Sunday, September 30, 2012

My new avitar

My new avitar on  seems appropriate.  
Maybe my seeds will begin to sprout better now 
Njörðr is associated with sea, seafaring, wind, fishing, wealth, and crop fertility.

Friday, September 28, 2012


Add caption

This is me releasing my new scuds

This is a partial re-post of an article at

I scooped up some of the living scuds and watched as they scurried about in the diminishing puddle of water in my hand. They nuzzled into the darkness between my fingers and I learned two important lessons about scuds. First of all, swimming scuds, the kind fish are likely to see, are as straight as a needle and only curl up into the typical scud fly profile when they are crawling around on something. The second lesson learned was that I liked these little guys.
Typical greenish scud clambering over a rock in a Truckee creek.
Since then I’ve spent an embarrassing number of hours underwater watching scuds and watching fishermen try to trick fish into eating scuds. For those moments I can’t be on the water, we have an aquarium in our kitchen that has become home to countless generations of scuds.
Like crayfish, shrimp, and sowbugs, scuds are Crustaceans. They belong to the order Amphipoda which contains three families. Gammarus and Hyalella are the families of greatest importance to flyfishers. Like insects, scuds periodically shed their exoskeleton but unlike insects, scuds don’t have nymph or pupal stages. Baby scuds look like their adult counterpart, only cuter. Scuds require a relatively large amount calcium to support their molts. Scuds are found almost exclusively in alkaline waters and where ever they are found, trout actively seek out these nutrient rich packets of energy. In scud-rich waters such as Eagle Lake, I’ve seen trout bellies distended by hundreds of scuds. To offset such intense predation, scuds are remarkably prolific.
Scuds populations have been measured as dense as 10,000 creatures per cubic meter of water. A single pair can spawn half a dozen times in a year and produce 20,000 young. The single largest threat to scud populations is the rapid drawdown of tailwaters below dams. On one scud laden Truckee River tributary, it is common to find windrows of dead and dying scuds when the river flow is abruptly cut. These normally light olive scuds turn bright orange when they die and trout in this creek are quite color selective when flow patterns change.
This scud is nearly dead, stranded in a puddle created by an abrupt dam shut down. When the dam reopens, the trout in this Truckee River tributary feast on the dead scuds that get swept downstream. At this time the fish won't eat a green scud pattern.
Scuds are generally reported to be herbivores and scavengers. Our pets are vicious predators. They will dart from cover to attack tubefix worms and will even tackle small backswimmers who in themselves are pretty lethal creatures. Scuds can easily overpower Siphlonurus mayfly nymphs seven fold their weight and we have witnessed scuds, sometimes in groups, attacking and killing tadpoles.
Though scuds live in the shallowest margins of lakes and streams, they intensely dislike light. They typically hide in deep cover while the sun is shining but quickly come out to forage when the skies dim. I’ve watched fish boiling through masses of scuds as they rose out of Elodea mats when afternoon cumulous clouds melted shadows across the lake. As soon as the sun broke through the clouds, the scuds would vanish and the melee would cease. Under overcast skies, scud patterns will very often outfish "normal" nymph and pupa patterns.
Scuds have seven pair of legs, the first two are used for grasping and manipulation while the other five pair propel the bug with synchronous ripples. When swimming they stretch out completely straight (curved scud patterns not only look wrong when stripped through the water, they have poor hooking ability) and the scud bends into its characteristic curled position when it scuttles about along the streambed or among the vegetation.
When scuds swim they become a blur of buzzing legs, whisking antennae and fluttering gills; they travel upside down as often as not. There is no such thing as a good scud imitation. Don’t even try to fool an educated fish into believing your hunk of Visqueen and feathers is the real thing. The occasional trout might eat it, but only because he’s greedy.

I have not ordered from this outfit, but Jon Parr has and said it was good

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Gammarus shrimp AKA, Scuds

This is my second bag of Gammarus shrimp AKA, Scuds.  They are good for live freshwater fish food, eat debris and multiply quickly.  

I'd highly recommend psilocyborg69 on e-bay.  He does a good job of packaging, and when I had trouble with the first order he quickly sent this second bag.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Intermitent Pump Systems

  My goal with these designs is to save energy by running a pump intermittently rather than 24/7 using an ebb&flow design, but the problem with ebb&flow is the regurgitation of solid fish waste and uneaten food.

  I think these ideas would only be worth while if the system were small.  With a large system the cost of circulating 24/7 would be applied to a much larger grow bed array.   But for a small system where pennies count and the harvest is small, I think there are ways to make an ebb&flow work.  Here are a couple ideas I've had.

