Aquaponics - New system expansion

In this first stage of my system expansion, I'll be using my existing pump and running a fairly conventional layout.

Half an IBC as a fish tank, and three, media filled blue barrel halves as grow beds with the existing fish tank as a sump, or perhaps 4 grow beds and no sump.

In a system with a sump, you maintain a constant height in the fish tank, by placing the pump in the sump tank, and filling the grow beds by having the fish tank overflow into the grow beds. The grow beds then drain back to the sump.

This type of system is often called CHIFT PIST (Constant Height In Fish Tank, Pump In Sump Tank).

Stage two would see me cutting the second IBC in half, and creating two media filled constant flood grow beds powered by either a new type of airlift I've been thinking about, a conventional airlift, a power head, or any combination of all these.

Or something else.

In short, the absurdly low power use system is still a little way off. The main problem I face is having to find a completely new form of media that will be ultra light weight so I can pick up and move a cubic metre of it. I live in a rented house, and may have to move it at some stage in the future, and a cubic metre of gravel might weigh around the same as a family car.

Currently, that media looks a bit like it might be soft drink bottle caps put through a garden mulcher, but it's early days.

120 Things in 20 years, where sometimes my aquaponics - new system expansions, simply dont happen.

Aquaponics - New system

I had a bit of a lie down for a few days, but woke up with a new plan.

It's time for a system expansion.

The new plan involves using one of my IBCs, probably cut in half, as a fish tank. This will give me around 500L rather than the 100L I have at the moment.

I bought a new blue barrel to cut in half from top to bottom, and make two more grow beds. This should allow me to get some more fish, and also to grow a stack more veggies.

It should also allow me to run my strawberry towers safely by mounting them over my grow beds. That way it really doesn't matter if they leak.

The new plan will involve putting the fish tank outside my grow house, and when I get around to it I'll insulate it.

I hope to be able to make a part of the fish tank sit inside the grow house so I can still spend time sitting and enjoying both the plants and the fish.

Especially in winter, it's a very nice place to sit.

The plan, as it stands, is to put two grow beds across the back, and one down the right and side of the grow house, and place the fish tank so it is around 20% inside the grow house on the left.

120 things in 20 years, where my Mum claims to be able to tell how I'm feeling based on these tag lines.
I wonder what Mum will make of this "Aquaponics - New system" tag line.

Solar photovoltaic panels - My first little solar panel and a tiny motor

I received the 6 in 1 solar toy that I bought a few days ago. And this is the bit I really wanted to play with. It's a tiny electric motor.

Pictured here with a normal bic ball point pen, and powered by only a square inch of solar panel, this little thing is amazing. the motor costs around $2 (from memory, don't quote me. I saw them on ebay after I bought the toy kit) when bought by itself, and packs a surprising amount of punch.

Especially when you consider how small the photovoltaic cell is.

I guess this means I'm starting a new thing. I have no idea how these things work, and think it's about time I did.

My brain is slowly coming back into gear, so I'm hoping the electronics I've learnt so far will start making some sense soon, so I'll be able to finish my demand fish feeder, and let me start playing with solar.

There's something very reminiscent of the feeling I get in a sail boat when I play with this little solar panel.

Something about it just feels right.

If you can, I recommend you get yourself something similar or cover your roof in solar panels. It must feel great.

120 Things in 20 years, saving the world, one pointless (so far) solar toy at a time with "Solar photovoltaic panels - My first little solar panel and a tiny motor"

Aquaponics - Recommissioned strawberry towers

It occurs to me as I recommission my strawberry towers, that an aquaponics system is a lot less painful to stop and start than ...say... a nuclear reactor.

I'm not sure why that occurs to me, but it does.

After one of my recent floods due to poor craftsmanship, my strawberries and the plants in my NFT tubes went thirsty for a bit, and as a result, got all crunchy. I managed to save only a few plants, but even their small number was too much for my grow bed.

My grow bed now looks like this (I did some pruning of the tomato as well.

