The lettuce and herb plants have been quite successful so far this year. The tomatillos died off quickly as it was attacked by a bunch of bugs. They moved on to the carrots after they killed the tomatillos and completely stunted growth. The carrots haven't died, though. The cucumbers dried right up and died, and the hot peppers made a quick appearance and then disappeared just as fast as they sprouted. That leaves use with leaves...lettuce and herb leaves. They sprouted quickly and we had a mini-harvest in December. The kids were split on choosing baby leaf blend or butter crunch as a favorite. In January the water became murky and a few fish died. The ammonia level spiked in both tanks for reasons unknown. The plants stopped growing. The tanks were flushed repeatedly and finally stabilized. Since then the lettuce has taken off even more. It's about time for another harvest. This time we'll have to bring some salad dressing! Below is a timelapse of the growth. I bumped the camera with my head a few times so it looks a little shaky.
This week was quite successful for our aquaponics system. Both classes caught plenty of fish at Arbutus Lake to provide enough nutrients (I think) for our plants. Both classes caught around 30 fish. There was a nice mix this year between bluegill, sunfish, and perch. We accidentally brought back one large mouth bass but those haven't done well in previous years so he might not last. One nice addition to Cooper's tank is a pair of crayfish, both caught with a worm on a hook!
We planted herb plants, kale, cucumbers, tomatillos and a pineapple plant! We also planted seeds for various lettuce plants, carrots, and hot peppers. The kids are really excited about the peppers. Stay tuned for updates as the growing begins!
We successfully grew a gigantic herb plant this year that eventually took over the rest of the grow beds. We probably should have managed it a little better. There was a broccoli plant that seemed to be doing well but there was a pump malfunction (I neglected to clean it), and the grow beds flooded for a couple of weeks. The herb plant even crowded out the tomatillo plants in the end. There were about five carrot plants that grew for the entire year! You would think that they would either be huge or they would be shriveled and gross, but they actually tasted pretty good! A few students might disagree with me but I would eat them again.
I was very close to hosting a fish fry on the second to last day of school, but the ammonia levels were a little elevated and we actually had two fish die in the last two weeks. We had enough left so that every student would get half a fillet, but I decided not to risk it. Maybe next year we'll try it... Instead, we will have to dispose of the fish in the bushes. The DNR permit allowing me to have lake fish in my classroom also stated that I could not put them back. So, thanks for your help, fish! To the weeds with you! If you look at the videos section of this website, you'll find a video that shows clips of our aquaponics experiment this year.
We had a wonderful start to our aquaponics systems this year! Fishing was cold and not completely successful for either class, but we did manage to reel some in. Luckily, a few volunteers went fishing over a weekend and brought in a bunch for Mrs. Bernard's tank.
We discovered that chlorinated water, such as the water from our faucet, was killing the bacteria that we needed. So, we fill up a separate tank with water and let the chlorine evaporate, then we fill the fish tanks with that water.
Plants in Mrs. Bernard's grow beds are growing better than Cooper's, so we are thinking we need more fish...probably from Petsmart this time.
Our system came to a close with a feast! Pea-sized brussel sprouts were the main course (and only course). The brussel sprout plant was the most successful and grew to be quite large. It pretty much took over an entire grow bed! We ended up using one fish tank as a feeder fish tank that kept a school of minnows from Petsmart. The minnows seemed to provide enough nutrients to keep the plants growing while also providing some food for the fish in the other tank.
In the end, our aquaponics system was a success. It man not have produced the amount of food that we were hoping for, but we learned a great deal from it. I would guess that if these kids could do it again, they would! Check out pictures and the culminating video!
Well, the winter has given us some ups and downs for our aquaponics system. There was a time where it seemed like if there was something that could go wrong, it did. We had fish dying every day for a while. Now it seems that we have that stabilized. We decided that we just had way too many fish in the tanks. We couldn't keep the ammonia levels down and it was causing all sorts of illnesses for the fish. It sounds crazy, but out of all of the fish we caught, we are down to about six: one largemouth bass, one rock bass, one crappie, three bluegill. Lynnea brought in some guppies so we decided to separate the two tanks into feeder fish and the fish we caught. The minnows and guppies can still produce the nutrients for the plants, but now they can also provide food for the other tank. The largemouth bass is crazy for them! He spends his days staring into the tank next to him.
The plants have almost all withered, except for the brussel sprouts and peppers. There are a few carrot plants that have not died and a couple of strawberry plants that are still green. We're not really expecting to see any strawberries, but we'll use their roots to clean the water. Why did they die? There are a couple of factors:
First factor: In an effort to keep the heat down in our rooms, maintenance installed a protective film on the windows that keeps out 98% of all UV rays. Before we could install a grow light, plants started withering, roots started disappearing and the water wasn't getting filtered. It took a while to bounce back.
Second factor: One day we discovered thin webs all over the strawberry plants. Upon closer examination, these webs had what looked like little dust flakes. Upon even closer examination, these dust flakes would move around! We put them under our digital microscope and identified these creatures as spider mites! Apparently the best way to get rid of spider mites is to release a predator mite that eats them, so that's what we did. Although we didn't really get to see the predator mites go to work, the spider mites were gone shortly after the release.
The latest idea was to plant some seeds to try to get more vegetation filtering the water. We sprinkled some spinach and lettuce seeds and crossed our fingers. Within a week, they were sprouting all over the place! It is quite exciting to see how much they grow each day. Just for fun I threw in an apple seed. It took about two weeks, but now we can honestly say that we have an apple tree growing in our classroom. It doesn't look much different than the lettuce, but we can still brag about it!
That's the latest and greatest with our aquaponics system. Click here to see pictures!
This week our fish tank has experienced some challenges. On Monday the whole tank was very murky. We transferred some strawberry plants from Bernard’s grow beds to ours thinking that there wasn’t enough filtration happening in our larger tank. Bernard’s tank was completely clear and looking good. We stopped all feeding but there was no real change in water clarity throughout the week. On Thursday one fish died. We replaced 15 gallons of water with sink water and immediately noticed more clarity. Ph seemed slightly high before the flush.
On Saturday, I stopped by to check on things and noticed another dead fish! Upon closer examination, I also noticed a dead fish hidden behind the pump. This fish could have been there for the entire week! I pumped another 15 gallons out and replaced it with sink water. I also salted both tanks to increase overall fish health. As soon as I salted Cooper’s tank, a fish started freaking and swimming all over the place. Upon closer examination, this fish had huge, bulging eyes. It died very shortly after that.
I looked closely at Bernard’s tank for any signs of fish illness and I found one that had redness on most of its tail. I disposed of it. The water still looks good in that tank.
*Insert from Mr. Cooper: Check out Jade's Showme! She does a great job explaining aquaponics.
Thank you for viewing our blog! We've been working hard to start an aquaponics system in our class. Each week we will update this blog to keep parents and interested people informed of how things are going. We just finished two field trips to Arbutus Lake to catch some fish. We were very successful! One fish tank has 18 fish and the other has between 30 and 40. They are hard to count!
We have had one casualty so far. A fish died on Sunday and stunk up the room. I planted 15 strawberry plants and ran the pump continuously so the water could be filtered. As soon as we get two more media barriers we will plant the rest of the vegetable plants and have four grow beds fully functional. We will also have to do something about the sound. I don't know if I will be able to stand the sound of running water all day!
Everyone is very excited to see some plant growth. In future blogs, students will post weekly recordings. They will record water statistics, such as ph, temperature, and ammonia levels. They will also measure plant size and update everyone on anything special that happened. Stay tuned for more!