Saturday, August 28, 2010

Indoor experiment over

We decided that we didn't like having the system inside. Two main reasons: 1) it was partially blocking access to our sliding glass door, and 2) we were concerned about the weight of the system on our 100 year old floor joists.

In addition, we didn't have proper grow lights, and the plants didn't seem to be fairing very well.

So, it's a chance to do some things I should have done in the first place: put a couple of coats of poly on the wood to make it waterproof and have it be able to be used outdoors, and build new grow beds with more appropriate sizing for the system.

We're trying to sell our car, and if successful, we may use some of that money to get a small greenhouse (8' X 8'). If that happens, it will be the perfect size for this system, and we'll get a small propane heater and run the small system in the greenhouse with tilapia.

My permit for tilapia should come any day now. The Wildlife Resource Commission folks came to inspect my property a week ago and didn't see any reason why my permit would be denied.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Downspout Silencer

It's crazy, but I had a dream last night about how to make my downspout on my indoor unit quieter. So, I got up this morning and tried it out, and after a little tinkering, it worked!

OK, so the image on top is what it looks like in the water. Don't worry about the darker sponge-like filter things wrapped around the pipe. I tried some holes near the top that I don't think do anything, and since I didn't have any spare pipe, I put that filter around it, and it keeps the water in. I'll replace with a fresh piece when I get a chance to prove that it's not actually doing anything in the process, because there's a chance that it's letting in air through the holes but not letting water out.

The top light blue filter, though, does serve a purpose. It seals up the two pipes in a way that doesn't let water come out, but does let air in.

In general, my silencer is just a length of pipe (pictured 2nd), that goes from the bottom of the fish tank up to just past the bottom of the downspout. It's 2" pipe over 1" pipe, so it's a loose fit. That lets the air in. At the bottom of the pipe, there's a notch to let water/air out, as well as a few holes drilled all the way through. These are always submerged.

When it's going full blast in siphon-mode, this thing is like a mega-aerator! There are bubbles everywhere! It really stirs up the sediment, which gets the fish all excited, because there are likely some floating edibles in the water.

It's much quieter than just letting the water from the downspout hit the top of the fish tank, and as the siphon gets going, I believe that water fills the inside of the 2" pipe such that it meets the water coming down, and then it gets very quiet, as all air and water is then directed out through the bottom of the 2" pipe.

Here's a video from close range. It's hard to tell that it's quieter, of course, 'cause it's so close to the drain, but just trust me, it is! It does show the incredible aeration. And, near the end, you can hear the phone ringing (hence the end of the video) - just for reference, that phone is 2 rooms away.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Small System Upgraded

Well, I moved my portable system inside to see how we'd like it indoors, given that my plan was to raise tilapia fry/fingerlings over the winter. All in all, it was working out OK, except that the sawhorse/2X4 support for the grow bed was taking up a lot of unnecessary space. I thought more about it, and it dawned on me that if I ever had to give a workshop in the winter, I would need an extra fish tank, since I wouldn't want to expose the little tilapia to cold temperatures.

So, I decided to build my own fish tank, with built in structure for the grow bed right above it. I thought something made of wood would look a lot nicer, so I did it.

Cost a little less than $200 including all the lumber, screws, and liner. I had extra liner from my pond, but not enough. I needed about a 10' X 10' piece. The inside dimensions on this tank are 36" X 30" X 21" tall. It's about 100 gallons, which is comparable to the fish tank I was using before.

I still plan on sanding this thing and staining it. I'm thinking it might live inside from now on, but if I ever move it outside, I'll put some coats of clearcoat on it, and it should be fine in the weather. All in all, I'm pleased with how it looks - much nicer than the black oval tub!

As you can see, the seeds are coming up nicely, though I need to provide more light. I've been avoiding purchasing a grow light, just 'cause I don't want to spend too much money, so I might find some lower cost grow lights - like the bulbs you can put into a normal light socket.

I've got about 20 small goldfish in there, at least until I get my tilapia permit and get ahold of some little tilapias.

PS - the biggest problem with the system indoors is how loud it is when the siphon kicks on! It's pretty close to our TV, and whenever it comes on, it completely drowns all other sounds out! But, I also bought a timer to flood less frequently (the pump is now on 1 hour for every 4 and off at night except for 2 30 minute sections just to aerate for the fishies), and the pump is basically off in the evening when we might be watching TV.