Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

Hey folks my name is Joshua, you can call me Josh if you like. 

I have a new build going up in Ohio. I've got four 8x2x1' media beds "sporting" granite, two 16x2x1' filter beds beneath the media beds, two 16x4' DWC's and a 500 gal fish tank (without fish just yet). I'm pumping from the sump to the fish tank and gravity sends the water through back to the sump. 

I am almost done with the build and have some questions about my bell syphons which I will ask later in a different forum area (with some pictures). I just wanted to say hello here and make an introduction. 

Hope this finds you all well and to see you around the forums from time to time. 


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hi Josh, sounds like your on the right path.. i recommend adding some Bio Thrive from general organics and some Bio Weed and some Photosynthesis Plus to kick start your system.. FTR - you can go without fish with this concoction for as long as you like... go light on the dosing , for all three of them , use about 1 ml per gallon.



Thanks Rob. I've checked the levels this morning and I'm showing ammonia and nitrites; no nitrates registering just yet. I've never heard of general organics. Don't have any plants running yet, just trying to get everything dialed in before I add fish and get my hoop house covered in film. I'll check those products out. 

it's great to see another buckeye taking up AP..

Yeah, it's great to see another system going up in Ohio :)

Rob, let people know which product in the "bio-thrive" line you want them to use (as there are two different products)...

One is a "Bloom" product (2-4-4), the other is a "Grow" product (4-3-3)

Also, just be aware that since these products were formulated for growing umm...'heirloom tomatoes/medicinal herb of the sativa and indica varieties' some elements may be potentially 'excessive' for aquaponics if used long term...

the Bio-Thrive Grow has a Zinc content of 905.7ppm

and the Bio-Thrive Bloom has a zinc content of 113.00ppm (the Grow formulation seems a bit excessive for AP use and can probably accumulate if you don't listen to Rob's advice and "go easy on the doses").

The Zinc and heavy metals content of the "Bloom" products is not listed on the packaging or labels (nor by law do they need to be), so here are the links to the Washington State Dep't of Agriculture's laboratory analysis of product content...

The "Grow" product does list 100ppm of both copper and zinc on the packaging, but keep in mind...anything the company lists in percentage is the MINIMUM by law that must exists within the product so they are not EXACT NUMBERS and often EXCEED the numbers listed on the label. The company doesn't get penalized for having more zinc (or whatever) in the product, but they do get penalized when they having less (than what they listed)...

I'm not saying not to use them (but there are better choices for AP), just be aware of some of the non-label listed contents (as well as those labeled like Zn and Cu and the fact that often these elements are often contain in larger percentages that the numbers listed on the label...and don't be fooled by the use of the words 'bio' or 'organic', as most plant essential elements contained within the'BioThrive' product appear to be inorganic mineral in nature (according to the folks at General Organics...they're derived from ferric sulfate, magnesium sulfate, potassium borate, potassium sulfate, sodium molybdate etc...)

The big exception seems to be nitrogen which comes from alfalfa meal...they put in some (0.2% humic acid) and some cane sugar (1.5%) and call it "bio" for the 'organic' crowd...and charge accordingly...

Again, I'm not saying not to use them, just that there are cheaper and potentially 'safer' ways to run a system fish-lessly for a while (and I mean a system where you will eventually want to introduce fish).

Welcome Josh! Congats. Good luck at Black Sheep Farms and the start of your Aquaponic endeavors! Hope it's a fun ride for you  

I want to go with Vlad's advice and use something that is organic. ..perhaps we need a thread on Bio-Ponics to discuss the best options for continued use of organically derived food sources for a living media.. ive been running one system like this for just over nine months now, on compost tea and biothrive.  I did have water tests done recently, i will report with levels tomorrow.

its the Grow formula that I had recommended to kick start, but most folks get cycled up and add fish ASAP and then stop using it far we haven't had any issues, but have had excellent growth from day one and the system cycled in a couple weeks. I'm convinced the Photosynthesis plus helps speed things along as well.

Hi Rob, there's a lot of good stuff in your post (as usual) and maybe a bio-ponic thread would be good...but for now of course, we'll just jack Joshua's 

Firstly, I suppose, I'd like to please-pretty-please suggest that we stop using terms organic, as it has become loaded with sometimes confusing/regulatory/marketing idiosyncrasies that often do not make any 'common', or 'good' sense...

i.e... I can't use potassium hydroxide which I made from rain water and the unadulterated ashes of hardwood trees, in my system (or any of my products) and then call that system/product 'organic', but I can use caustic potash. Soluble industrially made potassium carbonate...which is by the way made from potassium a factory, packaged in plastic made from petroleum distillation by-products, then shipped around in diesel guzzling trucks...and legally called "organic". Whereas ashes and rainwater NOT organic) Which makes very little "good sense"...Irregularities in regulations make for some very strange bed-fellows...