   I have drawn this system that would use the ebb & flow method and return clean water to the fish tank.  Water would be held in the settling/filter tank while the pump is on.  Then the clean water would return to the fish tank when the pump is off.
   An overflow would allow excess water to flow back to the fish tank. 
While the pump is filling the settling tank a solenoid valve would hold the water in the grow beds and settling tank.  A timer would turn the pump and the normally open solenoid valve off allowing the grow beds and settling tank to drain back to the fish tank.
   This design is an improvement over the classic ebb&flow design because the settling tank allows for the water to be cleaned before returning to the fish tank.

Here is another concept drawing which uses vertical gardening and a reservoir/settling tank.  The water is pumped to the reservoir with an intermittent timer.  An overflow tube would return excess water to the fish tank.
Filtered drip lines from the reservoir would supply a constant water flow to the vertical tubes.  If made of fiberglass reenforced weed cloth the water would be returned to the fish tank with plenty of aeration.

With proper filtration around the pump the system could be set up as simple as this. 
The pump would be on a timer.  The vertical media does not require constant flow.

UPDATE 12/23/2012
The ebb&flow design above is a bit complicated.  A design that has been working for two months can be seen at [The Perfect System]

Sunday, September 23, 2012

New Scuds, Filters, and Flirting Fish

I got some Gammarus Scuds a few days ago and made this make shift aquarium for them.  I've also included a look at some new bio filters I just built and two fish that are getting ready to mate.

Scuds AKA Gammarus or Caledonian shrimp are small freshwater shrimp amphipods that can grow to about the size of a grain of rice.

Scuds are an excellent source of live food in aquariums and will rapidly colonize the gravel, keeping it clean by eating uneaten food as well as fish wastes. They are omnivorous and will eat almost anything. Scuds also colonize the filter pads and keep them clean while breeding in them, this makes the filters last well over twice as long.

They are  extremely resistant to changes in environment. Outdoors they can survive Minnesota winters as long as they have unfrozen water beneath the ice, and indoors have no problems with my 86* F crayfish aquariums.

They are super fast breeders and will rapidly colonize,  When scuds mate the male carries the female on his back as they are swimming. The female carries about 50 fertilized eggs in her egg pouch and these are orange in color and show through her semi-transparent body. The young shrimp hatch within the egg pouch and emerge as fully developed young shrimp but MICROSCOPIC in size.

Vertical Garden Sausage

This is my Vertical Garden Sausage.  After pricing pipe and stacking gardens I started thinking about ways to do it less expensively. 
This is made of fiberglass reenforced weed cloth.  I glued the seems with Goop Marine Glue and filled it with Perlite.  I imaging other media such as compost or Vermiculite could be used instead.
I was able to use the same pump that I pump water into my fish tank to drip water into the top. 
The advantage I see in vertical gardening that the produce is within easy reach, less media than a standard grow bed is used, plenty of aeration,  easy to manage in sections. 
Seeds can be started directly in to sausage, but I had these seedling and used them to get it going.

Nine Days Later

I've made more since first posting this and have been using regular Type 1 silicon.   Type 1 silicon is safe for fish.

Nate Storey shared his vertical setup

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Take a Weed to Lunch

Take a Weed to Lunch
by Roger R. Locandro (Weeds Today/Early Spring 1982)
Dr. Roger R. Locandro, is Professor of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Dean of Students at Cook College, Rutgers University. He is a weed ecologist and teaches a unique course in interesting and edible plants. The course is followed by a sequel "Interesting and Edible Meats."  His experiences are an accumulation of a long, traditional, ethnic heritage, fine tuned by his weed science degrees and his continued interest in teaching.

