Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Really? C'mon

Happy almost Thursday Everyone~

Just finished research paper, turned it in, jumped for joy, had a beer, then realized... CRAP! I still have to make a power point. REALLY !! C'MON!! I think I will push my luck and try to crank it out tomorrow, I'm not presenting until Friday, so it might work out. I guess we will find out Friday:)

Oh how I've enjoyed STEMming this semester. Although my project did not turn out the way I expected it to, I learned what not to do for next semester if I continue my aqua-wicking. I will miss those of you who are not returning and avoid those of you how are..just kidding.

Until next semester..

This is what I was going for :)

Peace, Good Job Everyone

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Gobble Gobble

Happy Wednesday Everyone ~

I am pleased to report that the lactobacillus I put in one of my tanks is proving to work! I checked and double checked the pH (before and after) and thus far the pH has dropped from 8.7 to 7.5, still not the ideal pH for the system (a pH of 6.5 is the goal) but its a huge step in the right direction. Since this proved to work like a charm I went ahead and inoculated more TSB tubes with lactobacillus yesterday. I went to lab this morning expecting cloudy tubes full of bacteria but they weren't ready; I suspect it was too cold were I left them and inhibited reproduction. They should be ready to go come Monday next week:) My goal by the end of this semester is to stabilize both tanks with the ideal pH of 6.5. Here are some pics:
12 tubes inoculated with Lactobacillus
Found this guy outside under one of my chairs, it was dead when
 I found it so I thought I'd bring it to lab to play with it!

I went on a night hike/run this past Monday and thought I'd share this view up at North Mt.

Happy Turkey Weekend Stemmers!


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Need some Lactobacillus

Happy Wednesday Everyone~

I don't have much to report this week. Matt and I think there is an Iron deficiency in both fish tanks and that could be why my plants are slowly withering away. Last week I did some follow-up research on how I could lower the pH and found a few good resources. Everything I found though suggested adding a iron-based compound which is great because its an easy fix but its kind of an expensive hunch. So Matt suggested inoculating my own bacteria to add to one tank. We think there is not enough 'good' bacteria to jump start a healthy cycle and maintain a desirable pH state, so I inoculated lactobacillus (provided by Jeanette) in 6 tubes of TSB (trypticase soy broth). I did this last week on Friday which provided plenty of time over the weekend for the bacteria to reproduce. I added all six tubes to the tank with the higher pH reading of 8.7 and now its a waiting game. I also read that over feeding can contribute to iron deficiencies as well so now I am the only one feeding, but thank you to the STEMMERS that did help maintain a feed schedule! This technique has been done before but no hard evidence has been reported. Hopefully this will work, fish tails crossed:)


Inoculating 6 tubes of TSB with Jeanette's over production of lactobacillus

Dying a slow death...:(

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Finally on track

Happy Thursday Everyone~

Last week was a mess, my plants were dying (in all my systems), there were too many variables to pinpoint why, and I was just overwhelmed with the stress of possibly not succeeding in my project by semesters end. So I did some research on the fish tank wicking system and found a few forums about aquaponic maintenance such as recommended pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. I decided to investigate those particular levels because they are essentially the life cycle of my systems. Fish excrete ammonia in their waste, Ammonia-oxidizing-bacteria in the system is supposed to convert that into nitrite, then nitrite-oxidizing-bacteria is supposed to convert that into nitrate, and the end product (nitrate) is the main dish for the plants floating on top. When you initially set up a new system, there is no bacteria, so there is a spike in ammonia levels. After 2 weeks the clay media will have provided enough surface area and ammonia to commence AOB to multiply. After another 2 weeks NOB should be present to convert nitrite to nitrate. This helpful information was overseen when I started this project; I immediately planted when I should have given my system time to mature and monitored levels early on in my project, but better late than never I suppose.

After a series of tests I am pleased to report that the two wicking systems floating on top of the fish are functioning properly. Last week I reported that the pH levels were too acidic and when I checked them yesterday they were in a more favoring range. Now that I have the systems under control I need to focus on maintaining it.

An ideal system after initial set up is little to no ammonia (<1ppm), little to no nitrite (<1ppm), rich in nitrate (>4ppm) and a pH ranging above 6.3 and below 8.7.

I used Wards self filling ampules to test ammonia (pic above). Same procedure
was used to test nitrite and nitrate.

