Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners


Arizona Aquaponics

Helping each other to learn and grow big nutritious plants and fish to help feed the world.

Location: Phoenix
Members: 226
Latest Activity: on Tuesday


Thank you all for joining my group, I hope to do a lot with all anyone interested. Please
tell me any event suggestions you would like us to do.

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Comment by Larry in Casa Grande on July 19, 2012 at 10:01pm


You must know all of our hearts are breaking with yours over this setback. Hang in there dude, everyone is rooting for you.

I like the way you found a positive, even in the middle of all that challenge.

So fold that pond liner my friend, and I know you will face the new day with renewed courage and a lot of friends here cheering you on.

Comment by Bob Campbell on July 19, 2012 at 7:16pm

@John - If you take Jim up on his offer to give you a bacteria start, be sure to provide aeration while in transport. 

Comment by Jim Troyer on July 19, 2012 at 7:02pm

Hi John

My suggestion is to pull out all the water, scrub the tank out with H2O2 and fix anything you think might have been amiss and hook up that second grow bed.  Glue down those liner corners so fish can't get trapped there again to eliminate that issue.

Then buy a couple dozen feeder goldfish and throw them in, someone will want them later.  I have a big chunk of "biomass" you can have to get things kick started again.  The "biomass" is a 2'x2' "chunk" of green onions that grew wild and together while my house was being rehabbed after the flood.  I finally separated what was growing in the raft bed with a sawzall to get my system going again and threw a huge chunk back in as plant load while I got other things growing...

So at that point you will have a fresh system with plenty of biomass and bacteria to call it seasoned after a few hours.  Watch it carefully for a few weeks and see what happens before you put tilapia back in. 

I'll bet it was those dead fish caught in the corners.  I have adult tilapia that hide from the bullies and I would not be a bit surprised if one or two fish got caught trying to get away from Leroy

Comment by Sheri Schmeckpeper on July 19, 2012 at 2:44pm

The dead fish could be relatively new and might not have hit the ammonia yet. But if they were there for a bit, yes, it seems like they should have caused an ammonia reading higher than that.

Usually our water will look a little off when the ammonia or nitrites are too high. Also, the fish won't eat when they stop feeling well.

Comment by Kellen Weissenbach on July 19, 2012 at 2:40pm

Okay, so ammonia issues should not have been a problem then.  At the worst case numbers you provided (ph 7.0, temp 83F), .5ppm ammonia would only be about .003ppm toxic ammonia with the balance consisting of the "safer" ammonium.

Comment by John Malone on July 19, 2012 at 2:30pm

@ Kellen

pH was rock solid at 6.8-7.0

Temperature between 78-83F

Ammonia maxed at 0.5ppm,  most of the time at 0.25ppm

Nitrites at 0ppm

Nitrates at ~100ppm.   Nitrates have been high ever since I did fishless cycling several months ago.   The reading has never really dropped.

No fish gasping at the surface.  I've got a very quick siphon cycle with lots of water, and also supplemental aeration from 4 air stones, so I doubt it's O2 related.

I'm puzzled.

Comment by Kellen Weissenbach on July 19, 2012 at 2:25pm

Hi John,

If your ph was high, combined with high water temp, even .5ppm ammonia can potentially be toxic to your fish.  Do you have readings for ph and temp?

Comment by John Malone on July 19, 2012 at 2:12pm


I'm very puzzled about why the fish died.   

My pond liner is from Home Depot and claims to be fish safe.    Since I've had it in for several months I would expect it to have shown a problem earlier if it was toxic.

I haven't put the new grow bed in because I didn't want to risk upsetting the system while I was away.   Hmmmm, that plan didn't work.

The fish have been very happy and healthy for several months, growing from 1/2" to 5" in double quick time, and them KaBoom - they're all dead over a couple of weeks.

I haven't changed anything in the system for weeks, to the point where it was becoming boring.  The only thing I can think of is that my testing chemicals weren't giving me an accurate reading and the ammonia level is off the charts.   The reason I think that is that I found a couple of old dead fish tucked in the folds of the liner and they should have spiked the ammonia way up, but it only ever registered 0.5ppm maximum.

I'm going to take a sample of the water down to PetSmart and see if they'll test it for me and tell me what their measurements are.  It will be interesting.

Comment by Jim Troyer on July 19, 2012 at 1:59pm

@ John -

It wasn't me! John!

"just funnin' wit you."  

I'm so sorry to hear about your loss, I know have worked really hard to create a benchmark system. 

Those testing supplies should be okay, and You guys made plenty of water changes of this last week or so the recent water quality should be okay...

Maybe as group we can figure out what happened and all learn from it.

Before you do anything drastic to the system let's review what you have and then make a plan of action.

Seems as though your fish were healthy when you put them into the in-ground tank (right?) and you know the recent history of the fish before that.

Seems as though your new grow beds went in just before your vacation too, how are the plants doing?

We know the water quality was pretty good while you were gone and things were well looked after. Thanks, Jacques

What were the water temps?

Aside from the bucket handle things seemed okay...

so I'm wondering if the pond liner was fish safe, I found this comment at pond

EDPM may contain fungicides, fire retardants and other toxins that may harm or kill your fish. You cannot remove these contaminates by washing the liner, the toxins are embedded in the material and will continually leech out into the pond for years. We strongly recommend using a fish safe EPDM life Firestone PondGard in your pond.

I hope this was not the issue but finding the problem is the most important thing at this point...

The offer still stands for help if you need it

All the best,


as an aside: I have 4 fish tanks going in the house right now.  The other day I had a freshly cleaned tank turn real cloudy water after a day or so, which seemed unusual, so I did a 1/2 water change and I noticed the pump output was kinda of low, so I took it out and when to rinse the pump at the sink.   Much to my chagrin, there is a cover missing on the pump and a fish had been sucked up into the intake.  He was about half ground into fish meal (if you know what I mean)   The point is, you are bound to find something unusual like a dead fish in the pump intake at some point in this adventure called Aquaponics

Comment by David Schwinghamer on July 19, 2012 at 1:55pm

Guess what? My duckweed is growing!!!!!!!!!!


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