What moving is not chaotic???? To move the Aquaponics system to the new location was challenging and chaotic indeed. So first lesson learned was: Choose very well the location of your system from the very beginning so you don't have to move it afterwards!
First challenge of the team was to take down the old and already running Aquponics System, since 2011. The second and more important was to keep the cycle working as much as possible and this way affect to the plants and catfishes ecosystem as less as possible.
The new Aquaponics system will be built inside of a greenhouse at the Dijksgracht 6 and the moving gives us new opportunities and new challenges for designing. The catfishes are located now in a shipping container that we have cleaned thoroughly before, here our European catfishes will be warm and safe from the cold.
Once we had disassembled all the systems (plumbing and electricity) between all the grow beds and fishtanks in the old location, we started moving them very carefully with the help of a forklift to a truck.
During this transition period we have noticed that catfishes and plants were really impacted by the low temperature outdoors. In order to keep the fishes alive we have mounted a temporary solution just with 5 towers and 3 growing beds each, plus a sump tank connected to the 5 fish tanks. Water pumps, heaters air pumps and sensors were installed allowing the fishes and plants live in good conditions. Even preparing and having all the details in mind we have found few issues:
- Dead fishes on the first days after the moving.
- PH of the water under 5.5
- Frozen plants
- Decline in Bacteria (bio-filter)
To solve these issues we had to:
- Stop feeding the fishes. Under low temperature digestion of the fishes doesn't work. Their digestive system can not metabolize the food eaten if water temperature is under 18 degrees Celsius. We will start feeding the fish once we are able to rase the temperature to 30 degree C and start growing our bacteria again.
- To rise the PH of the water we should add extra Calcium and Potassium but basic PH was balanced finally just adding water to the sump tank, the level of PH dropped because of the a wrong circulation of the water due a leak in on the the pipes of the growing beds. The PH has been balanced and nowadays is 7.16 so it is fine right now. The goal is to get a neutral PH that is should be between 7 and a maximum of 7.5.
- We had to sacrifice many of our plants. Construction of the green house is taking longer than expected so at the moment we are keeping just plants on the 5 towers connected to the 5 fish tanks. We have mounted a survival winter tent attached to the shipping container of the fishes trying to keep the bacteria alive and warm as much as possible. The rest of our old grow beds died in the harsh winter conditions during this transition period but we will re-use them including the substrate for the new system and all growbeds have been also reinforced with new bamboo. Our next priority is to prepare new baby plants and clear the growbeds to start a new season.
- Digging a hole to underground the sump tank was a hard job but at least this is something that we will do just once. With 2 water pumps we are pumping the water to to the top of the towers and using a valve we can regulate the water flow and split in to the 5 towers and from the top to down the water circuit reaches the fish tanks keeping the circuit running properly.
Until we have a final green house built we need to continue maintaining the temporary Aquaponics system, checking water temperature, PH and flow of the water daily and Ammonium level weekly.
We are still busy preparing all the electricity and plumbing for the final design were the idea is to have a autonomous system running and GSM alarms connected to the system in case of emergency such as blackout or other possible failures.
Aquaponics Team is exciting to present the new Aquaponics design very soon. We are still busy working on it. And do not forget to take a look to the new Workshop: Learn to build Aquaponics at our new location n February. Do not miss it!