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.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Third Month Update

My system reached 3 months old last Friday. And I made my first harvest of pak choi! The feeling is just unbelievable because I barely look after it, I just feed the fish. If I were to plant it conventional way, on the ground, I probably won't be able to harvest yet, or worse even grow it. I'm glad I didn't hesitate to start this project. Now I can't wait for the fish to grow to a palatable size!

As you can see there in the grow bed, I just planted the mint given by my mom and daun sup (daun saderi), a species of parsley. What you can see is what it has become after just a week in the bed. I planted it from root cutting leftover from our kitchen. I also planted spring onion but it is on the far right of the bed and refused to enter the frame, a bit shy maybe...and look at my kesum, finally no more white and dead young leaves. Amazing really.

How about the fish? they all are doing just fine in the tank. Getting fresh water from the rain everyday. In fact, ever since I started this project I changed the water only once on week one because it was too smelly. Never see any reason to change the water till date.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Nutrients and Plants

I'm a bit busy (again) this week (but who doesn't?). Nothing special is done to my system during the weekend as I was away to pick up my kids at my mom's place. My mom gave me a bunch of mint to be planted and so I divided it into a few cuttings and one cutting goes into the grow bed. The others I planted in my special strawberry planter which I didn't use to plant strawberry.

Anyway the reason for this post is to share what I found on the internet. I've been googling about nutrient for plants as my pak choi has difficulty to get green leaf, despite healthy. Look what I found from a company that supplies fertilizers in the US (NACHURS): about NITROGEN

"Nitrogen serves as the source for the dark green color in the leaves of various crops. This is a result of a high concentration of chlorophyll.  Nitrogen combined with high concentrations of chlorophyll utilizes the sunlight as an energy source to carry out essential plant functions including nutrient uptake."

There you have it. Looks like my system is still not mature enough as the plants show difficulty to get greener leaf.

"Nitrogen deficiency shows up in the yellowing or chlorosis of the plant leaves.  The yellowing will start in the oldest leaves, and then will proceed to develop on younger leaves if the deficiency continues."

My system don't have the above problem, so the level of insufficiency of nitrogen could be low. A good guide for those into gardening and have no idea what is going on in their plants: Micronutrient Deficiencies

And the role of micronutrients.

Hope this'll help.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Pak Choi Update

Look at this!

as compared to my post over 2 weeks ago  HERE. However, the leaves are not green despite looking healthy...what is wrong?

Oh and yes you might notice the kesum changed place. Actually the replanted ones are having the same problem as the first batch. So I replanted again. The seeds provided by my mom didn't germinate at all. Weird. So I'm gonna try again.

Monday, 26 November 2012

What I Think...

Over two month now, I think I should document what I have done right and what is done wrong...I think.

Done right...I think:

  1. Stones in the fish tank - I put white stones in the fish tank because my tank is black so I can't clearly see the darker fish. It is similar to what I use in the grow bed, only much bigger in size. The stones promote phytoplankton (green algae) growth providing more food for the fish. It also provide place for nitrosomonas bacteria to hang out which helps breaking the waste that settled at the bottom of the tank. Seeing the fish nibble on the stones is common in my system.
  2. Pump with variable pressure - with no experience, you might need to experiment on water in and water out from the grow bed to get the automatic syphon working, this kind is invaluable.

Done wrong...I think:

  1. Fish count - I should have bought more fingerling when I started this project. They will provide more waste to the grow bed thus could mature it faster. However when the fish grew, I might need to move them into separate tank(s) to avoid over crowd. Less/ smaller fish caused slower grow bed maturity.
  2. Different kind of fish - weeelll this could be right depending on what you have in mind, and that was on my mind too when I first planned this. I want a mix of edible fish and ornamental fish at the same time. But I found out that some fish should never be mixed. Tilapia can be gruesome at times, especially on weak and smaller fish. DON'T mixed them unless with bigger fish. They even nibble on my one year old son's fingers when he put his hand in the tank.
  3. Pre filter - I should have wait for the grow bed to mature because of (1) above. Then only it is suitable to start using pre filter.
  4. Using pebbles in grow bed - you might found many people using pebbles with no problem. BUT it actually depends on where you live AND where you set up your system at home. I live in tropical country, we get over 300 days of sunlight a year and my system is exposed to the sun from as early as 7 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon. The sun goes down around 7. Imagine how hot the pebbles is going to get even with shades.
That is all I can think of for now. I will update this post when I can think of something else.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Patin Extinct