I pulled them all out and relocated them into the strawberry towers, and took yet another risk with running the towers again.

All these half dead hangers on were taking up too much space in the bed's and were crowding out the capsicums. The capsicum plants are now all fruiting, and my first is about to turn red.

I quite like green capsicum, and will probably harvest sooner than this first time, but I want a red one for a photo.

The rear two towers aren't flowing at all, but that's fine by me, because that's two less to worry about.

I think I'm going to buy another $30 blue barrel, cut it in half and, added with my two existing halves, make a four grow bed system. This will also allow me to mount the strawberry towers in such a way as to leak into the grow beds rather than onto the grown. This should solve a lot of sleeplessness.

The fish will be relocated into one of the IBC's I have kicking around, and will be joined by a stack of new friends.

By buying some new fry, I'll force myself to build a bigger system like I should have right away. I'm still working on finding a more portable lightweight media so I dont get stuck in the same position I was in last time when I was forced to move just before all those tons of gravel came on line.

Here at 120 Things in 20 years, when thinking about aquaponics and recommissioned strawberry towers, one of my few regrets is not having built a proper sized system we could feed ourselves from sooner.

Aquaponics - Absurdly low energy system

I've had an idea.

It's been a while.

I keep running the problem of a low energy system through what I like to call the invention engine, and it keeps telling me to lower the difference in height between the fish tank and the grow bed. Eventually it told me to make them at the same level, and use a powerhead to just stir water from the fish tank to the grow bed.

But when I run it with the new system design, it says to drop the grow bed even lower.

Into the negative.

Which doesn't make a lot of sense until you think about moving the grow bed back up again to drain it.

When I ran that through the invention engine, it came up with floating the grow bed in and out of the fish tank.

By pumping air under it.

An air pump is inexpensive to run, and I know it's already capable of the pressure required to get air to the bottom of a tank, because a lot of people use them in exactly that way.

The thing I dont know, is if it's capable of shifting enough volume to raise the bed often enough. It will definitely raise the bed, but if it takes too long, then it's not going to be worth it. I'm guessing I'd need to raise and lower the bed at least twice per hour. Dropping it back down should be easy to make quick, so as a target to aim for, I think I'll look at raising the grow bed within half an hour. 

So if I put a grow bed on another, inverted growbed, I can fill the bottom (upside down) one slowly with a small air pump, and effectively, float the grow bed up and down rather than shift the water up and down.

As the grow bed lowers into the water, it displaces water, causing the fish tank water level to rise, and thus contribute to submerging the media to the desired level. The reverse would occur when the air was trapped and the grow bed rises. It would displace less water, so the fish tank level would drop, resulting in a quicker low tide.

The air pump can be even smaller than I first thought, because there's really no need for all that pumping to the bottom of the tank, so no need for all that pressure. That combined with the way all that stuff in the previous paragraph should work, might mean it will be an absurdly low energy use aquaponics system.

I haven't worked out the down bit, but that wont prove difficult at all. I really enjoy inventing things where the force I'm trying to overcome is used to do the overcoming, so in this case I'd like to make use of the pressure build up to release itself, but even if I cant work something out, I can always use electronics to make a valve open at the top of the cycle, dumping the air, and dropping the grow bed back down.

I might even be able to use the rush of air to do something productive.

Cooling perhaps... who knows.

It might even be possible to use the incoming water from an existing system to get a free lift, by using it to force some bubbles under a new air powered grow bed.

Or to fill the grow bed, raise it, and then distribute the water to another grow bed, creating a kind of pump.

It might also need a few guides to keep it from wearing where the grow bed would inevitably touch the fish tank.

I have a really spooky feeling I've had this idea before, and this may just be a side effect of my current lifestyle (that being sleeping in a post-op haze) or could just be because I have had the idea before. Or it could even be confirmation of the sneaking suspicion, that whenever I have an idea, what I'm really doing is simply remembering having had the idea in the future, at some point after that.

