Wednesday, 1 March 2017

My Marine aquarium

Its long past time I do an update on my marine aquarium. Not the best photo but I have some nicer individual shots of some of the fish later. I would describe the Aquarium as a bit of a mirror for the rest of the my life. A bit of a mess but so much going on. The corals, macro algaes and fish are all healthy and thriving mostly. There is a bit of unsightly algae around, but the urchin needs something to eat so I leave alone and he periodically Mows down all the extra algae.

First some background. The aquarium has just gone past its first birthday. The tank is a Kent marine bio reef 94l. I removed all media from filter area, except the odd bag of phosphate absorber when I remember. I replaced the Kent nano skimmer with a cheap Boyu WG308 skimmer because it fit in the compartment, was a bit bigger skimmer, and is far less fiddly than the Kent skimmer. Also in the back compartments is a heater, the return pump that came with the set up and another small pump that pumps up into my refugium. So the only filtration my marine aquarium has is the skimmer, refugium and about 20kg of live rock in the front aquarium.

My refugium is a converted Fluval spec 19l. The Fluval spec has a boxed in end which house sponges and a return pump. This makes it ideal to use as it already has a weir and syphon box. first once again I got rid of all the media, then block a small whole which stopped the filter draining if the media was blocked. I placed the spec aquarium on a surface higher than the main aquarium but so that its bottom half was lower than the main aquarium water level.I then added multiple fail-safe syphon tubes to keep the water level in the specs syphon box the same as the level in the main aquarium. I have drawn a quick diagram to show how this works. (its been a while since I showed off my mspaint skills!)
The other thing I changed from the original spec is I added a much larger Led light. There is a few good points about this system that should be highlighted. First if the power goes off or if I turn it off for maintenance. The refugium does not drain into the main aquarium. As soon as its feeder pump goes off it stops overflowing its weir and only the water in its syphon box can flow into the main aquarium and only if the main aquarium has a lower level than the box. the second advantage to this system is copepods and other plankton can travel from the refugium to the main aquarium without passing through a pump or filter. this hopefully Supplies Eric, My green spotted Mandarin plenty of food.

The refugium currently houses all the frags I cut of my colt coral. It also has several macro algaes growing around in there. Mostly caulerpa racemosa but also taxifolia. It is difficult to get a good photo as the coral frags are in the way but here is some quick photos.

Ok so onto the residents in the main Aquarium. They have been pretty much the same fish since I started, I think the last addition was in about April last year. Some of the fish are getting a bit large, but as they seem happy/healthy and as it would involve taking apart all the rock-work to get at them, I have left them alone.

First we have my pair of clowns. They are Black saddleback clown fish. Both are black and white, the female is larger and pretty much the boss of the aquarium. The male is smaller with a yellow face and yellow on his pectoral fins. when I tried to keep an anemone in the aquarium the clowns were far too rough with it. I may try a larger one again another time to see if they have calmed down.

Next up I have two Lemon damselfish (Peal and Tart), The larger of which I would like to remove. but haven't found an easy way yet. These are pretty calm fish as damsels go, although Tart is getting a bit belligerent Now shes getting quite big.

Next Is my Blue Sapphire damselfish Chrysiptera springeri. This can go from almost black one minute to bright blue the next depending on its mood. it has been very calm so far perhaps because it is scared of the larger lemon damsel.

Next is another fish that has a reputation for being trouble is my Orchid dottyback. I got this fish because a customer returned it to the shop. luckily all the residents in my aquarium can handle themselves so it doesn't seem to have been a problem. a striking active fish that likes to hide in small wholes between the rocks.

There was a few residents I didn't get a photo of this time round. Eric my spotted mandarin is doing well and is always hunting round the tank, just didn't manage to get a good photo. Then there is the fire shrimp I only see at feeding time. There is also two peppermint shrimps that I had not seen for about 6 months, til recently when I was watching the tank at night with just blue light on, they poped out to say hello.

On the coral front The colt coral has recovered from it hack back. and is starting to branch out once again from its stump. the zooanthids and green star polyps continue to spread themselves around and battle it out for space. I added a small rather damaged stump of a toad-stall that was looking sorry for itself in the shop and it has recovered well. you can see it behind the dottyback in the photo above.
Colt coral 

The Short spine urchin was hiding somewhere when I was taking photos but is still around helping keep algae in check.

That's all for now. Overall the aquarium does very well with little or no maintenance from me. I just feed it and change some water once in a while. I will do some further photo updates when I can get a picture of my mandarin as hes a fish worth his own update.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Trying out aquaponics/hydroponics - prototype 2

The plants in the aquaponics trough (we shall call it prototype 1 from now on), have done pretty well and the set up has attracted quite a bit of attention from the guys on the chilli forum. Lots of people like the idea of having fish in a tank feeding plants above. I have been making various designs to try out ideas.

The first design I thought about was the most simple just a lid with holes cut so pots sat just above the water and the plants roots hung down into the tank. I did not try this idea further because i think this would be unsightly.

