Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Disaster - Guppy Tank Overflowed!

When I check my system this morning, the water in the guppy tank had overflowed spilling water on the floor below. Several guppies were found on the floor and on the tilapia tank mesh covering. Luckily, most were still alive and I scooped them up with a dry leaf. Some dead ones were probably killed by ants.

Guppies on the floor... Still alive because the floor is wet...
Killed by ants...
Some were found inside the shade cloth...
The reason this happened is due to the modification of the outlet pipe that I made yesterday. I wanted the outlet to draw water from the bottom of the guppy tank to suck debris at the bottom. The outlet pipe also has a fine mesh that prevents tiny guppy fries from exiting the outlet...
The T-connecter is used to prevent a siphoning action from happening. It also allows easy insertion and removal of the green mesh for cleaning...
Problem happens when too much poop got stuck at the green mesh preventing water from exiting through the outlet fast enough causing an overflow...
Photo of fish poop stuck on the green mesh...
Luckily not much water and guppies was lost from this tragedy. I'll need to redesign a better filtered outlet pipe this time. I also did a water quality check:

Traffic light... Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate...
Ammonia: still green... 1.0
Nitrite: strangely, yellow color... < 0.5
Nitrate: photo is too dark... Its actually cherry red... > 50

Nitrite levels are lowering... This is sign of bacteria growth!

Friday, 20 April 2012

More Fish Dying...

Hadn't fed the fish for the past 2 days yet ammonia and nitrite stayed at 1.0mg/l... So I decided to check the bottom of the fish tank and what I found was shocking - 5 dead tilapias! I'm not sure what caused their death... Their mouths are open... Sunken belly... Could it be a bacteria infection spread from the guppies? I'm not sure what to do now... I'm expecting more deaths coming... >_<

To reduce ammonia further, I scooped out as much rotting plant matter and poop at the bottom of both fish tanks. I found that lots of tilapia poop remained stuck in the guppy tank due to the outlet being a standing pipe which only sucks water from the surface.

I also removed all the pegaga plants as they aren't doing well probably due to iron deficiency. I'm afraid that their rotting leaves will only contribute to more ammonia.
Hmmm... Their roots have grown much... Just their leaves wilting...
Looks cleaner now...
Edit: One more dead tilapia found along with several other broken pieces of fish spine... Aahh... I've lost count of the number of deaths... >_<

Thursday, 19 April 2012

First Pest!!!

Oh...oh... Look what I found this morning...

One of my tilapia feed bags got ripped open! It's even the unopened larger sized pellet bag which I won't be using until the tilapias had grown bigger!
And the culprit...? a SQUIRREL! /(>_< \) =3

He's hiding behind the fish tank!
Enlarge the picture...
Got trolled by a squirrel...!
So I thought, should I catch him and feed him to the tilapias like how most aquaponics pests end up? That might introduce unwanted diseases into my system though. For the time being, I'll need to find a large container to store those bags safely.

I'll have to deal with that squirrel someday. It's only a matter of time before he starts munching on my crops. I won't resort to killing him as he may have a family...

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

System Update - 17th April 2012

Here's an update on my system...
Ammonia: 0.5
Nitrite: 0.5

Ammonia and nitrite were at 1.0 yesterday. The reason was due to 2 dead tilapia at the bottom of the fish tank. I've been feeding them irregularly, sometimes 1 tsp per day, sometimes 2 tsp, and sometimes none...

Tilapia left: 88

The insect screen is doing its job well. Here's 3 days worth of fallen debris over the guppy tank. There should be more as I had removed accumulated leaves for the past few days...

To reduce algae in the system, I shaded the fish tank using 50% shade cloth folded over several times. It's quite dark inside there.

I also bought a new Resun aerator with auto-switching backup power for RM170. Comes with a flowrate controller dial and consumes electricity at the rate of 10W. This thing weighs like a brick...!

Because this aerator is meant for indoor use, it has to be shielded from direct sunlight and rain. Hooking it underneath the growbed should be good enough. I tied cotton strings across the iron bars to act as support for the aerator body. This is only a temporary solution, since the aerator is pretty heavy and I shouldn't risk having the aerator fall and tear through the green insect screen into the fish tank below. I need something stronger for support...

I hope that with this amount of aeration, the tilapias will be happier... :-)

I'm not sure the reason, but some of my tilapias appear to be gasping at the surface. They had been behaving like this since I bought them. I don't think the current level of nitrites can block so much oxygen absorption. Could it be a permanent gill damage caused by the stress endured during the one hour journey from the farm to my house?

As for the plants, mint is growing strong. They are also starting to droop sideways... Have they begun executing their plans of conquering the entire growbed already?

Kangkong still taking its sweet time...

Pegaga showing signs of deficiency. Older leaves are turning brown while some dried up and rot. Iron deficiency?

Okra seedlings are actually growing very fast... That single true leaf wasn't there 2 days ago...