Exquisite cuisine can be discovered in the wild world of weeds. Some of the finest tasting, most succulent vegetables remain virtually untouched in fields and roadside areas. Americans have generally abandoned the European/Oriental tradition of the utilization of edible and medicinal wild plants. Standard of living appears to play an important role relative to direct dependence or even interest in wild things. As the standard of living increases, people rely more and more on specialized groups of people - farmers - to produce food.
Half of our family originated in a little town in the hills of Sicily and half from the Netherlands. Sicilians are grand masters of plant and fungi taxonomy and "culinary" economic botany. They know what's good, interesting and edible! Sicily is a mountainous, rocky island in the semitropics off southern Italy. Steep-walled valleys, covered with a thin mantle of soil, surrounded by a marine environment, are the basis of the Sicilian agrarian/fishing economy. The soil and geology is such that much of the farming is only subsistence level. Families make every inch and every plant count. While the Netherlands is a considerable contrast, the older European wild plant traditions are still evident.
Teaching weeds with an "interesting and edible flavor" unlocks excitement, interest, and motivation in all students, young and old. The opportunity to teach weed taxonomy, ecology, biochemistry, etc., through the medium of interesting and edible plants, with an ethnic twist, has proved to be very successful. From an infinite population of plant species, I have selected five plants and will claim that they are unbeatable for table fare. Most of the species are easily located and harvested.
1. Dandelion-Taraxacum officinale
2. Pokeweed-Phytolacca americana
3. Greenbrier-Similax rotundifolia
4. Lambsquarters-Chenopodium album
5. Burdock-Arctium minus
In New Jersey we start picking tender, succulent dandelions on southern slopes in early March. Dandelions are ubiquitous and can be found almost anywhere in the world. The rest of the world relishes this wild treat. In Italian we would say "chicoria," somewhat descriptive of the chicory-like leaves of dandelions. An interesting note is the constant increase in the production of domestic dandelions in vegetable growing areas of the United States.
What do you do with a dandelion? Eat it fresh in salad, use it as a vegetable, a main course, or drink it! The youngest plants - those without flowers - are prime. They make the best salad with a dressing of your choice. Dutch style provides a hot dressing of chopped bacon bits, bacon drippings, sugar and vinegar to taste. The hot mix is simply poured over freshly cleaned dandelions and blended together.
As we move from the fresh product, an important lesson is worth learning. Steam, do not boil, vegetables. Boiling effectively removes large quantities of water soluble vitamins and minerals. Steam helps to preserve the nutritional qualities, along with the fine, delicate flavors and textures. Steam the dandelion greens until tender and serve as you would domestic greens -spinach, Swiss chard, etc. The difference here is that the dandelions are fresh, free, and they don't come in plastic bags!
Now for the Sicilian treatment. Take the drained, steamed dandelions or any other green that you wish to use, and cut them into half -inch pieces. Mix them with just enough beaten egg to hold the greens together. Add your favorite Italian grated cheese to taste and a touch of finely chopped garlic. Form hamburger-like patties with a large spoon or with your hands. Fry the patties in olive oil. Drain. Here is another good tip: always drain fried food on a cake rack for a nice dry all-over texture. My only problem is not being able to cook enough dandelion cakes for my family and students. This style, or cuisine, is reflective of Sicily. Limited quantities of wild or garden vegetables, combined with small quantities of eggs and cheese, are artfully stretched to provide a balanced meal for a family.
If you are planning to eat dandelion greens, fresh or raw, harvest only up to the flowering stage. Plant chemistry changes considerably when the flowers are in bloom. But don't stop now. Wait for full bloom, and begin the dandelion wine process. The wine is made from the golden blossoms. The following recipe is from the Dutch side of the family. They settled in New Jersey over two hundred years ago.
10 quarts blossoms, no stems
15 quarts water
Boil water, add blossoms and remove from heat. Allow to stand overnight. Next day simmer for one hour. then strain and retain only the liquid.

Add ten pounds of sugar, eight sliced oranges, eight sliced lemons, two pounds of raisins. Place in large crock or plastic container. Ferment for nine days. Stir twice a day. Place in bottles or jars until fermentation is complete. If the first fermentation does not begin within one or two days, add a cake of bakers' yeast or dry yeast.
Do not seal the jars at this point. After the second fermentation has stopped in the jar or bottle (the time interval depends on the temperature of fermentation), remove sediments by siphoning off the liquid into clean bottles. Again, allow the bottle cap to remain loose until no further fermentation takes place. Seal the bottles, store away, and prepare for some old "medication"!

