Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Old News, Bad News, & Good News

Finally! Another update after a long period of dormancy! Not that I totally neglected aquaponics, I just don't have anything fun or nice to show off. Unlike other people's system, mine isn't that successful. No lush jungle growth or monster fish. I've yet to enjoy my first fully aquaponics meal like the one shown in Murray Hallam's video.

Anyway here's an update of my system. I'll start with some old pictures, followed by bad news and then finally the good news!

Here are some NICE old pictures taken over the last 3 months:

17 March

Overgrown tomato "bush"
Bak Choy doing well in the beginning...
Single tomato flower. They kept falling off in the beginning.
Purple okra never did well. They were infested by aphids. I had them removed later.

 21 March

Gave the tomato plants some trimming. Lots of flowers but no fruits.
Left growbed
Ripening chilli fruit
Fully ripen chilli next to a green one
During that time, my chilli plant went berserk and produced around 15 fruits. Juicy chillies! They were hot as well.

15 April

Trimmed the tomato again. Bak choy showing signs of deficiency. The bottom was also getting overcrowded that time.
This is a single piece of root from ONE tomato plant that had been clogging the right growbed's outlet pipe.

Okay, back to present time. Now the bad news...
The plants have been showing signs of nutrient deficiency. It looks like a lack of potassium or magnesium... or maybe both. I don't really know. Also, I removed all except one Bak Choy plant because they weren't growing so well. Most were stunted with brown edges. I threw most of them in to the tilapia tank.

Chilli plant had stopped bearing fruits like crazy
Leaves yellowing with brown edges. Curled up as well. What could it be?
Roselle have not been doing well since the beginning
New growth showing sign of chlorosis. Growth is slow too.
The remedy the problem, I've been adding potassium in to the system in the form of cream of tartar. I couldn't find any other forms of potassium. Previously, I used to bury banana flesh in the growbeds.

For magnesium, I used dolomite lime. It contains calcium and magnesium, but I read from somewhere that I shouldn't use too much of this stuff.

Finally, the good news...! :D
The good news we've all been waiting for!


Indeterminate tomato plants need plenty of space. I'm still learning how to grow them.
Green tomato!

A red one there! 4 on the left! Don't ask... Yes, I have eaten that one. Firm, sweet, & juicy!
More tomatoes!
My tomatoes didn't bear any fruits at first. Just flowers, no fruits. That was until I started adding cream of tartar in to my system. I wasn't sure how much cream of tartar I'm supposed to put in to my system, so I just added 1 teaspoon every week. I've already stopped adding them and will only continue once my plants show signs of potassium deficiency again.

This basil plant which once was a mysterious seedling now growing healthily. I wasn't sure how the seed got there. I think it is Genovese.
Fish water is getting clearer recently. I'm not entirely sure why, but I think it's due to the tomato plants working hard to suck out nitrates from the system which then improves the efficiency of the nitrifying bacteria. Or maybe it's due to the massive tomato root system which helps to capture suspended solids in the water.

It's been a year since I bought my tilapia and they haven't reached plate size yet. They don't eat much; only a handful of pellets everyday. They also don't grow at the same speeds. Some are like 9 inches long while some remained at only 3 inches. I'm not very experienced with fish keeping, but I think water quality effects their growth. It's like the fish instinctively go on a diet to reduce poop saturation levels. Oh well, not that I'm in a hurry.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, 15 February 2013

DIY On Demand Feeder

Last week, during Chinese New Year, I had to visit my hometown in Malacca for 5 days. Feeling worried that my fish will starve (perhaps even die) during the holidays, I quickly made a simple on-demand fish feeder out of materials available in my house before I begin my trip. The design is based on several DIY videos I found on youtube and some aquaculture PDF files that can be googled.

Though my design was based on the commonly used pendulum demand fish feeder, the food release mechanism works differently. The usual design requires the pendulum rod to be extended below the surface of the water so that the fish can activate the food release mechanism by bumping the rod. The problem is that my rod is made from iron and is slightly galvanized. Since I can't have the rod touching the water, I tied a string to the end of the rod and attached a ball of cotton rope at the bottom end of the string which floats on the surface acting as bait. When a fish bites and pulls the bait, the whole feeder shakes, releasing some pellets in to the water. Once the feeder was set up, I left my house with my fingers crossed in hopes that my tilapia will soon learn how to use it.

When I returned home, 5 days later, I found the feeder empty. The fish seemed happy, but I wasn't sure if the fish had learned how to use it yet. I refilled the feeder and stood in front of the tank for 30 minutes to see how the fish "use" it. Most fish just nibble or "kiss" the bait but occasionally a clever fish (perhaps just hungry for a bite) will pull and jerk it hard enough to release enough pellets to feed several fish. The feeder works!

