Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Prototype Aquaponics Project (Charity Chapel) Update

I visited the Charity Chapel site tonight and thought I'd give an update.

The water chemistry seemed OK. pH was drifting towards acidic but still OK. Alkaline was OK, Hardness OK, Nitrites were zero, and Nitrates around 10. I added some water to the system because it seemed a little low. Rob measured the chlorine in the water right from the faucet and it registered zero, however I suspect that it could go up at times depending on how often and the amounts added.

The fish appeared to be OK, active however the largest fish seemed to be... faded, slightly whitish. I don't take this to be a good thing since we culled two fish who began to show signs of this., however the fish was still very active. I notice that one of the smaller fish seems to be a companion while the other tends to keep its distance, though sometimes I have seen them grouped together. Also, the water was cloudy. I wondered if this could be because of the rain we had today stirring up the dust in the grow bins.

Overall, the tank was clean though I see some brown algae or dirt build up on the pipes and the bottom of the tank. I have also noticed that we have lots mof suspended particles in our system which I believe is a good thing and creates a better chance that they will be pulled into the supply manifold and work their way to the grow bins.

Grow bins seemed to be working appropriately. We were having issues with the GB L-3 in that the siphon would either not cycle, or it would drain and not refill, usually the latter. We redesigned the Bell to be a 3" with the same height a siphon tube placement as the previous bell but it still was not working. It was very frustrating in that the bin was built more or less identical to the other 5 but was the only one that was not working consistently. On Monday I stood at the end of GB L-3 and looked down the isle between the right and left bins and noticed the p-traps where they connected to the main drain line. I noticed that all connected to the main drain from the top whereas L-3 connected to the drain through the side since there was no room to connect it through the top. I remembered that not only did it connect through the side but that we had propped the end of the drain up even higher meaning that there was even a more severe angle on the p-trap at the connection point. I removed the prop and allowed the grow bin to run through a cycle. To my pleasant surprise the grow bin cycled without issue. I allowed it to cycle several times and it did so without error. When I returned today it was still cycling correctly. Though it will need further analysis I suggest that the angle on the p-trap interfered with the back pressure or something along that line.

The plants have not changed a lot. Bean plants are growing and beginning to bloom. The first set of seeds did not sprout. I suspect they rotted. Similarly many of the corn seeds in L-3 didn't sprout. I suspect that there are some seeds that lend themselves to sprouting in a GB and many that won't. I replanted the green bean seeds in L-1 to see if I could get some more to sprout.

The tomatoes are still growing but are a light shade of green which I take to be unhealthy. I suspect this light colored vegetation is indicative of a missing nutrient which I will guess is nitrogen. Our water tests indicate no nitrites and very low nitrates meaning little to no nitrogen for the plants. Perhaps we should add a couple more fish now that the bacteria seems top be established. I have been adding fish food... if the fish don't eat it perhaps it will feed the bacteria.

Squash pants are light also but appear to be preparing to bloom. Pepper plants are also light but growing, Bell peppers seem to be doing better than the Jalapeno peppers. The corn is growing, and I added some sprouts that I had planted from extra seeds.

Out of all the plants the two cucumbers in L-3 seem to growing the best. They are blooming and have small cucumbers growing. Cucumbers have always been a good grower in hydroponics systems so no surprise that they are doing well in our AP system.

I am also gearing up to start a worm bed. I've been researching growing worm bins and even dug worms tonight from my own compost pile. Hopefully we should have a start by this weekend, however according to the documentation we won't be ready to harvest for a couple months. I might go buy some sinker pellets to try also why we wait on the worms.


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