Can we just call things "AP appropriate", or "not AP inappropriate"? Or even, "eco-rational" instead..? Pretty please? It seems that I'm becoming 'allergic' to words like "sustainable" or "organic". People seem to get the idea that just because something carries the "organic" moniker that it is somehow safe or appropriate for AP (like insecticidal oils, or soap, or certain nutrient additives)...There are OMRI certified, or otherwise "Organic" products that will crash your system and/or kill your fish in a heartbeat, conversely, there are inorganic (mineral) substances that are wholly appropriate for AP (plant AND fish beneficial...with no harm done to our microbes)...

By the time I got a hold of "Mircobe-Lifes Photosynthesis Plus", I didn't have a single bio-ponic system in it that didn't already contain fish in it...I opened up the bottle and was greeted by the very strong aroma of hydrogen sulfide (that 'rotten egg' smell that certain facultative aerobic microbes produce when they go anaerobic). Needless to say, I did not add any to the systems with fish already in it. Hydrogen sulfide is highly toxic to much of the life that we try to foster in an AP system. ...and is why we sometimes at all costs, try to avoid anaerobic conditions in our systems. I did however manage to  add many of those same microbes contained in that product, but from a source that wasn't anaerobic.

Aquaponics just isn't an attractive enough (read: big enough) industry yet for large producers of supplements to project their attentions (R&D money) onto. So we get the "hydroponic hand me downs" that manufacturers feel they can wedge into our niche growing technique, without having to do a lot of altering to their existing hydro products, Any real AP focused research and development to bring  truly AP appropriate products to market is going to have to come from somewhere else.  I guess I just mean to say that it seems like 'a lot' of companies are jumping on the 'AP bandwagon' without having much vested in coming up with AP appropriate solutions (no pun intended)... In the context of (business) driving market forces, this is understandable...but doesn't exactly help the 'aquaponic plight'. We need AP specific products...that take (all of) the 'peculiarities' of the aquaponic growing method into consideration when bringing a new product into that arena.

I'm trying to do such a thing here stateside with a small, humble, yet AP focused laboratory which has come to be called "Artria Aqua Gardens"...

I have a slew of stuff... biologicals, as well as inorgainic species that are wholly 'AP appropriate' though not necessarily 'organic' (as defined by the current bureaucracy/terminology...but then again, according to their own label..."General Orgainics" is not allowed for use in organically certifiable agriculture...I'm not slamming them, I like and use many of their products...just not in my AP systems.

Personally I gave up on "organic" in favor of "natural" meaning found naturally in nature. Someday I am going to post the contents of an ongoing file I have titled "Vlad's Wisdom". With Vlad's permission and pre-perusal rights of course. As always thanks to Vlad and Rob for educating us. We eagerly await your line of AP safe additives Vlad. Seriously. I know of no one more qualified to do just what you advocate. This is the kind of "niche" that spells "success" that comes along on rare occasion in the business world. Go for it.

Here is an interesting article on just that: Rhonda Abrams: “Finding Your Niche Means Finding More Customers”

right on Vlad !.. im with you on the terminology ..and loss of integrity in the organic labeling issue.

Josh, I too apologize for the thread jack.. but i take every available opportunity to benefit from Vlad's input.. we all do :-)

just for clarification... i tend to spout off bits and pieces of info in the form of 'this is what i do...' Vlad almost always offers a well worded, thoroughly researched, all facts no fluff  response.  i always take the time to read everyone i can.

like Jim said.. if anyone should take this ball and run with it, i agree it should be Vlad... Bring on the secret sauce!!-)

as far as i can tell the Photosynthesis plus has only helped, but i do look forward to a more appropriate alternative.

so for the sake of this conversation, i feel i should advocate a little for the GO product line.. ive been using them with fish and with out, for about a year now, and know of others that have for longer... no ill effects.

i did just get my water tests back..  lets have a look at the one that is a fishless ap system running on compost teas and Biothrive grow formula..  

like Vlad suspected,,. high levels of Zinc    but, interesting enough.. the university doesnt seam to think its too high.

(i did inform them that this is for aquaponics.,. so they use what they feel  are the ideal perimeters for ap to compare to)..

im not sure what or where they are pulling their ap comps from, but i do have a list of Hydro Nutes ranges, that ive used for a while,.., i'll post both,

FTR- notice the 8.2ppm iron.,, i had been adding iron in the form of dry 13% (sprint 330) and the test kit that i used looks like it said 4ppm.. which is not too high in my book, but i have gone ahead and purchased the better iron test kit, with reader.. and sure enough,, im using too much iron., which is another heavy metal issue to be aware of.. over the years, if you eat a fish per week that is full of iron, its only a matter of time before you could forget your own name. and just because the fish hadnt died from toxicity yet.. doesnt mean its not toxic.   one more reason i feel that for really large scale production, the fish may again be in the way.

i would really like to master the art of bio-ponics as a means of large scale organic hydroponic food production.  ..dont get me wrong, i love ap and will have fish on my property till im too old and crusty to care anymore.. but for the while being,, im looking to get the most production with the least trouble and expense. and of course, if its not all eco-rational, whats the point. so...

