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E X P E R I M E N T:

AQUAPONICS
w/ fishes‘ feces & water

Submitted by: Mikaelah Perez


(WA10)
Submitted on: March 11, 2018
Acknowledgements

I would like to thank my friends, teachers and family for helping me out. Without them, I don’t
think it would have been possible for me to pursue doing my experiment. Thank you for supporting me
even though you guys have seen that it was about to fail—but you guys would still be willing to help me
out in such a tough and almost impossible time.

Table of Contents

Statement of Purpose …………………………………………………………………. 1

Hypothesis …………………………………………………………………. 1

Research …………………………………………………………………. 1

Materials …………………………………………………………………. 3

Methods/Procedure …………………………………………………………………. 3

Analysis …………………………………………………………………. 6

Conclusion …………………………………………………………………. 7

References …………………………………………………………………. 7
Statement of Purpose

Instead of using an expensive fertilizer to keep the plants healthy and grow more efficiently,
why not use Fishes’ feces? What if you could grow your plant yet take care of your fish at a more
systematic manner?

Hypothesis

I think it would be possible that using, more than one, fish’s feces is effective than it does with
fertilizers. Fertilizers may be effective instantly than it does with the manure, but that will soon give side
effects to the growing plant. [1] With enough fishes’ feces to make the manure possible for the plants to
grow, it will be possible and that it would also be instantly effective as the chemical fertilizer.

Research

I would have to focus researching for these topics that will be required for my experiment. The
differences between manure and fertilizers would help me distinguish which one would be more
effective for growing plants in a more environmental way.

Synthetic Fertilizers (NPK Fertilizers)

In order for a plant to grow, it needs a number of different chemical elements: Carbon,
Hydrogen and Oxygen (available from air and H2O), and Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (the three
main micronutrients and these can be found in most fertilizers).

The ‘NPK’ (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium) are the most important in plants, because
those are required to cellular respiration. Every amino acid contains nitrogen. Every molecule making up
every cell’s membrane contains Phosphorus and does every molecule of ATP. Potassium makes up 1 to 2
percent of the plant’s weight, as an ion in cells and essential to metabolism. Most farmers these days
used the ‘NPK’ fertilizer because it is efficient, especially when keeping the right nutrients for the plants.

In a situation where those elements aren’t present, then the plant won’t grow. If any of the
micronutrients are missing or hard to obtain from soil, then this will limit the plant’s growth rate. [2]

Most farmers these days used the ‘NPK’ fertilizer because it is efficient, especially when keeping
the right nutrients for the plants. All nutrients in food come from the soil. In order to make healthy crops
full of nutrients, farmers need to work with healthy soil. Once crops are harvested for human
consumption, the natural supply of nutrients in the soil must be “re-filled.” Even if these NPK fertilizers
are really effective, it is also very expensive and can harm the environment if not used properly. [3]

Manure

Manure is packed with nutrients that plant need, mainly Nitrogen. There are many types of
animals’ manures that could be used for fertilizers, such as cows’, horses’ and goats’. Though, cats’ and
dogs’ manure may not be suitable as they most likely to carry parasites.

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There are different effects that manure will bring when it comes to growing plants and keeping
a sustainable soil. As the soil absorbs manure, the nutrients are released and that it is able to contain
the soil. For example, mixing manure with a sandy-like soil will help retain its moisture levels, and adding
it to a compacted soil helps loosen the soil. Not only does manure give out nutrients and help retain the
soil, but it also produces increased soil carbon. Carbon in soil is an important source of energy that
makes nutrients available for plants. [4]

Although, manure has less rich Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium compared to synthetic
fertilizers. To be as fast and efficient as synthetic fertilizers, more manure must be used. [5] Different
manure may come from different types of animals. Some animals may carry more potassium than
phosphorus and vice-versa but, they all carry the proper amount of Nitrogen. Results may vary
depending on how much manure had been used and its type.

