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Hello everyone! Question: is earth juice ok for aquaponics? Has anyone used it? My friend will be using it to help his ph... Thanks!

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Earth Juice has a range of different products...making it rather difficult for anyone to answer your question the way you've posted it. Also, to keep the "mysterious" vibe going. Earth Juice makes no mention of what is is exactly that comprises their products. It's all listed as "proprietary formulations"...So don't expect any answers here that would mean much. Opinions, sure...but you know what they say about opinions, right? Anyways...might be talking out of my ass here, I'm all for experimenting and all, but why doesn't your friend just avoid the 'mystery' outcomes and use something that has already worked to lower pH for hundreds if not thousands of aquapons? Things wholly appropriate for AP like HCl? I just assumed that by "help his pH" you meant lowering it...but I can only assume...In the event that your ehem...friend needs to raise pH, well that's even easier, and just as cheap. Calcium hydroxide (builders lime found at any hardware store), Potassium Hydroxide (lye) found here at every corner store, or is easy enough to make with some wood ash and rainwater... if being 'earthy and/or natural' are your thing, Potassium bicarbonate (can be found at the wine making stores), Potassium Carbonate, Calcium carbonate (shell grit, egg shells etc...)

I can also only assume that Earth Juices 'mysterious' pH adjusting crystals aren't listed as "proprietary information" because they're onto some 'top-secret all-natural super shit' whose ingredients and formula are worth "protecting" from us evil-doers, but because it is in all likely-hood just a very common compound that can be purchased for a fraction of the price in some other (albeit more mundane) packaging form, from some other 'industry'. (Industries that perhaps don't have a clientele base using it to grow a such a 'high value crop' as marijuana, or medicinal herb or whatever pot is being called these days, and don't have a problem shelling out that much money for some pretty common household items)...

Earth Juice's pH Up is Potassium bicarbonate I believe, the Down is citric acid. 

Citric acid has pretty weak staying power when adjusting pH, so I didn't care for it.  The Up works well enough, but it's one of those common items Vlad references. 

Howdy Justin, if the active ingredient is indeed Citric acid, it would not be safe for aquaponics.  Citric acid is common in cleaners because it is an antibacterial agent.  Big red flags there!  Citric acid is not safe for ap as it can kill off beneficial bacteria while also not being very effective as an adjusting acid.  Like Vlad suggested, if what is needed is something to push high pH down, you can use HCL,or Muratic or Phosphoric(which has a nice plus of adding Phosphorous).  Just be sure to perform a titration test first to determine how much acid is needed to gradually move your friend's pH down as to not incur a drastic swing.  

Thanks for the insight. Lol didn't even know earth juice was a company not a product. After talking with him it is indeed the natural down because his ph is high (9.0). I will tell him not to use it and go with the one of the other options.

Actually, citric acid is no more harmful to bacteria or other life forms than any other acid.  

Too much muriatic, sulfuric, or whatever acid will kill bacteria.  If the pH is lowered too far, proteins lose their negative charges.  With only positive charges remaining, the proteins can not remain cohesive.

Because of this, citric acid is an active ingredient in many 'natural' anti-bacterial agents, which has caused the discrepancy of citric acid being "bad for beneficial bacteria".

In reasonable quantities, citric acid, being an organic acid acts as a food source (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen) for beneficial bacteria and fungi and as a natural chelating agent for plant nutrients.

Again, the main issue I have with it is that it is a 'weak acid'.  This means that it gives up only a portion of it's hydrogens in a solution, thereby having a very weak/non-lasting effect on pH.

As for pH products adding nutrients, you're not going to get much from pH products.  Minimal amounts of phosphorus will come from phosphoric acid when used in hydro- or aquaponics in the amounts that should be required.  If you're having to add enough phosphoric acid that would thereby result in a useful amount of phosphorus in your system, I'd be fairly certain in saying that there's another issue causing the extreme pH shifts that needs to be addressed.

