Justin sent me a link to yet ONE MORE method of creating Bio-Char.
This method may produce something different than the charcoal I used in my experiment. In the video above at 7:15 Dr. Hugh McLaughlin shows the super fragile nature of the Bio-Char made using his method. The difference I see between his system and others is the insulation from an outer barrel creates a higher temperature burn. The other videos below don't appear to show the end product as being this fragile, and Dr. McLaughlin seems to make the point about only the mere wisp of the wood remaining. I can tell you this is much different than the Lazzari Charcoal I bought. But I don't know which is better as a grow media. This looks like it would turn to dust if you tryed to plant in it.
Ditectly below is a presentation by Peter Hirst of New England Biochar, I'm willing to believe he knows what he's talking about, but still wonder if this process might be too fragile for aquaponic grow media
Today (12/28/2012) I purchased 40# of 100% Natural Mesquite Charcoal, and built a small system
Below is my experiment. In the video I refer to a post on my blog. This is the post I refereed to.
|5 days later|
The water's pH went from 6.8 to 8.0 when I added the charcoal. I'll leave the pH alone until this little system is cycled. 24 hours after adding the first dose of humonia the ammonia remains unchanged at 1.0 ppm.
After some research I found several posts and sites I would like to share with you about this ancient soil-building method .
This first video is less than 3 minutes long and describes the benefits and history
Here is a quotes from a forum on AquaponicsNet
charcoal in my grow beds since I started doing AP about 4 years ago. I have posted on the old forum about it. I buy cheap bags of charcoal sold for barbecue fuel. It is natural charcoal, no additives. In various sized lumps.I have been using
I decided to try it after seeing a Chinese aquarium shop using lumps of charcoal in their fish tanks and claiming it was very beneficial beyond its known role as a filter medium.
I used about half and half, charcoal and gravel (the stuff sold here to make concrete) and have also mixed it with Hydroton ( a bit scarce here )
The results have been very good. Water quality has always been good and after two years, excavated a grow bed to find everything fairly clean. There has been very little breakdown of the charcoal. I imagine that some black fine particles have made their way through to the bottom of the GB but I notice there is more sediment from the clay balls and from fish food or solid waste than there ever is from the charcoal.
So, from my experience, I would say go ahead and try charcoal. It is light and easier to clean than gravel and should be cheaper if you can find a source. Easy to find here as all the Chinese supermarkets sell huge bags of it.
Lastly, I have found that charcoal placed around the base of plants helps to keep away slugs and snails. I guess they don't like the surface, a bit like in a dirt garden you can use ash around plants to keep snails off.
I haven't tried 100% charcoal as a medium, simply because the charcoal I get is very irregular in size and shape so I usually throw it into the GB first and put gravel or clay on top. Some of the charcoal tends to find its way to the surface eventually though.
I will be trying a charcoal trickle filter soon as I have a couple of spare 100 litre barrels that contained pool chlorine. I think charcoal should make an excellent filter.
PS I'm not an expert on this so if anyone has good reasons why charcoal shouldn't be used or bad experiences, please post.
Way back when I first started into AP I made up a charcoal filter by filling a 20 ltr plastic drum with charcoal from the hardware store.
After a few months it became really blocked with solids.
It did a super job of filtering.
I have often intended to make a very large one to add into the loop just before the water enters back into the fish tank, a kind of trickling charcoal filter, but have not got around to doing it.
Adding it to the GB's as Dave and Ian have done is something I had not considered.
I believe it would be an excellent thing to do.
Dave has clocked up a few years of operational experience using it in his beds so it a reasonable proposition that it can be used with confidence.
(soon there will be biochar manufacturing plants in backyards across the globe)
To begin you may wish to watch this very simple demonstration before watching the next videos which take the production of Bio-Char to a higher level. Bryan McGrath offers some good advice at the end of video about adding microbes.
Byran's other videos also appear to be very interesting and worthy of the time it takes to watch them
Each of these methods differ slightly. Each video below is is just a little more complex than the last.
This video shows in good detail a more sophisticated method which uses a retort process to produce even more Bio-Char using the heat from the TLUD (Top Lift Up Draft). .
This site offers an excellent video about making Bio-Char using a rocket stove. It's called Hornito, and it has the ability to continuously make batches of Bio-Char without stoping.
Unfortunately he offers no plans and has failed to reply to many requests for more information. But putting together our knowledge of Rocket Mass Stoves I believe we have enough information to duplicate this highly efficient process.