Aquaponic Gardening

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So this is our first attempt at aquaponics.  Originally we were not planning on doing aquaponics, but somehow we decided to try it.  So when we bought our table we did not know what we would ultimately end up doing, so it is a shallow table, about 4" deep with 3 floodable inches.  Today we purchased materials to extend the height of one of our tables to about 11" but it will have the ability to be 16" deep.

This is mainly a DIY project, we started out with just the table and added the poles on the side, which will eventually hang the light and will support our reflective material, which is mylar at the moment.  The reservoir was purchased apart from the table and we have built a lid, as the one at the hydro store was too expensive.  We have purchased tilapia from a local fish store and are attempting to cycle the tank.

Right now we don't have many plants, but the ones we do have are doing pretty decently. If any of you could give your input on what you think would be some good suggestions to improve this system.  In particular:

Is having a shallow grow bed and a deeper one going at the same time a good ides?

Is it possible to make cycling a lot easier on the fish?  I am hoping they will survive...

What plants would be recommended to grow that are not very obvious plants?

Is 40 gallons a big enough reservoir for the fish? We have 4...

And any other things...

Sorry if this post is kind of scatter brained :D, as I myself and kind of scatter brained.

Thanks for any input you can spare!!!

 

Will

 

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40 gallons is a bit small but 4 tilapia will probably be fine in there for quite a while.  Deeper beds will provide better filtration but I expect you will manage to grow some plants even in the shallow ones.

To get more plants growing, I suggest some water cress which will do well in shallow conditions.

 

Cycling up, well it's always hard on fish when you do it with fish.  Keep as much aeration going and cycle the water as much as possible through the initial cycle up to help it go as quickly as possible.

 

If you can get some filter squeezings from a well cycled aquarium to put in your grow bed it might help or some mature media from another aquaponics addict in your area to mix into your grow bed could help.

 

Luckily tilapia are tough and they should survive it, just watch the water test results and regulate feed accordingly until the ammonia and nitrite drop to 0 then increase feeding as appropriate.

Pretty neat setup. Looking forward to more updates:)

To add on to what TC already said, you are going to want to only feed those fish once a day, and if your ammonia starts approaching the dark green areas on the test strip you will need to replace 1/3 of your water with clean water and stop feeding the fish for a few days.  The fish aren't going to feel like eating much and uneaten food contributes to the ammonia in the tank.

 

I'm also wondering why you are using net pots in your trays?  Generally you need those for a raft or NFT system, but not in media...

 

You might want to post your ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH readings here regularly so we can help you better.

The net pots were more of a temporary thing, so in case we want to move the plants it would be simpler (because we are still figuring out how we want it to be laid out)


Do you think we should not be using them?
Sylvia Bernstein said:

To add on to what TC already said, you are going to want to only feed those fish once a day, and if your ammonia starts approaching the dark green areas on the test strip you will need to replace 1/3 of your water with clean water and stop feeding the fish for a few days.  The fish aren't going to feel like eating much and uneaten food contributes to the ammonia in the tank.

 

I'm also wondering why you are using net pots in your trays?  Generally you need those for a raft or NFT system, but not in media...

 

You might want to post your ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH readings here regularly so we can help you better.

 

We also have a C02 setup that was originally for a fish tank, would it be alright to inject it into the fish tank (a very controlled amount)?

And we also bought a large roll of Coco liner (for before we knew we were doing aquaponics), and we would really like to use it instead of having to return it.  Is there ANY practical way to use this material in a aquaponics setup?

Thank you everyone for your tips, they are greatly appreciated, the more the better

We actually have a very well established fish tank already.  In the bottom of the tank there is a plethora of fish waste and other bacteria that looks a lot like soil, would this be alright to add?

We also have a biofilter attached to our reservoir to help clean the water until it is cycled and we have more plants to clean it.


I looked into watercress and that sounds amazing :D, thanks!

 

TCLynx said:

40 gallons is a bit small but 4 tilapia will probably be fine in there for quite a while.  Deeper beds will provide better filtration but I expect you will manage to grow some plants even in the shallow ones.

To get more plants growing, I suggest some water cress which will do well in shallow conditions.

 

Cycling up, well it's always hard on fish when you do it with fish.  Keep as much aeration going and cycle the water as much as possible through the initial cycle up to help it go as quickly as possible.

 

If you can get some filter squeezings from a well cycled aquarium to put in your grow bed it might help or some mature media from another aquaponics addict in your area to mix into your grow bed could help.

 

Luckily tilapia are tough and they should survive it, just watch the water test results and regulate feed accordingly until the ammonia and nitrite drop to 0 then increase feeding as appropriate.

sounds pretty good (the filtration and the experience with fish)  Just remember that cycling up an AP system is really very similar to cycling up a new aquarium.

 

I'm sure you can find a use for the coco liner but I don't really know how best to use if for aquaponics.  It will break down in aquaponics and will also tint the water so keep those things in mind.

 

as to the CO2.  I'm not sure that it will be beneficial if you are doing flood and drain for the aquaponics.  Adding CO2 to the fish tank will lower the pH of the water and likely cause faster dissolving of any buffer material and since the plants are up in flood and drain I don't know if that would be much benefit to the plants, only reduce the dissolved oxygen for the fish.

So we finished the expansion to make the grow bed deeper, and we are now looking at a light.

Also, does anyone have any suggestions as to how to keep the hydroton away from drainage/water intake on the table?

Right now the hydroton finds a way to sneak under our netting, plus we need one that will be taller...

 

http://www.progressive-growth.com/proddetail.php?prod=lumatek1000-S... is the link to the ballast/light set we are thinking about getting.

And the picture with the gravel is the bottom of our mature fish tank, would this be okay to add some to the bed?

 

 

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Hi Will.  Looks like your project is coming along well.  The light sounds perfect.  Can't go wrong with a 1000 watt switchable HID!  To keep the Hydroton away from your drains a lot of APers use 6" PVC with many holes drilled all around it (about 1 1/2" centers).  I'm including an old, scuzzy image of one of my original, scuzzy grow beds to illustrate my point.

Another option (especially good if you have access to a radial arm saw or chop saw) would be to cut lots of slits in the pipe since drilling lots of holes in pipe is really tedious.

I've also use a circular saw to cut extra slits in the corrugated drainage pipe before but that is a little small for most people to put their arms down.

I'm now using a plastic mesh stitched into a tube with zip ties.

AAAH, so much hydroton!!!!

We finally extended our beds height to about 11 inches, up from four, so a pretty drastic improvement.  Spent all night washing the hydroton .     But it looks amazing, it seems this project changes everyday.

So, with that in mind... we are now seed shopping, which I am really excited about.  We want to add worms to our system, but I am not sure if we should wait until we have more plant matter collected in the grow bed for them to eat, or if the will do just fine on fish waste, or if we should just supplement food...  I just found the worm thread on the site, but I am still a little foggy.

The PH is rather high... about 7.4 ... and the ammonia levels looked pretty high last night as well (for some reason our color key went missing, but Jeff is sure yellow is 0 and greenish blue is the highest).  I don't really know how exactly to go about correcting these things without adding ishy chemicals, unless this is normal and it will balance itself out.

But either way, this is still one of the most exciting things I have done especially now that we are getting so close to being able to plant...

pH of 7.4 is fine, it will drop with time.

high ammonia, don't feed.  If it is too high you might need to do a water change to keep from harming the fish but water changes will also slow the cycling process so it is better if you can resist the need for them.

Yes, yellow is 0 and it goes from light yellow green is low to dark green being high.

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