Tag Archives: aquarium

Mini Aquaponics


Mini-ponics? Bucket-ponics? Either way, how cool is this?

I decided that my actual aquaponic tank need more fish (3 medium gold fish in a 40 gallon) but I hesitated to add new fish into my tank. You see, I love my goldfish. I don’t want to put them at risk by exposing them to the sick fish from Petsmart (we have the worst luck with fish). So I needed another temporary tank.

sidebucket  Enter the 5 gallon bucket turned fish tank! My bro lent me a little powerhead submersible pump so I had a way to move water, I just needed a filtration media. I rigged a little net pot with clay from my main system to run the water through, popped a few mint cuttings in there and BAM I had a biological filter. The water also came from my main system, so I basically had a fully functioning tank ready to go.

Of the 5 new fish I’ve only lost one in a week which is the best odds I have ever had with Petsmart fish. I’ve been concerned with the temperature flux since it’s outside and it’s been quite cold. My main tank has a heater which I added for the week or so that we were getting down into the teens at night. I actually had some ice on the surface one morning! Luckily goldfish don’t mind the cold temps. Over a week in the bucket and the fish are doing fine which is great news!

Aquaponics fish tank

So I can probably go ahead and add them to the main tank but now I’m curious to see if this little bucket system can function long-term. If so, it would be a really easy way for people to dip their toes into the world of aquaponics. I mean this could easily go on an apartment balcony or a sunny window. I also thought it would be cool to take the bucket to Ara’s school to introduce the kids to aquaponics. Wouldn’t that be so cool?

This image from the Aquiaponics Source shows the cycle of water from fish waste to plants and back to fish. I always mix up nitrites and nitrates and I wanted to get it right if we get to show it to the Montessori kids!

I am going to keep the bucket up and running for a while to see how stable it is. I have a feeling I need a larger ‘grow bed’ to really keep the water clean and healthy. I would like to see the plants really take off and have a good root system going. It’s a fun experiment! I’ll probably transfer these 4 fish to the big tank and buy 2 or 3 more gold fish for the bucket-ponics fun!


I need more fish anyway since I will be expanding my main system soon! EXCITMENT. I’ve been living with my clipboard of drawings and diagrams just planning and thinking about what I want to change and how to do it. My family got me two new 55 gallon containers and a big bag of hydroton for my birthday so this has been going on since the 1st of January.


Don’t make fun of my little math problems for simple addition! I’m looking for the perfect balance between fish and growbeds, the location that will provide sun for plants and shelter for fish, and whatever I can do to guard the fish from death should one part of the system fail (pump fail-drain clog-overflow). I really enjoy trying to solve the puzzle. Whatever I decide I am going to need to actually build something to hold my growbeds which is very daunting. I know nothing about building things with wood but it should be an adventure!


Pea pod seedlings in the growbed!


Re-growing celery!


Yay, little fishes!


To see the build of my original single barrel aquaponics click here.

Fish Babies


Our little aquarist (is that a word? spellcheck let it slide) is the proud fish-mom of a tank FULL of guppy babies and one lone molly baby. She also spruced up the fishes digs with some new colorful plants and gravel! And a sponge over the filter intake to protect the little fry.

If you click on the picture you can see there is an orange fish looking right AT her. That’s Jaguar, the friendliest fish ever (and a shameless beggar).

Summer Plans




We’re well into summer now, and somehow a routine still hasn’t emerged! We’ve had Ara’s cousins’ Joey and Kt spending time with us during the week (separately so far). Ara even had her first sleep over with Kt! They didn’t sleep much, are you surprised? I made the little diagram above when I found out I would be entertaining more than one short person, mostly to calm my fears. It has helped, a little!

Goof ball girls! We’ve already baked teeny tiny cakes in their Easy Bake Ovens, swam, made mud pies, watched movies, done crafts, driven me crazy… I’m happy that Ara has a friend to fill her days though. And the upside is a day like today, when it was just Ara and me, is suddenly special instead of tiresome and boring! I love not being boring!


On our special “Mama & Ara” day we had lunch at Panda and got mysterious fortunes.


We also visited the library. Which we did a few days ago with her cousin but she seemed shy to choose books that she really likes. Like all these dino books and the bag full of easy readers.