Manure is rich in microorganisms, humus and nutrients. It increases the capacity of the soil to
hold water and improves its consistency. It is mainly used on small land and to remain its fertility, even
though it’s not so rich in nutrients—it helps the soil in the long run. [1]

Differences between Manure and Synthetic Fertilizers [6]

Characteristics Manure Synthetic Fertilizers


Origin Plant or Animal Chemically Synthesized
Nature Organic in Nature Inorganic in Nature
Type Natural Product Artificial Product
Concentration of Nutrients Less Concentration More Concentration
Material Supply Organic Matter Supply Inorganic Matter
Nutrient Availability Slowly Available May or May Not be Available
Supply Specific Type of
Supply All the Primary Nutrients,
Nutrients Nutrients—Having 1, 2 or All of
even Micronutrients
the Three Micronutrients
Improves Physical Condition of Does Not Improve the Soil
Effect on Soil Health
the Soil Condition
Leaves Bad Effects when there’s
No Bad Effects when Applied in
Effect on Plant Growth Deficiency or Excessiveness of
Large Quantities
the Fertilizer

PH Balance in Soil

Soil pH is a measure of how acidic or basic a soil is and can range anywhere from 3.0 (very
acidic) to over 8.0 (moderately basic) in our region. Most plants grow best when the pH is between 5.5
and 6.5. At levels higher or lower than this, several important nutrients become unavailable to plants,
even if they are present in the soil. If your soil pH is too extreme, plants will not grow well, no matter
how much fertilizer you add. [7]

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Tiny soil microorganisms
increase and multiply in soil, when
the soil has a proper pH. They die
in acidic soils of low pH! These
microorganisms breakdown the
vast array of the organic
compounds and mineral nutrients
found in the soil that no other
form of life can degrade. Since
grass plants need much more than
the nitrogen, phosphorous and
potassium that come in the bag of
fertilizer you spread, they can only
get their other essential nutritional
requirements from the soil. [8]

Credits to: Jonathan Green’s article on “Importance of Soil pH” [8]

Materials

Plastic Bottles (500mL) x 5 Fish Tank (21 x 30 x 19 cm) x 1 Pack of Gravel Stones (1kg) x 1
Paper Cup x 1 Metal Sticks (46cm) x 4 Pet Fishes x 4
Plastic Container (21 x 7 x 14.5
Lotion Pumpers x 2 Soil (1, 280mL)
cm) x 1
Pack of Fish Food x 1 Bottle of NPK Fertilizer x 1 IV Tube x 1
Plastic Pipette x 1 1 Pack of pH Paper Indicator x 1 Pieces of Cloth x 2

Methods/Procedure

I. Planning the Layout and its Function


I was excited to start doing this experiment for the science fair. I had these ideas
running in through my head on how it will look like and how it functions. I made an
“Aquaponics” as a project last when I was in Year 9. Even though I made an experiment
like this already, I wanted to improve it and make it better.

Drawing out the sketch on what I had in mind wasn’t hard, as I made it already
in the past. This is where the difficult part of brainstorming kicks in—how can I make it
better? What could be the additional things I need to improve it? Lots of critical thinking
and doubts were made in this. Not everything would work and I have to be practical
with the ideas I had.

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I tried to compare from my past experiment to the new one. The old
“Aquaponics” I made wasn’t set up well and so I took note that I need the proper
materials. Compared to the old mode, I planned to add a water filtering system to clean
the dirt from the soil substance.

II. Making the Water Filtering System


I wanted to make the filtering system with the use of recyclable materials as
much as possible. I used lots of plastic bottles and a piece of fabric to do the actual
filtering process itself.

Lots of trials and errors occurred while making the filtering system. There were
also lots of changes that were made compared to what I have in mind. Since it was a
system that was all completely made out from scratch, I had to experiment as well.

The problem that occurred here was that, the filtering system won’t work as
well until changes would be made. Yes, there definitely lots of those in the process.
Although, with all the dozen trials and errors, it wouldn’t have been possible to make it
function properly.

