Mini-aquaponics kitchen garden.

2014-03-04 07.48.43Ah, the fish-tank project!  I meant to get this out yesterday, but I wasn’t done with it!  Of all the things around the house that I’ve been working on, this one feels like it’s been the biggest challenge so far.

While it is challenging, it’s also a hell of a lot of fun and quite rewarding too, the process is an interesting one.  While I’m having a blast with this project, I’d say it’s far from finished, it’s one of those things that kind of grows and evolves over time.

I started out with the project I wrote about last weekend, the vertical kitchen garden.  The goal was to eventually evolve the kitchen garden in such a way that could function as a mini hydroponics system.   This adjusted system adds a fish-tank and air-pump which supplies water and nutrients to the plants and cleans the water for the fish.

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For this system, I used an aquarium kit that comes with a filter, air-stone, and air pump. You’re also going to need some aquarium gravel, 1/4 inch aquarium tubing, probably some extra t-joints and obviously fish.  I haven’t gotten that far yet, its super cold out and I’m not sure I wanna risk transporting fish in this weather.

2014-03-02 05.36.32While I’m waiting for the weather to warm up, I’m having a blast decorating my tank.  The air-stone that came with my kit gives me some sweet lighting effects, transitioning from color to color.

I’m literally in photo-taking heaven! It’s a fun thing to do, playing with light and reflections, I find it to be very relaxing.   I’ve got a bunch of neat photos of reflections, light color and water which I’ll be sharing soon.  Here is one of them.  🙂

I probably would have gotten this project done a lot sooner if it wasn’t for the fact that I was having so much fun playing around with my camera, that’s part of the journey though eh?

2014-03-04 03.31.55In addition, this project probably would have happened faster if I didn’t have a cat knocking my stuff over every day.  It’s hard to find a good spot that feels safe for your plants when nothing is sacred from the cats.

As much as I am drawn to the plants and the crystals and the lights, so too are the cats.

They see all this stuff and think it’s fair game.  I’ve noticed they don’t like it when I put things on their windowsill, this seems to annoy them and I get punished with a knocked over planter.    See that look Lyra is giving us?

On the bright side, their antics make for a pretty funny picture.  I would caption this one, “She knows what she did, she doesn’t care, she’ll do it again.”

Anyway, before I ramble too far off course, here’s a little information on how I made my aquaponics system.

Mini-Hydroponics System To the right is a diagram I made which gives you the basic setup for putting everything together.  It’s adapted from the diagram featured in this video

The main difference between my blueprint and the one in the video, is that my fish-tank doesn’t have a hole in the bottom.   Instead, I coax the water to flow up and over the tank using the filter and tube attachment that came with the aquarium I found.

I followed the same general flow of the design, though I did add a tube to the side of the lowest planter to flow the water back into the fishtank.  I edited the chart to show it on the bottom, I think that way would work better for providing proper drainage for plants.

If you decide to get an aquarium starter kit that comes with all the stuff you need, I’d recommend getting some extra tubing and a couple of t-joints.  (T-joints are what allow you to connect different tubes and devices to each other. See the diagram for reference.)   Having them on-hand might save you a little frustration later too.  I found that I had to do a little improvisation with the joint that came in the kit; it was more of an L shape that didn’t lend itself well to this design.

2014-03-04 05.46.53The T shape allows the air to pass through the tube by creating a vacuum that forces water up and out of the tank and into your planters.  This design also utilizes a U-bend in the tube that drains from the fish tank.  This bend prevents the back leak of air which is something that could mess up your water pressure and flow.   Experimenting with different heights and tube lengths will probably give you the best results.    Keep in mind that the water will flow better if the t-joint is positioned below the tank itself.

2014-03-04 07.50.05It’s best to use plants that like a lot of water for this kind of setup, like lettuce, plants that do well in the shade are a good option to keep in your house too.  The planters in the picture on the right are both growing lettuce sprouts right now.

You’ll also want to make sure that you aren’t inadvertently drowning your plants by not providing enough oxygen to the roots.  You can avoid this by making sure the roots have proper drainage and air circulation.

To help protect the fish, put some sort of filter on the planter so you aren’t dumping a bunch of dirt and crud back into the fish tank.  Save the gunk that accumulates and use it in your compost pile, it will make great dirt.

As far as water goes, I’ve read that you can use freshwater from a pond and that will help jump-start the bacteria that you need to convert the fish’s waste into nitrogen for the plants.  I’ve also read that you want a sun-proof tank to prevent the buildup of algae.  I’m hoping to bend this rule by incorporating some animals that will eat the algae and help keep it at a reasonable level.