Gina Cavaliero said:

Howdy Justin, if the active ingredient is indeed Citric acid, it would not be safe for aquaponics.  Citric acid is common in cleaners because it is an antibacterial agent.  Big red flags there!  Citric acid is not safe for ap as it can kill off beneficial bacteria while also not being very effective as an adjusting acid.  Like Vlad suggested, if what is needed is something to push high pH down, you can use HCL,or Muratic or Phosphoric(which has a nice plus of adding Phosphorous).  Just be sure to perform a titration test first to determine how much acid is needed to gradually move your friend's pH down as to not incur a drastic swing.  

Hey Justin,

Earth Juice is a product.  The manufacturer is OGM (can't remember just now what it stands for...).


Justin Taylor said:

Thanks for the insight. Lol didn't even know earth juice was a company not a product. After talking with him it is indeed the natural down because his ph is high (9.0). I will tell him not to use it and go with the one of the other options.

Hi Jesse, citric acid does appear to have some anti-bacterial properties that are pH unrelated.

Jesse Hull said:

Actually, citric acid is no more harmful to bacteria or other life forms than any other acid.  

Too much muriatic, sulfuric, or whatever acid will kill bacteria.  If the pH is lowered too far, proteins lose their negative charges.  With only positive charges remaining, the proteins can not remain cohesive.

Because of this, citric acid is an active ingredient in many 'natural' anti-bacterial agents, which has caused the discrepancy of citric acid being "bad for beneficial bacteria".

In reasonable quantities, citric acid, being an organic acid acts as a food source (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen) for beneficial bacteria and fungi and as a natural chelating agent for plant nutrients.

Again, the main issue I have with it is that it is a 'weak acid'.  This means that it gives up only a portion of it's hydrogens in a solution, thereby having a very weak/non-lasting effect on pH.

As for pH products adding nutrients, you're not going to get much from pH products.  Minimal amounts of phosphorus will come from phosphoric acid when used in hydro- or aquaponics in the amounts that should be required.  If you're having to add enough phosphoric acid that would thereby result in a useful amount of phosphorus in your system, I'd be fairly certain in saying that there's another issue causing the extreme pH shifts that needs to be addressed.

Gina Cavaliero said:

Howdy Justin, if the active ingredient is indeed Citric acid, it would not be safe for aquaponics.  Citric acid is common in cleaners because it is an antibacterial agent.  Big red flags there!  Citric acid is not safe for ap as it can kill off beneficial bacteria while also not being very effective as an adjusting acid.  Like Vlad suggested, if what is needed is something to push high pH down, you can use HCL,or Muratic or Phosphoric(which has a nice plus of adding Phosphorous).  Just be sure to perform a titration test first to determine how much acid is needed to gradually move your friend's pH down as to not incur a drastic swing.  

I'd think it would be advisable to determine why the pH is so high. Unsealed concrete tank leaching into the water?  Limestone rocks in media bed? Source water with a high pH?

Dealing with the source of the problem will solve the situation of a rebounding high pH after treatment. Is your friend doing the adjustments before adding fish to his system? Because wide pH swings will stress them.

Do some searches re: pH on the forums. Lots of info here on the site.

Hi Jesse.  That's an interesting perspective on Citric Acid.  I've always advised against it as do most others here on the forum and in Sylvia's and Dr. Lennard's AP Rules of Thumb.  You can also see where they advocate both Phosphoric and Nitric acid as the traces of nitrates and phosphates they leave behind are beneficial to the plants.  Do you have some literature or info you can pass along on this? I'd love to read up on it as it sounds like you are on to something that may change the way many have been thinking about Citric Acid.

That was a great point on the how the proteins can be compromised with too great a shift.  Not to mention drastic shifts can also stress fish making them susceptible to disease.

Justin, is that the pH of your friend's water source?  If it isn't, then as Jesse mentioned, he will need to find out what in the system is pushing it up.  Is this a new system? 

Here's that section on lowering pH from the AP Rules of Thumb, but if you haven't checked it out yet, there's other great tips and as close to ap "rules" as it gets. http://community.theaquaponicsource.com//page/aquaponic-gardening-r...

  • Best methods for lowering pH, in order of preference, if it goes above 7.6
    • Acids like nitric or phosphoric as the plants can use the nitrate or phosphate produced.
    • Other acids, such as vinegar (weak), hydrochloric (strong), and sulphuric (strong) – last resort as directly adding these acids to your system could be stressful for your fish.
  • Use caution when adding anything to your system containing sodium as it could build-up over time and cause harm to your plants.
  • Do not use citric acid as this is anti-bacterial and will kill the bacteria in your bio-filter.