Burdock starts to grow in early May in New Jersey. The plant is characterized by large, rhubarb-like leaves and edible stems and roots. This is another plant species enjoyed by the rest of the world. in Africa it is known as "gobo." To Italians it is "cardone." The best part is the young, succulent stem. Don't eat the leaves. Try the roots. . . they're okay as a steamed vegetable but not as good as the stems. Cut the stems into half-inch pieces and steam until tender. Proceed to use the Sicilian formula with the eggs, cheese, garlic and olive oil. You may also enjoy burdock in stews, soups, or served as a cooked vegetable.
I predict that pokeweed will be completely removed from the wild scene when discovered as a good vegetable. Prepared and served as asparagus, and alongside of asparagus, people will select pokeweed almost every time. The highly succulent, tender, sweet shoots are harvested in the early spring. Pick the shoots up to eighteen inches in length. Strip off all the leaves beginning at the base. Stripping downward removes some of the outside cuticle in the process. Retain the leaves in the whorl at the tip. Cook them along with the stems. if you say pokeweed is poisonous, you're right. The plant contains an alkaloid - phytolacin. Fortunately, the alkaloid is highly soluble and can be easily extracted from the plant tissue. The alkaloid is generally concentrated in the roots, fruits, and leaves and, to a lesser extent, in the stems and young shoots. Cut the prepared shoots into two-inch segments and - break a rule - boil for thirty seconds. Pour off the water and proceed to steam until tender. Serve as you would asparagus, as a vegetable, in soups, or try the Sicilian treatment.
Lambsquarters is probably the closest relative to spinach only it's better! Taste tests continue to indicate a high preference for lambsquarters over spinach. Steam and serve. In New England, lambsquarters is canned for winter use. Pick out only the young shoots or allow a couple of large plants to grow and continue to harvest the new side shoots. The more you pick, the more lateral budding is induced.
The best is saved for last - greenbrier, Rapidly growing vine tips are harvested in the spring and summer. Snap them off the ends of the vine with your fingers. They will crack where the tender shoot extends out from last year's woody tissue. Serve as a hot vegetable, add fresh to a lettuce salad, or use the "treatment." This is another Italian delicacy, also known as "rauni." it's hard to believe that such a fine, delicate treat as similax comes from a thorny, green bramble tough enough to be used as a cattle fence.
Not all weeds taste good or are pleasant textured. And be very cautious to avoid plants or plant parts that are poisonous. We spend little time foraging among the sticks and stones and concentrate on the many good and edible plants.
An extended list of eating delicacies include the highly underutilized wild onion, Allium vineale; chickweed, Stellaria media; yellow rocket, Barbarea vulgaris; watercress, Nasturtium officinale; day lily, Hemerocallis fulva, and many others.
Your introduction to edible plants may serve as an entryway to an exciting, dynamic career in plant sciences. From the fields and byways, the classroom and laboratory ... bon apetit!


Comment by Scott Bloom 
Purslane contains more omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid in particular[4]) than any other leafy vegetable plant. Research published by Artemis P. Simopoulos states that Purslane has 0.01 mg/g of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). This is an extraordinary amount of EPA for a land-based vegetable source. EPA is an Omega-3 fatty acid found mostly in fish, some algae, and flax seeds.[5] It also contains vitamins (mainly vitamin Avitamin C, and some vitamin B and carotenoids), as well as dietary minerals, such as magnesiumcalciumpotassium, and iron. Also present are two types of betalain alkaloid pigments, the reddish betacyanins (visible in the coloration of the stems) and the yellow betaxanthins (noticeable in the flowers and in the slight yellowish cast of the leaves). Both of these pigment types are potent antioxidants and have been found to have antimutagenic properties in laboratory studies.[6]
100 Grams of fresh purslane leaves (about 1 cup) contain 300 to 400 mg of alpha-linolenic acid.[7] One cup of cooked leaves contains 90 mg of calcium, 561 mg of potassium, and more than 2,000 IUs of vitamin A. A half-cup of purslane leaves contains as much as 910 mg of oxalate, a compound implicated in the formation of kidney stones, however, note that many common vegetables, such as spinach, also can contain high concentrations of oxalates.
When stressed by low availability of water, purslane, which has evolved in hot and dry environments, switches to photosynthesis using Crassulacean acid metabolism (the CAM pathway): At night its leaves trap carbon dioxide, which is converted into malic acid (the souring principle of apples), and, in the day, the malic acid is converted into glucose. When harvested in the early morning, the leaves have ten times the malic acid content as when harvested in the late afternoon, and thus have a significantly more tangy taste.

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea), raw, fresh,
Nutritive value per 100 g.
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 16 Kcal 1.5%
Carbohydrates 3.4 g 3%
Protein 1.30 g 2%
Total Fat 0.1 g 0.5%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%

Folates 12 µg 3%
Niacin 0.480 mg 3%
Pantothenic acid 0.036 mg 1%
Pyridoxine 0.073 mg 5.5%
Riboflavin 0.112 mg 8.5%
Thiamin 0.047 mg 4%
Vitamin A 1320 IU 44%
Vitamin C 21 mg 35%

Sodium 45 mg 3%
Potassium 494 mg 10.5%

Calcium 65 mg 6.5%
Copper 0.113 mg 12.5%
Iron 1.99 mg 25%
Magnesium 68 mg 17%
Manganese 0.303 mg 13%
Phosphorus 44 mg 6%
Selenium 0.9 µg 2%
Zinc 0.17 mg 1.5%

