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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I've been inspected

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

His name is John Odenkirk, and he's Certified Fisheries Scientist #2043. He's the guy who inspects aquaponics facilities for the neighboring 11 counties - required for facilities that are requesting permission to raise tilapia.

He came. He snapped. He left.

It was a pretty painless process. And after he conveys the form and picture to the right people, my permit should be in the mail in a matter of a couple of weeks.

I was happy to show him my auto-siphon. Didn't look like he'd seen one of those before. And I was happy to show him my current water chemistry: 7.6 pH, 0.0 ppm Ammonia, 0.0 ppm Nitrite, and 80.0 ppm Nitrate.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lights, Camera, Basil!

The Aquaponic Garden with Grow Lights (20,000 Lumens)

The lights have arrived!

I've got the system set up now so the lights are on a timer, and the pump plugs into the light, so it will come on when the lights come on.

The water is crazy clear right now. It's so fun to watch the fish darting around! Plants move and grow too, but they're not as exciting to watch. I'll be interested to see how much they grow with the lights!

The only two herbs they had at the grocery store were basil and mint. I bought a basil and transplanted four of the plantlings into my growbed. The rest will go up to the kitchen for now.

I didn't buy the mint, because mint is crazy. I might set up a "windowfarm" next to the aquaponics units and risk mint in those. Mint is very aggressive and develops roots like there's no tomorrow.

I think if the world were struck by some disaster that wiped out almost all plant life, mint would be amongst the plants that survived. However, no need to give mint a place in my garden.

In other news, I haven't heard from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. They're the folks who need to inspect my setup prior to me getting a license and purchasing tilapia.

I'm tentatively planning to go with 25 male fingerlings from That way I shouldn't have to start off dealing with the issues of breeding females, fingers crossed! 25 male fingerings will run me $102, which includes shipping.

My approximate costs to date have been:

$150 for tank and grow bed
$141 for the grow lights
$12 for gravel
$30 for the air pump
$45 for the water pump
$20 for the plumbing
$80 for the shelving unit
$15 for incidentals (e.g., metal tape, 2'x4' sheets of thin luaun plywood)
$30 for vermiculite, seeds, and plants
$22 for licenses
$30 for water testing kit

So my total outlay has been $575. Add fish ($102) and food ($20) and we're just under $700. With care, you might be able to knock the price down even lower than that.

If you didn't have a drill, bits (1/4", 1/2", & 1"), a door knob hole saw, and a saw, you'd have to purchase (or borrow) these. I've got a timer and am decorating to hide the industrial black plastic, but those aren't necessary expenses.

Color me happy!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Seedlings Growing...

Back on 18 November I planted my seeds in vermiculite, then transplanted them to the rock growbed.

We have green stuff. I can assure you that every seed has sprouted except for the Spinach, Parsley, and Fennel. Parsley is notoriously late to sprout, and it may be that the individual seeds I put in Spinach and Fennel were not good. We'll give them a week or so.

Last Sunday my youngest went out to the yard and brought me in a few earthworms, which are now somewhere in the rock pile. They were tiny worms - I guess that's what we get for waiting until after Thanksgiving to go scrounging in the garden.

When I first measured my water back in mid-November, I thought I might have "powered through" the ammonia and nitrite peaks, but it seems I spoke prematurely. I've got a healthy batch of nitrite in there now, and the nitrate is higher than it was. I'm sufficiently happy. The seedlings seem OK and the fish seem OK.

I have my growlights on order. Once the lights arrive, I can plant the other half of the grow bed with herbs - ones they sell at the grocery store that have a bit of growth on them.

Speaking of herbs, it was fun hanging with my daughter in Southern Virginia for Thanksgiving. She has a great southern exposure looking out over the Blue Ridge mountains. Here's the view from her front porch:

She has chives, parsley, rosemary, sage and more growing in her front window. It was great grabbing bits of those herbs to use in our Thanksgiving feast. She and her husband are complete foodies.

I'm not a complete foodie, but I do look forward to fresh greens plucked fresh from our year-round garden...