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apparently I can’t build an airlift system

3:31 pm in Getting Started, made from scratch (without a kit), posts with pitcures!, pumps, questions, Seeking Advice by JulySundryGrandeur

Help. :(

At first I was building it my own way, which had its own gigantic problems. But then I switched to something that looks basically identical to how the kits and kit instructions work. (The current ones with the long instructions — V 3 modular if I’m not confused.) It managed to get a tiny bit of water going up the system, but mostly it’s just bubbling at the bottom. I checked and there’s no leak that I can find. The water is just coming out the air needle, going down the tube somehow, and bubbling out the little gap at the bottom where the air’s meant to go in. I made sure the whole thing was as straight up and down as I could get it. I originally had a straw around the tube holding it straight (with its own angled bottom to let water in), but the bubbles were pushing water up that instead, which was just insulting.

The “add media” option isn’t cooperating with my computer, so I just stuck these on imageshack. Hopefully that’s not a problem for anyone.

closeup of the cap
picture of the airlift parts when taken apart

You are looking at:
-1 basketball inflation needle
-2 segments of standard aquarium tube — I have no idea where you get the rigid stuff
-1 joiner/adapter thingy that goes between mini and normal aquarium tubes
-1 useless blob of silicone caulk

Ideas what I’m doing wrong?

Aquaponics Lite part 3b – more pictures and some results!

2:13 am in Nutrients, Plants, posts with pitcures!, Projects in Process by danpowell

Sorry to be bombarding you with these pictures, if you’re uninterested.

So, I’m just a few days away from the science fair, and I’m already disappointed in how rigourous I was not.  If I do this for next year, I’ve got some ideas of how to really science this up.

That having been said, I’ve got the

This pea blossom is in one of the 2 "just fish water" columns.

This pea blossom is in the "CO2" column.

first blossoms from my pea plants!

The first pic, you can’t really see the blossom, but it’s in there.  It’s the whitish ‘leaf’ right just up and left from centre.

The CO2 column has only been getting CO2 for the last 4 or 5 days, so there shouldn’t be loads of difference yet, even if I’m getting a meaningful amount in there.

How am I putting CO2 into this column of plants, you ask?

Read on…

If you have an aquarium that’s heavily planted with real plants, you have a nice, natural support to your filtration.  Unfortunately, the heavier the plant load, the more you run up against a limit on the plants’ growth – the amount of available CO2 in the water.  Since the concentration of CO2 will be roughly equivalent to that in the atmosphere, since the fish are not as great producer of CO2 as land animals, CO2 supplementation helps encourage plant growth.  Now you can spend LOADS of cash on a CO2 canister with all the bells and whistles ($00s of dollars) or you can have some soda pop, and DIY a CO2 generator.

2 cups of brown sugar, spooned oh-so-slowly into a pop bottle

2 cups of brown sugar, spooned oh-so-slowly into a pop bottle

drill a hole 1/16" smaller than the outer diameter of the airline. Cut the airline at an angle to make threading easier. Once you've got it in, hot glue a seal on both sides of the cap.

drill a hole 1/16" smaller than the outer diameter of the airline. Cut the airline at an angle to make threading easier. Once you've got it in, hot glue a seal on both sides of the cap.

1 tsp of quick yeast (you can go as high as 1 tbsp, some say) and 1 litre of water. Don't slop the yeast on the sides of the bottle, it won't do much good there.

1 tsp of quick yeast (you can go as high as 1 tbsp, some say) and 1 litre of water. Don't slop the yeast on the sides of the bottle, it won't do much good there.

One nice thing about doing this instead for hydroponics instead of for an aquarium is that for the latter you need a fancy diffuser (there are, of course, DIY options).

So I just have the other end of the CO2 airline going into the top of the bag that’s around one of my plant columns.  Simple.