Results from Tank 1 - 2 fish

Results from Tank 2 - 3 fish

These ampules were dated so I used the water I refill tanks with as my control.
WOW. What a survivor!
To sum things up, the tanks had little to no ammonia, little to no nitrite (tank 2 had a very small amount) and very rich in nitrate (>5ppm). The pH of Tank 1 read 7.6, Tank 2 read 8.5, and the control water read 7.8.

I did notice a few more seeds that sprouted in both tanks so I will be monitoring them.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Too many variables!

Happy Thursday Everyone~

Man o man! My wicking/aquaponic project is not turning out the way I planned. My plants are still not thriving and there are so many variables as to why. Lets first start with the pH of the tanks. Fish naturally like water with a more alkaline pH  where plants naturally thrive in more acidic pH environments. So when I checked the pH of both tanks I got readings from 5.65-6.0 which is kind of worrisome for my fish that occupy them. From what I have read Golfish can survive in water the pH's ranging from 6-8, but since my readings are below 6 I need to figure out a solution quick. The low pH reading could be caused by too much ammonia and not enough bacteria to break down the nitrite (that comes from ammonia) into nitrate (the ideal plant food). Lack of bacteria could possibly be contributed to lack of surface area. In a traditional aquaponic system there is usually a large reservoir full of clay ball media that is continuously drained and refilled from the fish tank below which offers bacteria more space to grow and reproduce. My system offers very little and compact surface area so bacteria either immediately dies once its established or does not grow at all. Another variable is the day light. The plants were only getting 10-12 hrs of light - not enough, so I increased it to 16hrs/day. I also uprooted on of my wheat grass pods to check where the roots were because I noticed that none of them have penetrated through to planter pod like they should have by now. The roots were strong, long, and healthy, so I can only guess that they were possibly blocked by the clay media. Needless to say I have some work to do next week and hopefully achieve systems that function properly and produce some decent herbs before semesters end. Here are some pics:

Wheat grass roots - they look yummy:)

 I hope everyone is succeeding in their projects as the semester closes in.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Plants are dying...need new ideas.

Happy Thursday Everyone~

When I left lab last Friday my plants were alive and well but not thriving. I went in to lab yesterday to find all my lettuce dead and basil at a stunted growth. So..I was contemplating on what could contribute to these causes and came to two conclusion. The first being my plants are possibly drowning and second that they are not getting enough light. I planned ahead for complications at the start of my project and made extra templates (styrofoam). To take care of both issues I added the extra float to each tank which took care of the drowning hypothesis and it raised the plants a little higher closer to the lights. I will check on Friday to see if any changes have occurred since then. I also set one of my systems outside in the green house to compare plant growth between artificial light and sunlight. Here are some pics:
Glad I planned ahead. FYI hot plate+knife=cutting through like butter. 

Before adding the 2nd float, the pots were nearly all they way in the water,
now they are about 1/4 of they way in.
This is from my sweet potato plant. The flower is gorgeous and thought I'd snap a pic
and share. I had no idea they flowered! 
Hope everyone has a HAPPY HALLOWEEN ! 


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Slow a slug slow

Happy Wednesday Everyone~

Woohoo!! Let me first start by bragging about my back to back math exams....I got A's on BOTH and now I can relax for the next 2-3 weeks until the next round of exams come. This week has been slow for me. I tried to save my big tom plant but she died over the weekend and some of my other little sprouts just did not think life was worth living anymore. I did however check on the sister tom plant and she has rooted nicely, not quite ready for the big bucket but maybe in another week she will be. I checked on my mushroom side project and had Matt look at because it had an unpleasant rotting odor to it. Turns out it was growing mold...the BAD kind so I pitched it:( Other than that my project seems to be coming along slowly I wish I could encourage faster growth but better to let things happen naturally. On a side note, I went hiking this morning at North Mountain (the east side of 7th St.) and found my first geocache! It was so much fun even my wife enjoyed it! Apparently there are 2 on PC campus and I'm tempted to stop blogging right now to go hunt them:) Here are some pics:

These are baby basil sprouts. I threw some seeds in last week and they sprouted nicely

Lettuce in the back looks great, growing strong I hope.
See the light and dark contrast? This is a good thing, it means that my wicking bucket is properly functioning by keeping the soil moist and not over damped.Hopefully I will be able to repot the tom plant in this system by next week or so.

Hiking in North Mt. Found my first geocache! So much fun

Hope Everyone is doing well in their research projects:)