Wednesday, 28 January 2015


I am not Scottish but for many years I have had, a fondness for Burn’s Night.
Haggis, Neeps and Tatas on the table. Flower of Scotland in the background and ‘The ode’. Fun for all the family and lifts the spirits in January. Yes, and a good excuse to drink a drop of whiskey.
This connection with Burns night started for me in Southern Spain.
January is a quiet time on The Costa Del Sol. Many of our local bars were closed.
In the few Ex-pat bars that were open there was more time to chat.
This particular bar was run by a chap from Liverpool.  It was very close to our apartment and a warm escape from the cold wind.
This was before satellite TV and the internet. Newspapers were at least a day old and told stories of a UK, somehow remote. Life was local and layered. Spanish friends and work colleagues but also the relaxed repartee in the ex-pat bars at night. Drink was cheap.
My wife and I were the only customers and we sat chatting to the owner.
Talk turned to attracting more customers. We had owned restaurants and although not a chef I am a fair cook. Offer food was an obvious solution. But what?
Another mutual friend had called me on Christmas Eve morning for help.
He had forgotten to defrost the turkeys for his restaurant . With loads of booking for that night. He was panicking. One oven and four frozen turkeys in the freezer. We put the turkeys in the bath to defrost. One after another in his oven. One in ours and I drove fifteen miles to my mothers house where she cooked the final one. Chaotic but everyone had a great night.
With this little accomplishment in mind maybe I was a bit arrogant.
Why not do Burn’s Night? You provide the whiskey I will do the Haggis.
Mashed potatoes and swede was easy. How do you make Haggis?
No internet to look up the recipe. No cook book.
 Oh dear phone my Mum. 
She had a friend who was a butcher. A Welsh butcher! 
Oh well. Oats? Would Ready Brek do? Sheeps; liver, kidneys, hearts and lungs.
No butcher in Spain would sell me lungs.
The rest we minced and mashed tied up in a new muslin cloth and steamed for hours.
It was a great night. Half the customers were Spanish. I never really found out what they thought about this strange Scottish fare.Cooked prepared and served by two lads from Brighton and  Liverpool.
We never made Haggis again.
He moved away

My friend! I raise a glass to you every twenty fifth of January and remember the happy times.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

FILTERS - Part One

One of the first things you can do to the water in an AP system to improve it is fit a solids separator. 
You can use centrifugal force in a ‘Swirl’ or Vortex filter  or just gravity in a Radial Flow Filter. In a RFF filter the water flows UP the pipe and is then directed DOWN by the flow separator. Gravity assists and the solids collect at the bottom. The cleaner water exits higher up. The solids can then be removed through the discharge pipe as required.
To build this I first cut an approximately 10 cm hole in the top using a drill and a jig saw. 
To secure the water cooler bottle to the work bench I used bungee cords.

The next job, using a 40mm hole saw was to cut the inlet and outlet holes.
Fit the bulkhead fittings using washers and ‘fish safe’ silicone.
 I used a pop bottle with the top cut off for the flow separator. The main problem was fixing and supporting the weight. In the end I used heavy duty cable ties  through the handle of the water cooler bottle to secure to the frame of the IBC. A 110mm pipe cut to length also supports the weight. I cut a hole in this to accommodate the discharge pipe. Temporary piping. Prior to the next modification hence the ‘spaghetti’

I am more than happy with it! You can literately watch the solids falling to the bottom.

Monday, 19 January 2015


I said that Dangerous Dave had talked about Samphire.
By chance that night on the TV was a program about Samphire. It is harvested wild here in salt marsh estuaries. However the season is very short. No more than six weeks in the summer. I got excited.
So I ordered some seeds. One thing leads to another, as God said to Moses when he handed him the four commandments!
I didn’t want to compromise my main system with added salt.It might interfere with the fruit pot. This is a major part of this years plan.
So I am in the process of adding an additional indoor system. An IBC cut 1/3; 2/3 rds. However because it is indoors it will require grow lights. This is a new facet of aquaponics for me. Lots, of reading.
This also required an improvement to the main system. A new RFF filter, sump and probably new Bio filter. This will also change the layout of the watercress NFT tubes. So the Pot bellied stove on the patio had to be moved.
“One of those corner outdoor sofa’s would look good there” she said. Now that you have moved the heater.
Hmm. Could have just gone to the supermarket and bought some Samphire!