The second design here, is like prototype 1 accept with mist maker instead of the air-stones. I would like to try utilizing a mist maker but am waiting for one I ordered to arrive.

The third design here utilizes individual drippers for each pot. I based this design on miracle-grow's aerogarden, accept rather than a plastic reservoir I could use an aquarium. this is the design i will try further and make a prototype.

I started by cutting wholes for net pots in two poly-lids. one with holes big enough to take the top of the net pot, and one big enough for the bottom half of the net pot to go through but not the top. I pushed 8 net pots through the larger wholes so there top was pretty much flush with the poly-lid(I know badly explained but you will see what I mean in the pictures),

I then gave each net pot its own airline tubing feed and taped them to the underside of the first lid.

I then added the other poly-lid, sandwiching all the pipework in-between. I found an eight way airline splitter on eBay which I used to split the water coming from the pump (or aquarium filter in this case because I had one kicking round) into the eight airline feeds going to each net pot.

This all made, I placed the lid on a plastic reservoir to test I may install it on top of one of my aquariums later, but I wanted to try this version using fertilizer to try out true hydroponic growth for the first time. I got some rockwall cubes to put into the net pots. I have installed some peppers I got as plugs from the garden centre just to try it out. I also bought a propagator lid to go on top to keep up humidity when plant first go in and if i want to start some seeds in it.

Since its been running I think it doesn't need the lower poly-lid as i don't think it really adds anything, just covers the pipework which is not on show anyway. So far I have not got it its own light yet, Its just using a make shift but the plants look to be settling in well.

That's all for now but I will be trying more designs and updating the progress with this one. I also have lots more updates for the blog, I have been very busy with work stuff recently but I am back on the case. I have started to plant all my annuum and I have updates on many of my other plants.

I will leave you with photos of my current favourite wild peppers.

 Capsicum lanceolatum/Capsicum eximium

Happy growing!
edit. Forgot a couple of the photos.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Trying out aquaponics.

Aquaponics is something I have wanted to try for a long time. I have used watercress indoors growing in trickle-filters and in the stream on my pond, but would like to try to grow other plants using this method. It is also a practical idea because I have an overstocked aquarium (not my own doing, Guppies and cherry shrimp never stop breeding) and a pond full of fish. This means there is a lot of nutrient rich water available.

As a test with a look at making something larger for outside in the spring, I decide to make something small to fit on the top of my aquarium. I wanted something I could slot my existing 10cm self-watering pots into except instead of using pint glass reservoirs they would get aquarium water in a constant flow.
I started by buying a plastic trough tall enough to accommodate my 10cm pot, a gap and then enough of a reservoir to work. I then made polystyrene top out of a poly-box lid. this added another 2cm to the pot heights. I drew round the top of top of the pot and cut inside the line, to make three holes big enough to fit the pots but small enough for them to not fall through.
Lid with wholes cut and one plant installed

I used a drill to make a 22mm whole in the bottom of the trough. I bought a 22mm overflow plastic bulkhead fitting. I use this size because they are cheap being the standard fitting used on overflows on water tanks. the fitting stood just tall enough inside to leave quite a lot of room for water roots. it also had a cap that made it slightly taller. If I wanted to though I could always add always add a riser to make the reservoir deeper, as long as I leave some space above and don't dip the pot in the water.
Bulkhead drain

I made another whole in the side of the trough to act as both an entry point into the trough for the inlet pipe and air pipes, but also as an overflow if the bottom drain became blocked.
Inlet entry/overflow

I used a small aquarium filter (because i have many around the place) and a piece of tubing to pump water up into the trough.

 Once it fills the trough to the level of the top of the bulkhead fitting it overflows back into the aquarium. I added a couple of air stones on an air-pump because I had one spare and new it would help get oxygen around the plants roots.
Final view inside trough, showing air-stones, inlet and bulkhead outflow.

I Once all put together I have installed three of my Capsicum baccatum as they are two big for the grow areas and don't like the cold in the windows. I also picked plants that already had roots long enough to reach the water in the trough, also their wicks just reach the water. I have got a small light on there at the moment and they are near a window but I may swap some lights around and see if I can give them a bit more.
Whole tank with aquaponic trough installed
 (although I don't know where all the fish were hiding during this, there is masses in there).

I really look forward to seeing how the plants do in there and if they have any impact on nitrate/phosphate levels in the aquarium. if they do well, I will consider making a much longer version for the side of the pond in the spring.

Happy growing!

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Chilli pepper update - Decorating reservoirs

All my peppers are doing well and starting to take over every window. As they get bigger they start to empty there reservoirs quicker and quicker. As I have mentioned in the blog before I will be using poly-boxes for multiple plants as larger reservoirs once they go outside. In the mean time someone on forum (which I am now a posting member of, Hi guys) suggested using 2l bottles as bigger reservoirs. Luckily the pots I have spent a fortune on, when I have plenty of old pots, fit perfectly into both pint glasses AND 2l bottles. As they get much wider at the top. This makes me feel not so bad about buying so many of them just to have uniform plants.
Two Capsicum rhomboideum in my old (or now my beginner) reservoirs.