This means all the invention engine does is jogs the memory I'm yet to have had...


Either way it will work.

All it would need is a grow bed media that weighs less than the water the air displaces, and it will work.

And some buckets...

I'll need some buckets.

I'll make one tomorrow.

Buckets, and media...

I'll need some media.

Sleep now.

120 Things in 20 years, For all your absurdly low energy aquaponics systems and pre-think.

Entomology - Buzz pollination via electric bee

According to this reliable source , buzz pollination is something blue banded bees do, and is something tomato plants like.

I've only seen one blue banded bee in my aquaponics system, and that's the same one I've only also seen in my life*, so I thought I'd do a bit of dodgy science.

I've arbitrarily divided my system into electric bee buzz pollinated , and not. The right hand side will be buzzed, the left hand side, not buzzed.

I'll buzz it every day for a few weeks with what we electric bee experts like to call an...

 "e l e c t r i c   t o o t h b r u s h"

My trial involves resting the end of the electric bee buzz pollinator on the branch near the flowers and activating the device for a few seconds.

Science can be complicated.

I'll only buzz the right hand side of my tomato plants and see if there is any increase in the fruit setting rate. I'll be a bit vague about it, because if the difference isn't obvious, it's not really worth doing, so I think I'll judge it by counting the number of flowers that fail to be pollinated as compared to the number that succeed.

I'll start the count in say10 days and run it for another ten where I count. That way I wont be counting existing flowers.

120 Things in 20 years, Where else would you find equipment as complicated as an entomologist's buzz pollination electric bee?

*I've read that a few times and I'm pretty sure it means something

Entomology - Blue banded bee

I had a very pretty visitor the other day, to my grow house.

I've never met one before, but it was a blue banded bee, or Amegilla cingulata (I Think - I'm new to this).

It looks like this and is an interesting fellow indeed.

Unfortunately this photo doesn't really capture the colour of the bands, so you'll have to take it from me they were a very pleasant shade of blue green.

This one seems to be male as I'm told males have five bands, and females have four. Males hang out like this at night, and as far as I can tell, females live in burrows that they dig in soft dry clay or sandstone.

They grow to around 12mm long, and look soft and fury like some kind of plush toy.

They sting, but are pretty relaxed and don't seem to mind having a very close up camera in their face.

The underground dwelling females lay eggs in some spare rooms they make at the end of their tunnel, (one egg to a room I think) and seal the room up with wax after adding a hearty mix of pollen and nectar for the young to feed on.

The best thing about these critters is that they are one of the few things that do something called "Buzz pollination" It involves grabbing on to your flower, sticking your head in and buzzing like a bee. The result is the release of some pollen that certain flowers don't like giving up too easily.

It turns out, plants that prefer to be buzz pollinated include egg plant, tomato, and chilli (so may be a solution to my capsicum pollination issue I had a while back), so buzz pollinators are nice things to have around. So nice in fact that the commercial tomato growers here want to import the bumble bee to pollinate tomato crops, but Adelaide University is trying to convince them that we already have some native Australian bees that do the task even better.

We humans don't have a very good record when it comes to importing things to take care of other things* so it's best avoided, as are all disasters.

Currently it seems, commercial tomato growers currently use vibrating devices to act the part of buzz pollinators, but studies have shown a 20% improvement on pollination if you use these bees rather than the robot version.

Using bees also means a lot less work on the part of the human, so it seems like it might be worth doing. The stuff I've read was from a few years ago, and claimed the bees will be commercialised within a few years.

I'm pretty sure that adds up to now.

120 Things in 20 years for all your good vibrations.

*see "There was an old woman who swallowed a fly"

Thinking - Mortality result

It seems I didn't die.

Which is nice.

Although having said that, it has to be said that this is just the kind of post I might set up in advance as a  bit of an exit practical joke.

But I don't really like practical jokes.

But then I might say that as well.

You'll have to decide on your own, my medication makes my brain feel like it's wading through think syrup with bits of grit added just to {appropriate word} the deal and make certain the drugs know who's really in charge, so I cant really offer anything more.