So, my experiment was ‘is fish water as  good as commercial hydroponics fertilizer’.  There are a few caveats to my investigation.  #1 is that I’m not stocking at true Aquaponics densities.  They fill their tanks to the gills (heh.  Get it?  To the gills.  It’s about fish) and so have a much higher nitrogen level than I have.   They would also spread this over many more plants than I am.  There’s a lot of variables, is what I’m saying.  At any rate, here’s a few examples of the growth.

taken March 23rd

taken April 3rd

Not a bad amount of growth for… what, 12 days?

That’s it for tonight. Thanks for your interest, and have a good night. Good luck with your veggies.

Update on pH imbalance : the mystery slowly unfolds

9:41 pm in Nutrients, Plants, questions by Louise from Quebec

Hi, everybody !

After several plant casualties, my windowfarm is recovering from its pH fever. The lettuce survived and started to grow again, as the nasturtium, three basils and most of the peas (these lasts started to flower, as a matter of fact. Beside a thorough clean-up,  the only thing I did for those survivors was to entirely change the composition of their nutrient solution.

So, right now, my upper reservoirs contain water from the tap (pH 7, has been sitting at least 24 hours to let chlorine evaporate before use) and an organic nutrient bought at the Hydroponic store : Iguana Juice Grow (it automatically gets the water pH down to 5,5 but smells like dead fish – really awful since it gets the room smelly at times). Take note that my system is working on gravitation, so I have to refill the reservoirs by hand, something I need to do about every four to eight days, usually, depending on the dripping flow. Therefore, the water doesn’t recirculates in the system unless I decide to reuse the contents of the bottom reservoir.

So, I started anew in one column, cleaning up everything, boiling the clay pellets, discarding the old rock wool and using fresh nutrient solution with Iguana Juice and my worm compost tea. Then I monitered the pH very closely.

Here is what I discovered :

1. My precious worm compost tea has a pH over 8,5 ! I never thought of testing it before my plants started to suffer very seriously. I always tested my pH after mixing in the nutrients and a few milliliters of vinegar to start with. Take note that within one column of my surviving plants, the pH would rise from 5,5 at the source up to 8,5+ in the bottom reservoir.

In the new column, the same phenomenom was observed, but to a much smaller extent (pH at 7 in the end). So, I stopped everything again and dumped the water solution to get rid of the worm tea.

Hypothesis : I use, from time to time, egg shells to protect my worm compost from too much acidity. Obviously, I overdid it. And I think that microscopic eggshell particles lodged themselves within the rock wool, very slowly dissolving into the dripping water flow, thus affecting its pH.

2. Even after my stopping from using worm compost tea, the pH in the reservoirs still has a tendency to slowly (within 4 days) go back up from 5,5 to 7 right inside the upper reservoirs (therefore, it does that without getting in contact with the plants or the wool rock, or eggshell particles).

Hypothesis : there could be in the city water a kind of pH stabilization agent that would slowly raise it back up. But I think that I can manage this imbalance by readjusting the pH every other day.

In the meanwhile, I isolated 50 of my worms in a new container to start a new compost farm. I will monitor its pH very closely to try to produce a worm tea with a pH of 6 or 6,5 at the most without any eggshells in it.

I intend to leave the two old columns as they are (with the old rock wool and the surviving plants), to see if the pH alteration effect wears off. The two other columns will receive new plants in new rock wool, and no worm tea will enter in my nutrient mixture until it has a more suitable pH reading !

All this thrilling mystery is fascinating and I have the feeling that I learn a little more everyday, although it was heartbreaking to see my plants die and quite panicking not to have a clue as why.

I’ll keep you posted.

Air speed, water holdup and bottom reservoir ideas for the T-joint system

12:38 am in Being a good member of this community, Education, energy consumption, Help the project by testing this, How-Tos, R&D-I-Y by Brian White

I did a little video today about lowering the airspeed through to windowfarm to vary (and sometimes increase!) the rate of airlift.  Depending on your tubes the rate can be quite slow and still give you good pumping. Check it out because I think it can help people to understand a bit better and to get things right first time.
Anyway here are some pictures that I took out of the video.