Capsicum pubescens "Mini rocoto" in new larger 2l bottle reservoir.

This has worked very well and saved me a lot of watering. The one issue with this (highlighted by some of the peeps on the forum) is that the clear reservoirs mean you can unwanted algae growth in the water/nutes. This was never really much of an issue in the cups as they would drain in a week or less and not have time to grow much algae. Now using the larger 2l bottles this could become more of a problem.

I decided I would use wrapping paper (lots left over after Christmas) to make sleeves to go over all my 2l bottle plants. Also one of my overwintered Aji lemon is one of the few plants in a different sized pot so wouldn't fit in a 2l bottle, so  I needed to find something with a slightly more narrow opening. luckily i found a vase that it fitted perfectly which holds even more than the 2l bottles.

Rocoto large red, Aji lemon, and Turbo pube in there new decorated reservoirs.

I was really pleased with how these turned out and will be making lots more.

This week I also decided to install a reservoir for my over-wintered second year Red Rocoto. It wasn't growing much and always seemed dry. I used polystyrene to make a "collar" to make the flower bucket its in sit nicely on top of a large ex-salt bucket. I hope this kick starts my Red rocoto as i would love a bumper crop this year, as I enjoy cooking with them.
2nd year Rocoto

That's all folks! Stay tuned for more updates. I have cut back my colt coral some more so the marine aquarium looks very different I will be sure to post an update soon. I am also currently finalizing my list of Capsicum annuums that I will be growing and of course there is all the pepper relatives that I am in the process of starting. 
Happy growing!

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Capsicum wild species

It looks like I have finished collecting seeds for this year. I wont have time to start any more wilds even if I find them. I found seeds for all available seeds except flexuosum which I couldn't find this year. I am still waiting on tovarii and rocopica (eximium/cadenasii x pubscens) to germinate, and the cardenasii I have I expect will turn out to be eximium as most do. Below is a photo of eleven species together, once tovarii germinates I will have Twelve.
Eleven species of Capsicum in one photo
Back row - C. annuum "Tesco yellow"/ C.frutescens "tobasco/
C.baccatum "mini bonnet"/C.pubescens "montafur"/C.praetermissum "cumari pollux" 
Middle row - C.chinense "7pot bubblegum"/C. chacoenese "CAP 524"/
C.galapagoense "Long"/C.rhomboideum/C.eximium 
Front seedling - C.lanceolatum

My Capsicunm eximuim has been fairly slow and spindly growing. However it does now seem to be getting somewhere with shoots on it nodes, as can be seen below.
Capsicum eximium
Capsicum rhomboideum has been my favourite plant so far. Its so different to other capsium. its leaf shape, colour, and many other attributes. Its leaves and stems almost look like a succulent.
Capsicum rhomboideum

My two Capsicum chacoense varieties are very different which will be a subject for another post.
C. chacoenese "CAP 524"
 Capsicum lanceolatum is very slow growing and apparently the peppers are not very nice tasting but its worth trying to grow just for the flowers.
 Capsicum lanceolatum

That's all for now just a mini update. Lots more to come as I cut the coral in my marine aquarium back today. photos and an explanation to come.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

New year update.

At the start of the year I have been very busy. My pepper grow is progressing and there are chilli plants all over the house. Most of my wild species have germinated and are thriving. 

Capsicum Rhomboideum                 Capsicum eximium

The other domesticated species are all doing well, except for a few of the overwinters which I think I cut back too heavily. This does not matter too much as I have more than enough plants.
Capsicum baccatum Aji omnicolor            Capsicum Chinense Habanero Hawaii Beach

 Capsicum frutescens Tobasco      Capsicum Pubescens Rocoto Mini

 Capsicum praetermissum Cumari pollux     Capsicum annuum Tepin

My first batch of pepper relatives is in the propagator. Solonum uporo, Solonum topiro and lycium chinense have all germinated already.

Coming up to its first birthday my marine aquarium is messy but healthy. There are too many fish and some of them are getting a bit large, I would remove them but it involves taking the rocks out because otherwise I will never catch them. this means its a massive job and I haven't got there yet. My colt coral has reacted well to its haircut so much so that I will have to take more off soon. I have yet to successfully stick any of the frags down but I have some hopes for the bit in the refugium at the moment.

Reef aquarium

My newest inhabitant is my short-spine urchin. It eats masses of algae which It scrapes of the rocks.  Some people are worried about the short-spine urchin as it can burrow into rock, indeed my one does scrape rocks very clean, like it scrapes of the top layer of rock as well. This does not really worry me because of the sheer amount of rock in the aquarium.
short spine urchin

That's all for now but I will be back with some more detailed updates soon!