Epic adventurer - The plan

I have a boat.

It's called Bulwinkle III.

Bullwinkle I was the same boat, but was a 4.3m Sundance sailing catamaran.

Bullwinkle II had the sail removed, and an electric outboard motor fitted. I ran it from my large deep cycle battery, and could cruise at walking pace for 5 hours or so.

Bullwinkle III has a 3.5 HP two stroke petrol motor, a sheet of plywood across the hulls where the trampoline used to be, and can do 17kph flat out with a stack of noise.

Bullwinkle IV will have the original electric outboard, but will be solar powered. It will also have a greenhouse. The plywood floor from memory is 1.8m square, which happens to be the same size as my original growhouse.

The plan, if I can call it a plan, is to drop a clear plastic growhouse over the top of the plywood floor, mount the solar panel over the the front section where there is no floor, rig some steering control to an office chair mounted up the front somewhere, and and run a veggie garden in NFT tubes that pull nutrient rich Murray River water directly from the river into the tubes as I cruise from the mouth in South Australia, through desert, to somewhere else.

Then come back.

At walking pace.

When doing 120 Things in 20 years it pays not to get too bogged down with specifics when planning an epic adventure.

Aquaponics - Constant flood growth

My new constant flood grow beds seem to be working.

And my new constant flood grow bed plants seem to be flourishing.

The spinach has gone crazy.

At least I think the spinach has gone crazy.

It might be silver beet.

But suddenly the words "Silver beet" don't seem to mean anything, so I might be me that's gone crazy.

I think I've thought those words too often during the construction of this post.

I'll stop.

And move on to whatever this is.

This has gone crazy as well.

It's either cucumber or rock melon.

The lettuce in the original grow bed (planted from seedlings) looked like this at various stages of its life, and also seem to be enjoying a good growth rate.

Perhaps the tomato plants were eating all the nutrient. I still have it in a bucket, but it's growth has slowed since being ripped up and cut back to just a few stems.

That blue thing on the left is the bucket with the tomato plants in it.

 All the water for this grow bed goes through the tomato bucket first until I find a proper home for my hacked tomatoes.

I also added two algae eating fish that like to suck onto the side of fish tanks, and eat whatever grows on them. These I put in the old fish tank (now a sump tank) to keep the algae down.

I haven't seen them since.

For some strange reason I didn't take any photo's of them.

As far as I know they are doing fine, but these days there is a stack of plumbing going into and out of the little sump tank, so there are plenty of places for a tiny pair of fish to hide.

I was promised they would love their new home, and grow to be around 10cm long, but I have also been told that there are no cold water varieties of this kind of fish.

Both pieces of advice came from the same aquarium shop.

120 Things in 20 years. Crazy? Growth from my new constant flood aquaponics grow bed? Sucky fish? Only time will tell.

Aquaponics - In grow bed media washing

Rather than washing my media before adding it to the system, I thought I wouldn't.

So I didn't.

I know it wont work as well as washing it properly, but I haven't felt so good this last week, so I thought I'd just drop all the new media into the grow bed and wash it in situ.

I have in fact done this to some extent with my second system when I filled the 2500L or 3500L or (whatever it was) grow bed, but that one was never used due to having to move house.

I've never written "in situ" before.

I made a media screen, and siliconed it in upside down yesterday.

I suspect it will come back to hurt me at some time in the future, but I might get away with it.

The standpipe has been removed and the elbow turned down in this picture, because I'm rinsing the media with chlorinated tap water, and I want to get as much of the water out before I connect it to the fish tank.

I cranked up the garden tap and tried my best to gig the hose around and move all the dust out.

And just dump the dirty water onto the garden via the driveway.

It started like this...

and ended up running pretty clear.

I'll give it a day or so to let the chlorine out of the remaining water within the grow bed before connecting it to the system.

I also flushed it a bit with some de-chlorinated water, from my top-up container, so I doubt there will be any issues, especially with the new 1000L fish tank ready to dilute any remaining chlorine.