The way my feeder works is by taking advantage of tilapia's feeding behavior. When they feel hungry, they will start nibbling on anything they can find. The ball of white cotton rope with its hairy cotton strands looks attractive (at least to me) to them. Pulling the bait hard will shake the feeder which releases pellets in to the water where the fish can snack on. When the tilapias are full, they are less likely to nibble the bait. This way, feeding times will be much more regular which I hope will increase their growth rate and also provide less stress to the filtration system.

Hopper made out of mineral water bottle.
The disc is made out of a piece of thick paper with a bottle cap below it secured by rubber band.
Bait made out of a white cotton rope.

As usual, I will also include several photos of the plants...


Tomato (12" tall).
Bok Choy seems to be having iron deficiency.
Red Okra having problems standing upright due to the recent rain.
Roselle cuttings at the left and flowering kang kong plant at the right.
Fruiting chilli plant.

Thanks for reading!


Saturday, 2 February 2013

Trapping a Thief

The Thief

Recently, a creature had been stealing my tilapia food. It made a big hole through the cover to gain access. I wasn't sure what it was but all i know is it has strong teeth. I suspect it must be the same squirrel as before.

The hole at the top chewed out by the creature
So, I planned to give it a surprise by cleverly modifying the food container into a trap. I removed all the fish food, and filled the container half way with water. I then soak several plastic bags and a big piece of saran wrap inside the water to give the creature something buoyant to stand on but not rigid enough to allow it to jump out. Once the trap is set, I left it alone for a day.

This morning, to my surprise, the victim was a rat. I was expecting a squirrel. There, it couldn't jump out.

The rat; resting on the plastic bag
The plastic bag provides enough buoyancy for it to stick its nose above the surface while sitting
I released it and hoped that it learns not to come here again. There was a lot of rat poop in the water and it smells like rat. Need to wash the container... ( =_=) viruses... and bacteria...

The Plants

And now, about the plants. The plants...
I found something interesting about kangkong plant. It is very tough. It doesn't give up easily. Last week, when I was clearing the left growbed, I removed all but the top most kangkong vines that were creeping on the PVC shade. The vines, without its roots, soon dries out. But to my surprise, it bloom new flowers!

Dried kangkong vines hanging at the top of the shade
A single white flower (smaller than usual) and several new flower buds at the bottom (not shown)
My tomato and pak choy seedlings are doing well under the new morning brightness. The pruned kang kong is regrowing its shoots very fast. As for the chilli plant, it is going crazy growing new shoots since getting exposed to direct sunlight.

Tomato, pak choy, and kang kong seedlings
Mutant tomato seedling. It remained at the cotyledon stage without growing true leaves.
Centre: Kang kong growing new shoots. Left: Roselle cuttings bought from the market
Chilli plant. The left shoot is growing very fast.
I'm not sure what variety it is. This plant was given to me by a friend. I do not know what is their harvest size.
Another fruit but this one is curled.

Thanks for reading! :-D

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Renewed Energy!

I'm back!

Had been months since my last update. I didn't feel like updating my blog for so long because many of my plants were dying due to the lack of direct sunlight at the back of my house. My plants became sick and weak, and turned into easy targets for various bugs and fungi. The lack of plant growth leads to the accumulation of nitrates. To counter that, I reduced feeding rates of the fish to the point of stunting their growth. All these failures had drained my aquaponics motivation level so much that I had neglected my maintenance duties other than feeding the fish.

But then, good news came! Last week, after months of lodging complaints and sending letter to my residential management office, they finally decided to prune that big tree behind my house. Finally, my grow bed gets to be bathed by direct sunlight! The back looks brighter now; I was joyful and I smiled...

Here are some pics:

The tree after much of its major branches removed. I'm sorry tree, but you need to slim down.
Right grow bed: Mostly weeds, dead genovese basil, and dying okra.
Left grow bed: Hundreds of tree saplings, a chilli plant, kang kong, and one surviving japanese cucumber.
This is the one and only cucumber plant that survived. Unfortunately, the main stem at the bottom broke when a tree branch fell on my system while pruning the tree. It only bore one fruit.
To reach for more sunlight, this kangkong had turned viney. It is producing lots of seeds though.
Tilapia tank.
I tried to get a full view shot, but there's a wall behind me.
Chilli fruit.
My favourite harvest, the single cucumber fruit before the plant died.

With my spirits lifted, I proceeded to clear the right grow bed for new tenants. Here's a good chance to show you some of the red wrigglers that has been living in the beds for some time.

Cleaned grow bed.
Can you see them?
Here's another pic... See any worms?

I then bought a new batch of seeds. They are: Kai Lan, Aster Pink, Red Okra, Pak Choy, Coriander, and Tomato.

 Thanks for reading!