While feeding my fish this morning before I left for work, I noticed the white patin is lifeless at the bottom of the tank. It was still alive yesterday evening but refused to surface to feed which I thought unusual. So there must be a disease or something that only affect this kind of fish. Patin has smooth skin unlike other fish in the tanks, the others are scaly type. I'll check the tank thoroughly today to see if there is any abnormality to the other fish. No more patin left. Farewell my friend.

UPDATE 21/11/12: I checked the tank yesterday and found nothing is wrong. However one of the Koi has two grey spots on its back, not sure if it is infection or just the natural colour of the scale. I will monitor that one closely.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Amazing Growth and Another Death

I think I'm gonna dump that shitty blogger app. This is the second time I need to type my post again. I made an entry last night but the app hanged on publishing until now and I can't recover the post.

AAaannyway...I'm glad to announce that the plants are all growing at a really amazing rate, especially the pak choy. 2 weeks in the bed and their size is equal to the 2 months old pak choy I planted when I first started this project. Check it out!

HOWEVER on Saturday morning I discovered my patin is dead. It died and got sucked by the pump thus the exposed gut. Other than that this fish looks fine to me so I can't determine the cause of death. It didn't show any sign of dying at all.  Probably it missed its friend that died last week.

Rest in piece my friend (even though if you grow I'm gonna eat you somehow you are still my friend).

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Is it two month already?

Yes. How time flies. I was so busy with work last week to even do anything on my system...other than feeding the fish. It was raining in the evening till night all week long. The monsoon season is finaly here. Monsoon means none stop torential rain like the in the Forest Gump.
Anyway. Saturday morning was sunny so I fed my fish like the usual. I noticed my red tailed patin is swimming alone. There are two of them and they normally swim together. I checked the tank, the pump, ever nooks and cranies can't see any dead fish. I thought they escaped through the overflow hole so I cut a little piece of stainless steel net I have in my store room and jammed it down the hole. Done. But wait. What is that white thingy between the rocks? See for yourself. Devastated really to find only bones left. I have no idea when it died. The rain might probably save the others from ammonia poisoning. Lucky.
Further checking only to find another tilapia is missing. Probably dead too. One of those smaller ones. So total fish dead to date is three. 16 fish left.
System update at 2 month. Algae seems to be under control. The fish really like them. Water does not smell thanks to the rain. The kesum I replanted last week is doing well. The same goes to pak choy. Their growth rate was amazing as compared to the first batch of pak choy. Sign of grow bed matured maybe? And their leaves are green too! I found something is eating the kesum and pak choy leaves. I caught the bugger ref handed the next day. Now he is fish food...
Looking at the system, I regained confident and sown a few ocra and cucumber seeds directly in the grow bed. I also sown kailan in my seeding pots as their seeds are too small. All seeds courtesy of my mom.

Update 14/11/12: Wow I really have to proof read before posting using my blogger app. Even the pictures are tilted :p...

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Re-Planted Kesum & Pak Choy

It was raining in the evening for over a week now. The fish get fresh water everyday and they look happy but not my kesum. All the leaves turned brown despite the cool weather. So yesterday I pulled all of them out. To my surprise they even grow new leaves under the surface, in between the pebbles! But somehow still failed to grow green.

I replanted the kesum just now. I planned to do it in the evening if it is not raining but it rained and just stopped. I replanted my 3 weeks old pak choy too. Hopefully they will survive this time.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

D.E.A.D Kesum!

