Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tales from the bucket: the aquarium bucket

Actually, it's neither an aquarium nor a bucket, but half a globe terrarium I co-opted for a frugal experiment in low-tech aquaponics. My winter hydroponics experiments didn't go far enough--next time, I'm setting up a timer for the lights!-- but the lettuce grown on miniature rafts amused me. Easier than sprouts, even: mix the nutrient solution, add the sprouted seeds in their nests, wait, harvest. Repeat.

As for the lights...well, outside, there's no need to remember about switches and bulbs or anything. Of course, in Austin, still water is an invitation to disease-carrying and otherwise pestiferous mosquitos. Enter the goldfish, which will eat their eggs and/or larvae, and any gravid female flyer foolish enough to linger. And, hey! No need for nutrient solution, as the fish will take care of that.

Haven't found the precisely perfect balance of EM (for water conditioning) and vegetation for the unaerated four-gallon miniature pond, but the fish is alive despite my casual feeding and water-replenishing, and the only outdoor Texas summer lettuce I've ever grown was yummy, both heads of it. -G- I'm really surprised the fish is still alive, unboiled and undevoured after more than a month; had it lived long enough for me to harvest a single leaf of lettuce, I'd have called the test a nominal success, so my cautious two-head harvest certainly counts, and I'm now working on a more ambitious mixed-vegetation crop. Total cost: $0.60 for the fish, really. Everything else I either had or would have bought anyway. Not bad for two heads of chemical-free fresh locally grown lettuce! Still less if I can harvest a bit of Vietnamese coriander and maybe some other leafy greens...

The reduction in mosquito trouble may be my imagination, but even imaginary itch-relief is better than nothing. So the fish remains. Not a pet, just an earth-friendly pest control technique and fertilizer factory. There's no chance it'll be joined by any finny friends, as I simply haven't the space, and it probably won't last the winter if it gets to that point, but until then, or until the household feline or a neighborhood raider finds it, the microherd has yet another macro member.

And I have yet another bucket.



Anonymous said...

If your goldfish is just a plain old goldfish, it will freeze up in the winter, and thaw out next spring, and continue being a bug catcher. My grandparents had some in their cow tanks in Kansas.

D. S. Foxx said...

I didn't know they'd do that in containers! Very cool. And, yes, it's a perfectly ordinary goldfish--the tiniest cheap sort, bought from a petfood chain store (tried the local aquarium shop first, but they don't carry them). Uncommonly persistent, but otherwise nondescript.