Aquaponic Gardening

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breeder tank AP system started with pond water... Cycled?


Although I have been reading posts here since October of last year, I'm a first time poster here... studying for months... and months before starting our first system (Several are still under construction including IBC tanks and a trickle tube system.)

My Question:

Our pond (1,400 gallons) has a large bio filter just behind the bio-filter tank behind the water fall. I used water from the fall to fill 3/4 of my first of two indoor breeder tanks (30 gal on this one, 55 gallon on #2). the rest of the water was chlorinated tap water.The pond is FILLED with all sorts of water plants.

My water tests for the pond water/tap water was pH: 6.8 the rest: zero. Day 3: the same. I added three 3"~4" goldfish from the pond and the next day, my reading were: pH: 7.6 Ammonia: .25. Temp was 66 degrees.

In order to help the bacteria grow, I've slowly increased temp to 73 degrees.Three days later we added seedling starts (started indoors in potting soil. Washed THOROUGHLY of all soil and transplanted into thoroughly cleaned/rinsed Clay ball medium.)

Once the temp reached 73, tests were: pH:7.4 Ammonia: .25 They've stayed like that for a week.

NOTE: My system is a little complex as I built a LARGE canister filter filled with ceramic bio media. plastic bio-balls and mechanical (Pond filter) screen. Valves allow me to run more or less water through the grow beds or just filtered back into the tank. There is a 10 gallon sump tank (Bottom left of tanks in cabinet where the pump is also set up to run water through a large quantity of bio-balls in the sump.The water from the pond was brown and heavily particle filled (Hoping a lot of it was bacteria!)... Within days, the breeder tank water was clear.

The fish are happy, thriving and feeding I have a long history with aquariums and fish including a 300 gallon salt water tank.). The plants are growing like they're on steroids! Super green, leaves are full and they are just gorgeous! (Plants (see photo), are over stocked as some will be transplanted outdoors when the weather warms up in a few weeks, consists of mostly spinach and a few tomato plants. (My wife is a teaching master gardener and concurred that the plants are heavy nitrogen users.) The fish are having a great time and the plants are growing so much faster than my "expert" wife could have imagined. (the plants have grown almost 50% since the photo was taken.)

With all these considerations, is it possible that I "instantly cycled" my water? I keep waiting for spikes or changes... (I now test every other day using an API master freshwater (liquid drops, not test strips) and take samples from the tank in exactly the same spot each time.)

Thank you for your input..

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Hi Richard,

I'm surprised that no one has replied to your question; and disappointed because I'm going to use water from a small lake to fill my system soon. I would think that you carried A LOT of the nitrifying bacteria into your system with the pond water, giving your system a huge jump-start. Also, if I remember correctly, Aquaponic Gardening suggests taking rocks from a stream or lake and putting them into a new system to give the colonization a boost.

Are you using the Hanna nitrate checker? Trending the nitrate levels will give you an indicator as to what is going on with the nitrifying bacteria. I would expect you to see the nitrite levels to increase as the nitrosomonas level increases and the nitrite level to drop as the nitrospira level increases, eventually reaching something of an equilibrium.

Good luck.


Thanks for the input Nick...

I waited a while for a response here, but I got my real response in the water testing (I use the API Master water test kit).

Everything stayed pretty much at zero! (with three small (5") koi... We added plants, still the same, then added 6 more fish (I replied to a Craigslist add for $5 baby (5") koi. I was only going to uy four, but the guy kept adding more! the next day, everything spiked!  I turned the valve to add more flow to the canister filter and they dropped again. (At least I had the chance to see if a controllable flow canister filter could moderate chemical tests in the case of growing fish or plants being pulled... Tresa actually pulled five tomato plants the other day to plant out back and I instinctively turned the filter flow back up... no problems!

The water I got from our pond was from the waterfall feature. Right behind it is a large (36" x 36" x 36") bio filter made up of bagged lava rock. I shook the bags until the waterfall water turned brown and then collected my "bacteria seeded" brown water... After going through some time and the events we experienced, I'm sure that made all the difference... The breeder tanks were brown and murky (couldn't even see half way back). I ran the tank in filter only mode for three days to collect the bacteria in the artificial bio medium in the filter, before diverting more water through the grow bed... after about four days, the water was crystal clear... I had a little algae growing but quickly realized I was running the tank lights on for way too many hours... (Early AM to late at night)... Turned them down and the algae went back to just a couple of spots around the tank in manifold (directly under the lights) and a little on the submersible heater...

Adding some more photos of the sump tank, the water in manifold and a siphon valve dump...




I agree with Nick. The pond water should have put you well on your way. I started a 45 gallon aquarium with a grow bed of cycled media and de-chlorinated tap water and got almost immediate cycling. And it shouldn't have taken this long to get a response.

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for the input and sharing your experience with "instant cycling"  :)

As for time to get a reply: no worries here... We've been SO busy with our "Urban Homesteading projects: 5 huge raised garden beds, a new rabbitry, new chicken coop and run, a small "vineyard" (ha! it's only one row of grapes along our fence), Quail raising battery and three more aquaponic systems... Currently working on a cage cooling system for the rabbits... Kind of been working in a frenzy trying to get as much done before my next "client project"... Once they call, all work on the homestead stops...

I will DEFINITELY be "seeding" all future aquaponic systems using water from our pond (especially stirred up from the pond's bio-filter!)... I was just really surprised that it worked as completely as it did... especially after researching on forums for months about the process, problems people have had, solutions, the time involved... My experience here just didn't fit the "norm" of what I was expecting...

Thanks again for the reassurance!




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