nitrates that the plants will use as food are starting to take residence quite nicely!)

I should have a full cycle in the next week or two. As I’ve just added a second grow-bed I’ll be looking the numbers over to see how that addition has affected my readings tomorrow.

So exciting!!!! 🙂

Fanatic Progress! – Tank, Pump, Plumbing, Grow Media.. we’re Cycling Baby!


Yes, it has been a while my friends.. my sincere apologies on the lack of updates as of late. Finances had been put on an extreme budget as of late, so progress was put to a stand-still. Thankfully I’ve been able to get some freelance work as of late, so I was able to obtain the materials I needed (pump, grow media, liner, pvc and assorted fixtures) as soon as I was able to get a few jobs completed.

Today’s post? WE ARE CYCLING!!!

Truth be told, this was one of those final pieces of the puzzle that seemed to be forever in coming. But thankfully with a little help and some great support from family and friends, we have arrived at this glorious moment in the AP Greenhouse build!

So, lets get the meat and potatoes of what’s occurred since our last post..

  1. Got the tank and grow beds lined
  2. Purchased the pump, filled the tank
  3. Installed first grow bed
  4. Created my first hand made siphon and plumbed the intake and outflow for the 1st grow bed
  5. Dropped rock media into 1st bed (lava rock or red cinder)
  6. Started pump for first time (big deal.. really says something about your AP getting going)
  7. Dropped in some ammonia to get the bacterial cultures started

For your benefit I’d though I’d list some things I learned from the school of ‘hard knox’. Prepare for a lot of ‘detail bits’ that usually won’t go through your mind in the pre-planning stages. For me this included getting the 4″ outflow pipe set at enough of an angle to go down toward the tank. In order to do this I had to raise the grow bed another cinder block higher than I was originally planning on (or about 6-9 inches). Other small ticket items like PVC joints, size reducers for the pump, creating an outflow valve to relieve excess pressure on the lines till I get additional grow beds installed (pumps rated for 2,300 gpm), etc. etc. Lastly was ants. Those little buggers are a real pain here in the valley. So had to treat some areas to keep them at bay. All of this sorta seemed to pop out of the woodwork at the last minute.

Thankfully though, with the help of a friend, all of these items were able to be taken care of within the span of one day (the wait came from saving up the money and getting the supplies shipped over the past few weeks).

The last item I purchased was a 55 gallon food grade barrel for my top off water (this originally contained Soy Sauce, so had to go through a few rinses before it started to smell.. acceptable). Plan on using a hose and siphoning out what’s in the barrel when needed until time permits me to install a outflow fitting near the base of the barrel to make it easier to pour into the tank.

Did some readings yesterday after my first week of cycling. When I started I had ammonia at 4 ppm. As of yesterday that had dropped to 1ppm and my Nitrites were hitting between .5-1 ppm. Threw in some additional ammonia this morning to feed the hungry buggers. We’ll see how soon it’ll be before the Nitrates start to kick in.

My last project was to build the cover for the tank to help protect it from debree floating in on the wind and to keep anybody from falling in 😉 Added some excess lining on the opening cover near the water outflow pipe to negate any paint from leaching into the water and help protect the wood. That was a good investment of my time let me tell you! I still need to add a handle for ease of opening, but for the most part it came together quite nicely!

Lots more work to do, but for the most part we are now at a stage where fish and plants should be forth coming in the next three weeks or so! YIPPEE!!!

Well that’s it for this part of the story. Plan on adding in another grow bed within the next couple of weeks time and start working on getting my Ph between 6.8 and 7 as well.

More updates to come as funds permit!