Before I wrap this up there are a couple of safety precautions to consider.

1) Don’t position your tank above electrical outlets.  Always position your tank so it is below any nearby power outlets.

2) Try to keep the water tubes and electrical cords separate if possible.

3)When plugging in power cords for aquarium accessories, make sure the cord forms a u-shape below the outlet it is plugged into, so that it doesn’t drip water into the plug-in.

4)Avoid placing your tank on table edges or places where they could get knocked over easily.  On the counter by the sink is generally a good area to keep it because it’s a lot easier to drain the water out of the system if needed.

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That’s all for now!  I hope you enjoyed this article on creating your own mini-aquaponics system.  This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this subject. I highly recommend you check out the links below, there are some great resources I used for reference when designing this project:
Hydroponic Basics.

Vertical Kitchen Garden.

2014-02-17 08.36.41Kitchens have always seemed like magical places to me.  I love the possibilities that exist inside of a kitchen, all the things you could potentially create.  My mother instilled in me a healthy respect for herbs and spices, to me a kitchen isn’t complete unless there is a wide variety both, all the better if they are fresh.  It’s my opinion that  kitchens can only be improved with the addition of plants.

I love the idea of having fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables within arm’s reach while I’m cooking.  I love how they stimulate my senses, and make me feel freaking amazing.

There is a distinct feeling, a vibration that plants bring to an environment which invigorates and uplifts, they literally provide us with a breath of fresh air.

This weekend I decided to add some more of that uplifting plant vibration to my house by finally making my kitchen garden.  The kitchen garden for me is one of those projects you decide that you MUST do because it looks so amazingly awesome when you read about it.

2014-02-16 18.29.57To make this particular garden I used a few empty two liter bottles,  a cordless drill with a 1/4 drill bit attachment. Cotton Twine, Printed Duct Tape (peacock feather pattern), a scissors, aquarium gravel, organic starter soil, an empty egg carton and of course, assorted seeds.

Not everything listed is pictured  You can find all of the stuff you need to make this online, or at a hardware store…  Alternatively, if you want to be like me and feel guilty for the next week; just go to Wal-Mart.  That’s where I found the duct-tape, drill-bits, aquarium gravel, and organic starter soil.

I was surprised to find that Wal-Mart carried organic potting soil, I’ve had a hell of a time finding it locally lately so that was a plus.  There’s always a silver lining to every cloud!  I’m currently working on making my own soil from compost but it takes a year for compost to mature and we’ve only been living here for the last four months.  Eight more months to go and I’ll have my own organic soil…around November.  :/

Until then I’m going to need soil, while I would prefer to do business with other places,  I do think it’s a good sign that we’re seeing big box stores like Wal-Mart offering more organic options, it shows that people are being heard, and that we have power to change how things are done.

2014-02-15 15.03.17I didn’t like the look of a bunch of naked garden containers so I decided to cover them with patterned duct tape so they all match better.

I think when it comes to the counter containers made from milk cartons I’ll continue to use tape, but for the purposes of the hanging planters I’m going to try something else. The tape worked well for smoothing out the rough edges from where I cut the plastic bottles, but you could sand them too and avoid using tape.

I think it could also be neat to glue something around the edges of the planter with a hot glue gun. Maybe border, or some kind of decoration.  The first things that popped into my head were those shiny bedazzlements that I used on this project.  I love shiny stuff, good god it’s awesome. o.O


I found the easiest way to uniformly cover these bottles with tape is to do vertical strips that run from the bottom of the bottle to right where the cap starts.  Cut a slit in the center of each strip, right where the bottle starts to taper on both ends, this will make it easier to fold the tape around the changing shape of the bottle.

I’ve found that it’s good to keep adding tape until you have enough space left to use two more strips.  At this point you want to stop adding tape and cut out the hole for your where your plant is going to stick out.  After you have cut the hole for your plants, tape the rest of the bottle so the whole thing is covered.  Once all my bottles are taped, I started drilling the holes to feed my string through.

I drilled a hole on each end of the bottles for my rope to feed through and I drilled a few additional holes in the bottom of each planter except one.  The planter I saved from drilling will go on the bottom of the plant tower and catch the water that drips when I water the whole system.  In order to stabilize the planter I tied knots in the ropes at equal intervals so the bottles have a place to rest on while they are hanging.

