Sunday, 10 March 2013

Just an Update

 I didn't do anything last week apart from feeding the fish. So here is an update of what an aquaponics system can achieve in just one week time.

The mint bush is conquering half of the bed, again. So I will trim it today or tomorrow.

And the cucumber gone mad!

...and we will be enjoying the fruit of our labour (yeah I worked 'really hard' to grow this :p) soon

Sunday, 3 March 2013

I'm Back

Hello again peeps! I'm sorry for not updating for so long. The company I worked with just gone bust so I was busy closing my work as well as worrying what I'm going to do next. For now, I'm all free with nothing to do all day so I'll start updating my progress on here again.

6 weeks isn't it? yup just over 6 weeks...a very long time in aquaponics. Take a look at what my growbed has turned into...

This was actually after a few harvests of the mint. I also harvested the Selom for the first time yesterday. Here is the Selom trying to fight its way in the mint bush..

On the other side of the growbed, the Selom is marking its territory.

The cucumber however prefers to grow away from home, getting as much sunlight as it could. I'm using dried coconut leaves as a trellis for it to hang on to.

Best of all, it is flowering...a lot!

When growing sideways is just not the way, noticed the cucumber refused to grow on the wooden part to the table? This is because the wood is treated with chemicals, so no matter how I tried to make it hang on to it, it will always find another way to grow.

The Ulam Raja seeds and Bird's Eye chilli seeds are sprouting. I will remove some of it to give more growing space.

The Red Chilli however is not doing well. This picture was taken over a month ago after a not-so-torrential rain. It got flatten because the hydroton can't provide enough counter weight at the root. So, I tied a string to it for support. The leaves are all huge but showing deficiency. The only plant in the bed that didn't get enough nutrient, heavy feeder this. Even the cucumber, which has leaves three times the size of the chilli's didn't show nutrient deficiency.

It is also got seriously attacked by aphids especially on the flower buds. Luckily there is a colony of ants living in the growbed helping me to control the pest. Now it is almost aphids free so here we can see the buds are out again

Some of the fish showing symptoms of bacterial infection on their skin. Since almost half of the fish have the symptoms, I decided to get an aquarium and transfer the sick ones into it. This picture was taken after a week. The fish eat less but they are showing signs of recovery. I will keep them in there for another few weeks.

I also changed 2/3 of the water in tank. As for the fish in the tank, one tilapia and one Kelah is dead. The tilapia was dead before the water change probably due to the infection and the Kelah died after. I think it was stressed out from the process as well as missing its friend because I moved one into the aquarium. Should have moved both....

Below is the Passion Fruit I planted on the ground by the fence. We are having renovation so I moved it into the pot.

I just can't wait for this renovation work to finish. I can already imagine a new aquaponics project here...

Sunday, 20 January 2013

New Plants on the Bed

It has been raining all day over the weekend so nothing much can be done outside. It was a very lazy weekend for me. I planned to change the water in the tank but decided later that it is not necessary. The fish, despite all the symptoms, are still swimming happily with no sign of dying. So I figured, if they are happy I should leave them alone... at least if they die, they die in happiness....yes.

The seeds, well only the cucumber sprouted. The parsley seeds just rot in the pot so I threw it away. The cucumber is growing very fast. For a first few days there was like nothing happening and then suddenly one morning there was 2 inches of sprout already in the pot. The next day it double the length and by Saturday, got to 6 inches. So I moved it all including the pot into the grow bed. I don't want to the disturb the new roots so until it established itself with many more leaves I will leave it in the pot.

The fish is used to the new diet now. However since the pellet size is smaller than the previous one, they need to eat more so the food is depleting pretty fast. I notice some changes in the plants. The chilli I got  from a project by my wife's student a few weeks back now has slowly change its colour to green. It was yellow before and doesn't look it is going to live. So, positive result after changing the fish's diet so far. Hopefully this is not just a placebo effect....further observation will be done until I am satisfied that the food is actually playing a role here.

