Well, it's been quite interesting year!
I sure have learned alot and continue to do so everyday about AP & my system. I built my table May 5, 2011. I started with gold fish. The same day I planted my seeds, I introduced the fish. I also added some rocks and a few gallons of water from a koi pond that my friend owns, to the system. The seedlings all sprouted right away and grew just fine. I had some of the typical problems that some of us have had when we first started AP. I lost alot of gold fish (sacrificial incidental damage) while cycling and had problems with Ich. I did the salt treatment, partial water changes, and replaced the fish, what was left, with Koi and Tilapia once the system was cycled... and i learned alot , asked alot, and received alot of great advice from many people on this forum and i appreciate it! I added red wigglers from time to time in the GB. The last year has been full of distractions for me but my system was always being monitored by me. I watched as the dif/ varieties of veggies grew and even waited a long time for those that I planted out of season to finally show their crowns of glory, which amounted to very little broccoli/cauliflour/ - but was well worth the wait!
Winter came & since it was a mild one I continued to grow out the tomatoes which kept producing up until Feb. Most of the lettuce and Kale, swiss chard, spinach and broccoli and cauliflour had been harvested/removed - mainly to get rid of the aphids that still tried to make the giant broccoli their home.
Feb 14 - I had removed 80% of the plants, ammonia level went up to .50 and my nitrites shot up to .50 ppm and nitrates shot up to .80 ppm. I realized what and why, but I didn't quite know what to do so, I replanted quite heavily with lettuce and basil by just sprinkling the seeds into the Hydroton. Nothing sprouted. Planted again.
March came and the winter finally set in and it got really cold and windy, gusts up to 50 mph. Nothing sprouted.
What was left unscathed and still growing after the dust had settled after the onslought of all the winter storms, was the three remaining trays of 6 foot tomato plants growing in 5 inches of hydroton and held up by grid nylon trellis- and the swiss chard that i dont't eat because I think it is very salty- too old or (probably due to the salt treatment early on) I just kept it growing to help eat up the nitrates. I plan to replace it soon.
The tomatoes are growing strong now that I pruned back all the severely wind burnt leaves and snapped vines, and removed all the suckers. The roots on the tomato plants have grown down thru the window planter troughs i use, and onto my (hidden from view) secret Growzay's take on NFT and all the way the length of the table into the reservior! The roots are well over 7 feet long just on the NFT section alone.
This week I re-planted seeds into rapid rooter starter plugs- made of decomposed bark- like i did in the beginning. Everything sprouted!!
I was using a supplement of seaweed extract last year, but it's been more than 6-8 months since I have. I am undecided if i will add anything other than worm tea (foliar feed) this year. My AP system is being pushed to the extremes- basically on it's own. I let the system go on auto pilot (so to speak) so I can say it has been rigorously tested in all conditions.(hehe). I want to see how good the plants produce using only the fish effluent & worms in the growbeds.
The ammonia level is currently at 1.0- nitrite/nitrate levels have since dropped to 0ppm - PH is 7.0
My fish density is too high. I am ready to harvest a few large Mozambique Tilapia, they look like they are at least 12 inches long.
I am learning about the longivity of my system because i am using only 5- 6 inches of media in my flood & drain. I know that the roots are taking up most of the space in the tomato grow containers & I want to see how much it can take and how long it takes before I see or (smell) any problems arise from the (supposed) lack of root space. It is an experiment for me and it will benefit my customers if I run this rigorous style of raw (let it grow) (shallow) F&D. In my opinion, the shallow window troughs, makes all the difference when it comes to cleaning/removing the roots from the rocks. It simplifies crop rotation and it will not interfere with the roots of other plants in the other troughs.
I have had no issues with the functionality of the system- it works perfectly! There have been no leaks, no clogs, no complications and no dead fish. I feed them worms a couple of times a week. Twice a day I feed them Mazuri Koi floating pellets.
I really enjoyed my first full year grow'n with fish & I'm still luv'n it!
I will post further assessments in the future.Thanks, Jose (Growzay) http://growzaysaquaponics.com/index.html
Great post thanks for the update. Best wishes going forward.
Quite a learning curve! Aquaponics will endure a lot being an ecosystem. Beware tomato roots will eventual get into your drains and clog them. It happened to me and drained my sump before I realized what was going on. Keep up the good work and keep us posted.