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PostPosted: Sep 21st, '08, 00:20 
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Has anyone here attempted or implemented an aquaponic system without fish and, instead, put worms in gravel beds and fed them for plant nutrient?

I have been experimenting with such a system this summer with mixed results. I suspect the mixed results are due to ignorance on my part about worms.

I'm hoping to find someone(s) with whom to commiserate.

Jim

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PostPosted: Sep 21st, '08, 01:43 
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What do you feed your worms within the gravel beds? How does this work?

I've been worm composting for a while now and I do know that worm castings make wonderful stuff for starting seeds under the right conditions but I'm not quite sure how one would implement vermiponics.

I think of the composting worms as an integral part of flood and drain gravel bed aquaponics. The worms thrive on the fish waste as well as any uneaten fish food making it's way into the beds as well as any rotting plant matter remaining in the beds.

I don't know how to do traditional vermiculture (worms eating my garbage) sort of thing as vermiponics.

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PostPosted: Sep 21st, '08, 02:19 
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Hi Mornings... You might find this site interesting. http://www.vermiponics.com/index.htm
He has a guest book and answers questions. He is doing research into this subject. If the site gets busy enough he might start a forum. Hope this helps a bit... I'm also trying to figure out how to best incorporate earthworms. Think they are wonderful little creatures. :flower:

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PostPosted: Sep 21st, '08, 02:41 
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Thanks TCL and Cyara,

Cyara, I will contact that Dr. Roe but I'll tell my story anyway, then even if you (or anyone else) haven't done this thing with worms, maybe you'll have some interest or ideas.

Years ago a friend of mine started an aquaponics system in Virginia (gets cold there). He didn't have the money for a green house so he just set the system up outside for the summer.

About midway though the summer he noticed thre were worms (lots of them) in his bed. They didn't seem to hurt anything so he left them. I remember at the time others were complaining about sludge build up and having to mechanically filter out fish feces. He had no such problem and his water was beautifully clear. At the end of the summer he drained the beds. Come the following spring, the worms were still there

About 9 months ago I got the parameters for every system I could find including his. But upon looking at his biofilter, his system it shouldn't have worked. It was about half the size (relative to fish and water capacity) of other systems. But it did work quite well.

It occurred to me then that his system worked because of the worms. He had half the bio filter but was getting twice the effect from the fish because instead of filtering out the feces the worms were converting them to water soluble nutrient (I think).

So it next occurred to me, why have the fish at all? Worms, in general, for the sake of oxygen, feed, temperature are just easier and cheaper to deal with. And, they are actually more valuable per pound than fish. Then, the final blow was when I found that farm fed fish (in the US anyway) have few if any of the health benefits, wild fish have. They have high Omega 6 and low omega 3 fats -- might just as well be eating corn fed beef. (Of course, I'm not going to eat the worms, so I really don't care what their fats contents are.)

So I started up this experiential micro system. I started by feeding the worms rabbit feed (after wetting and spoiling for a day or so). But the worms keep leaving. Now I'm using rabbit manure to see if they will stay home longer.

Any ideas?

Thanks,

Mornings

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PostPosted: Sep 21st, '08, 02:54 
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Really interesting Mornings. :D So your friend never introduced the worms... they just came in from the garden. Amazing. I love everything about earthworms and I also want to learn to use them as much as possible. I have set up a wormery... just looking to get the worms now. I thought just to feed the worm "tea" into the AP system while processing my kitchen waste through the worms instead of the local monkeys who do the conversion where I don't want it! :roll: :D

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PostPosted: Sep 21st, '08, 03:16 
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Cyara,

No, he never figured out where they came from. We thought at first they might have come from bird droppings, but more likely, they just crawled in.

In effect, you are doing the same thing I want to do by feeding the plants the worm waste. I just sought to simplify by getting rid of the fish and putting the worms directly in the beds.

IF this works, I can see that it opens a whole new vista to find what they might eat, that is, what ultimately might be used to feed the plants. I haven't considered putting kitchen waste in the AP system -- although it might well work -- for fear I might introduce disease to the plants. But I'm a farmer not a biologist, so I really don't know.

Mornings

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PostPosted: Sep 21st, '08, 03:43 
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Mornings I don't think I would put the kitchen waste into the AP system either. I give it to worms in a worm bin.... or will when my worm bin has gotten some worms in it! Soon now. I think earthworm castings are exceptional. If you go to this site you can see the transcript of a really interesting programme I watched about earthworms...http://www.mnet.co.za/Mnet/Shows/carteb ... sp?Id=3534. This guy is running a very successful organic farm using earthorms mainly.

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PostPosted: Sep 21st, '08, 04:30 
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If you don't wish to raise fish for food. You can still have some fish in a tank to provide poo for the grow beds and worms there in.

As far a why worms might keep leaving the beds, in worm bins it is usually because the environment is not to their liking. They like a neutral pH, They need moisture but it must not get anaerobic.

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PostPosted: Sep 21st, '08, 05:50 
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Ya know, If you don't want to bother with fish, there is always pee ponics.

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PostPosted: Sep 21st, '08, 06:25 
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I found an earthworm in my aquaponics system not long ago. I never added any worms to the system either - it must've come from the garden. pH is always around 6, and the flood and drain cycle is about 15 minutes. There's a video of the worm here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0bDv0UhoZo
I think the worms are really contributing to my system because I don't have any solids build up. I think that's because of the earthworms.

I also found a live worm in my pond, before I had any fish. I didn't have a pump at the time, nor extra oxygen, but the earthworm seemed to cope just fine despite the apparent lack of oxygen.

I have been thinking about vermiponics, with just a single flood and drain growbed and a sump, with the input being kitchen waste. I don't know if it'd work.

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PostPosted: Sep 21st, '08, 06:32 
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Interesting. Without having the beds flood & drain will the worms run out of room. In a worm bin you have to harvest the castings at some point and replace with fresh food to keep the worms going. Having it in an AP system means the GB is changing all the time so the worms will stay put. In a worm bin you have to harvest the juice as well. I know the plants will take something out of the bin but will they be able to keep up. When I connect my solid filter to my system I might put some waste aside to feed some worms in a GB and see how it goes.

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PostPosted: Sep 21st, '08, 07:36 
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Dufflight, in a good AP system the worms will live in the water quite happily - there is heaps of dissolved oxygen that they breathe through the skin. Its interesting finding them in the sump, crawling around quite happily.

There heaps of worms in my growbeds now - I manually added them and they have grown quite a good population. No blocking or solids problems, water is clear.

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PostPosted: Sep 21st, '08, 08:30 
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I agree OBO, I love to see the worms in the GBs - always check the root mass on any plants I pull to make sure the worms get a chance to return to the GB.

It would be a good experiment to do vermiponics, but I took up AP to grow and eat the fish, edible vegies is a bonus, wiggly things in the GB add to the pleasure :twisted:

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PostPosted: Sep 21st, '08, 08:33 
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I have millions of worms in the system in the beds in the sumps everywhere theres rotting roots in the beds the water is washing past the rotting matter a bit like a big worm farm

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PostPosted: Sep 21st, '08, 08:34 
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I have millions of worms in the system in the beds in the sumps everywhere theres rotting roots in the beds the water is washing past the rotting matter a bit like a big worm farm

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