And finally, my wife bought a bunch of Selom (Water Dropwort/ Water Parsley) from the wet market. It was pretty hard to get it so I'm very happy. After sorting I managed to get a few cutting which already have some roots. I planted it around the mint bush. Hopefully it will grow well and provide us with endless supply of fresh leafy goodness.

Monday, 14 January 2013

4th Month Update

Today, my system reached 4 months old. A Tilapia died yesterday, one of the bigger ones, for no apparent reason. I was worried about my Koi because I noticed what seems to be haemorrhaging near the gill area. So I googled and found what could be a VHS infection. VHS or Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia is a viral infection that affect fresh water fish and there is no remedy for it yet. Infected fish can only be isolated and monitored as there is a chance of survival. From wikipedia, the symptoms of VHS are haemorrhaging to of internal organs skin and muscle. Some fish shows NO EXTERNAL SYMPTOMS. Others might show sign of infection from bulging eyes, bloated abdomens, bruised looking reddish tints to the eyes, skin, gills and fins. This is actually how most fish especially Tilapia in my tank look like.

Look at the bulging eye, bruised/ reddish around it

Recalling the dead Koi last week, there is a yellow mucus on the snout and bright red gill...found out that that is a secondary infection caused by Septicemia. The bright red gill is also found on the Koi I inspected last Saturday. This is really sad. I think I brought in the infection from the newly bought fish as the virus can be transmitted through infected water. I just pour in the water from the bag into my tank. BIG mistake and lesson learned. Next weekend I will clean the tank as much as I can with bleach and hopefully the remaining fish will survive the ordeal. This would also mean killing the bacteria in the grow bed.....dilemma!

Anyway, on the growbed things are going well for the mint. It is growing wild. Look at the picture and compare it from my last post. The matured leaves are almost 3 finger size wide!

The seeds however haven't germinate at all so I made a new plan. Checkout below picture:

I re-sown the parsley but not the coriander and rosemary. On the other pot is cucumber seeds, I think from the Japanese variety. The water is fish water from the tank. I found that the LECA has a very excellent water pulling efffect (can't remember the correct term :o) ) so the seeds will be kept moist with that little water at the base. I put this on the window sill at my kitchen so it can get fresh air and light. Give this a week and see what happen.

One more thing, since I'm having a little problem with iron deficiency  in the growbed, I decided to change the food for the fish! AHA! surprise surprise. I thought by feeding the fish with food that has high iron content should also benefit the plant from the leftovers. So I looked for such feed and found this:

Spirulina based fish food! Spirulina is know to have high iron content, also magnesium among others. Price per kg is RM23 which should last for a month, give and take. I just started the new diet yesterday. Still too early for anything but I'm really eager to see if this will work.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Another Death

Last Thursday my wife called me as I was about to leave my office around 6.15pm. She told me one of the fish is dead. "A white fish" as she told me so I thought it must be of of those tilapia. When I got home my son already fished it out of the tank, it has been discoloured and dry a bit and does look like a tilapia. On closer inspection I found the mouth does not look like a tilapia and there is a yellow spot on the snout. I don't recall any of my tilapia has yellow spot there. It was dark so I just checked the tank for any more dead fish as well as any thing unusual or out of place. All seems find so I dismissed the case as another "normal" death.

Saturday morning I did a head count on the fish and found 8 tilapias still swimming happily. Well the dead fish is not a tilapia after all. It was one of my Koi. The dead one is the golden white Koi. Cause of death is still unknown. Will look for replacement Koi as this fish add colours to the tank.

In another uninteresting news, the seeds I sown haven't show any positive result, yet. I will try another plant this weekend if the condition were not improved.

Monday, 31 December 2012

New Plants and Pre-Filter Repacked

Happy new year peeps! I'm having another long weekend, until tomorrow to be exact. So I use the opportunity to clean and repack my filter. I found the filter is too dirty about a month ago but purposely leave it to let more waste into the grow bed in the hope that it will do good to the plant. I didn't see any significant result on that so today I decided to clean the filter.

