Aquaponics book & build materials

2 weeks ago I ordered a free copy of The Aquaponics God Manual book, where I only need to pay for shipping cost, and yesterday I received not only one, but three (!) copies of the book. You may order yours here.

The Aquaponics God Manual book

Since the progress of building the aquaponics is quite slow, so for now I’ll just cover on the materials I’ll be using to build the set & where I got them.

1×2 timbers, from a hardware store near junction to Taman Malihah.
3.6mm plywood, ½ inch PVC pipe & 2 inch UPVC pipe, from the same hardware store as timber above.
(Left lower) 2000 L/hr water pump and air compressor, from a pet store in Matang. (Right) 20 gallon pail from super store at Genesis Parade
1 inch styrofoam boards, from a stationary shop at Tabuan
1000 liters fish tank, from a hardware shop near Jalan Sekama

There are a few stuff missing, such as pond liner, garden netting, pipe fittings, electrical wiring & water test kits. Currently it is still in progress so I’ll update when the system is ready for test run.

Chicken brooder and grazing box

There’s a new batch of chicks hatched last 2 weeks, and I’m going to build a chicken brooder for them. It’s basically a smaller coop which used to grow chicks until they reach around 2 months old before being released into the bigger coop and get mixed with existing chicken.

Chicken brooder.

I build it using left over materials from various sources. I recycled the pallet wood from the electric grid construction in the village, garden mesh from the extra I have after covering the house gate, and the netting is the one I created last time in Penang to use to cover the apartment window, but never finished it.

The watering cups I have extra from last time and also another (smaller) feeder.
Light bulb to provide heat at night.

To install the brooder watering cups with the existing waterer, I use a hose splitter to split the water flow. I also moved the watering cups inside the coop to be near the door, to ease the clean up process – every week these cups need to be cleaned because it got some dirts in it.

Split flow. Hen outside there is the mother for the new chicks.
I put the brooder high above the ground to prevent it become wet when got raining.

Grazing box is just a box filled with grass but covered with wire mesh to prevent chicken from scratching the grass, which purpose is to provide leafy greens food for the chicken.

Also made of recycled pallet wood.
I brought some grass from our house, but they are a bit too long. Should have used smaller grass, plant it inside the coop and then cover it with the box.

Aquaponics set design & plan

There are a few factors that attract me into aquaponics, and I like it mostly because of the fact that I can harvest both fishes and vegetables from a single system. When doing conventional farming, I can only do planting, and it requires back-breaking work, from creating the patches, transplanting, fertilizing, weed control, pest control until harvesting. There are a lot of energy and time to put into it, but not enough outcome to be sold commercially.

So for this aquaponics set, I’ve been learning about it for a few months from The School of Aquaponics Youtube channel. In this channel, the instructor focuses a lot on UVI method, where I can summarize it as, to focus on feed to grow area ratio: amount of feed to be given to the fish is 3% of total fish body weight when they are fingerling, up to 60-100g per day per square meter (g/day/m2) of grow area when the fishes are grown up, with optimum fish stocking density of 60 kg per cubic meter of water (kg/m3).

My aquaponics set design

There are a few other types of grow area, such as NFT (nutrient film technique) and media-filled grow bed, but I choose DWC (deep water culture) since it is the easiest to use and results in high yield. This DWC will be 1 feet deep, covered with netting to prevent pest and to reduce pesticide usage, and also for shade from excess sunlight. There are 3 DWC, each has size of 4 ft by 12 ft, and total of 144 ft2 or 13.5 m2. Each DWC will have 2 small air stone to increase dissolved oxygen in the water.

Fish tank that I’ll be using is a 1000 liter PVC tank, with maximum of 200 fishes, and feed rate of 900 g/day (for tilapia). To accomodate this high stocking density, I’ll have two medium size air stone inside it to supply dissolved oxygen. Pressurized water from pump inside the sump tank will be used to create circular flow inside the tank, where solid waste will gather in the middle, and I’ll use solid-lifting-overflow method to suck the waste out of the tank, into the solid filter.

For the solid filter, I’ll use a radial flow filter method, where water will flow upward then directed downward by some barrier which will settle the solid waste at the bottom of the bucket. I’ll add a drainage outlet to clean out the filter, and this waste later will be collected into mineralization tank. Water overflow from the solid filter go to bio filter tank.

This bio filter will serve multiple purpose. Primarily is for bio filtering activity, where bacteria will convert ammonia in the water into nitrate. Another is to further collect fine solid which couldn’t be filtered by solid filter. And lastly as a degassing component, which is to remove excess nitrogen, carbon dioxide or other harmful gas in the water. All these can be achieved by using trickle filter method.

Sump tank is the central, and the lowest point (in term of altitude) in the system, where all the water will be collected and distributed back. Here is where the 2000 liter per hour (L/h) water pump will be located. It also has overflow outlet, because the DWC will be exposed to rain and this allow the excess water to go outside.

Based on the diagram, the pressurized water line will be using ½ inch PVC pipe and gravity-fed water line will be using 2 inch UPVC pipe. I put a split flow from sump tank to fish tank and DWC units, and each inlet has valve for better water flow control and maintenance.