120 things in 20 years. Taking shortcuts and often striving for second best practice when it comes to aquaponics, and washing grow bed media.

Aquaponics - Silver Silver Perch

My silver perch are going silver.

I'm not really sure what that means.

Perhaps it's a sign that I should eat them and get some trout for winter.

Pictured here in this very poorly composed photo, is my bigger angry one.

The smaller one is hiding.

I made the smaller one a small hide from a sliced down length of 90mm PVC so the ceiling is too low for the big one to enter. It seems to have created at least a bit of peace in the system.

One slightly interesting thing of note, is that the overall calm in the tank rises considerably at night.

More and more, I'm convinced that the angry fish is being a bully because it's scared. Perhaps if you feel a predator is near, chasing a smaller fish out into the open is a good way to distract the predator from eating you, because it becomes too busy munching on your old buddy that you've know since delivery day in the plastic bag.

We can all learn something from that.

120 Things in 20 years teaches us that not only do Silver Perch sometimes turn silver, but that if you think a lion is going to attack you, it pays to help a tourist to the front so they can get a better look.

Electronics - Week 2


What on earth is calculus?

I cant learn calculus this week as this week is already partly gone.

I still haven't slept enough since algebra.

I'm officially out of my league.

120 things in 20 years, and my electronics education sees me asking "What was I thinking" at week two. I guess they were correct when they said I would need a strong foundation in maths and physics. 

Electronics - My education - week 1

I received an A for my assignments.

I've never received an A before.

In fact I'm not sure if I ever handed anything up before.

Now I need a week of sleep, but it seems I have to do it again this week as well.

That's poor planing on their part if you ask me.

Be really, really nice to that student in your life. Most of them are kids and, for some reason we see fit to put them through more stress than most of their grownups have to deal with.

Or perhaps I should rephrase that, and say we ask them to run closer to their personal limits as dictated by their experience and abilities than we ask of their grownups.

Either way, be nice to a student today.

If they are your kids, and you've done your job right, they already know better than you, so make them a coffee and treat them with the respect they are due.


Make them a coffee, or buy them a pet iguana or something.

But be nice to them.

And thanks to MIT for the opportunity, but mostly, thanks Mrs 120 Things in 20 years who had to teach an angry, stressed, frustrated, lunatic of a student algebra in a weekend to get me through week one of my electronics education. I'm not sure it's for me, but I guess I'll have a look at week two. Actually I learnt everything I'd hoped to get from the course in week one already. But that could just be sleep talking. Sleep talks now.

Electronics - My education - week 1

If you know a student, be really nice to them.

It's really hard.

I just finished my first weeks work, and learned algebra this week as well.

My self hurts.

People should have to solve this stuff. This is computer work.

I handed up my work at 2:15am local time in South Australia, on the 19th of March.

It was due on the 18th, and I cant do the sums to figure out if my time zone has bought me a few more hours or not.

I don't even know which way the world spins.

It seems to be spinning about an axis made of me.

120 Things in 20 years is going to have a little lie down after completing week one of my electronics education.

Aquaponics - Algae all clear

It looks like my algae farming days are complete.

The new system's fish tank looks like this now.

It took around a week to clear once I covered it to keep the sunlight out.

I'm told it's harmless to the fish, but that there might be a bit of a short term spike in nutrient as the dead algae breaks down.

I haven't been feeding in anticipation of this spike, so hopefully everything will be good from now on.

The photo doesn't really do it justice, but the water is very clear now. My camera tries to focus on the surface of the water so I have to focus on my feet, and then take the pic.

I miss my old film SLR camera, but I just looked at the automatic numbering of my photos, and this pic is number 4665.jpg. And this is my second camera since I started 120 things in 20 years, so If it wasn't for my little digital camera, I would need to mortgage a lung or something to pay for film.