I turned the pump off and drained the filter. It was pretty easy to clean the filter media, I just hosed it down and all the waste washed off. However the fine filter media is very easy to damage so I need to be gentle a bit while cleaning it. I didn't really pay much attention in cleaning the filter body/ bucket as to me it is not really important for it to be sparkling clean on the inside.

After cleaning the filters, I filled the bottom with the leftover pebbles. I didn't to this before so the coarse filter (I put coarse filter in first at the bottom) drooped over the upside down strainer letting the waste through it. Then, I put a layer of LECA just for the sake of it and repack the filter, coarse in first, then medium and followed by fine at the top. A bag of coral bits and LECA completed the the filter. Hopefully this time I do not need to clean the filter ever again.

Next, I sown some herbs seeds in the grow bed. This time I'm using the seeding pots to avoid the seeds from being washed off into the fish tank. The herbs are coriander, rosemary and parsley. I'm not sure about the coriander and rosemary, but parsley should do very well from my experience with the variant from my previous post. If this fail to grow then I will try tomato next.

This is the mint I planted a few weeks ago. The one in the grow bed is growing better then the one planted in the strawberry planter that I didn't use to plant strawberry.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

LECA @ Hydroton @ Hydrokorrel

It was a long Christmas holiday and finally we can visit my wife's parents in Kuala Lumpur. It has been 4 month since we last visited them. Of course I've been waiting for this moment to get the thing that I've longing for all this while, the Hydroton@LECA! I went to Selangor Green Lane to get it. It is actually just 20 minutes away from my in law's house. If you want to go there, find Jalan Sungai Buloh on the map or on satnav (GPS nav) if you have one. It will be on your right (u turn is required) if you are coming from Damansara towards Bandar Sungai Buloh. I went straight to Lot 19 (Wellgrow Horticultural) as a friend told me he got it there for RM70 per 50L bag. More about the Green Lane here:

I was in a hurry so I didn't spend much time there. I got the LECA for RM65 without haggling (I'm not that good at haggling anyway) so I bought 2 bags. Each bag weight about 20kg and for 50L, it is A LOT! and really cheap too as compared to the pebbles I used in the grow bed. 

It was imported from Holland so I think for RM65 per bag is really a bargain. DO NOT USE PEBBLES people as this this stuff from Holland is cheaper and waaaaayyyyy better!

Fresh from the bag, the LECA are covered in orange dust so it need to be wash until the water runs clear. It won't take very long, trust me. Much easier than washing the pebbles. They are very light and easy to manage.

I removed about 3/4 of the pebbles and let about 1-2 inches of pebbles at the bottom, about the same level of the water left when the syphon cut off. I left the some of the pebbles because I don't want to destroy the bacteria colony already in there, to give head start for the LECA. This 'upgrade' will set my system back a bit and I can't wait to see how long will it take for the system to mature - again.

One bag filled almost 3/4 of the grow bed. If you read my first post, the equivalent pebbles would already cost me more than RM130!

1/3 of the second bag filled the grow bed easily. So I still left with plenty of LECA for my next project. 

Some of the pebbles are used to make a stand in the fish tank for Tom (the turtle) to rest. He has been floating in the tank for more than 3 month, so now he is happy to lay his feet on a hard surface again.

Why LECA you may ask. Here is what I see/ learnt from this experience:
1) can be cheaper than pebbles
2) lighter (duh!)
3) easier to manage
4) retain moisture longer - those pebbles dried out almost immediately after removed from the bed
5) porous - more surface for bacteria to grow. Pebbles are just 'rock solid' internally.

1) It can float away, so beware.
2) heavy plant may be uprooted in strong wind/ stormy weather as the light aggregate can't give enough support - note: need to support plant in the future

What else I did....oh yes I added new member into the fish tank, two Kelah (Mahseer). Kelah is a really famous river fish in Malaysia and could fetch hundreds of ringgit per kg. It is a fighter and when grew in an aquarium/ tank is known to swim majestically, proud fish this. Got it for RM6.50 per fish at an aquarium shop near my in law's house. About two-finger size. Finally, I harvest the last of my pak choi. I'm gonna try something else next, given two weeks for my system to get back on track.