Posts Tagged ‘aquaponics’

Aquaponics update: and then there was one.


We are down to one fish in the aquaponics experiment out of the three we started with.   Here’s an excerpt of Dillon’s paper on the topic:

I started the project with three fish.  My fish are a chocolate oranda named Shadow, a redcap oranda named Ron, and a butterfly tail goldfish named Shy. [A bunch of research paper deleted here.]  I had a number of problems with the fish part of the experiment, though I was on the lookout for these problems thanks to my reading.  I first had a pH problem, because the pH of the water would spike and get too high for the fish, and we had to lower the pH by using a product called pH down.  Then I had a temperature problem, and the water was too cold, so we got an aquarium heater. Finally, I had an oxygen problem, which I realized because the fish were gasping for air at the top of the tank.  We got an oxidizer for the fish to solve this problem. We lost two fish during the experiment probably due to these problems, or the fluctuations in these elements.  The book I was working from, Aquaponic Gardening, told me to expect this and suggested to gardeners to start their cycle with goldfish rather than tilapia or perch because you often lose fish when you are starting up your system before all of the levels are regular enough and stable.

So, Shy and Ron are no longer with us.  What the writing above doesn’t really tell you is the level of hysteria that my kids felt at the death of Shy.  They kept it together a bit more when the second one, Ron, died.  (Poor Ron Weasley, I think it wasn’t as sad because they didn’t really notice he was sick, Shy was clearly not doing well for a while.)  And Shadow is looking a little shady.  But we’re testing everything and the water seems to be habitable for the fish, with an appropriate pH, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates.  I’ve had a number of (even long-lived) goldfish in my life, and never kept them in such luxury or cared about the chemicals in the water, which often wasn’t changed particularly regularly.   Did we just get lemons in the goldfish department?  It’s only been six weeks – I thought for sure we could keep at least one alive for a couple of months.  Thoughts?


Science Fair Time!


Dillon got his science fair stuff about a week ago.  And it was kind of galvanizing.  He has, since we went to a wedding at Sweetwater Organics this summer, been talking about doing an aquaponics experiment for science fair this year.  And in August, when we had seven months to work on it, I thought it was a great idea.  Of course, we didn’t start in August.  So when we realized we had about ten weeks to complete the experiment and report the results, I got a little panicky.

I admit it, I tried to talk him into an easier experiment.  We had heard a story on NPR about a guy saying he found a mouse in his mountain dew, and Pepsi’s official response being “a mouse totally would have dissolved in mountain dew.”  Aside from the total ick factor of a dead animal dissolving in a can of soda, D and I wondered if that was true and thought it would be a pretty funny thing to test.  I felt like using a chicken wing instead of a mouse might be a reasonable way of testing it, but my vegetarian son didn’t think putting any parts of a dead animal into a soda really sounded like it was his thing.

So we returned to aquaponics, after reiterating that we don’t have a heck of a lot of time, and something vague about seed germination, and did I mention I have killed every houseplant I’ve ever tried to care for?  But D is really serious about it.  So we went on the official Sweetwater tour on Wednesday, and D asked some very reasonable questions, and we bought the (kind of expensive) bible of aquaponics, and he has since read most of it.  He definitely now knows way more about it that Charles or I, and sat for a good part of the day today planning out what we need to buy and how everything is going to fit together.  So we are going forward with it, and I think it is going to be a learning experience for all of us.

Tomorrow our goal is to purchase materials and figure out if you can actually buy seeds in Wisconsin in January.  Some of these things might need to be ordered…  But in the meantime, if anyone has an old fishtank that needs a new home, or pumps, hoses, or shale gravel, please do let me know!

Dillon with one of his inspirations at Sweetwater