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Green Building Bible, Fourth Edition
Green Building Bible, fourth edition (both books)
These two books are the perfect starting place to help you get to grips with one of the most vitally important aspects of our society - our homes and living environment.

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    • CommentAuthorPeter A
    • CommentTimeNov 28th 2008
    I was recently chatting with a colleague who had just come back from one of the West Indian islands and he mentioned that all the houses over there harvested rain into big tanks under the houses, the water was then kept clean by keeping fish in the tanks. Locals drink this water!!!
    Has anybody come across this? What are these fish and does it really work?
    • CommentAuthorchuckey
    • CommentTimeNov 28th 2008
    I heard Bob Flowerdew on Gardeners Question time, say that he had reccommended to some one, to put goldfish in their water butt to stop it going green and slimy. Apparently out of the blue ten years later they met him and thanked him very much, they are using the same fish!!
    having had to clean out goldfish tanks when I was a kid, not so sure. Snails on the other hand work, they keep the water crystal clear.
    Don't forget that all aquatic creatures also excrete into the water they're living in. I'm not saying they don't clean the water, but would you feel comfortable drinking fish urine and faeces?

    Paul in Montreal.
    • CommentAuthorMike George
    • CommentTimeNov 28th 2008 edited
    Is this similar to how tropical fish tanks work? A long time since I kept them but I think its something to do with bacteria build up in the undergravel filters. The dirty water is sucked down through gravel into a plastic corrugated filter attached to plastic tubes. The suction is created by airstones expelling air at the base of the tube, which then rises causing the circulation.

    Do these tanks have some kind of filtration system?

    Probably not very well explained but I hope you get what I mean.
    • CommentAuthorRammedHome
    • CommentTimeNov 29th 2008
    Aquaponics seems to work because of the plant nutrients excreted into the water by the fish. The fish excretions are converted by bacteria living in the plant growing medium into plant foods. Just on this info alone I wouldn't be rushing to drink it - but it would probably be ok to water your garden with!:smile:
    • CommentAuthorjoe.e
    • CommentTimeNov 29th 2008
    I can't really understand this. What do the fish eat? What are they supposed to be removing from the water? Clearly they can't just live on the nutrients carried in rainwater - if they're going to put on any weight they'd need to be fed, surely? How much algae can grow in an underground tank with no light to allow photosynthesis? I suspect some misunderstanding / leg pulling.
    That's rather a good point joe
    • CommentAuthorCWatters
    • CommentTimeNov 29th 2008
    If you want to try it can I recommend trout. Then you can eat them if it doesn't work :-)
    • CommentAuthorludite
    • CommentTimeNov 29th 2008
    I wouldn't recommend it, for a number of reasons. Some of which I list below - and would welcome it if others on the site corrected anything I've got wrong.

    1. Fish breathe oxygen diffused into the water from the air. They therefore need more air, than water in order to exist. If you put them in a water butt, there is very little surface area of water available to absorb oxygen. The fish will therefore eventually rise to the surface and gasp for breath - before they die.

    2. unless you get a specialised cave fish, they still need sunlight.

    3. So long as you keep a water butt in the shade, with a lid on, I've found the water will stay perfectly clear(with NO fish),however, if the lid slips off for some reason, it will fill with mosquito lava - which will hatch into mosquitos - unless you sieve them out and feed them to the fish you have swimming in your pond. . . . . . .
    • CommentAuthormike7
    • CommentTimeNov 29th 2008
    We harvest rainwater into a big old underground cistern and it keeps perfectly well, if slightly coloured. Seems fine for bathing and laundry. I don't drink it, but wouldn't be tooo worried if I had to.
    • CommentAuthorPeter A
    • CommentTimeJan 23rd 2009
    OK, it's taken a bit of time but eventually I have found out what the fish are that clean the rainwater in the West Indies which is then drinkable.
    These are even supplied to homes by the local health authorities!!
    The fish are called millions, a quick Goggle then came up with their more common name, Guppies!!!!
    I've been watching them in my fish tank for years, just need to pluck up the courage to dip a straw into the tank!!!!!!!!
    But seriously is there some potential, I can think of loads of interesting challenges:)
    • CommentAuthorskywalker
    • CommentTimeJan 23rd 2009
    I think there is a misconception here.

    Guppies are used in water systems in hot countries to keep down gnat/midge & mosquito larvae (which is why Bob Flowerdew puts goldfish in his water buts) & thus reduce all the nasties that they transmit to humans (malaria etc.). The water may well be clean enough to drink as well but it will not be cleaned by the guppies (not in a chemical sense).

    Been away for a while.

    Glad to see you are all well!

    The guppies still p*ss and sh*t in the water ... if you want to drink that, that's up to you but I don't think I'd be too inclined.

    And as Skywalker says, there's "cleaning" and "cleaning" - removing parasites is one thing, but that doesn't make the water "clean". I guess drinking fish pee is better than imbibing parasites and the like.