Other than a piece of fabric to filter out the dirt from the soil, I also used a few
gravel stones to be more careful. The stones helps it filter through out and the fabric
assures to filter better. I also used a sieving net and filtering paper as the cover of the
filtering system. I wanted to make certain of that I want to have a product of clean
water to be released.

III. Setting up the “Aquaponics”


This is when all the materials needed for the experiment will be taken place. I
needed to have an aquarium, a plastic container to keep the soil and something to
elevate the container.

The aquarium is where the fishes will be kept safe and taken care of. I used four
metal sticks (46cm long each) for the elevation of the plastic container used to keep the
growing plants and soil.

The water filtering system I made earlier before setting up the real experiment
is used as well. The filtering system is located below the left side of the plastic container.
There are also two pumpers (from lotion/shampoo containers) used for bringing the
water from the aquarium to the plants. I used a paper cup between the two hand
pumpers for the water to be visible enough that it contains the fish feces’ that will be
given to the soil with the usage of the pumpers.

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IV. Setting Up the Three Different Soils to Compete
I wanted to have three different soils as samples of this experiment. I wanted to
show people on how effective and efficient my experiment could be for raising plants
and taking care of pet fishes at the same time.

There are will be three containers that has different kind of soils. One with the
fishes’ feces; the other with the NPK Liquid Fertilizer; the last is just with the soil in its
natural form.

I’d water each of the soil everyday with the right amount needed. The soil with
the fishes’ feces would have more water added, because it’s in a larger plastic container
compared to the other two soils. The two different soils are located inside plastic
bottles.

Also, I had to be careful and be rational with the amount of distribution for the
seeds planted in each of the container. Since the soil that would have the fishes’ feces, I
had to put more seeds compared to the other two. I planted the seeds from the soil in
the plastic bottle and plastic container with the ration of 1:6. I planted four bean seeds
in each of the soil in the plastic bottle. Therefore, I put twenty-four seeds in the soil
that’s contained in the larger plastic container.

The fertilizer must be attentively measured when it’s applied to the soil. I
wouldn’t want to destroy the soil because of the deficiency/excessively amount of the
fertilizer applied. To apply the amount of 0.5mL of the liquid fertilizer, the soil must be
160mL. The soil without any special aid from fertilizers or fishes’ feces will also have the
same amount of soil.

V. Planting, Watering, Feeding—All About the Analysis and Progress


Instead of being an experiment that could only be used one time, this is an on-
going experiment. I planted the bean seeds in proportion on how much seeds were used
in the container of two different soils, as a comparison of my experiment.

I water my three different soils every day. One soil contains the fish feces’ as a
fertilizer; the second is with an actual fertilizer that contains the NPK (which will be put
weekly in the soil); the last one contains no fertilizers and just plain soil.

Feeding the fishes in a daily basis is really important. Keeping the fish healthy
and alive is needed for this experiment. When the fishes have enough to eat, they’ll
have a higher chance to produce waste needed for the plants.

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From this point, lots of analyzing and observing for days is necessary. I have to
take notes of the plants’ growth from the three different soils and see which one helped
grew the plant from the most efficient to the least.

Analysis

Since this is an on-going continuous experiment, it was difficult to draw a conclusion on this. For
this, I will analyze on the process of how this experiment has been functioning the past week.

Finally, everything was going in place on how things were supposed to be. There would be less
spillage of water coming out from the water filtering system and the pumpers were working efficiently.
The soil on the plastic container, located on top of the aquarium, also wasn’t spilling. Everything was
organized with most of the problems fixed before-hand.

I planted the seeds as soon after I tested out the experiment with reduced errors to fix with. I
felt confident that it functions according as planned. With the seed planted in three of the different
soils, with the fishes’ feces; with NPK fertilizer; natural—I watered each of the containers the day after.
With a day delayed, it was because I had to feed and collect the fishes’ waste and water everything in
the same time. It will be easier to compare the amount of differences the soil made for each of the
plant’s growth.