2 outlet air flow regulator valve

This is a little aquarium valve and bottom pic shows the adjustment knobs

You can either use it to regulate air to 2 t joints or just leave one open to the windowfarm and have the other one just a bit open to let some of the air escape.

Below is a head for connecting a tube under the reservoir. You might need a bit of gauze or window bug screen in the bottom to stop crud getting into the tubes.

Head for watering plants. Snip off the top and use the "neck" to attach tube

And you also can use this thing for aquariums as a bottom reservoir.

Aquarium attachment for tubing

And finally I am going to show you a pic of the bubble in the tubing.

plug of water

If you reduce the airflow into the t-joint and into the tube, sometimes the water flow increases. This is because the type of flow changes from churn flow to plug flow.

Plug flow can be quite slow sometimes. As the plugs of water rise, it changes from many short ones to a few long ones.

Watch the video to get more information.

Thanks Brian

About pH imbalance : it’s near a cataclysm but the culprit seems to be…

11:13 pm in Nutrients, Plants, Seeking Advice by Louise from Quebec

Hi again !

The situation didn’t improve in my clay pot windowfarm since my last post.

The oddest thing is happening : when I take water samples from under each pot of a column, the further down I go, the higher the pH reading.

pH readings took within half an hour from :

inside the upper reservoir : 5,5

at the end of the drip tube : 5,5

under the 1st clay pot (the highest) : 6,5

under the 2nd clay pot : 7,5

under the 3rd clay pot : 8

under the 4th clay pot : 8,5

under the drain tube (after the 5th pot) : 8,5+

and just to make sure : a second, double-check reading of my water source in the upper reservoir : 5,5 !!!

Then, I tested one empty spare pot for pH neutrality by plunging it in water for the night : water pH remained the same.

I tested the pellets : no change (and no surprise) there either.

The only thing left was the rock wool : Bingo ! I found the only culprit. In the 4th clay pot, the water extracted from the wool had a very high pH. Since the poor plants are dying anyway, I drenched the whole pot and its contents with 1 litre of acidic water (pH 5). Then I let it sit to dry for the night and this morning, the pH of the water retained by the wool was 7+.

Is it possible that an agent of some kind took residence inside the wool, reacting chemically with the water and-or nutrient liquid to pitch the pH repetitively up ? Or would it be that the water previously absorbed by the wool would be locked there and couldn’t be diluted by the newly coming fluid, this fluid dripping right through with no or almost no effect ? No, this last theory doesn’t work, because if it were the case, the pH in my bottom reservoir would still be around 5,5.

The simple fact is : even after letting more than 10 litres of acidic nutrient solution (pH 6 or below) pass down through my column over the last week or so, all this water had turned to a pH of well over 8. Therefore, a chemical reaction is occuring during the descent.

I have this problem of raising pH from the day I started monitoring my pH. What would start at 6 would end down around 7 or 7,5. During the installation of my plants, I innoculated my rock wool cubes by dipping a whole batch of them in Eco Root Dip Gel which contains 16 different mycorhizal fungy. I didn’t use them all the same day and some sat in the solution for several days before I used them. As after a few weeks my plants didn’t  grow much or didn’t grow à al in some cases,  I added  my filtered urine in the mix in the hopes of raising the nitrogen contains. From that point, the pH went wild and very high. From Britta’s explanation on the use of human urine as a nutrient, it would be normal for it to affect the pH in that way while it would break into ammonia.

But my system is litres away from that mixture. By that time, I would have expected it to recover, at least partially.

Does anybody have an explanation ?

I’m planning to replace my pots one by one, taking out the bottom ones first (4th ones, which are plagued with the highest pH of all), emptying and desinfecting it, and reinstalling a new plant in it as my new seedlings sprout. Then, pot number 3 would move down one level, replacing pot number 4, number 2 and one following this descent. Pot number 4, newly filled up, would move up high in the column, safe from infection, because no old pot would stand over it to drip in it.