Mike Oehler on Cattails


Harvesting Wild Thistle
  This is reprint from
Michigan Bio-Char

What Weeds Tell Us About The Soil

Those nasty weeds, always complicating our lives and making more work for us than what we desire. Weeds are bad…..right? Well, not all of them.  Simply put, the definition of a weed is “a plant out of place.”  It’s good to think of them that way because some of those plants are edible and very healthy for you!  So, it’s really not a bad idea to learn about weeds and their effects on your diet as well as their effect on your garden.  Let’s take a look at some common weeds that you probably have growing in your garden.
DANDELIONS. Believe it or not, these critters are beneficial weeds! They are edible, and can be found usually in salads. They are beneficial because they add good minerals to the soil. They attract pollinating insects, and release ethylene gas, which helps fruits to ripen. Dandelions also have been used as medicines for such ailments as infections, liver problems, and cancers.
MORNING GLORY. Does this plant have any uses? It is on the Federal Noxious Weed list, and technically it is illegal to grow, import, sell, or even have in your possession. It is edible, being known in southern states as water spinach. The Morning Glory grows fast and tolerates poor, dry soils. Some species vine, and are used for creating shades on building walls, helping to reduce heating and cooling costs. The roots do have minerals which can be returned to the soil when composted.
CHICKWEED. If you have chickweed growing in your garden, it is a good indication of some very good soil. This plant has a tendency to accumulate some great minerals such as potassium and manganese, which return to the soil upon decomposition. They are edible, commonly being used in salads.
CLOVER. This plant indicates low fertility in your soil, especially low nitrogen levels in the soil it grows in. It is used a lot as a cover crop. Farmers will use clover to help control soil and water quality, weeds, pests, and diseases.
DOCK. This weed indicates a poorly drained soil that is becoming acidic. Some species are nuisance weeds, but others are edible. There are not that many known uses for this particular plant.
HORSETAIL. This weed is widely known as a nuisance weed. It is difficult to get rid of, even after pulling it out as it grows deeply into the ground. It grows in poor, acidic soil. However the Horsetail does accumulate some good minerals which go back into the ground when it decomposes. Increasing the PH level in your soil will do a lot to get rid of this pest.
VETCH  This plant also indicates a poor soil that is low in nitrogen. Like some of the other weeds, it does accumulate some good minerals which go back into the soil. It is a plant that is occasionally used as a cover crop also. There are no other good uses for this particular weed.
QUACK GRASS. Not much to say about this particular plant. It is hard to get rid of because of the creeping rhizomes (underground root system) which allow it to grow quickly. Quack Grass is usually considered an invasive weed. A sick dog will dig it up and eat the roots to cure its ailments. It has been used in herbal medicine since the time of the Greeks.
THISTLE. This particular weed usually is found in compacted soil. Butterflies like these plants. The Thistle is the national emblem of Scotland. It is also the emblem of Encyclopedia Britannica, which originated in Scotland. Other than that, no medicinal uses and you surely do not want to eat it!
SORREL. Yet another type of weed that exists in soil that is acidic and low in lime. The leaves of this product can be found in soups, salads, and sauces. In little quantities, it is harmless for human consumption. However, if a person ingests too much of this weed, it can be fatal. Oxalic acid, which is a poison, is found in Sorrel; thus, the reason why a large quantity can be deadly to the person eating it.
PLANTAIN. Here is another one of nature’s products that is found in acidic, compacted, and low fertility soil. This plant has been used since prehistoric times as an herbal remedy. Other than that, not an item you want to find in your soil.
Make sure you are careful if you are thinking about eating the plants that are listed as edible. There are many species of each plant, and you want to make sure you are eating the right one. Talk to a master gardener or well experienced produce person to get the right answers.  You know the saying “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em?”  In this case it’s more like “if you can’t weed ‘em, eat ‘em.”  Just section off a part of your garden and grow some of these pesty weeds.  Nurture them along with some water during the hot months and you’re all set.  Happy gardening!
Print Friendly

This entry was posted in Home Gardening, Soils by Jesse and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Naming Organic Chemicals

I have discovered an interest in chemistry since becoming involved with aquaponics.  At this point I still know next to nothing, but I found this short lesson about chemical names very interesting and somewhat helpful.

Organic Naming 1
Organic Naming 2

The links above contain the basic rules.   

This next video takes us deeper

While looking around I also found this.  It has little to do with chemistry or aquaponics, but I thought it was an interesting video and wanted to include it.

How to determine soil profile without a test kit
Clay, Sand, Silt, and Loam.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My Seed Order

I think I've found a new favorite seed company!
The quantity of seeds in each pack is substantial,  I'll be able to share a lot of this order.  This is not your standard seed store.  Many unusual vegetables and recipes too.
I love the variety and descriptions of the seeds sold at  
Kitazawaseed Company

I have spinach and two types of lettuce started.
I'll have to go vertical if I plant all of these!