Thanks for reading...

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Problem from above...

The problem with my current system is that it is located under a tree. Everyday, I would find 10 to 20 leaves on the growbed and in the fishtank. To make matters worst, when the tiny flowers and fruits from this tree fall into the fish tank, they get stuck on the pump filter which I need to clean every 3 days. This is becoming a chore now and so I decided to do something about it...

By covering the fish tanks with plastic insect screens...!

Oh... and here are some photos of the plants:

Mint is starting to grow fast...

Kangkong is growing well... Two okra seedling at the top of the picture...

Pegaga not doing so well. They did grow some new leaves but they look pale...
Tilapia left: 90

Thanks for reading...

New Herbs For My Garden...

It's 1:26 am now...
Went to a nursery yesterday and bought some herbs. I have always wanted to have a herb garden at the back of my house where I can just pluck some leaves and eat them right away. I bought thyme, stevia, oregano, lavender, and bird's eye chili. They are organically grown and can be safely consumed...

From left to right: Lavender, Oregano, Stevia, Thyme... They came in nice plastic protectors...
Bird's eye chili
Clockwise from top left: Stevia, Lavender, Oregano, Thyme
I will be leaving them in their soil filled pots for the time being. I'll only plant them into the growbed once I had done the planned water change mentioned in my earlier post. I don't want plastic chemicals in my herbs but I couldn't do that water change until the system is cycled...

I later did a water quality test.
Ammonia : < 0.5 mg/l
Nitrite : 0.5 mg/l
Ammonia & Nitrite test
4 tilapia died since my last update. I'm not sure what was the cause of their death. Some were injured by other tilapias while others just died without any physical clue telling the cause. I noticed that some of them have brownish gills and they sometimes appear to gasp at the surface... A lack of oxygen or nitrite poisoning? I'll have to increase aeration... I also noticed that the tilapias kept pooping even though I had stop feeding them for two days straight. They are probably eating the floating algae since their poop is dark green in color... After that test, I fed them with 2 1/2 teaspoons of pellet feed...

Tilapias left: 92

Time to sleep.........

Sunday, 8 April 2012

System Update - 7th April 1012

It's already 00:00 am 8th April at the time I type this sentence but it's an update of what happened yesterday.
Found a dead tilapia in the morning with its corpse half eaten.
Didn't fed them for the whole day... I did fed the guppies though...

Ammonia : 0.5
Nitrite : 1.0
Tilapia left : 96

Would be holding back on feed tomorrow.

Friday, 6 April 2012

System Update - 6th April 2012

7:30 am
Water Chemistry
Ammonia: 0.5 mg/l
Nitrite: 0.5 mg/l
pH: 7.0

Feed Given
Tilapia: 1 teaspoon
Guppy: 1/3 of usual feed
Pleco: 1/3 teaspoon

found 1 dead tilapia...

5:30 pm
Water Chemistry
Ammonia: 0.5 mg/l
Nitrite: 0.5 mg/l
Nitrate: 25 mg/l (dropped due to water change)

Feed Given
Tilapia: 2 teaspoons + 1 caterpillar
Guppy: 1/2 of usual feed
Pleco: 1/2 teaspoon

Number of tilapias left : 97

I don't think feeding them is the main cause of the ammonia and nitrite levels. Most of the ammonia probably came from their gills anyway. The water had become less foamy now and smells less "fishy". I guess the existing bacteria in the growbed is handling the situation well. I'll be increasing their feed slowly to speed up cycling as long as ammonia or nitrites don't go over 1.0.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

New Tank for the Guppies!

The old circular guppy tank is actually a plastic kitchen basin/tub that had been under the sun for about 4 years now. Its upper surface is turning to powder and should be very fragile by now. What I'm worried about is the amount of plastic chemicals that had been leaching into the system for all these years. In fact, there is a strong plastic smell when I sniff the basin's rim.

Plastic surface turning into powder... The effects of 4 years of sun damage...

White patches are 4 year old stains from adhesive paper tape... Those lighter colored scratch marks are my attempts at removing the tape... Scratching the surface releases a lot of dust particles and smell...

And so, I decided to get them a new tank today. It's smaller than the growbed but much bigger than the previous circular tank. After adding the new tank to the system, I realized that quite a significant amount of water was drawn up to the new tank lowering the water depth in the tilapia tank. I worry that the shallower water will now cause the water to heat up quicker during noon. And so I proceeded to add 3 more pails (39 litres) of water salted to 3ppt into the system.

This photo was taken at 8:15 pm. It was already pretty dark during that time, but the camera's flash made it seems like it was taken during noon.
Just to be safe, I will conduct further water changes in the future to remove any more lingering chemicals in the system's water. I won't be consuming any vegetables (the mint, pegaga, and kangkong) that was planted or will be planted before completing the future water change in case they had absorbed some chemicals in them. I won't be culling my guppies and pleco as I won't be eating them, but they might continue pooping out plastic tainted poo for some time which may go in to my plants or find a way into tilapia blood stream. I will ignore those minute traces of plastic chemicals and only seek to minimize instead of a total removal. I'm sure I should be worrying more about other pollutants such as vehicle exhaust and cigarette smoke than plastic chemicals leaching in to water.