As the song says, “Hopelessly addicted to aquaponics.”

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Aquaponics UK Trout autopsy Part 2

The first cut was from tail to head. Then to expose the internal organs. Two transverse cuts.
Thats the way I would normally clean a fish and it seemed sensible.

The remaining cuts were to remove first an area of normal scales(skin) and then an  area of infected scales  and lastly an area which covered the change between normal/infected.
The guts and the flesh appeared normal.
Now I had wanted to do this in the kitchen but Mrs Fishcake said NO.

Normal Scales

Infected Area
Boundary area

The extra light outside helped with the photo. However the sub zero temperatures may have contributed to camera shake.
I had constructed the microscope to be used with the smart phone out of its case.
In the event I forgot. This may account for some loss of detail.
The three photos from the microscope show those three areas.
In reality in a home situation there is little you can do.

Isolate, salt and hope.

Aquaponics UK - Trout Autopsy Part !

It has been cold and wet here. I have been feeding the Trout in the morning and again in the evening after work. Probably not waiting long enough to observe them.
So my fault I may not have picked up this problem as early as I should have.
However when I did I immediately moved him to a hospital tank.
The white tail was distinctive.
None of the other fish are displaying any symptoms.

 My hospital tank is a 70 litre  glass aquarium. It has its own filter/heating  system and is completely separated from the main system.
The trout was swimming and appeared to be feeding normally. The ‘nude’ tail was the only symptom. 
With hindsight he was netted very easily, swimming on the surface and transferred to the hospital tank. Transfer stress can also be a problem.

The water in this tank was drawn from the main system, so equal PH, temp etc.
However I had salted this water to 6PPT.
In commercial fisheries and when dealing with ornamental fish many different chemicals are used. However when dealing at home with fish for human consumption  salt is you main ally.
Salt has an OSMOTIC action on fish. It can best be remembered by the acronym’ SALT SUCKS” That means water, and the bad things, bacteria etc, move from the LESS saline area to the more saline area.

I am learning with fish health so Google is my main source of information.
White tail disease was my initial guess but further reading leaves me unsure. This seems to mainly affect Prawns.
My best guess now is Bacterial Cold Water Disease; With an additional fungal infection.   If you know better please comment.

So sadly he died.

I decided to dissect him. This would also give me a chance to use my new smart phone microscope. I built this from instruction on the internet. An additional lens is added to the existing smart phone camera to give a magnification up to 150 times.

Friday, 9 January 2015

AQUAPONICS UK- Back to the Future

So, that was looking backwards.
More fun: Back to the future

This I am going to divide into three sections.


The main aim for 2015 is to move the adult Trout to the dinner plate.
Move the Perch from the loft tank to the IBC.
Introduce new Trout Fingerlings to the loft tank.
The thinking behind this is that the Perch will tolerate the higher summer temperature in the IBC. The Trout fingerlings will be shielded from the summer heat to some degree by the shade and extra insulation of the loft tank. Plus, all being equal, they should be close to plate size come summer.


Watercress is still the main objective.
However I have been a bit sidetracked by Dangerous Dave. He has managed to grow Samphire in an AP system and I am intrigued. DD says he grew this in AP with a salinity of 1 part per thousand.
Samphire tastes great. Salty and crunchy. Grows wild in salt marsh areas. People lucky enough to live by the coast can forage for this tasty sea asparagus.
It will re-seed itself so this could be a constant crop. It can also be pickled. Wait and see how much we have. Rich in Vitamin C so Mrs Fishcake will be happy.
Samphire Pesto? Hmm.