Thinking - Mortality

I have a skill, or perhaps an ability, to put my life in the hands of someone who I've decided to trust, and be pretty cool about it from that point on.

Actually it's more of a lack of though rather than a skill, but it serves me pretty well.

The thought of sitting in a chair eating medium rare roast lamb at thirty thousand feet kind of freaks me out, but I'm in awe at the result of the social pressure that's applied to pilots, so that that when they finally get their chance to cope with a disaster, they tend to either fail totally (not judging) or cope with such a calm that it's contagious.

The result is, that once I've put myself in the hands of someone who knows a stack more about what ever it is that I'm doing than I do, I surrender to their judgement completely. I check, and probe, and test, but once I'm convinced, I'm convinced.

I also have a stack of faith in the people that build the equipment those people rely on, and their really cool use of redundant systems to ensure that when something does go wrong, there's a stack of other things that can take over the task of the thing that went wrong.

All this means that I've had a pretty comfortable time, and some free drinks as a result of sharing the same kind of faith in the systems that people who work in airlines also have.

On two occasions I've found myself in the position of being, or at least thinking I'm being, the one to bring some aero-anomaly to staff.

On one occasion, the smoke in the back of the 747 turned out to actually be room deodoriser, sprayed because the real fire that some idiot rugby players set by putting cigarettes in the paper towel bin in the toilet was going to prove a little alarming to the customers. The result was the plane stopped serving alcohol, but the result to me was I got my drinks for free because the staff hid them under a paper towel. I'm not really sure why they couldn't have taken my money by hiding it under a paper towel, but I also know when to stop asking questions on a long flight.

It's amazing how paper towels can be used for both good and evil.

The second aero-anomaly was slightly more alarming, not because It was more dangerous, but because the captain came and had a chat with me, because I saw no even a single free drink, and that I was pretty sure he was supposed to stay up the front where I was happy to lend him my trust for the few hours he was to drive me around, and in return, I would eat some stuff, sleep a bit, and buy drinks from his company.

Me, no flight skills, stay at the back.

Him, flight skills, stay at the front.

That's the way it's meant to be.

That's the way it's comfortable for everyone.

But when I buzzed and brought attention to the new, fresh, oil leaving a thin, and not altogether unattractive and interestingly textured line on the wing, I have to admit to being a little less content with the arrangement when he wandered back for what in hindsight must have looked to everyone else on yet this other 747, to be a friendly chat, (there's that calm again) only to have him quiz me on when the pretty line first made it's appearance, and every single other aspect of it's ilk in the most minute detail.

I was fine with the oil, but the captain really freaked me out. I think because I should be waking up and asking him questions, rather than the other way around [*see future].


Generally speaking, I'm good with people who know a stack more stuff than I do about a particular thing, and more often than not care more about finding out what's going on to be too freaked out by the fact that something totally outside my control is going on.

By way of example *I woke up to the sound of my own screaming during a surgical procedure during that time I stopped blogging for a bit, and then after hearing the words "Give him some more", got distracted by the very high definition screen showing the robo-flexi-inside-me thing cutting and sampling, and found myself asking questions about what I was seeing. Admittedly, they had already given me some more of what ever it is they they give on such occasions to easy the screaming, but screaming and total lack of bravery and stoicism on my part aside, I did take the time out of the very few, pre-oblivion seconds I had at my disposal, to ask a few questions, rather than surrendering completely to the panic, but really only because I am lucky enough to tend toward trusting the people doing the cutting and sampling.


Tomorrow I have to have a very minor surgery, but one that involves a general anaesthetic, and for some reason find myself uncharacteristically feeling very alone, and that I think I might die.

Oh well.

An odd but interesting paranoia.

I'm betting I wont die.

I like bets I cant loose.

That's why I offer The 120 Things in 20 years 2012 Mayan calendar, end of the world insurance plan.  It works like this. You give me $1000.