Jesse Hull said:

Actually, citric acid is no more harmful to bacteria or other life forms than any other acid.  

Too much muriatic, sulfuric, or whatever acid will kill bacteria.  If the pH is lowered too far, proteins lose their negative charges.  With only positive charges remaining, the proteins can not remain cohesive.

Because of this, citric acid is an active ingredient in many 'natural' anti-bacterial agents, which has caused the discrepancy of citric acid being "bad for beneficial bacteria".

In reasonable quantities, citric acid, being an organic acid acts as a food source (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen) for beneficial bacteria and fungi and as a natural chelating agent for plant nutrients.

Again, the main issue I have with it is that it is a 'weak acid'.  This means that it gives up only a portion of it's hydrogens in a solution, thereby having a very weak/non-lasting effect on pH.

As for pH products adding nutrients, you're not going to get much from pH products.  Minimal amounts of phosphorus will come from phosphoric acid when used in hydro- or aquaponics in the amounts that should be required.  If you're having to add enough phosphoric acid that would thereby result in a useful amount of phosphorus in your system, I'd be fairly certain in saying that there's another issue causing the extreme pH shifts that needs to be addressed.

Gina Cavaliero said:

Howdy Justin, if the active ingredient is indeed Citric acid, it would not be safe for aquaponics.  Citric acid is common in cleaners because it is an antibacterial agent.  Big red flags there!  Citric acid is not safe for ap as it can kill off beneficial bacteria while also not being very effective as an adjusting acid.  Like Vlad suggested, if what is needed is something to push high pH down, you can use HCL,or Muratic or Phosphoric(which has a nice plus of adding Phosphorous).  Just be sure to perform a titration test first to determine how much acid is needed to gradually move your friend's pH down as to not incur a drastic swing.  

Hi Vlad,  Good to hear from you.  I think I've missed our conversations the most since I stopped posting here as frequently.

Yes citric acid does have antibacterial properties unrelated to pH, but not in the quantity (properly diluted amount) you would use in a hydro or aquaponic system.  That is of course, if you were to use it in your system at all, which you shouldn't.   On that note, this thread is getting off topic, but I know that you and I really like this kind of stuff. 

Many of the things added to an AP system would be deadly to bacteria if you added too much or if you didn't pre-dilute before adding it.  Citric acid will kill bacteria if the concentration is high enough and if the contact time is long enough.  That wouldn't (shouldn't) be the case in an aquaponics (or hydro) system.

A colleague of mine just discontinued his line of citric acid product that was working great for people, but when they read that it could kill their bacteria, word spread, and many stopped buying it.  So it wasn't killing anything before (& we tested this to be sure) and it was helping them in other areas, but now it was dangerous.

Shortly after this, I had a conversation with two horticultural professionals and a soil systems consultant.  They all agreed that citric acid has received an erroneously derived categorization to the point that few were considering it for it's other valuable qualities.  The soil guy had used it for many past endeavors, was at that point trialing it for it's chelating properties and was amused by how many people told him it would kill all of the beneficials in the media he had inoculated... which it did not.


Vlad Jovanovic said:

Hi Jesse, citric acid does appear to have some anti-bacterial properties that are pH unrelated.

Jesse Hull said:

Actually, citric acid is no more harmful to bacteria or other life forms than any other acid.  

Too much muriatic, sulfuric, or whatever acid will kill bacteria.  If the pH is lowered too far, proteins lose their negative charges.  With only positive charges remaining, the proteins can not remain cohesive.

Because of this, citric acid is an active ingredient in many 'natural' anti-bacterial agents, which has caused the discrepancy of citric acid being "bad for beneficial bacteria".

In reasonable quantities, citric acid, being an organic acid acts as a food source (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen) for beneficial bacteria and fungi and as a natural chelating agent for plant nutrients.

Again, the main issue I have with it is that it is a 'weak acid'.  This means that it gives up only a portion of it's hydrogens in a solution, thereby having a very weak/non-lasting effect on pH.