Then we fed Placo, our friends giant fish. The friends who left a Birthday card and present for Ara on the table! After that we hit up Petsmart to take advantage of the last days of the $1 fish sale. Ara chose 3 “Creamcicle” Moly fish and with her shoe fairy money she bought her naked fish tank some plants haha! She keeps looking longingly at the tank decorations that are huge and pricey. One of her favorites is a T-rex with a mechanical jaw that opens and closes with some sort of air pump. She keeps thinking that it will scare her fish though! Ironically when we went to put the moly fish into the tank we found one of the formerly healthy guppy girls was dying. She was apparently healthy when Ara fed them in the morning, so it was strange. She was dead before bedtime. Sad. We really liked her.


I forgot to mention that we watched the transit of Venus (like a week ago?) with cool glasses thanks to my Sister! I had to hid the glasses though, because Ara has been trying to watch the sun for other things ever since. She also seems to think the glasses give her telescope vision because she yells out that she sees other planets. I see Jupiter!


Our aquaponics fish are doing really well. I like them so much! They are so curious and lively. The pump has started to be obnoxiously noisy so the other day I took it out to clean it. When I put it back in, it didn’t work! So I had my arms in their tank quite a bit and the fish were fearless! They were checking out my hands and arms and what I was doing. Super cute. I did get the pump going again, but it’s still SO LOUD. You can almost feel the vibrations anywhere on the deck. I was thinking of putting a foam flip flop under it or something. The pump suction cups to the plastic of the barrel and it’s vibrating and amplifying the sound! Honestly I don’t know how the fish can stand it lol. They seem perfectly happy though. So now that the fish part of the aquaponics is going well I’m starting to wonder why the plant part isn’t taking off.

IMG_2768The few plants I have in the grow bed continue to just kind of.. be alive. They are growing significantly slower than similar plants in dirt. I’m pretty sure they aren’t getting enough sunlight.. but it seems like there is something else stunting them as well. I might try seeds this week, to see how that goes. If not, it might be the timing on my flood and drain cycle.


Boy, I tell you, this stuff is far more complicated than I thought it would be. The extra complications are also fun in a way, like a puzzle to figure out. It’s a cool hobby though!

Garden and Fish


The carrots are slightly larger! Ara picked and ate these with her dinner. That’s pretty dang awesome.


Carrots in a pot, we like it a lot.


Admire the gnarly beauty! After growing a few carrots I’m actually really impressed that I can buy a whole bag of these babies at the store for like a buck. It seems like a true bargain, I’m just saying.


Several of our plants outside have  ‘nests’ in them. Ara is making emergency housing for any birds that may find themselves homeless. I might need to get that girl a birdhouse to paint.


Since I’ve been not writing for so long, this awesome fish tank will seem like it appeared suddenly. When in reality, our friends gave it to us weeks ago and it’s taken me this long to set it up! It’s Ara’s tank though, she saved and paid for the filter, helped the clean out process, and has been DYING to put some scaley friends in it.


Which we finally did last weekend, even though I was knocking on deaths door with a super version of strep throat and ear infections. I had promised, and I made good, I also managed not to die in the pet store. Which I thought was good because I’ve seen a lot of dogs pee on those floors! So, Ara paid for three guppies and we put them into our carefully cycled tank. Now she stares at her fish for (no joke) hours.

Now, you may not know this about me but aquarium keeping was a hobby of mine through my college days. I considered myself pretty stinking knowledgeable. I’ve since found out that I’m just a fish killer! Our aquaponics has claimed the lives of 6 goldfish to date, and the new tank has already lost one guppy. Actually, it’s not that bad (unless you’re one of the dead fish). I had the water tested from the aquaponics and it’s good, so most likely the deaths (minus the suicide) were because I bought sick fish. I swear! I keep thinking I’m the dentists niece from Finding Nemo. All the fish disappear when I walk into the store…


I think the whole process of fish keeping will be really good for Ara. She was really attached to the first couple goldfish and she has had to deal with a tiny little loss. The guppies in her new tank will eventually have babies. They bear live young, so I’m excited for her to see that. You might notice we don’t have gravel on the bottom, or plants, and that the background is a poster of fish. That’s because…. we don’t have any of those things yet. Trying to keep the costs down on this project, so stay tuned for an actual aquarium!

I’ll post a real update on the aquaponic system soon, it’s going really well now.

Oh, and strep throat wise, the antibiotics are winning on the whole left side of my face and throat! Woo! Now, for the right side… I would love to be able to swallow my own spit without wincing very soon.

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