Thanks for reading...

System Update - 5th April 2012

Found 3 dead tilapias this afternoon. Very few tilapias showing signs of flashing today. Guppies seem fine, no sick ones. Pleco explores the tank at night as usual.

Tilapia left: 98 or less if I missed any deaths

Here's the result of today's water quality check:

From left to right: Ammonia, Nitrite, pH

Ammonia : 0.5 mg/l
Nitrite : between 0.5 - 1.0 mg/l   (I downloaded the color chart from Sera's website)
pH : around 7.0

I fed the guppies with 1/3 of their usual food, fed tilapias with 1/2 teaspoon of crushed pellets and 4 kangkong leaves, but won't be feeding the pleco as it looked like he sucked on one dead guppy last night. Since I had salted the system to 3ppt, they should be fine with that much nitrite.

In the previous update, I mentioned that I will be adding 3 pails of water in to the system today. But I changed my mind today since the rest of the tilapias looked fine and doing that will only stress the fish more.

Thanks for reading!

Salting My System

Around 7pm, I found my Pleco sucking on a motionless tilapia fingerling. I then took it out of the water to examine it. It didn't moved for a while and I thought it was already dead until it started gasping about a minute later. Its body looked fine except for its brownish gills. I ran a stream of water through its mouth for a minute... But then I rethought about it and decided to cull it instead as it looked hopeless and I don't want it to rot and contribute more ammonia into the system...

To help them cope with their stress, I salted the water to 3ppt. I calculated that my system is currently running on 256 litres of water which should mean that I need 0.768 kg of salt to obtain 3ppt of salt concentration.
On the left: Roughly 0.76 kg of aquarium salt.

Here's how to obtain the required weight of the salt:
  • 3 ppt means 3 parts per 1000 in weight.
  • 1 litre of aquarium water weighs very close to 1 kg.
  • That means you need 3 kg of salt for every 1000 litres of water.
Now you need to calculate the total volume of water in your system in litres:

Rectangular Tanks:

width(cm) * length(cm) * water depth(cm) = volume(ml)
volume(ml) / 1000 = volume(litre)

Cylindrical / Circular Tanks:

radius(cm) * radius(cm) * π * water depth(cm) = volume(ml)
volume(ml) / 1000 = volume(litre)

* π = 3.1415926

Then you can obtain the amount of the needed salt by using this formula:

Salt weight(kg) = ppt number / 1000 * volume(litre)


When adding salt into your system, don't just throw those salt crystals directly into your fish tank. Fish are curious and love to swim around the thick briny water surrounding the salt crystals and have a "taste" --- I know my guppies do. If they indulge for too long, they'll get salt burns on their skin.

What I did was I diluted the salt in a pail of water from the system. Stir the water to speed up the dilution process otherwise it may take hours. Once all the salt had diluted, you can dump them into the fish tank. The salt water will gradually get mixed together with the rest as the pump circulates the water. This sudden change in salt saturation levels is important as it will shock and kill most parasites in the tank osmotically.

* Note: Snails hate salty water and plecos probably won't be enjoying above 3ppt of salt.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

System Update - 4th April 2012

 Did a system check 9:30 in the morning. Ammonia is at 0.5mg/l, Nitrate reading is close to yellow which should be okay (I've lost its color chart), wide range pH test tells us its around 7.0. I've also tested the pH using a narrow pH test, but it gave an alkaline blue color. I don't trust my narrow pH tester because it's already several years old.

Here are some pictures of my system:

Surface bubbles take a longer time to burst... Smells a little fishy... A sign of ammonia... No tilapia death so far...
Mint is recovering fast, pegaga with some leaves yellowing is taking its time, kangkong cuttings which I planted 3 days ago are also doing fine...
Guppies seems fine...
I removed 6 pails of water, and replaced it with 3 pails of dechlorinated water. I'll add another 3 pails tomorrow. I gave the guppies 1/3 of their usual food, and 1 teaspoon of pellets for the tilapias... I'm worried for my pleco as I haven't fed it for 3 days and now that the tilapias are inside, they'll steal his food... If the pleco gets too hungry, will it attack the tilapias at night?

Later , while I was removing the kangkong stems from the guppy tank, I found a weird piece - It looks like something dark is inside the stem... I then tear the stem open and found this:

a guppy? Oh no... Is he alive??
Not moving... Must have suffocated inside it... I can't imagine how it must have felt during its last seconds... Staring at a green wall while gasping for air within a tight space... :(
Lesson learnt: The hollows of the kangkong plant can trap guppies...

Thanks for reading...