I would slowly replace everything  in that fashion and of course, I would never reuse the water from the bottom reservoir until the end of the process.

Any insight highly appreciated. And I’d like Britta’s point of vue on this. So… @britta

By the way, my affected plants are wilting and then shrivel slowly. The peas that are in the upper levels look healthy.  The only plants I got out from their pot are my most affected peas. They are shriveling but their root system is developped and looks very healthy, with no sign of rot or damage whatsoever. No slime and sign of pests either. The wool rock is clean and evenly moist, just as the roots.

Old nutes?

3:14 pm in Getting Started, Materials and Resources, Nutrients, Seeking Advice by BionicMel

I’m almost ready to change the solution in my window farm for the first time. What do you guys do with your old nutes? I have some other plants growing in soil and I was considering watering them with the old solution. I am not sure if this is a good idea or not, I would assume its fine, but I wanted to see what everyone else was doing with theirs.


Setting up my windowfarm… finally!

12:54 pm in Getting Started, Materials and Resources, Nutrients, Nutrition, posts with pitcures!, Projects in Process, questions, Seeking Advice, Uncategorized by BionicMel

I have set up the 4 bottles, and now I’m working on my airlift. I’m trying to do the T version instead of the air needles. But I’m having trouble getting the air to lift the water and not escape through what should be the water intake tube.

Any advice for this system? I’m going to go and cut a longer piece of tube and see if that makes a difference.



-EDIT- (20 minutes later)

So the longer tube completely helped! There is no air escaping from the system at all. Now my poor tomato plant that was without water all night is getting some.

I purchased the white frame from ikea and it was around 20$. I plan on having 3 or 4 columns with a string of lights in between the columns. This frame will allow me to move the window farm around and close my blinds at night. I’m going to raise it up to window height once it’s all installed.

Here is a short video of my airlift in action.

-EDIT- (Later that day…)

So my tomato is definately looking good!
I have also transplanted a broccoli plant to the top of the column.
My seedlings are starting to sprout!

I made another change to my system… I zip tied the coil of tube in the water so it is easier to remove and install.

Also, nutrients were added to the solution. I added part 1 and part 2 of the general nutrients, and I also added some “maximum plantroids” because it says:

“Plantroids Super-Vitamin Thrive Enhancer stimulates plant branching, increases photosynthesis and cell division. Plantroids also helps reduce stress as well as stimulates root growth”.

Just a warning about CFLs… I dropped one and it smashed into a million tiny shards. Took a while to make sure I got all the little pieces.

Can anyone give me advice on how to put pictures in my post, rather than just links? Thanks.

Final Setup

2:51 pm in Completed Window Farms, Plants, posts with pitcures!, Projects in Process by Andrew Dodd

Here’s an update on how my buttercrunch lettuce is doing.  I bought a small light for cloudy winter days and I have dialed in the watering schedule.  I have a timer for the light that turns it on at 7:00 a.m. and off at 9:00 p.m.   I also have a timer for the air pump that turns on for 30 minutes every two hours during the day, and for 15 minutes every 4 hours at night.  The lettuce seems to be doing very well.

How much water per minute/hour?

1:30 am in Uncategorized by BionicMel


I am very excited to set up my window farm!

I managed to play around with my air lift with a airflow valve, and I have quite a range of drips.

My question is how much water should I be cycling through my window farm in a given period of time?

Also, is it better to have a steady slow drip or to have the pump on a timer and just run the water at certain intervals?

Thanks for your help.


by JBK

How can you tell right amount of water?

12:42 pm in Getting Started, questions, Seeking Advice, Version 3.0 Modular Airlift Columns by JBK

So I have a simple version 3 window farm set up in my window. I have the timer that turns on every 15 mins for 15 mins as they say to do in the instructions, but my plants just dont seem to be liking it. How can I tell if I don’t have enough water (the pump isn’t pumping fast enough) or too much water? Can you have too much water?