ITEM:  Seed #181
       True Watercress
       Cress, Watercress
PRICE: $3.49 ........................... qty 1:        $3.49

ITEM:  Seed #356
       Leisure Cilantro-Corriander
       Parsley, Chinese Parsley
PRICE: $3.49 ........................... qty 1:        $3.49

ITEM:  Seed #361
PRICE: $3.49 ........................... qty 1:        $3.49

ITEM:  Seed #372
       Green Boy, Hybrid
PRICE: $3.49 ........................... qty 1:        $3.49

ITEM:  Seed #154
       Taichung 11
PRICE: $3.49 ........................... qty 1:        $3.49

ITEM:  Seed #444
       Jeok Gat
       Mustard, Baby Leaf Mustard
PRICE: $3.49 ........................... qty 1:        $3.49


SUBTOTAL:                   $20.94
SHIPPING:                    $5.35
TOTAL:                      $26.29


If you visit my blog on a regular basis you have probably come to realize I don't just accept what I have heard on the internet.   I was told that I should be cautious about using Urea because it will continue to transform into Ammonia over time and that I might create an Ammonia time bomb.  The reasoning was that the Ammonia I measured one day may continue to increase due to previous applications weeks before, and I might find my Ammonia levels on a fast track to disaster.

I have also been adding fresh urine which I was told would act the same way.  So I did a test
On Sept 6th I mixed a 1% Ammonia solution using Urea.  One week later I saw no appreciable difference.  Today 14 days later I found the Ammonia level to be 4%.  So I now believe that Urea will continue to create Ammonia over time.
Urea test in back on left / System water test on right.

But I have been using Urine and Urea for several months now and my tests have never had the Ammonia 'Time Bomb' happen.   It may be that the levels I'm adding everyday are exactly what is being converted to Nitrite.

My conclusion is that Urea and possibly urine will continue to create Ammonia, but I don't see this as a reason to age the solution before adding it to a functioning aquaponic system.   But killing pathogens which even though they are not very likely to be present is a good reason.   The proper way to use urine is to store it in a sealed container for about six months.  As it ferments and turns urea to ammonia the pathogens will die. This process is described in this article

I have also been asked why I felt it necessary to add Ammonia to an aquaponic system.  That after all is what the fish are for and it seems to many that it would be detrimental to the fish. I don't believe it is if the Nitrification process is converting all the Ammonia.  I add the Ammonia because I'm still growing my fish population and the fish load is currently not supplying adequate Nitrate for the plants.

Veering off topic I would also like to add this:
Balancing the fish load hence the food loading of the system is an important topic which I will cover one day. But in short, media beds will supply a much better condition for Nitrification than a raft system while also supplying a place to grow at the same time.  I personally like rafts better, and therefore condone the use of moving bed filters which to many seems to circumvent the purpose of aquaponics.  It's just another hybrid system that when compared to media beds (also considered hybrid) provides both clean water to the fish and Nitrate to the plants.  The only disadvantage I see is that a solids filter is also required.  Otherwise the roots will become dirty and suffer from a lack of oxygen..

UPDATE: 12/23/2012
I have come to appreciate the simplicity of a media bed. Besides offering nitrification a 3/4" gravel bed will filter solids which would otherwise cling to the roots of plants in the rafts.  As my fish population and their overall size grew so did the sludge.   Cleaning my filters became an overwhelming choir. For more see Filtering Poo with Continous Flow Media Bed

Sunday, September 16, 2012

DIY LED Grow Lights

There are a number of problems associated with grow lights
  • Expensive to purchase
  • Require expensive ballasts
  • Expensive to operate
  • Short limited life spans
  • Hazardous materials
  • Fragile
  • Excessive heat
  • Limited K values
After quite a bit of investigation I have come to believe there are two types that stand out
  • Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH)
  • LED

Neither is cheap to purchase and at this time LED is very expensive, but I just found components to build your own LED light bar which exhibit none of the problems I've listed above!

A Standard LED Grow Light

The components to build and equivalent 400W 36000 lumen grow light at less than 1/2 the cost!

 To build the equivalent grow light would require one PCB and 40 LED Chips at a cost of about $100 plus some labor and a few items like Power supply, solder, wire and box.

This is just one of many LED K values that are available and a wider spectrum could be made by including other K valued LED Chips.

12V power supplies are very inexpensive thanks to the computer industry. 

Total cost about $200

While searching for your components you may find some bulbs are listed in 'mcd' rather than lumens.  Here is a converter calculator to help you design the grow light you wish to build. 