Mineralization tank is the only component that is separated from the system. Here, solid waste from solid filter will be collected here at least once a week, then it will be aerated to release the micronutrients, and then will be put back into the sump tank after 1 or 2 weeks.

Sytrofoam board design

For the styrofoam board design, I choose this design because it provides more holes than the simple rectangular design. I’ll have 6 of these styrofoam boards per DWC, so a total maximum of 648 plants can be planted and harvested at a time from this system – way more than what I can achieve when doing soil-based growing.

Regarding the growing schedule, when using soil, I could harvest the veggies after 8 weeks from germination, so by using aquaponics, hopefully I can half the duration, to 4 or 5 weeks. For germination, I plan to sow the seeds using wet tissues inside germination tray for 2 weeks, then transplant them to the DWC and by using sponge to hold it in the board holes – no net pot is used (to save cost).

There are a lot of rooms for improvement to be done, and I’m thinking about automation and operating it off-grid. Later on I plan to get automatic fish feeder, or maybe look into software-based solution using microcontroller such as Arduino or Raspberry Pi to automate the fish feeding process, measure water quality, and also to automate draining solid waste from filter into mineralization tank, and put it back into sump tank. In the future, I’m looking into setting up solar panel and backup battery to power the pumps and also the automation machines used later.

Building chicken coop – week 3

It’s been a week after all the chicks had been moved into this new coop and being fed manually. Today I’m going to install the automatic waterer and feeder. We already have water tank for harvesting rain, and I’m going to connect it to the waterer, and have one end to a valve, for our own usage.

Between the waterer cups, I used 10mm hose, and to connect it to the tank, I used 15mm hose. I bought 10 waterer cups, but decided to use only 5 first as trial. Since the chicks are still small, I put the board to allow them to reach the water inside the cup.
Connection to the tank.
They immediately knew that this is for their drinking water.
For the feeder, I implemented a simple system, where I used a transparent cylindrical plastic container, create some holes on the cap, attach it upside down to a plate, then put it in the coop, tied to a pillar, while placing it a bit high, to prevent the chicken from scratching the feed inside. I’m experimenting with 2 types of feed, corn-based and processed pellets, and still figuring out how long these 2 kg of feed will last.

With the waterer and feed system are installed, now the building process is done. Now I’m left with how to handle sick chicken. Currently I’m left with 16 chicks, and I found out at least 4 of them are sick. Based on traditional method, people used to keep tortoise inside chicken coop, and the water where the tortoise lives will become the cure for any chicken disease when they drink it. For commercial scale, I don’t think that’s feasible, as I need to take care of the tortoises and also their feed. Therefore I’ll try to look for some kind of chicken medicine or vaccine.

For this round, I plan to raise these chicken to become the parent. Maybe one rooster and 5 hens, only then I’ll start to sell them in bulk. It is estimated that these chicken will become adult in May, and able to produce offsprings by July or August. Therefore, I estimate around September, these ayam kampung will be ready to be sold.

Building chicken coop – week 2

A week after Chinese New Year holiday, continuing building the chicken coop. My plan was first, to install the wire mesh fence, then nail the woods to the pillar at ground level, part of the wood will be buried underground. This is to prevent chicken from scratching the soil and creating an escape hole.

Dig a small shallow trench to put the wood in.
I’ve nailed and glued some short woods to make up for the length of the coop.
Not enough wire mesh, I bought only 16 meters, RM8/meter at Emart Batu Kawa, which is quite expensive.

Then we went to Sebuyau, and I bought another 4 meters at RM5.50/meter, to complete the perimeter and for the door.

During afternoon break, our supervisor came to check on our progress 🙂 .

The next day:

Wire mesh had been attached to the door, and it had been installed to the frame, together with lock.
Ground wood also had been installed, wire mesh fence had been attached to the woods using stapler gun. I covered back the small trench and the ground wood with soil and compact it from the inside, preventing it from easily being scratched by the chicken.


For the top part, I used old fishing nets. I had to make sure the coop is all covered, to prevent the chicken from going out, and the predators from going in.
While working on this coop, there was incident where a monitor lizard entered the old coop and ate 5 of the chicks. That’s why I had to rush up to complete and move the remaining chicks into this new coop.
Total of 18 chicks in the coop. Next week going to continue with the waterer and feeding system installation.

Building chicken coop – week 1

During Chinese New Year holiday last month, I started building chicken coop for my ayam kampung (indigenous-breed chicken) project. My parent in laws were very kind to allow their old wooden house to be repurposed as chicken coop. Instead of building from scratch, I could reuse the pillar and roof of the house, and just build the fence and door to enter the coop.

This section of the house was the kitchen and toilet, after my father in law and I tore down the wall and floor.
View from east side of the house, only half way done.
Removed all the joist, all of them made from belian (Eusideroxylon zwageri), hardest wood in Borneo.
Started work from early morning, then continued to evening. Now finished installing frame for the door.
The next day, doing some clean up, keep aside woods that can be reused and burned those that already rotten. My father in law done rebuilt the wall and the door for the house. This old house is used as storage.
I prepared some woods for the fence and the door of the chicken coop. That’s it for the week, going to continue next week, installing the fence.
This is the poultry waterer that I’ll be using inside the chicken coop. Bought it online, as I couldn’t find it sold locally here.

