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I don't have any fish yet :(  Should I start planting in my growbed?  Should I put some sort of fertilizer or plant food in my water?  My setup is a constant flow BTW.  Thanks.

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Almost no one will say no, but I'd advise you work on getting the ammonia cycle started, if you haven't already cycled the tank.
Hi Daniel. Can you tell me how I get my amonia cycle started? Do I pee in my tank?
No, not unless you want all the chemicals in you inside your aquarium. People do it, but if you're going to eat out of it, you should show it respect from the start. There, I said it, I'm anti-peeponics.

Using fish food is the cheapest, easiest thing (because it breaks down into ammonia, and you're going to need fish food soon anyway), but you can add ammonia. In your system you can spike the ammonia, and then track it's decline, as the bacterial sequence works it's magic. The ammonia undergoes bacterial action and becomes nitrite, which undergo a similar process to become nitrate, which is the chemical you're looking to supply to the plants. Or you can purchase a product to accelerate the process and encourage quick balance. Seasol is recommended by Murray Hallam, I can't remember what Sylvia uses, but there are a number of treads on starting this process quickly if you're willing to take the expense.

If you want to look at the first couple of weeks of results from system I've got it posted on another site. The cycle takes a few weeks to complete, and I'm still bringing my new system into balance, so you might benefit. I'd advise that you buy what I'm using, the Freshwater Master Test Kit from API. It's $40 well spent so you get a clearer understanding of the hidden process, and the tests are the only way my water can tell me what it's doing.
I'm pretty confident in my piss. I do everything in my power not to ingest chemicals. I don't eat garbage..all home grown veggies and backyard eggs are my diet. One thing I've been reading is people obsessing over water balances which essentially end up hurting them in the end. It seems pretty common. My expense for my setup is a bit under 300$ which is fine. My biggest expense will be getting a pure blue strain tilapia to my backyard. I read the .info provided in that link. I did not know I could add scrap veggies to my growbed. :) Also I'm not growing medicinal pot in a closet. I'm utilizing as many natural sources as possible as well. I don't need heaters, lighting, and all that other stuff. I'm doing this outside for all the world to see! :) Thanks for the link. Sadly I'm not an indoor closet grower LOL.
BTW My chickens do not eat commercial food either. They are free ranging bitches.
Hollie - in case you're having difficulty identifying those seedlings, there's no pot in my closet. I was offering detailed assistance with a problem you're having, and as I'm introducing you to cycling the tank as I am doing (and have done) it. You want to pee in your fishtank, go ahead. You're still going to need to test the results, and you're still going to need to find a way to stabilize the ammonia input. Do you intend to pee a little in the tank everyday? That seems both insane and unclean to me, but your system is your system, so DIY as you like. There are deeper threads here on peeponics.
I prefer not to pee in my tank. I've been reading about peeing in the tank on another forum. I thought it was a strange thing but whatever works ya know. If it works it works. I've had the pump running for two weeks straight with duckweed in my tank. There is absolutely no algae growth my tank and it gets full sun all day. This is something I heard, kinda like the pee thing, is that I can get some good stuff growing in my tank if I add chicken poop? Poop and pee I know, it's crazy. Another thing I heard is tilapia eat chicken poop?

PS I have a bid on blue tilapia that ends in 4 hours. Crossing my fingers wish me luck :)
I am not an expert, nor do I claim to be. You asked a question no one was answering, so I thought I'd reach out. This aquaponic community is about helping others by sharing knowledge and experience, as well as promoting it's use.

I don't know anything about chicken poop and aquaponics. To me, this seems like throwing another bacterial food hazard into the mix, but as I said DIY as you wish, but I'd consider the source of the information very seriously.

There's a big difference between understanding and obsessing over water quality. I like clarification of processes, and respect for my understandable results, so I test. An aquaponic system will naturally pull itself into some sort of balance, and if you aren't interested in understanding the chemistry of your water, that's your prerogative. If you are interested in understanding it, you need a test kit. You wouldn't drive a car with a blacked out windshield, why go blindly into aquaponics without getting some insight? You might still get to your destination, but it's safer for all involved when you can see where you're going.
Yeap I was reading an article about a commercial fish farmer that feed his tilapia chicken waste. He actually has his chicken coops on top of his tilapia tanks. Might toss a few turds in there to see what they do. Ducks are probably better though. I'm establishing my own duckweed and other fish goodies too. Also, I got some fingerlings on the way. I'll just plop em in and go from there. I'm gonna keep things as natural as possible. Thanks for the advice and help. Adios!
Holly, I think your chicken poop will be feeding algae more than acually feeding the tilapia. The fish might find some bits to eat in chicken poo, but they will love algae. That brings on a whole new set of problems. Search greenwater aquaculture of tilapia. It can be done, but fish growth will suffer and water quality may be hard to maintain. Once again its all about balance, and where you are happy with the balance of your own system :) The best thing about aquaponics is that there are so many ways to do it !