That's it really. You just give me $1000.

For the sake of legal requirements, I guess I should offer something in return, so in the event of the end of the world I will pay each subscriber 1.2 billion dollars.

For the record, I ate fresh, blue swimmer crabs for my second-to-last meal, and then again for my last meal, that I stole from some dolphin friends I recently made.

Thinking mortality? Think 120 Things in 20 years end of the world insurance.
Multiple subscriptions per person not only allowed, but actively encouraged.


Aquaponics - Bean density experiment - Opps

When you pack up and go fishing halfway through some science, your desire to catch protein can ruin your experiments in growing protein.

It can still be possible to draw some conclusions about the experiment.

a. The 1,2*,4,8, and 16 bean pots all seemed to grow at around the same rate. The 32 bean pot lost 3 plants when they were already quite established and healthy looking (but not as big as all the others), and also was the only pot that looked like it suffered from insect and disease attack. The others seemed fine.

b. Sometimes fishing makes bean plants go all crunchy.

*In the pot with 2 seeds, only one sprouted.

Protein:- Grow it or fish for it. All the big questions asked, but often left un-answered here at 120 Things in 20 years 

Thinking - Oceanic etiquette

When you boat past some people in a village, or on the beach eating fish and chips, there's a difference in your interaction.

I'm thinking people like you more.

Sometimes birds sit on the edge of a road and eat road kill. They know that even though you're driving past at deadly speed, for some reason, the big fast shiny thing you sit in always stays between the lines and never crosses over. The only time you need to get off the road is when your road kill breakfast is on the same side as the big, fast, shiny thing.

When you boat past a village/drive past a bird feasting on road kill, the reason you are less intrusive, is because you stick to a few simple rules...

 1. You dont get out and stink up the place with your funny language

2. You stay on the river/between the lines, and you try not to kill anyone.

3. if you've given it some thought, you realize how less intrusive you are being by virtue of sticking to rules one and two, so that if someone wants to get their kit off to bathe, all they need to worry about is the river side of the equation. There are no tourists looking at you from the other sides.

The other sides are all family.

That makes life a lot easier. All you have to do is stand behind something, or even simply not wave, and you have privacy.

The result is, stick to the train tracks, the rivers, and driving between the lines until you've been invited to get closer, and you upset a lot less people. As a result, you either get a lot more invitations to get closer, or don't get closer when you were never invited and shouldn't have even thought of getting closer in the first place.

I met some really nice dolphins, and we all ate fish.

I have no idea what they were trying to say, but they seemed happy enough, and looked like life was treating them well.

They took no interest in my ocean dipped feet.

Invest in 120 Things in 20 years for all your oceanic etiquette, and general deportment tips.

Gone fishing


Be back later.

Aquaponics - Healthy silver perch feeding

It seems my fish have totally recovered from whatever it was that was troubling them, and are now growing so fast that I think it's time to eat another.

Since I lost a few a while back to some mystery problem, the remaining six have been getting more food each. And one in particular is getting much more than the others just because it's the biggest.

Eating more than your share is normally an excellent tactic for success in the wild, but in my little system, it just draws attention to yourself, and makes you stand out as a likely candidate for the plate.

They are now looking around for more food than I can give the system.

In aquaponics, it's important to fed the system rather than the fish. If you keep feeding the fish as much as they want, when they get bigger, there may come a point where the system cant process the amount of feed you are putting in. So always thinking in terms of feeding the system rather than feeding the fish is a good idea.

All you need to do is keep checking your water with a test kit until you start to see the first signs of it being overwhelmed. If you start seeing ammonia or nitrites, it means you have reached your systems limit. take note of how much feed you are putting in and then back off just a little to be sure.

Then never feed your fish more than this amount in a day.

If the fish want more feed than you can give them, it's time to eat some, or sell some if you are growing a variety not for the plate.

My fish look like this at the moment, with the biggest being around 25 cm in length.

120 Things in 20 years, where the greediest of your Aquaponics - Healthy silver perch feeding, tend to be the first to hit the BBQ.