As for pH products adding nutrients, you're not going to get much from pH products.  Minimal amounts of phosphorus will come from phosphoric acid when used in hydro- or aquaponics in the amounts that should be required.  If you're having to add enough phosphoric acid that would thereby result in a useful amount of phosphorus in your system, I'd be fairly certain in saying that there's another issue causing the extreme pH shifts that needs to be addressed.

Gina Cavaliero said:

Howdy Justin, if the active ingredient is indeed Citric acid, it would not be safe for aquaponics.  Citric acid is common in cleaners because it is an antibacterial agent.  Big red flags there!  Citric acid is not safe for ap as it can kill off beneficial bacteria while also not being very effective as an adjusting acid.  Like Vlad suggested, if what is needed is something to push high pH down, you can use HCL,or Muratic or Phosphoric(which has a nice plus of adding Phosphorous).  Just be sure to perform a titration test first to determine how much acid is needed to gradually move your friend's pH down as to not incur a drastic swing.  

Hey Gina, 

Did I answer your questions on my perspective of citric acid use in the response I left for Vlad? There are many benefits to using citric acid, and it would be unfortunate if it's simply labeled "anti-aquaponics" due to the literature currently focused on.

Before going further, let me emphasize that I agree that citric acid isn't a good choice for adjusting pH in AP systems; however, it's because of the weak acid reasoning more so than it's anti-bacterial properties being dangerous to beneficials in the diluted amounts that would occur in a properly maintained water column.  The only thing I might yield to is that because citric acid is so weak, and therefore you'd have to use much more of it more often than stronger acids, the other anti-bacterial components of citric acid might build up to the point of being a concern, (but this is pure at-the-moment speculation).

Also, yes phosphoric and nitric acid do leave behind nutrients, but it should be marginal.  Especially with the nitrogen, it's like saying that 1 mg of vitamin C in a 'sports drink' is good for you if you're already getting 1,000mg/day.

I assume Lennard might have meant that nothing bad is left behind  -just more nutrients?

Uh-oh, I suppose Sylvia and Wilson will be coming for me soon, eh? 

It's good to see you posting here again Jesse. I always seem to learn so much good stuff when you're around. Hope you, Molly and Puff are doing well

There are a couple of folks here who had really bad experiences after using citric acid, one of them being Chris Smith from Coastview AP in Hawaii,a 'well seasoned aquapon'. He wrote a bit and even photographed what he experienced, and it didn't look or sound too good. That, when coupled with some studies I've read about the non-pH related anti-microbial properties of citric acid, kinda did it for me on that front. But, now it seems like from what you say, there may be more to it than appeared at first.

I've not ever used citric acid in any of my small bio-ponic/organic hydro systems, nor have I ever experimented/played around with it for the aforementioned reasons. Maybe if I get up the nerve to try it this winter, but I'd be very interested in learning more about the matter before then. Hopefully that way I could potentially avoid doing whatever it was that those folks did that resulted in such a bio-filter catastrophe. Any pointers, literature/info would of course be most appreciated.

As it stands, I'm a big fan of HCL for AP. Mostly because I figure the little bit of chloride provided once the HCL disassociates can only be good for the fish. I don't really want to be adding any phosphates since the fish should be providing plenty of that and so far, I'm good on nitrates that the nitric acid (HNO3) would provide. Though I'm pretty sure those are some pretty small amounts, but nonetheless I'd be worried about long term phosphoric acid (H3PO4) use...or in the quantities that  I'm forced to use at the moment. (Probably just me trippin' though, but I'd not like to do anything to contribute to an even possible algae bloom) And really, HCL is easiest and for me to obtain as well. I'm not sayin' that nitric or phosphoric acids shouldn't be used or anything...just explaining in part why I happen to choose not to...

Really though my hope is to not have to treat any top-up water in 5 to 6 months time...once nitrification has really kicked in and used up much of my original source waters alkalinity...and I can get my rainwater collection stuff in place.

I'm amazed at how much/often I need to top up the "big" (18,000 litre) system even at this time of year. (So much so that for a while I was running around like a lunatic trying to find "the leak(s)...but found none thankfully)...I guess it's not that bad, just more than I expected.

Sorry for being so totally off topic Justin.

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