For being able to take photos of my aquaponics algae being all clear, if you're reading, thanks from 120 Things in 20 years to those who had anything to do with making my camera. Even though I now have to force open the lens cover by hand each time I turn it on, and it makes a sound like you might expect if you poured a truck load of kitchen blenders into a giant industrial blender when I turn it off and the lens cover grinds to a close. But for nearly 5000 photos and a stack of videos for a hundred bucks or so, thanks.

Aquaponics - My angry silver perch

My angry silver perch just got angry again.

At 120 Things in 20 years, being angry just draws attention to yourself, and leads to pan frying.

Aquaponics - Fish relocation

My algal grofest has come to an end.

Now for the clean up. It's actually clearing up very fast once the stuff stopped reproducing.

It now looks like this.

My two silver perch seem to like the system expansion, and they appear to be getting along a bit better as well.

This angle is the same as the last two photos in the previous post.

It's amazing what a difference a day makes.

I suspect by tonight it will be crystal clear.

Now all I need is some fish.

It's coming into winter, so I'm thinking I might do a quick trout run. before restocking with silver perch.

120 Things in 20 years is a blog entirely dedicated to documenting fish relocation in aquaponics.

Aquaponics - Algal bloom improvement

Well its 5 days later, and my algae is still living out it's algal life as if I'm not doing everything I can to kill it.

Human -  Nought / 3 trillion microscopic flora - One

But I'm not keeping score.

Actually it looks like this now, and the bottom is becoming visible, so it should clear up soon.

The black line from left to centre is the drain in the bottom of the IBC fish tank, and the larger black smudge is some gutter guard plastic mesh that I knotted up and jammed into the drain so fish wouldn't get stuck in the SLO (solids lifting overflow).

The same scene looked like this  5 days ago, so it's definitely getting better.

To me it looks like another week will see it clear unless it all dies off as suddenly as it arrived.

Aquaponics algal bloom improvements might not be you cup of tea, but there are a stack of other things here at 120 Things in 20 years.

Aquaponics - My algae farm

My algae farm is working better than I expected.

Unfortunately I expected no algae at all, and got plenty.

But it seems there is a cure.

It turns out algae, like pretty much everything else, needs light and nutrient.

The nutrient I cant do much about, but I can definitely cut off it's light supply. It turns out the fish prefer to feel safer in semi darkness as well, so all I need to do is cover my fish tank.

I chose blue.

All that junk on the ground is the inevitable result of  letting me near PVC with a saw.

I think if I cover the top half of the blue bit where it's visible, and just leave a blue skirt, it might even look ok.

It's a very necessary thing to do as my water now looks like this.

That faint dark smudge on the bottom left is the bottom. It's only 1 metre away and you cant really see it.

That's not so good.

My big concern now is that when all that algae dies, there is going to be a huge spike in ammonia and nitrite as it breaks down, so I've stopped feeding.

On the up side, I have my new grow bed available to take up some of the workload in processing the waste, so I might be ok. I also bought some more media so I can get the second new grow bed online hopefully before the ammonia starts being produced.

My 120 things is 20 years sometimes turns an aquaponics system into an algae farm.

Aquaponics - Venturi

A venturi is a lot of things, but in an aquaponics system it's a noun, and refers to a way to introduce lots of air bubbles into a stream of water.

It tuns out, if you have an elbow in a pipe, or some other temporary restriction, the water is under increased pressure before the restriction, and at a lower pressure immediately after the restriction.

The odd thing about that, is that its useful.

Who would have thought.

If you have a restriction in a pipe and you prick a hole just before restriction (between the pump and the restriction) you get a leak in your pipe. We hate leaks, so don't do it.

But if you prick a hole in the pipe just after the restriction (between the restriction and the fish tank) you get a venturi. Actually you probably get something called a venturi effect air tube or something.

But what you really get a venturi.

As the water gets near the restriction, it slows down and as result, there is a pressure localised pressure increase. When it passes through the restriction and opens back up to the normal pipe size, it is allowed to speed back up, and as a result finds it self at lower pressure.

