Sunday, March 16, 2014

Building a Greenhouse Post #5 - Aquaponic tank is stocked and working !

Installation of the Aquaponic System in the Greenhouse

Hi

What a weekend! First off I want to thank my friend ARM for being a good sport and going to the boonies with me to work hard. To be truthful, he is a fish fanatic and an obsessed gardener so when I asked if he wanted to visit a fish farm, finish setting up the tank and put the plants in, it was a resounding yes! 

Saturday morning we went to the fish farm in Elk Grove, out on the delta, to pick up my baby catfish. http://freshwaterfishco.com/ They are a commercial fish company that raises everything from Sturgeon to Crayfish and are open to the general public only for 3 hours on 1 Saturday a month. It was a fish fiends folly - and Anthony was in awe wandering around and looking in every tank. They were the nicest people there  and said he could go look at the big fish out in the field tanks as well. 
Anthony trying to figure out how to get all of them home!

Baby Red-eared sunfish
I needed really tough fish so I went with the channel catfish fingerlings. (If you have fished at all, you know these guys are the iron men of the fresh water fish world.) The man at the place said I could hold 50 in my tank, but I just got 25 to start, along with food and duck weed. We took them to the house and starting hooking everything together to get the water flowing. My original plan was to do all of this 2 weeks ago before the fish got there, but the Casey got sick;  which meant we had to do everything this weekend. 
First we had to get the top grow bed in position and stable and get the water moving from it to the bottom grow bed. That bottom bed is where the siphon drains the water back to the fish tank. One issue is that my pump at 264 GPH is actually not strong enough to get enough water through the hose and up to the beds in the amount that I want, leaving the bottom bed drier than I would like.  I need to get a bigger pump and replace it. 
Top grow bed draining to the bottom one

The whole system in view

Then we built a "raft" for the top bed to float the lighter weight lettuce and spinach plants. Anthony was helpful here by cutting out the holes to hold the flow-through plastic pots.
ARM cutting out holes in the raft

Raft with baby plants in place

Then the fish went in along with the duckweed. Duckweed is a water plant that will help suck ammonia out of the tank until it cycles enough to stabilize. Another benefit is that it keeps the water temperature down and believe me that greenhouse was warm! Even with all the ventilation it was at least 80 degrees in there. So I plugged a fan into the solar panel as well and there is more than enough power coming from that panel to run the pump and fan. Really amazing!
The most frustrating thing is that automatic fish feeder I bought. Really hard to program and I hope the thing works!
Here is the final product along with a video of it working.. 
Final Setup
Video clip - that is Anthony and I in the window reflection..

We finally got some rain and that means the flowers are starting to bloom! Here are a couple pictures of my favorites from this weekend.


Lupine - very small but it has been a rough year!

Poppy - just the most gorgeous color!
Thanks everyone and I hope next weekend when I go back everything is still alive....my goal is to be able to eat something!

Julie