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Christian Church of the Last Frontier

Aquaponics in a Barrel
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To see the updated system and pictures scroll down. Enjoy!

In 2009 I started looking at options to supplement our food and income. Seeing the Economical situation around the world is worsening. So in my search I discovered "Aquaponics" it is the combination of raising food fish and growing vegetables from the waste water of the fish. the gravel grow beds filter the water for the fish as the plants feed off the nutrients provided by the fish waste. all natural and organic.

As a result I found a simple small scale Aquaponics system called "BarrelPonics" by the inventor Travis Hughey a missionary to Africa.

This system is perfect for those first starting out and want to understand the in's and out's of Aquaponics. Below are some pictures and you can see my videos on YouTube under Superblane141.

After getting it all set up I realized this will be a good ministry for others who need to supplement their incomes and food. it is a low maintenance system. I have held a few seminars one the basics of Aquaponics and given away Travis Hughey's Manual to all attendeeson a CD free. These seminars give me a chance to share more than just meeting people physical needs I also take time to address their spiritual needs as well. 

I was invited by one of the chief guards at the Penal Farm to teach this to the prisoners so they could learn how to make a larger one to help supplement the food and funds for the prisoners and the penal farm.  But now that plan is morphed into a plan to help equip and train newly released prisoners.

more on that as it develops

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Sept 14, 2010 still need more fish to encrease nutreints

The above picture taken in September was before we harvest the Cauliflower. the heads were small but very tasty. The reason was we did not have enough fish in the system to provide enough nutrition to the plants.  In the picture below you will see the Tomatoe but taller and some lettuce in the left grow bed and the rest is Cauliflower Sprouts.  This lettuce is for feeding back to the fish.  The system lack two things Iron and Potassium.  Feeding lettuce back to the fish replacing the Potassium and as seen below I placed nails underneath of the down spouts to add Iron back into the system.

I added 20 plus Tilapia on the last week of Sept after the Cauliflower harvest. then I lost 10 goldfish, the last death was today Oct 9. The Tilapia are stressing them out. The three pieces of Tilapia I added two months ago two of them are 8 inches long now the other is 6 inches. the rest of the tilapia are between 3 and 5 inches long.   I added the fish to try an increase the amounts of Ammonia (fish waste) which creates more Nitrobacteria and creates Nitrite as that increases the Nirtorber converts it to Nitrate which is what the plants feed on. My pH is currently being kept between 6.8-7.0.   Yes, for you you who know more this is a Ammonia based Nitrogen cycle.

Over the last year I have had many heads of Lettuce (which would last up to 3 weeks in the fridge without wilting), Tomatoes, Cauliflower and Sweet Peas. Currently if you look at one of the pictures below you will see I have some lettuce growing not in Pebbles but in Plastic Beads. This is to show plants don't need dirt to grow. The medium (dirt, gravel or beads) is really for the roots to take hold so you can have larger plants. The Nitrate nutrient rich water is what feeds the plants.

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Oct 2010 After Cauliflower Harvested

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Nails in downspout to add Iron

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New Cauliflower Sprouts will be ready for harvest in Dec 2010

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This Tomatoe grew on its own last time tomatoes seeds planted was Feb 2010

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Lettuce grows in plastic beads medium

I redesigned my barrel system from gravel beds to floating trough type.  This is the type that are used in the larger systems like the one we are preparing to build in Iwahig as part of our Aquaponics Pilot Program for Ex-Prisoners.  This program is to equip ex-prisoner with the in and out workings of Commercial aquaponics. This will enable them to be able to have something productive to give back to Socoety.

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The above picture is from April 10, 2011 after harvesting lettuce once since the one below picture that was taken on March 22, 2011. You can see the growth of the Tomatoes and Basil in just two weeks.
I switched from a 36" net filter to a 24" ceramic beads filter.

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I added lights to help suppliment the lack of sunlight.  These are two 10,000k full spectrum lights. They have a higher UV spectrum.

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I used Puzzle Mat as the float medium

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This 24"filter is filled with Ceramic beads.  Easy to take apart for bi-weekly or monthly cleaning.

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The prepump filter is a drinking water filter membrane with two net scrubbers on tightly wound and the other a loosely wound one.

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Also picture above and below are Tilapia.  there are 40 plus pieces in the tank ranging from 3" to 7 1/2" long.  There is roughly 40 gallons of water at any given time in the tank.

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I have learned a lot about Aquaponics over the last year and a half. The best gems yet are 1) keep your pH at 6.8-7.0, 2) keep your system with lots of oxygen as much air pumps as you can to make the water high in dissolved oxygen. You can have low amounts of Nitrate ans still have phenomenal growth because the Oxygen helps the plants take up the nutrients. 3) keep the water flowing this little system flushes 5 gallons every five minutes that means in 50 minutes it has circulated 50 gallons. Of course when you get a larger system say 12 inch 4 foot X16 foot float trough you will want a flow of about 30 to 50 gallons per minute.

Aquaponics can grow more vegetables in less amount of room as conventional farming with out all the work and soil conditioning. By the way, I have spoke to a fellow in Maui who used a little composting mulch treated with EM1 in his gravel bed Aquaponic system and he ended up killing his fish. You must remember addition of bacteria from compost can pose a danger to your fish and to the Nitrobacteria in your system. Streptococci Bacteria is found naturally in soil and is often increase when using EM1 which will kill most fish. EM1 is good for soil conditioning of farmland when used occasionally your bacterial numbers wont get out of hand and cause health problems to animals and yourself.

But again don’t use EM1 in your aquaponic system it needs only added calcium to help regulate pH, Iron and Potassium. The rest of the nutrients come from the natural bacteria which converts your fish waste from pure ammonia to Ammonia Nitrate