Hollie said:
Yeap I was reading an article about a commercial fish farmer that feed his tilapia chicken waste. He actually has his chicken coops on top of his tilapia tanks. Might toss a few turds in there to see what they do. Ducks are probably better though. I'm establishing my own duckweed and other fish goodies too. Also, I got some fingerlings on the way. I'll just plop em in and go from there. I'm gonna keep things as natural as possible. Thanks for the advice and help. Adios!
Hollie, a couple thoughts on cycling. Before you put your plants in you need a food source for them. That will ultimately come from your fish waste after your system is cycled (i.e. you start seeing nitrates show up on your tests), but you could start planting today if you added a source of liquid seaweed that was compatible with cycling. Daniel was referring to Seasol that the Aussies use, here in the U.S. the same product is called MaxiCrop. I sell it on my website ( or you can buy it at most hydro shops. Murray Hallam cycles his AP kits by just adding in Maxicrop, planting the grow bed, then adding in fish after 2 weeks.

Now, in order to cycle your system you will need an ammonia source. Maxicrop has a little ammonia - enough to start up the process after about two weeks. You can add a few fish to start adding ammonia, but this is pretty tough on the fish. You could use pee-ponics, depending on how you feel about that, or, my personal favorite, you can add pure ammonia. At our hardward store they sell a product called Clear Ammonia for cleaning that is just ammonia and water. You know exactly what is going in your tank, and no fish are harmed in the process!

In order to speed things up, however, you want to add a source of nitrifying bacteria. This can be a bucket of water from someone else's AP system or aquarium, or the filter from an aquarium. Go to your local pet shop and ask them for water. Or you can use water from a pond that has fish - but be careful about what possible other goodies you might be dragging into your system. Hope this helps!
I've done pee ponics. There are a few steps I usually take with pee to be sure it is not growing excess e coli in an AP system (basically bottle it for a few weeks or more to allow the urea to turn into ammonia which will kill off e coli. We all have e. coli in our digestive systems though normally not the kind that kills people but in any case, you don't want to add it to your food system since getting e. coli from one part of your own body into the wrong part of your own body can still cause one to get sick or at least lead to discomfort.)

I do not support adding any uncomposted manure from warm blooded animals into an AP system, just too much chance of causing bacterial blooms of stuff that you don't want in your lettuce. Now if you are cooking every last bit of food that comes from your AP system, this might not be an issue but lettuce takes a lot of water up into it's tissues and there is no guarantee that bacteria can't be sucked in with that water. No amount of washing will remove something that is inside the plant tissues and I don't know many people who cook their lettuce.

See, most places that use chicken manure over fish ponds are doing it in extensive pond culture to fertilize the ponds and cause algae blooms which then feed the fish. Those systems are not normally AP systems and most people cook fresh water fish before eating them.

Anyway, back to the original question, can you start plants before you get fish. YES
Most seeds germinate fine with no nutrients. Larger plants would like some nutrients sooner though and if you start the cycling process with some ammonia or aged pee or some other ammonia source, you will start having some nitrates fairly soon. Maxicrop is a good source of trace elements and potassium and it is a good thing to add especially for a new system.

The biggest disadvantage of using fresh pee (aside from the normal objections to it) is the fact that the ammonia won't read on the test kit right away. The urea in pee takes time to convert to ammonia so if you pee in your fish tank one morning, it could take a week or more for the urea to to fully convert to ammonia. Many people will pee in the tank and then test for ammonia the next day and no seeing any, thing they need to add more pee. After peeing in the tank a couple times a day for a few days, suddenly the ammonia reading is off the chart and getting higher which will actually hinder the cycling process. You only need to dose a system to 1-2 ppm of ammonia to start the cycling process. There have been some studies that might indicate that the initial doses might be as high as 5 ppm for the quickest cycling but I don't know if that really helps or not since high ammonia will hinder the next step of cycling even more (getting past the nitrite spike.)

Once you can dose the system to 1 ppm of ammonia and then have both the ammonia and nitrite back to 0 within 24 hours, you can call the system Fishlessly cycled. You want to make sure the ammonia and nitrite are close to 0 before adding fish and you will still need to watch the water quality when you add fish and start upping the feed. Keep an eye on pH over time since the sudden (months into operation of a system) pH crash is not uncommon and can cause a real setback to the bio-filter bacteria if the pH gets too low.

A Freshwater Master Test kit is a must in my opinion. I've seen them anywhere from around $20-$40 plus shipping depending on where you get them.

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