Coming Soon!  New LED technology

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Is Water Flushed From A Filter Better?

I've often heard people say water flushed from a filter is better for your plants. 
I wondered how true that is.  Is It higher in Nitrate?
Here's the test.
It's higher in some trace elements, but don't count on it for Nitrate.

The problem with dumping this on your terra-garden  is that this nutrients are lost from the aquaponic system.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fluidized Moving Bed Experiments

I was eagerly running the tests below when I started to explain my reasons for looking outside of conventional aquaponic methods to Rob Nash who questioned my reasoning. While writing I came full circle and saw that he was right. It comes down to adding more media beds not creating a great bio filter without plants 

I've been saying it's all about the Nitrates and began to see that as my primary goal. I kinda got off track, and lost focus from the real goal which is to provide Nitrates to as much high density growing space as possible.

I've got to quit thinking like an aquarium owner and more like a farmer. .But Moving Bed Filters have the place in aquariums and aquaculture.  I ended up using the test bottle in my aquarium as a vibration filter and I created this post anyhow since it might help someone else either avoid the derailed course I had set.

It might spark an idea that willl lead to a low cost replacement to the expensive alternatives.

Evaluation of Alternative Moving Bed Media 

This was my first test using pumice.  

Second test using climbing rope

Third test using a variety of media

This is my vibration filter. This 40 gallon tank needed a little more bio filtration. 

This bottle was left over from the moving bed media experiments and worked well.
It's a little too tall to place it in my sump, so it's in the aquarium.  
I got the basic idea for a vibration filter from TYNE VALLEY AQUATICS, but I added an air line to give it full aeration and a bit more shake.

Here's a design that looks promising

Friday, September 7, 2012


Here are a couple detailed descriptions of nitrification.
Nitrogen Cycle In Soil

and the video below
  Recently it was asked what happened to the Nitrate.  
I too wondered about this.  
This video will explain that phenomenon at about 10 minutes into the video. 

Bottom line for aquaponics is lots of air because we want the Nitrate.

or watch this

If you wish to watch one more with a humorous attitude I'd recommend this one ;-) 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fluidized Sand Filter using Airlift

Rob Nash asked me why I was doing this, I started to explain my reasons for looking outside of conventional aquaponic methods.  While writing I came full circle and saw that he was right.   It comes down to adding more media beds.  
I've been saying it's all about the Nitrates and began to see that as my primary goal.  I kinda got off track from the real goal which is to provide Nitrates to as much high density growing space as possible.
I've got to quit thinking like an aquarium owner and more like a farmer.

But I'll keep this post available because the mistakes I make are something others might be able to learn from.

I'm still playing around with ideas for a fluidized sand filter.  I would really like it to run on airlift.

Here's a concept drawing.   I have done some small scale experimenting, and I'm feeling like these concepts shown here may not work.  Joey's videos below demonstrate a proven system using both an air pump and a water pump.

* Further design has taken me away from Airlift Pumps and static bio filters, and into Moving Bed Filtration using an impeller pump. 

This idea may be a starting point for design, but my recent tests have shown that fluidization would be difficult to achieve as shown. 

Uaru Joey has a couple very good videos. 

Starting at 17:45 Joey talks about the amount of K-1 and other helpful specifications

Starting at 17:45 Joey talks about the amount of K-1 and other helpful specifications 

Here is a low cost filter I made as an experiment. 

I'll keep you updated.  I'd like to hear suggestion.
CLICK HERE for my Moving Bed Media experiments

Monday, September 3, 2012

Idea for Vertical Gardening

I just had an idea for Vertical Gardening! 
The strong fiberglass reenforced weed cloth could be sewn into a tube.  The bottom sewn shut as well. 
Then the tube is hung and filled with Perlite
Small holes can then be cut where you wish to insert plants.  

Water dripping from above keeps the vertical garden moist and a tub at the bottom collects the excess to be returned to the fish tank, or better yet just hang the tubes over the fish tank!

The cost would be extremely low.

Next best idea is to use Solid Drain Field pipe.
Here's my contractor prices in California for pipe.
4" Sch 40          - $2.12
4" class 200     - $1.95
4" Drain Field  - $0.74

6" Sch 40          - $3.68
6" Class 200     - $4.33
6" Drain Field  - $2.48
Traditionally the vertical tubes havebeen made of PVC

Wicking Pool

I've been designing a low cost system aiming  the lowest possible utility demand, and the best nitrification possible.
I have a theory that it's all about the nitrification and the production of Nitrate.  Nitrates make your plants thrive so let's make an abundance of it.