I think.

If there is a hole in the pipe where the pipe is at higher pressure, the water looks to escape, and does so through the hole. If there is a hole in the pipe where there is a lower pressure, the water is quite content to be in the tube, because like everyone else, if your situation is getting slightly easer to move around, and you are under slightly less pressure than you were a while ago, you become content.

The result of a low pressure area with content water is that it sucks in air instead of spitting out water.

This can be a good thing if you are trying to put air into your water, or break up the surface tension on the top of your fish tank, or trying to make one of those low flow shower heads that don't quite wet you as well as just dumping a stack of water on your head.

But dont take my word for it.

I'll build one.

I have a pipe flowing water into my new IBC fish tank.

Try not to notice the massive algal bloom that's occurred as a result of there being too much nutrient in Adelaide water, and the tank just sitting for a week or so.

That's water, not a sports drink.

When you submerge the end, it looks like this.

Interesting, isn't it.

Next we prick a small hole in the tube about halfway along its length.

I was looking for something like a nail to prick a hole in my hose, and found this instead.

I just worked out what it's for. I've had it for ages.

One end has a point for putting holes in black poly pipe, and the other end has a hex spanner for  screwing in the little connectors that have a point on them for things like dripper systems, and little sprinklers etc.

So far in my life, on the odd occasion when I've done such gardening stuff, I've been just forcing the connector things through after making a hole with a nail.

This tool thing works really well.


I turned off the water flow and made a hole.

Interestingly (this isn't the interesting bit) the water dribbled out a bit...

and... (<= that's the interesting bit)

also made a few bubbles exit the pipe under water.

When I created a restriction in the pipe below the hole we see increased pressure as the water piles up at the restriction, and distinctly more water exited through the hole. The photo didn't really capture it, but it was probably 5 times more water.

We also see no air exiting the tube at all.

But when I create the restriction before the hole, we see no water flow out of the hole at all.

And a stack of bubbles exiting the pipe under water.

There, except for any errors I've made, that's probably all you will ever need to know about a venturi.

This 120 Things in 20 years post, looked like something on the venturi effect in an aquaponics environment, but I think in the future's history, it will prove prove to be part of something more to do with the Murray river and the environment.

120 Things in 20 years identity check

Sometimes normal folk need to reset their login details because they have forgotten their passwords.

Sometimes I forget my email address.

This may lead me to make an odd post from time to time.

120 Things in 20 years, just when you though it was starting to make sense again, along comes a post that acts as an identity check, and includes the words "rubber chicken"

Aquaponics - System build - media screen

My first PVC screen I made to keep the media out was full of round holes.

To keep clay balls out. Round balls (like balls tend to be).

It didn't work so well.

So I thought I'd better make a new one.

I started by cutting a length of PVC lengthways so I could mount it against the end of the blue barrel, to surround the stand pipe.

It's difficult to tell, but the good bit is the bigger bit on the right.

The blue barrel has a curved face where the bung is, so I had to distort the base of my media guard to fit.

I drilled a couple of holes so I could get a jigsaw blade in there.

The plan being to cut long slits rather than my original holes. The slits should be able to be blocked, and should actually work.

The final result looks like this.

Neat isn't it.

It wont matter because it wont be visible.

Then just to be sure, I thought I'd stick some gutter guard on as well. Gutter guard is just a plastic mesh you can buy in a roll to keep leaves out of your house gutters.

I tied it on with some rubber bands to hold it in place.

The forced some silicon into the gaps.

The gutter guard seems to be made of the same stuff as black poly pipe. If that's the case, silicon wont stick to it, but I'm hoping that the silicone surrounding it should hold it well enough.

Only time will tell.

Doing 120 Things in 20 years, working on my new aquaponics system build, and making a media screen out of yet more PVC, you may feel I'm developing a PVC addiction. But it's always reassuring to know I have a long way to go. Take Theo Jansen for example. He's got it bad.

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