Aquaponics - Mineral deficiencies

I don't post a lot of links to the outside world here, but I really like this one on mineral deficiencies in tomatoes.

The nice thing about it is that a huge percentage of home gardeners grow tomatoes, and it shows some nice clear examples of various problems on the same species so it's easy to compare.

I figured Tomatoes might be a good indicator of my system's health, and could give me a clue to my capsicum leaf on the last post. As a result of my research, I think my problem with the capsicum is just about the abuse I put them through when they were little seedlings. All the leaves that have fallen off where the ones that were already there as seedlings.

The only problem with tomatoes as an indicator species, is I dont know if tomatoes need stacks of a given trace element or only a little.

So I was wondering about some indicator plants that might be worth planting in a bigger system that would start to fall over at the first sign of a problem. ie plants that were very intolerant to a specific deficiency.

I used to have some pot plants and one (I think it was called a chocolate flower) had a very long stalk that would stand straight up when all was well, but take a bit of a nap and lie on the ground when it was the slightest bit thirsty. I'd water it and it would spring back to standing upright. The result was, I  would always know when to water my little mobile garden. As long as I maintained my mental distance from my thoughtless torture of the chocolate flower, the rest of my garden never went thirsty.

So I thought I might plant some indicator species that fell over at the merest whiff of a particular deficiency.

I dont know what they are, but I thought I'd plant them.

120 Things in 20 years, sometimes more than just vague open ended research proposals.

Aquaponics - Capsicum leaf problem

I still keep losing leaves on one of my capsicum plants. It's the one I got my first fruit on, but since then all other flowers have failed to set fruit.

This has to be the least of all possible problems to have as I have four or five other capsicum plants that are all doing well, but I still find it interesting.

Some time ago I posted about the leaves all falling off the other plants as well, but all the others have recovered. This plant is going to end up being a stick with a nice healthy capsicum hanging of the top of it.

You can see at the bottom, a leaf about to drop. The string is because it never really gained a strong footing before this fruit came on, so the poor plant keeps having to lie down for a bit of a rest.

The leaf starts to fade at the tip, and the fade moves down to the stem until, after about a month, the leaf falls off. I have no idea what's causing it, or if it's still an afetr shock from the damage done to them earlier, but I cant wait to pick my first capsicum.

My next fruiting plant has a dozen or so small capsicums, and a few flowers yet to develop. The other plants that look a little slower, but even they have nice healthy leaves and the beginnings of some flowers.

120 Things in 20 years, more questions than answers, with aquaponics and capsicum leaf problems.

Aquaponics - Ultra low power system idea

In a normal aquaponics system, you pump water up to a grow bed, and gravity brings it back to the fish tank, Sometimes you have a sump or some other stuff in the path, but generally that's how it works.


Pumps use a lot of power to overcome gravity.

Aquaponics can work well with the grow bed constantly flooded.

Saving electricity is environmentally always a good thing.

A power head or wave pump uses a little energy to move a lot of water, but cant lift water very well.


Those are four important points.

A few days ago I ran the question of an ultra low energy aquaponics system through what I like to call the invention engine, and the idea seemed to be to not lift the water as high. Each time I ran it through, the water level got lower until it was zero. Some recent experiments show that for many species at least, a constant flood grow bed is a viable way of growing things aquaponically. After all, people have been growing things in deep water raft culture, where you basically fill a swimming pool with fish and float rafts that hold things like lettuce, where they happily grow until harvest time.

Just as worms have no trouble living in flood as long as the water's oxygen levels are high, a stack of plants feel the same way.


If I place a fish tank next to a grow bed, fill them so they are at exactly the same level, connect them so that water enters and leaves each container from different places, and then stick a power head in the connecting pipes, we should see an effective system running on less than a half the power use of a more conventional system.

The only issue might be the restricted flow through all the media. Power heads don't create much pressure, which is why they cant move water uphill very well. But I see my water flowing very freely through my media when the siphon triggers, so I think I'm going to try it. If it works it should also be economically viable to run it from solar.