Please Vald, etal.. lets pin down the products and methods to prove this concept to be viable. again, we should start a new discussion titled something like.. Bio Ponics.. organic food production using a living soil-less media... which can take many forms.. not just a fishless ap system.. although that what i would propose we build because it offers stability in the water volume, and the ideal conditions for a living media.. but vermiponics, tea ponics, etc would all be bioponics... bla bla.    just that it is in its own category aside from the "Fishless Aquaponics" thread already on this forum.


To add my 2 cents on the fertilization of the plants:

I have had very good luck with liquid seaweed products (with iron added) to get the plants going strong, and it will not hurt the fish in any way.

Hi everyone. Thanks for the words of support (thanks Jim and Rob). I'm on the road right now and there's a bunch I'd like to address, but will (try to) keep it focused to Rob's water quality report (and hydro chart), which gives us a really good example of what I was talking about. And to clarify, I LIKE the GO line but as evidenced by the build up of some plant essential elements that can be toxic to fish even at relatively 'low-ish' amounts. (some heavy metals are much more toxic when found in combination with others...more so than they would be individually) might not be the best choice for a continuously re-circulating bio-ponic (of which AP is one form of) system.

Rob, according to that report, and using your "Hydro Nute ranges" chart you have a build up of 22.3 times more zinc than even the most zinc heavy hydroponic requirement. If we use the lower end of the zinc requirement listed on your chart, it's much worse...over 200 times the needed amount of zinc.

And between 2.75 and 25 times the needed amount of copper has built up...both of those are pretty excessive and IMO those kinds of numbers have no business in a system that will one day house fish. (Zinc and copper are much more toxic to aquatic life when found together...synergistic effect)...

You should ask the lab what they are basing their judgements on as to what is acceptable and what is V. limiting and/or limiting (for instance Mn, which is smack dab in the middle of most advisable ranges, they have categorized as "v.limiting)...yet having hundreds of times the plant needed zinc (and way more copper than the plants need) is "acceptable". And how is 5ppm of K kosher?

I'm really not knocking the GO line. It's great for what and where it was developed to be used...(and lay off on the Epsom salt for a while Rob  ...or any products containing Mg or SO4...those numbers are pretty high and may start to eventually mess with your plants ability to uptake K...and element which seems scarce in your water already...thankfully Sodium and potassium are somewhat interchangeable in plant and animal biology (certainly NOT in ALL cases though), and you have a fair amount of sodium in there...

I've been keeping iron at between 0.7ppm and 1.5ppm, and have my clients doing the same. Everything is doing fabulously...tom's, cucumbers, peppers, and all the 'lesser' greens and lettuces...I'm using a Hanna Iron Checker ($40.00) and 10% DTPA iron. (Are you sure that your Sprint 330 is 13%)? I thought that their 330 was a 10% DTPA and that the 13% was the crappy EDTA stuff...I've only used their 138 Fe-EDDHA product (6% Fe)...

That 8.2ppm number may be a result of using products that already contain Fe (like the GO line) AND adding Fe chelates at the same time...Fe is expensive...not to tell you how you should run your system, but maybe shoot for a 1.5 to 2ppm target...

Ok, lastly...I'm tired of having to settle for plant supplement products that are "fish safe", so I've been using a plant supplement concoction that is "fish beneficial" dozens of systems... for myself and a number of different clients, with nothing but great results. None of the items in that concoction are things that you would normally use in hydroponics either. Sylvia really showed interest in that one (I've been lazy getting back to her) maybe she can help "bring it to the AP masses"...up until now it's been individual PM's or e-mail requests for orders...might be time to step that up if there is interest...Thanks again for the kind words of support guys...

Thanks for all the info. I've grown hydroponic plants in the past, thats how I found aquaponics. My system will be welcoming blue nile tilapia this week and I won't be adding any nutes beyond liquid seaweed that I can think of, maybe some calcium. Just wondering, being that most "nutes" are petroleum based wouldn't those be pretty harmful for fish?

And those herbs, don't they have nutrient needs, especially beyond the vegetative phase that cannot be met with aquaponics? I'm thinking sky high phosphorus.

All my product is in Ohio and of the tomato/cilantro variety... not growing in Washington or Colorado just yet. ;)

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