Grelos is a member of the turnip family. I first came across it when walking in Galica in Northern Spain. Unlike in the UK it is grown for its leaves. Not the tuber.  It looks like the stalk of a Brussel Sprout but with individual leaves. It is used on a pick and come again basis. The leaves taste like Kale. It is one of the key ingredients in Caldo De Galicia. Which we love. Probably not a brilliant choice for AP because it can reach two meters high but something I want to try.

Pimentos De Padron
These tiny green peppers are a common tapa in Spain. Splash of olive oil, rock salt and in the oven for 10/15 minutes. Fantastic! Watch out for the occasional hot one! 
I once spent a night in the Monisterio De Padron,but that’s another story.

Tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica) is not a tomato. It is related to the Cape Gooseberry and a staple of Mexican food. Used extensively in Mexican green sauces. It has a tart taste. Chilli Verde (green chilli) is one of our favorites and the Tomatillo is a key component.


I intend to grow the watercress in horizontal tubes. I tried this last year and had horrendous problems. Leaks, overheating and dirty water to name just three!
So the plan this year is to switch to NFT. This is, ‘nutrient film technique’
You run a constant small stream of water through the tubes for the plant roots.
I will put an additional pump on constant flow in the sump. This will run through the pre-filter and bio-filter and then the horizontal grow tubes. Returning to the sump. I plan on four grow tubes. This should give me holes for about eighty plants. I will detail this construction later. First I have to build the supports and shelter.
I am not happy with my RFF. It works great in settling out the large solids but my system for removing them can be improved.

If I add a new RFF then I can use the existing olive barrel for a net filter. This is just a big barrel with a load of netting inside to remove the ‘fine’ contaminates.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Aquaponics UK- Looking Back

I know it’s not original but New Year is a time for looking back and forward.
I was updating you slowly but the cold nights and the frost intervened.
So lets describe the aquaponics system as it stands.
Two fish tanks; one IBC with four adult Rainbow trout and a 225 ltr (loft cold water ) tank with 30 Perch fingerlings.
This is supported ( connected) to two 225 ltr olive barrels.
One is a sump tank with the pump.
The  other is an RFF.
I have one 250 ltr grow bed ( top one third of an IBC). A 60 ltr tub ( fruit pot) and two 40 ltr  grow beds.
 In total 390 ltrs of clay pebble filed grow beds.
In addition I have a 25 ltre pre-filter and 40 ltr bio-filter.
This system is run from a 5000 ltr/hr pump in the sump tank.
It is controlled by a timer and runs 15/45 24hrs per day.
I have a ‘pond frost free’ heater in the sump tank. 150 W it is on constantly.
In addition I have a 300 W aquarium heater in the Perch tank.
I have a 30 ltr/min air pump supplying the two fish tanks.
A solar powered air pump in the IBC.
A battery backup air pump for the IBC.
In the main GB I have left over tomatoes. Spinach, Chard and various Brassicas.
In the fruit pot three raspberry plants and six strawberry plants.
In the 40 ltr tubs ( which I call the shelves) half a dozen Kale and about 20 watercress.
 I have tried to standardize on 22mm pipes for water supply and 40mm pipes for discharge.
Not always possible. The IBC was in place and filled when I realized I needed to run a pipe behind it. All I could fit was a 32mm with adapters. Planning ahead, would have solved this problem.
The loft tank is well insulated with foil 50mm insulation.

The IBC less so with foil bubble wrap, again, planning ahead would have solved this problem.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Another Pig

Writing that piece about shaving a pig on Christmas Eve,  reminded me about another pig I saw last year.
Traveling in the Med last summer I went to the restroom.
A smartly dressed man handed me an expensive camera and asked me to take his photo. Erm? Then I realized that he wanted me to take the photo of him stood next to a drawing on the wall. I did.
He thanked me and left. I got a closer look at the drawing and understood what it was all about.

On the restroom wall