I'd really like to see more solar designs in shops.

If it doesn't work I still have a 3600LPH hour pump I can run the system with, so there is no down side for me.

The constant flood aspect isn't on trial here. We know that works. At least we know it works for many plant species. It's the power head which is the novel aspect, and the thing I will be interested in testing. It's even possible I may be able to run the system with something called an airlift using nothing but bubbles, but that's something for another post, and is only really viable if the air pump can do the job for less than the 4-6 watts I'm hoping a power head can do it for.

120 Things in 20 years, Aquaponics - Ultra low power system idea.

Entomology - Maggot harvest

My maggot self harvester works.

Which is nice.

I found a stack of lines radiating out from the collector on the table.

I'm guessing that means its been working pretty well for the last 12 hours or so.

Working well, except for the "not letting them get away" bit. So I can enjoy a few extra flies over the coming days.

I think it's safe to assume we all knew that was going to happen.

The ramp even worked, although it has to be said that this particular maggot is actually using it to go back down.

It must have changed it's mind.

But eventually it seems, the little beasties find their way to the exit, and drop down into the container of   horrible tasting breakfast cereal that I gave them.

I dusted the wall of the orange collection container with flour, and that seems to have stopped them escaping, but who knows.

What this does mean is that I can make a better device that's sealed where it should be, and make some  fish food out of stuff that would otherwise go to landfill.

The stink factor was essentially zero, so no problems what-so-ever about doing it in a suburban back yard. From more than six inches away, there was no detectable smell at all. Basically you had to put your nose to it, and we had some very hot, dry days, some hot humid days, and half way through I added a stack of water, so it wasn't stink free because it was dry. (I added water because the dead fish was starting to turn into a dried fish, and wanted to keep it fly friendly)

And they were big and healthy looking.

This one, just big.

It's one of the escaped ones that was foolish enough to escape my cereal feed lot. I watched it being kissed by a black house spider, as it stumbled into it's web.

The upshot of this was a very obedient maggot who was happy to stand still on a ruler for as log as it took to get a nice photo of it's length.

Thanks nature.

The perfect house warming present for a fishing buddy, has got to be a lifetime supply of fresh maggots, via a lovingly hand crafted, self harvesting, suburban suitable, stink free, maggot growing, fish head recycling, bait farm. And I have just such a fishing buddy, who recently relocated to a place where you cant buy maggots for bait, and he just bought a boat.

120 Things in 20 years - Turning fish heads back into fish, with entomology and a maggot harvester.

Entomology - I made maggots

I'm now the proud owner of some maggots.

I hope the people who own this house that are dropping tomorrow to do some repairs, appreciate maggots.

I'm guessing they will.

Who wouldn't?

I even moved them up close to the house so they can best enjoy them.

Actually the fish doesn't stink at all. You can smell it if you get up close to the opening, but that's to be expected.

We've had a few very hot days here, so if ever there was a time it was going to stink, I'm guessing the last few days would have been it.

They look like this.

They seem huge. Much bigger than other maggots I've seen. I'm still holding out hope that they might be black soldier fly, rather than the common house fly.

The maggot farm acts as a trap, so I can tell what's visited, and don't see a black soldier fly, but there's a chance it could have dropped eggs and escaped. Or that it is in there somewhere dead among the fish bits.

Either way, I guess I'll know soon, because if my harvester works I'll be able to get a better look, and take some measurements.


Entomology - Flies and maggots

Can anyone think of a better way to spend a day than breeding maggots.

It's really hot, so I thought I'd stick some dead fish out in the sun.

I've always wanted to breed black soldier fly to feed to my silver perch. Black soldier fly are great, because they turn masses of meat and vegetable scraps into fish food in the form of maggots. The adult fly doesn't actually eat for the fly part of it's life, so unlike the common housefly, there's none of the paddling around in sewage, then strutting they fly style all over your food. Not to mention all the regurgitating they do.