Chilli planting

I’ve planted around 10 trees of chilli of various types at home for personal consumption, and for this bulk planting, it was intended for sale. In September last year, I bought some cili geronong (habanero pepper) and cili besar (chilli pepper) from Medan Niaga Satok, and took out the seeds.

These cili geronong seeds are so spicy that my hands still feel the heat after two days.

I sowed 60 cili geronong and 90 cili besar, and 10 cili padi (bird eye chilli) a week later, with total of 160 trees of chilli in 6 germination trays. I estimated around 70 – 80 percent of them will grow up to be able to be transplanted to our vacant land beside the plantation road in Kampung Segali.

I kept them within the car porch area, to allow it to receive only morning sunlight, and to prevent from rain. Gate netting was used to cover them because during this time, there were cats from the neighbours that came here and scratch on the soil inside the tray. I had to manually water them twice daily.

Two weeks after those chilli seedlings grew, I gave them NPK fertilizer (pink color), one small piece for each of tray hole. They grew well, except that they grew slanted towards sunlight, which caused me to move them outside of the car porch. I still kept the netting cover to prevent strong sunlight and heavy rain from damaging the plants.

Bad thing about putting these seedlings near soil area is they can easily get diseases. This was a few days before transplanting, I opened the cover to let the plants to adopt the natural sunlight & rain.
Seven weeks after sowing, 60 cili geronong (100%), 75 cili besar (83%) and 6 cili padi (60%) were ready to be transplanted.
Method that we used was to put the chicken manure as the fertilizer inside the hole on the ground first, before planting the trees. By doing this, the roots would be able to absorb the nutrients directly. Fertilizing schedule still continue at every 2 weeks. Those yellow bamboo are for plant supports.
Four weeks after transplant, cili besar already started to flower.
While cili geronong still growing its large leaves.

During last year Christmas, we went to check the chilli trees, and we were quite surprised to see the cili besar already bear some fruits. It took only 3 months for chilli to start producing results.

But we didn’t tie the plants to its support, which cause it to fall. Fortunately they didn’t die and still produce good fruits. We stopped putting fertilizer for now to prevent the fruit from rotting.
Tied them all the next day.
Harvested them a few times in January.

In the middle of February (last month), there were heavy rain for about a week that caused flood in our area. These chilli plants were also affected, some of them that didn’t grow tall enough were submerged. To make matter worse, the flood water was mixed with some diesel leaked from nearby lorry, and might affect the plants root.

A lot of cili geronong trees are tall enough that they survived the flood, and still producing good chilli.
While a lot of cili besar were submerged, and their fruit are not that good anymore, perhaps need to wait for another round of pollination.
3 cili geronong and 1 cili besar, all ripe. Going to sow their seeds again to ensure continuity.

Previous crops

I started actively planting crops last year after moving to our rented house, which is a corner lot unit and has a large backyard. My wife planted a few sawi pahit (mustard) at the side of the house, and it grew so well that we wanted to plant more types of crops.

Sawi pahit (mustard looseleaf)

I decided to focus on leafy greens while my wife tried a few other crops like corn, terung asam (sour eggplant), kailan, and recently focused to plant various herbs and veggies using pots instead of on direct soil, such as chives, coriander, mint, brazillian spinach and lowland strawberries.

The backyard area is larger than its side, so it took a few months of intermittent work to dig the ground, remove a large amount of bricks buried underneath it (I guess the leftover from the house construction), remove the weeds, and create the vegetable patch. There I planted spinach, kangkung (water convolvulus), pak choy and choy sum.

Spinach is relatively easy to grow, only that when it still young, need to be careful of pests that eat its leaves.
Kangkung (water convolvulus), however this plant has low demand in the village, as it grows easily beside the trench, and people don’t quite like it’s slimy texture.

Pak choy and choy sum don’t grow well, they usually have small size, and it’s because of the soil which is too hard and compact, should have mixed it with compost and sand to repair the soil structure to allow it to be more aerated.

Focusing on spinach only

In September 2017, I focused to plant spinach only, directly on 8 patches. Before this I germinate the plants on sowing tray before transplanting them to soil. Besides sawi pahit, spinach is one of the veggies that I can sell, because of it’s high volume of good harvest.

On the patch, make holes 10 cm apart, sprinkle a pinch of seeds, and water them daily
Put fertilizer between every 2 plants for every 2 weeks. There’s a few sweet shoot (cangkuk manis) plants can be seen behind there.

We harvest them by picking the large leaves and let the small ones to grow more, therefore we can harvest multiple times without needing to sow the new ones.

At first it seems like good idea, but after 2 months and 3 harvests, pests such as caterpillar, beetles, ants, grasshoppers & butterfly larva destroyed them. The veggies make the ground condition become so conducive for the creatures to live. At that time I tried to avoid any pesticide as I try to produce organic veggies, but it didn’t work, I still need to do some form of pest control.

Burnt leaves, have no choice but to uproot and throw them away