Aquaponic Gardening

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Hi everyone. I would like to know if any one has experimented with adding iron the the Aquaponic system 'naturally'? I mean with out stuff coming out of a plastic bottle. Where we are, getting iron supplements for an Aquaponic system is pretty tricky. It's either not avaiable or very expensive.


Would adding chopped up Spinach to the fish feed work if they eat it? Is that a crazy idea?I know Tilapia eat some veggies.

Any help would be great




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From what I've read Saeid feeding the fish the iron doesn't help because they consume all of the iron not giving off any in their waste. I'll try finding the source of that info.

Nigel, hi.

It would seem that what goes in, would eventually come out in their waste and be available for the plants. I am looking at a video on Youtube right now, where some one suggested putting a big Iron nail in the water and have rust away. Not sure about that one.

I read recently, sorry but I don't recall where, that you could put a rusty steelwool pad (not one with soap) in a jug of water and let it rust away...and then adding water from the jug to the fish tank.  Not sure how, other than controlling dosage, this is different from just hanging an iron rod/nail in the fish tank and allowing it to rust away.
I have been researching a natural mineral source called "Azomite."  It is used in animal feed, human supplements, and plant fertilizer. It has about 67 balanced trace minerals. It is mined from an ancient seabed in the hills of Utah. I know it is not a renewable resource, but it is a natural one, and they are gonna dig it up either way...

@ Saeid I might try using ferrous sulphate or chelated iron from the garden shop/ nursery and add it sparingly into your sump tank. Feeding fish spinach is good but mainly for fish health.


Rust is not an absorbable form of iron. However once rusted (oxidized) can be transformed by microbes and attached to amino acids.


Iron in AP

Be Ware! Warning! Danger!

Too much iron can kill your plants!

Iron as a free radical is detrimental to health and life! Free radicals can cause damage to a wide variety of cellular structures, and ultimately kill the cell. That’s why animals protect themselves by using protiens which allows the cells to use the benefits of iron, but also limit its ability to disrupt. Too much of anything KILLS!


I think the first question to ask is: “Where do we (or our fish) get iron from? How is absorbed? Then; How do plants absorb iron?


Q. Where do we get iron from?

A. There are many sources. We eat plants and animals that contain iron. Depending on many factors, up to 35% of our intake is actually absorbed. The rest goes to waste as fecal matter.


Q. How is it absorbed?

A. The best form of iron come from red meat and organs in the form of heme. Special cells in the small intestines can absorb Fe2+ but Fe3+ has to be transformed by a protein called divalent metal transporter 1 (DMT1) which transports all kinds of divalent metals into the body.


Q. How do plants absorb iron?

A. The idea here is to feed your plants. Plants more easily absorb iron in the form of chelates. Chelated iron is simply iron that has undergone chelation, a chemical process that firmly binds the iron molecule to protein, usually an amino acid as found in humus. Plant cells have membranes, which allow some substances to pass through and blocking others. It is believed that root cells are tricked by chelated iron into thinking it is an amino acid.



What I do to add iron for my plants:

What I do in traditional organic gardening is add metal to my compost piles, (old nails, screens or any scrap - to produce chelates) and run wires through my soil (mainly for electroculture) and next year will experiment on running wires under the roots of my deep water culture beds, again in regards to electroculture more than for iron but still, it adds up. I toss about .05% or less of the total mass with rusting or otherwise oxidizing bits of metal. I’d shred old pot scrubbers with sheet metal shears and mix it in my beds (the finer the better).


As I run my system in much larger loops than most of you, my iron leaches from my organic raised beds go directly back into my fish water, giving my plants there everything it needs whenever it wants/ needs, which in turn I use to feed my fish. I also add plant matter to my pellet feeds for a more balanced diet. The funny thing is: as long as I use whole natural ingredients; all I have to do is peg the protein and fat ratio and everything seems to come out balanced.



Thank you all for your answers. Carey, that was a lot more info than I was hoping for. thanks a lot for that. It's something I can come back to again and again to learn from.

I'd avoid the steel wool pads and nails.  Steel wool has an oil coating to prevent rust (just smell it).  You can't know the exact alloy used in wool or nails.  What other metals would you be adding unawares?


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