    Paul in Montreal.
    • CommentAuthorSimonH
    • CommentTimeJan 23rd 2009
    Well, I eat prawns and mussels - and raw oysters and I guess they're full of it too.

    But it' snot that which worried me, rain water has come off the roof, and all thinking about the nasties in tiles (epsecially those tar/felt shingles they use abroad) Your drinking water that's been used to wash your roof ;-) Plus in some parts the rain itself can't be that good for you. Especailly if it's blown in from countries in "the west". But better than no water!
    • CommentAuthorcookie
    • CommentTimeJan 23rd 2009
    lol, this thread made me laugh.. very amusing and educational too!!!!

    Before you worry about fish poop, ask your local water board how much human poop is in your water? Most major cities the water has been drunk 3 to 5 times before you drink it!!! Sewage plants if they have a high flow rate will just skim off the sweet corn let the heavy stuff sink and everything else gets pumped into the local river, which then can be pumped back into storage tanks just a few miles down stream and ready for treating and delivered back to your tap all fresh and cold.... Yummmy!

    I'm not saying drinking water is unsafe just that is not as pure as we might hope

    Happy drinking
    • CommentAuthorchuckey
    • CommentTimeJan 23rd 2009
    Having dropped a cold chisel into an old septic tank that we were using up two years before hand, I can report that there was about 1" of green slime on the bottom and no signs of toilet paper etc. So bacteria and time really does remove all traces of biological waste but not viruses. Around here the tap water is quite brown in the summer due to the peat content, but no one has got ill from it. I have actually seen on TV some in the UK, the water board telling people that the live creatures in their tapwater pose no threat to health, could have been freshwater shrimp lavae?
    I think we are being too precious about the quality of the drinking water, in Hampshire you can smell the chlorine in it, for many years stream water has been drunk and despite tales about dead sheep upstream, in general there has been no problem except for the spread of cholera but when one considers that was due to leakage of raw sewage into the drinking water, given a year or so to settle it would have been fine anyway.
    • CommentTimeJan 26th 2009
    I'm not an expert on fish, but I'm pretty sure they need more than rain water and a little algae to survive. In china, fish are kept in large tanks which are used for cleaning dishes. Kind of like an eco-friendly dish washer. In go your dirty dishes (including crusty pans) and out they come a couple of hours later all shiny clean. Koi I think they use. Quite a genius idea really, as you're not wasting water on dishes and you don't have the mundane task of washing up. So the water remains pretty clean, I guess you could drink it , but the locals wouldn't.
    • CommentAuthordazdread
    • CommentTimeJan 26th 2009
    I am just interested in the process used in these natural swimming pools that they claim have drinking quality water in, in fact the guy on "Its not easy being green", reincarnated as a highly flakey magazine show, two weeks ago drank the water.
    The latest therapy in Singapore is to have a fish pedicure. Basically you sit with your feet in an aquarium and the fishes nibble the hard skin off your tootsies. (I don't think you're expected to imbibe the water as well!).
    • CommentAuthorCliff Pope
    • CommentTimeJan 26th 2009
    <blockquote><cite>Posted By: SimonH</cite>

    But it' snot that which worried me,


    So its urine, faeces, and now snot ! Fish have some nasty habits, as W C Fields famously observed on this very subject.
    • CommentAuthorskywalker
    • CommentTimeJan 26th 2009

    Just google 'reed bed filtration'.

    Basically wetland/aquatic plants are nutrient (P, N, K) sponges and in the right densities will deal with most normal chemical/organic pollutants that can cause bacterial blooms. They also facilitate aerobic breakdown of the same as lots of oxygen is transported into the substrate (mud/gravel) by their roots so you don't get stinky mud forming in massive quantities. There is also some sequestration (by chemical binding) of heavy metals and other nasties into wetland systems. I was involved in this one (in a small way) to deal with car park run-off a few years ago.


    There was a brief fad in the 80's (some still go for it - have been posts here) of single house reed bed systems which as long as they are correctly sized work. In other words your excreta are poured in one end and you are usually able to drink what comes out the other end (of the reed bed).

    The human species, and with our predecessors, managed to evolve and develop civilisations drinking stream and pond water. As always, it is when populations get too big that natural dynamic processes cannot keep up!

    • CommentAuthorJackyR
    • CommentTimeJan 26th 2009 edited
    Getting serious with reed beds.

    And yes, you can supposedly drink the water in the Okavango, tho tea-drinkers like me don't really care. Certainly no bilharzia, so safe to paddle. Modulo hippos.
    • CommentAuthorcookie
    • CommentTimeJan 27th 2009
    lol, I think the point of the fish is to eat the midgie larvie, it doens't say the fish survive past the larvie season. The locals wait till the end of the seaon, then they fry them up! Its called the Guppifest (honest :op). In Cyprus each year the Government (I assume) would come spray your swimming pool cover for free to kill the larvie in a bid to cut down mosquitos. Maybe they never thought of Guppies??

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