I came back from Eid holiday only to find my kesum leaves brown and black. It seems to only affect young leaves. Sad day indeed. I pulled out one kesum to check the root, it is rooting all right but doesn't look happy. I replanted it in a pot.
My only pak choy on the other hand is growing but the leaves are yellowish. Still a long way to go for me and this project...

Eid-ul-Adha Break

It was Eid-ul-Adha holiday last weekend so I went back to my home town, to my mom and dad, to where my heart belong *cough* *cough* LOL. It is true...I'm not lying. And so there was I from Friday to Monday recalling childhood memories, meeting old friends and devouring my mom's home cook meal. Ask any man (or woman) and they will tell the same thing.

I enjoyed going back home because my mom is a 'plant whisperer'. Anything that she put in the ground will grow, as she would say 'bukannya susah nak tanam, campak je mesti tumbuh' (it is just easy to grow, just throw the seed and it will grow). Gardening is just so easy for her even on a sterile soil. So, I got my supply of fresh veggies and seeds every time I was there. Anyway, words can't describe it better than picture, so enjoy these pictures taken during the holiday...

The Sireh (Betel)

Limau Purut (Kaffir Lime)

Pisang (banana) IForgotTheName - hehehe. The 'heart' of the fruit (that purple coloured part) can be cut off if you want less but bigger banana. The heart can be boiled and eaten as a side dish/ salad, considered as delicacies around this region.

Limau Kasturi (Calamondin)

Kacang Botol (Winged Bean? Heh can't find a better name aren't cha) flower and young fruit

Kacang Botol

A tiny part of the backyard

One of the few durian trees at the backyard

The young leaves of Gajus (Cashew) are eaten raw as salad during meal. Do not eat it on its own because it has slight tannin that will make your throat sore afterwards.

Various plants and veggies in front of the house. Note the soil, I can't get anything to grow on that! See the lemon grass growing at the back there, and those plants on the ground...those are not grass but is either leafy veggies or sweet potatoes.

Bunga Telang. Used in the famous kelantanese nasi kerabu. This flower is boiled with rice so that the colour of the rice will change to purplish blue. Most people use colouring nowadays.

The Pandan Leaves

The Ciku (Sapodilla). I just found out that this fruit and the cashew above is not actually native to Malaysia! Both are originated from Mexico and the surrounding region, how it ends up here....duh! my mom grow it of course!

The Ciku fruit, don't touch that latex if you don't want sticky fingers afterwards...or stained clothes.

Damaged by fruit flies.

If the stem refused to snap or too hard to snap like this one, it is probably still too young to get ripen. To confirm it is good, brush off that brown spotted skin, if it is brownish green then it is good for ripening process.

Notice the long grass in the picture above this one? During rainy season, there is always one creature lurking for food in there; the leeches! There are two types commonly found here, the one that got on me is the 'dry' type which lives on land called the 'pacat', the other one lives in water called the 'lintah'. This blood sucker injected a blood thinning agent into our blood stream so it is easier for them to suck the blood out. After they are done, the wound will keep on bleeding for more than an hour before it stop. And if you are lucky, it will itch for a few days....not nice leech, not nice at all!

To clean and prep the ciku for ripening process, put them in water and scrub the surface of the fruit lightly with a brush or the abrasive side of a sponge. Traditionally we used coconut fiber. After cleaning, rinse the water and leave the fruit in it for an hour...or so. 

Rinse the water and let them dry. Set them somewhere cool and dry to ripen, ideally wrap them separately in a newspaper. Do not put them in a covered container as the fruit sweat a lot. They will smell sweet and turn brownish and soft when the ripen.  

There are many plants/ trees I didn't mention here. Too many off them even I didn't know/forgot their names and their use. If you can come home to something like these, give yourself a pat in the back because not many people can have this kind of experience. We are just the lucky ones ;D