The process of watering the plants is a daily assignment. I water each container with a decent
amount of water needed, not too little and not too much either. I use normal tap water for the
container with NPK Fertilizers and just soil itself. The soil for the fish’s feces, I used water from the
aquarium with the use of the pumper.

I’d notice the changes every day, especially coming home from school. Officially on the 3rd day
after I started the experiment, the plants from the fishes’ feces were starting to sprout. The plants from
both containers unfortunately still haven’t sprout. I was sure about my calculations on rationalizing the
seeds and its distribution and so I had to check out again if I was able to do the planting properly, and so
I added more seeds to have a higher chance to get sprouts.

The days have arrived and there were plants that effectively growing from the soil with the
fishes’ feces and water. The plants that grew looked healthy and there’s only a little quantity of it
growing successfully. In the other hand, the seeds from the other two types of soil are not going so well.
There was only one sprout that was growing from the soil with the fertilizer and none has come out with
just soil itself.

A week has passed and the soil with the NPK Fertilizer will be having fertilizer again every week.
I took note of the warnings about fertilizers, and so I’m more careful on applying the fertilizer. I don’t
want to hurt the soil by not giving enough or rather too much of the fertilizer. The numbers of plants
that are currently growing from the soil with the fishes’ feces and water have increased extensively. The
seeds from the other two types of soil, with NPK Fertilizer and water, haven’t changed as much as the
other one. Although, it was good to see that the small sprout from the soil with the fertilizer has grown

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into a small plant. But the quantity of plant that grew hasn’t changed and it has been seven days and
counting.

After this day, with an entire has passed, I hope to see that the plant and seeds from the soil,
with fertilizer and its natural form, will grow as time passes by. As I mentioned earlier, this experiment is
in progress—therefore, it’s hard to have a confirmed conclusion to this for analyzing. So far, the soil with
the fishes’ feces and water is the most efficient compared to the two other soils. I think that this will be
more effective as the observation is still ongoing. With a week has passed, I am fortunate to say that my
experiment was a success.

Conclusion

From the experience the person who made this, which is me—doing this was definitely not easy.
It wasn’t exactly too hard, but it wasn’t in my comfort zone of difficulty as well. The “Aquaponics” gave
me a lot of challenges to overcome before it would look like what it is now. I mentioned this earlier in
the methods/procedure part in this report. I had to go through so many trials and errors, such as water
would start leaking out from the container and more of those annoying fails. It surely gave me lots of
stress and irritation, but it helped out a lot when I had to think of many solutions to the problem.

Since there were lots of trial and errors made in the process of this experiment, lots of thinking
and new ideas came up as well. I had to be creative to solve the problems and I felt so happy that I was
able to succeed it. The situations were getting harder the further I was perfecting the experiment. By
the time I tested it out before actually beginning the experiment—I felt like the happiest person in the
world to have lesser mistakes and had to do a few trials and errors. I must’ve had thoughts of giving up
on this, but now I was glad that those unfortunate things happened. I wouldn’t have been able to
improve myself in dealing with tough situations. Also, I felt so achieved that the creative ideas I had to
fix the problem worked out well and that I was able to finish with it working out well in the end.

References

[1]:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0cGQ1IEL9E&index=14&t=0s&list=LL3_fKfYGpbwCot89tNAcPdQ
[2]:
https://home.howstuffworks.com/question181.htm
[3]:
https://soilsmatter.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/why-do-farmers-use-fertilizers/
[4]:
https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/composting/manures/the-benefits-of-manure-in-your-
garden.htm
[5]:
https://www.britannica.com/topic/manure
[6]:
http://www.agriinfo.in/default.aspx?page=topic&superid=1&topicid=356
[7]:

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https://pender.ces.ncsu.edu/2012/04/soil-ph-a-matter-of-balance/
[8]:
http://www.jonathangreen.com/importance-soil-ph.html