Next time I think it would be cool to make the planters adjustable, by finding something to secure them on the rope.  I’m not sure what the best thing to use for that is, I’ll have to do more research.

dirtcupsOnce I had the planters and rope put together I filled the containers with aquarium gravel.  At this point you could plant seedlings directly into the gravel if you wanted to.  I don’t have any seedlings that are big enough to do this, so I decided to use the planters as a nursery for sprouting seeds.  I don’t want to mix dirt in with my gravel so, I’m using an egg carton that has had each of the individual chambers cut out.

The handy thing about sprouting seeds this way is that it’s pretty easy to move them around if you desire to.  This gives allows some freedom to experiment with what plants to group together for creating successful plant guilds.  Once the seedlings are ready to be transplanted all I have to do to prepare them is pop em’ out of the egg carton cups and rinse off the roots.  Some of the seedlings I’ll keep inside and grow year round in the planter, some of them I’ll transplant outside when it gets warmer.  

I’m pretty happy with how this project turned out I learned a lot and it was a ton of fun to do but, I think it can be even better.  Next time I want to utilize a full hydroponics system and incorporate a fish-tank into the design.   The planters will hang above the tank and a pump will circulate water up to the top-most planter and trickle it back down to the fish-tank.  Inside of the fish-tank I would like to grow cool looking fish and edible aquatic plants, I have to do a little more research on what works well for this kind of setup, but I’ll be doing more with this project in the very near future.    In the meantime I’ll be watching my plants grow.  Thanks for reading and if you have any tips you could send my way, I’d be much obliged.  🙂  Namaste.


This is How NASA Grows Food In Space | | Healthy News and Information

Easily grow food indoors all winter even if you only have a small apartment.  Sustaining year round cuts back on time spent preparing food for storage and provides maximum nutrition via fresh picked raw fruits and veggies.

via This is How NASA Grows Food In Space | | Healthy News and Information.

Cool stuff! Replace harsh chemicals with these tried and true alternatives.

When you go to the grocery store, you can be overwhelmed by all the brightly packaged products, vying for your dollars.  They all claim to be the best and can cost a fortune, what’s worse, is that many of the products contain harmful chemicals that can really wreck your world.  Let’s keep it simple.  Here are 4 tried and true products you can use cheaply and safely, that you might have at home already, saving you a trip to the store.

#1 Castile Soap.  I love this stuff.  With one soap, you can eliminate virtually all of your common household cleaning products.  I’ve been using Dr. Bronner’s hemp/rose scented soap lately. I use it for cleaning my house and cleaning me.  I love that I can clean my counters with it and not feel like I have to wear a gas mask.  One note to keep in mind when using Castile soap, sometimes it can leave a bit of a film.  The two main places I’ve noticed this were washing my dishes, and washing my hair.   If the film bugs you, (as it does me) you can use a rinse made with water and apple cider vinegar(ACV).   (I use about 1/2 cup ACV to a quart water)

Just don’t mix castile soap with ACV, the ACV dissolves the binding agent in the soap leaving you with a weird curdled concoction with no cleaning power.  1st soap, then ACV.    Below is a link to 12 great uses for castile soap.

#2 Apple Cider Vinegar

I’ve used it as a hair rinse and it works great.  ACV has wonderful clarifying properties and I can attest to them.  I had a problem with dandruff and dry skin, and the ACV/Dr. Bronner’s combination leaves my scalp feeling WONDERFUL.  It also makes your hair shiny and smooth.  (You wouldn’t know it from my picture on the left.  I had just taken out my dreads and thought it was funny that I looked like a DBZ character.  Kamayamaya!)  ACV is another great multi-purpose natural product.  Like castile soap, you can use it on you, and your home.

Here’s a link to a website with 131 uses for vinegar.
#3 Baking Soda

Baking Soda is another product I’ve used to clarify my hair and it works really well.  I make a paste out of it put it in my hair and let it soak for a few minutes and then rinse with ACV.  It can be used for cooking, cleaning, and personal hygiene.  Baking soda works great as a deodorizer, I put a box in the fridge and it helps absorb funky odors.  It’s also handy to sprinkle in the cat box.

#4 Lemon Juice.

I’m most familiar with using lemon juice to beat colds.  I add a little honey and lemon to my tea, the honey helps sooth sore throats, the lemon helps cut the gunk and mucus that can come with a cold.  Lemon also has antibacterial properties, which might be part of why it works so well.  I’ve also found lemon to be an effective mask for your face, take a fresh lemon peel, put about a teaspoon of honey on it and rub it on your face.  Leave it there for 5 minutes and your face feels soft and awesome.