So Black soldier fly, good. House fly bad.

I haven't had any luck with black soldier fly, so I'm going to try house flies.

Oh well. It wont be the first time I've taken a wrong path.

The common housefly is only called common by it's friends. It's real name is Musca domestica.

Everything will be fine. I'll keep a close eye on it, and as long as I collect the larvae I shouldn't see any more flies around than I would normally.

So I thought I'd make a collector. It might even act as a trap, and reduce the number of flies I see around the place. That's how optimistic one man can be.

One of the cool things about maggots, is they try to walk away from their gooey feeding area to somewhere dry to wait out their metamorphosis. What this means is, you can build a ramp out of their feed, and they will walk up it. Then if you design it so they walk out of the feeding area and into a container they become self harvesting*.

It's even possible to have them fall directly into your fish tank, but the problem with that, is that you cant tell how much feed your system is getting.

So I thought I'd make a quick test device to see how it works.

I started with a soft drink bottle.

I drank the soft drink first. It's hot.

Then cut the top off.

For some reason I used green so you wouldn't be able to see.

I cut the top off a second bottle to use as the exit point. This one was cut at an angle so I could mount it pointing down, so the beasties drop out into my collector.

Then I added a tube in such a way as to create a spiral ramp. The maggots will walk up this ramp to the top where they will find an exit hole.

They walk on the tube, not in the tube.

The reason they'll find the ramp, is because they just wonder off in a straight line from where they are when they decide to move on to their next life as a fly.

When they hit a wall, they pick a direction, and follow it around. If they go the wrong way they wont get out, but if the go the right way, they just start heading up the ramp.

I presume they get bored and change direction if they get it wrong.

I taped it all up with office tape, using the green top as a funnel.

The flies will enter at the top, maggots will grow on the bait, then climb the ramp and fall into a pot of disgusting breakfast cereal I found in the pantry, that must belong to Mrs 120 things in 20 years.

That's one of my dead silver perch I've added as bait.

I meant to do an autopsy on it to see if I could figure out why it died, but never got around to it.

It's been sitting in the bottom of my freezer in a body (sandwich) bag, but should make the perfect fly attractor.

Hmmm stinky.

*this isn't my design by the way, it's all over the net. I don't know who invented it, but if I ever find out I'll come back and edit this to credit them.

120 Things in 20 years, exploring the potentially smelly with Entomology - Flies and maggots

Aquaponics - Bean density test

This test is about as unscientific as it gets, but its starting to show some unscientific results.

I started with plastic cups with holes drilled in them, filled them with scoria, and planted between 1 and 32 bean seeds in each.

Originally the plan was to transfer then to my NFT grow tubes, but because I lost the last ft of beans to overheating, I thought I might just leave them in a tray of nutrient rich water, and see what happened. Rather than being in the grow house, they are in the shade in a cool corner next to my house.

The beans with less seeds seem to be growing bigger healthy leaves, up to 16 seeds in the same cup, but the cup with 32 seeds seems to be struggling.

I say it inst very scientific, or at least not as it applies to aquaponics, because there might be a huge difference if the water was flowing, and oxygen rich.

But here is a top view anyway.

As soon as I have enough cooler grow space, I'll redo the test in a proper aquaponics environment rather than a nutrient rich stagnant puddle.

120 Things in 20 years, more than just stagnant puddle pseudo-science, and aquaponics bean density tests.

Aquaponics - Heat

I think I'm going to change my system a bit.

I still have two IBCs (international bulk carriers) and think it's time to make a bigger system. The small amount of water is heating up so quickly that I think I might be in trouble if I get too many days like this in a row.

Today was 40c + and the water reached around 35c. As far as I know that's around the upper limit for my fish. I'll lose a lot of heat over night, but if I get a few days like that in a row I could making my fish miserable or even dead.

The best way to fix this would be a lot more water, and some shade to cover it.

I think I'll start work on a system upgrade.

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