Cheap desktop aquaponics system

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I wanted to create a fun project with my daughter and a proof of concept for an aquaponics setup to have running in my grow box.  For those of you new to this concept this is growing plants in a soilless environment (much like hydroponics) but instead of paying for expensive nutrients you use naturally occurring bacteria and fish poop to grow plants.

Now there are fish farm kits out there but given most of the parts for this build I had sitting idle in my garage I decided to construct my own.

First after a trip to IKEA I found some plastic tubs just the right size for my grow box.  I got two of the bins and one lid.

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This is the basic idea of how this goes together, fish in the bottom plants on top.

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Next I took a 1/4 inch drill and made several holes on both the bottom of the top tub and also through the lid.  I also added a few extra hole in the lid to ensure water can drain faster from the lid than the water coming in from above.  I also drilled a big enough to fit some 1/2 in plastic tubing from an old fountain pump I had lying around.

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It is a bit hard to see from this picture but I cut the top of a 2 liter bottle off and drilled a hole in the cap just big enough to fit the top of the plastic tubing through.  I then drilled six 1/4 holes and pushed a 6 small pieces of irragaction tubing (pieces of straws could probably work here as well) and positioned them right under the plants roots.

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I then filled the top tub 1/3 with aquarium gravel (washed pea gravel would work as well) that I had sitting the the garage and topped the rest with some clay pellets.

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Next add some plants and pour water from the top until the tub below is full, start the pump and add a few goldfish and the process begins.

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As the fish breath, poop, and pee they will produce ammonia (NH4) this is pretty worthless to the plants but after a few weeks Nitrosomas bacteria will begin converting the ammonia (NH4) to Nitrates (NO2) which plants can absorb some of the nitrogen from but not very efficiently.  Finally Nitrospira bacteria will convert the Nitrates (NO2) to Nitrates (NO3) which is easily converted by the plants producing some nice vibrant greens with fish poop.

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You can even do this whole process without even having fish by simply adding pure ammonia to you water which will create the same natural bacterial processes without having to remember to feed your fish and a small bottle of the stuff only costs a couple dollars on Amazon.

        

How to make the most of a small garden

Today’s post was written by Ricky, who works for www.SwallowAquatics.co.uk. Ricky is a garden lover and enjoys nothing more than spending time in his own, diminutive but beautiful garden.

So the size of your yard leaves a little – okay, a lot – to be desired, but that doesn’t mean you should permanently hang up your secateurs. You’ll be surprised at what you can squeeze into your space with a little ingenuity. Check out our tips below, and let us know your ideas!

Wall to wall

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Image credit: The Blue Girl

When floor space is limited, it’s time to get creative with other surfaces. One trend that is particularly popular in small gardens is the living wall, or wall garden idea. There are various ways to create an interesting, structured display such as in the image above, but climbers such as ivy, honeysuckle and roses will work just as well and create a more unruly feel.

Hanging baskets are another great option for your vertical garden – as long as you hang them appropriately to avoid injuries! Check out some more ideas on how to structure your walled garden here.

Color pop

Sticking with the vertical surfaces idea, it’s important to make the most of any patches of wall or fence that peek through in between your plants and pots. You could paint walls or fences in a bright color to add interest even on the drabbest of days, or even use the space as a canvas and create a mural. Check out these tips on how to paint your fence well.

Man in the mirror

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Image credit: jimwolffman

Mirrors are a small room’s best friend – and that applies to your outdoor room, too. Just like they do indoors, mirrors will make your garden seem bigger than it is by creating the illusion of extra space. Make sure you treat or the frame of your mirror so that it is protected from the elements.

Twinkle, twinkle

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Image credit: Wonderlane

Garden lights don’t have to be restricted to tacky Christmas novelties, and there’s no need for your garden to end up looking like Blackpool Illuminations. As well as offering a little extra security during the darker hours, a few lawn lights will allow you to enjoy your garden for much longer and, when placed cleverly, can make use of the space to show off the best aspects of your garden.

Whether you want something subtle, or a more grotto-like feel as in the photo above, go for solar options for a low cost, environmentally friendly option. Here are a few tips on how to go about installing solar lighting in your yard.

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