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

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Flood and Drain Timing

I didn't do much on my system last weekend. As you might already know, my plants are not doing very well....yet. So I decided to experiment with the flood and drain timing. Since my current setup is using the pump at minimum setting, my maximum timing is fixed at about a minute or so. From my last post, I've shown how I increased the timing by drilling tiny holes on the pump outlet pipe. I managed to get 2.5 minutes out of that.

So last weekend I make the holes a bit bigger and manages to get 4 minutes for flood and drain, about 50 seconds of that is the drain cycle. Not satisfied, I drilled 2 new holes using a 5mm drill bit and the inevitable happened. The syphon action didn't happen and the equilibrium flow is achieved. This is not good. From this experience I learned that to get a positive syphon kicking in every time, the water rate flowing in must ALWAYS be more than the water rate flowing out. Otherwise the water will just flow continuously from the the stand pipe without the syphon action.

I was lucky because my pump has the variable flow setting. So I increased the flow rate to about a quarter and the syphon is back in action again. This time I get 1 minute for drain and 6 minutes for flood, a total of 7 minutes duty cycle. I just leave it at that for now and see how the plants doing in the next couple of weeks.

I also forgot to mention that I sown 4 pak choys and 4 lettuces in a soil in a separate seeding pot last week. The pak choys are already sprouting but not the lettuces. So I did a bit of googling and found that lettuce will have small to no chances at all to grow at temperature above 27 degree Celsius. At 27C, it will flower faster so less leafy. Ideal temperature would be from 22 to 25C. As from my previous post, the ambient temperature around my grow bed at noon is about 34C! So it is not going to happen. I was thinking probably I can grow lettuce inside my house where it is colder or wait for monsoon season where temperature will drop to between 24 to 30C. I'm sceptical that it will grow but I'm going to try anyway when the time is right.

Sorry no picture this time folks!

UPDATE: Last night I heard the water flowing continuously into the fish tank. So I checked it in the morning and found that the water is flowing in equilibrium again. It seems that the water inlet flow rate is slower than before. I don't have time to check why, so I just increased the pump flow rate a bit and the problem is gone. Will check it again tonight.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Update at 1 Month

It has been a month since I started this project so over the weekend I decided to gather some "data" from my system. I still think that I don't need to use the test kits to check the water condition. I'm not sure about the cost of those kits but for now I would rely on my senses (see and smell...no I'm not going to taste anything... yet).

First, the fish. I got one dead tilapia on week 2, that is basically it. the remaining fish are extremely healthy, and eat normally. I feed them twice a day. The water is not smelly even if I put my nose really close to the water surface. I think that shows the ammonia level is very low in the water, a condition which we want to achieve in aquaponics.

The plants however is not doing very well. My kesum has yellowish young leaves on week three. This week I realized the young leaves has turned brown and some are dead. This is not good. I don't know what is wrong. My friend suggest the system is not fully mature yet, I think he is right. The fish apparently does not produce enough waste for the plant or the bacteria is not fully colonized the grow bed yet. So there is not enough nitrates for the plant to grow healthily. My pak choy on the other hand...well...only one left. My fault! I have to admit I was too eager to move the pak choy sprout. I should have wait until they are about 2-3 inches high before I move them. I moved them too early (I want to arrange them in the bed) and all has dies except one. The One is showing food deficiency too.

I took a temperature reading on the grow bed. This is not the pebbles' temperature. The pebbles are pretty cold actually because the fish water helps cool it down. The fish water is very chilly! The temperature is ambient, probably the highest temperature for the day (note the time is almost 2pm). My watch also showing rain is coming, it rained cats and dogs at 3pm that day.

This is another modification I made to the pipe. I found that my water pump is too powerful, it can fill my grow bed in about a minute on minimum setting. So I drilled some tiny holes on the pipe near the pump end to release some water pressure and now it took almost 2 minutes to fill the bed. The flood and drain cycle now is about 2.5 minutes. I searched info on ideal cycle timing but I found no concrete evident of a good timing. Most people that use timer flood their bed at least 4 times a day for 15 minutes each. For automatic syphon like mine, most say they don't really care about the timing because frequent flood and drain actually introduce more oxygen for the roots. Also, I only use one pump with no bubbler in the fish tank. I have to keep my pump on 24/7 for the fish. This modification also introduce an underwater current in the tank. The fish like it, they keep swimming in and out of the current, good exercise! the current also helps feed the pump with waste as it moves along clockwise in the tank.

So, I put another month for the system to fully mature. By then the fish would grow bigger and produce more waste, hopefully the plants could get what they want.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Pre Filter Part II

I went for a job interview in the afternoon today and came home early. On the way home I kept thinking about the interview, somehow I think I flunked it. So I decided to finish my pre filter just to feel good again.

On my way home I stopped at the hardware shop to get some parts. My friend told me I should use a check valve to avoid the water in the filter from getting back into the tank when the pump is off. It is a one way valve and the hardware shop is selling it for RM20 a piece. Made of brass. I think I'm gonna pass it this time.

I bought a T instead. I replace the elbow in the filter with the T as in the picture below. I turned off the pump and guess what? It worked! The T broke off the syphon pressure and prevent the back flow. For RM1 the problem is solved.

Don't jump for joy yet for this solution is not 100% fool proof. If the filter get clogged, the pressure under the filter will increase causing the water to spill out from the top of the T. I can use this as indication for dirty filter! So when water spilled out I need to do the back flush to clean the filter. Brilliant!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Prefilter for Grow Bed

I wrote this post last night but there is something wrong with my blogger apps, so I have to type it again. I made a biofilter during the weekend for my aquaponics system. From my research, I found that for a system this size, the extra filtration is not required as the bed itself is capable of filtering that 80 gallons of fish water. I made it anyway because it is cheap and easy to built plus an extra filter should do some good somehow, isn't it?

I thought building the biofilter is an easy job but it turned out it is not! What was suppose to be an hour job has now turned into half a day job and I'm not even finished yet. There are two problems I'm now currently facing. One is leaking and the other one is the water in the biofilter is syphoned back into the fish tank whenever the water pump is turned off.

I managed to solve the leaking problem, for now. The problem is caused by the 'ribs' at the bottom of the bucket (container)  I used for the filter. The ribs are there to provide extra support to the base. I'm sorry I forgot to snap a picture. I'll update that later. So I sanded it down using my vibration sander and it seems that the problem is gone, for now. If it still leaks I would have to seal it with silicon. I'm trying to avoid using silicon for now as it might be bad for the fish.

Then, the next problem. I know this could happen as the filter is placed higher then the fish tank. So, when the pump is turned off, the water will travel back down into the pump and the pressure it created pull all the water from the filter back into the fish tank. When this filter has actually run, the bottom of it will be filled with solids (fish poo, food remains etc) that is bad for the fish, so I don't want that to enter the fish tank! So now I have to think of something to solve this problem. I need something to relieve the pressure or I could use a valve, and I leave that for my next posting.