Your fish will love you for creating a pollution free tank for them to grow in, but it takes fish food and waste to bump the Nitrates up.  If the water remains clean the plant roots and your fish will be happy to eat all you can feed them.  Grow them out big and push the Nitrates!

Throughout the process I kept coming back to the basic above ground pool as a combination fish tank / grow bed / bio filter. It's big and cheap, and the cost of pumping will be reduced if the nutrients are allowed to circulate below the surface rather than vertically.

Solids extraction always seems to be a hangup with this idea.
So far I've only come up with two options - Scuds or a pool vacuum.

My best ideas for pure water seem to center around Moving Bed Filters. The main advantage is a smaller filter which will hopefully require a less powerful pump

Next problem is how to keep the roots safe from the fish?
So far Wicking Pots or a standard net pot raft with a screen attached to the bottom of the raft have been my best options.
James Troyer suggested to me that I could sew a basket from weed cloth and hang it in the water from PVC buoys.  This Wicking Basket would remain moist and the basket could be filled with compost to further enhance the grow media

Does any of this sound like the right direction?  This has become an obsession and is causing me to neglect my daily responsibilities.   But I keep thinking I'm getting so close. I often find myself justifying just one more experiment or research one more idea.  I'm finding it difficult to let go of this as I feel this is getting very close to the ultimate backyard system.

The perforated cylinder, barrel or IBC would be fed by an airlift pump, or air would be pumped under the media to maintain a flow.  This would create a large bio filter for the conversion of Ammonia to Nitrate.  I have begun experimenting with fluidized filters. So far this idea looks very promising.  I believe a well designed fluidized filter would drastically reduce the required volume of the bio filter.

My experiments with Airlift Pumps have been marginal and trying.  At this point I'm ready to go with an impeller pump.I believe the airlift pump requires more depth than the shallow depth of the pool allows.

Air stones would also be placed along the edge of the pool to further aerate the water where the fish would have full range of the pool.
The plants would be suspended on rafts which hold the media filled fabric 'Smart Pots' at the surface allowing them to wick water.

Total power used would be 1 - 50W 70 lpm air pump.
1 -  240W solar panel with battery storage and a 400W inverter would supply power 24/7.

Test results for a raft idea:
I filled a 10" pot with wet pumice.
The filled pot weighed 6Kg.
An 8" pot weighed 2.5Kg
6Kg should displace 600000 cubic mm.
I then floated the pot on a piece of foam insulation 1105mm X 457mm = 50490 sq mm.
As calculated about 11.9 mm was displaced.
Two pieces of 1-1/2" insulation bend a little but this confirms the displacement.

I calculated that a piece of foam about 15"x15" would displace about 1-1/2" for a 10" Smart Pot filled with wet pumice.  The raft could be covered with a wicking cloth or a hole could be made for the pot to set into and make contact with the water.  I imagine a few large rafts with several pots on each would be best to maintain stability and avoid tipping over.

One issue that may need to be addressed is solid waste removal.  I'm open to suggestions.
Possibly a pool vacuum would work.

1 - Above ground pool.  (Seasonally inexpensive in the fall.)   $200.00
1 - 70 Air pump                                                                   $70.00
1 -  Perforated container   (IBC)                                         $90.00
3 yards of media (Price varies)                                         $200.00
Rafts (2 sheets foam insulation? )                                    $70.00
Smart Pots                                                                        $150.00
Total                                                                                   $780.00

Solar panel
Charge controller

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Alternative Water Pumps

The Spiral Pump aka Wirtz Pump might be an alternative for those looking to pump water using wind, solar or water flow from a stream.

The Spiral Pump requires very little energy, and can utilize various methods of mechanical energy
The pump takes advantage of the entrapped air to achieve remarkable head pressure.
Unlike a Ram Pump, this pump is quiet and very simple.

Another pump worth looking at is the Geyser Pump. aka Airlift Pump

Calculations for Airlift Pumps can be found starting on page 50 of this PDF from Kieth Tatjana

A simple spreadsheet for Airlift Pumps

This is my quick Geyser Pump

Several days later I added a check valve as seen in the videos below.  I pumped 4 lpm of air into the airlift pump and got almost as much water back out in return!   70 lpm in may not deliver the same results, but I will post the results when and if I get around to making that test.

Here's another method - the Airlift Pump

Another look at the Glenn Martinez Airlift Pumps

AquaLab: Ex 06 Airlift pump experiment demo

Skip Kemp has more aquaculture videos that you may find interesting

But this may be my favorite! 

Real Pit Bull Demo

This Wiki Link shows many types of pumps.
I am a little disappointed they did not include the Tesla Turbine