Aquaponic Gardening

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I have decided to convert my store into aquaponics.  It looked so easy.  The plants start to grow so fast.  Then they wilt.  LOL.  I would really be happy if i could get some good info.  We got the ph down from about 9 to 6.8 on average.  Am i to have a filter on these systems?  Please send lots of advice. 

 

Can you grow in a building with lots of windows?

 

Thanks

 

 

Tom

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You don't need the net pots in the gravel bed to grow plants in the gravel bed.  I would only use those if you plan to transplant into the pipes.

The water right now is going alittle to high and i may use this bed for tom instead of these peppers.  It gives me the the ability to make up my mind.

We built the bio filter it is 300 gal of 3/4 inch rock.  It is working to bring down the ammonia level.  Thank you for everything.  You are a great help.  I got the test kits.  We are testing the water everyday.  I also got the seaweed for the cycling.  The ammonia level was already 4.0 ppm so we didn't add any.  We moved the nft to the south east corner of the store to get the most sunlight.  In the next few days i expect to get my fourth system going with a bio filter. 

 

I have two questions.  What plants can i grow in nft.  We have alittle of everything planted.  How do i calculate how many fish or plants a person can put in a system? 

 

Thanks Tom
 
Vlad Jovanovic said:

Tom, sorry I didn't catch your last IM...I think you asked about draining a media bed into a sump and then pumping to the NFT channels? That would be a step in the right direction (as well as 'killing two birds with one stone' i.e bio-filtration as well as some solids removal), but I think you need to put some thought into sizing the media bed, and a proper fish stocking density for that to work. You may find that it works well at first but if the bed is too small to handle the fish load, after a while you might need additional filtration (maybe either mechanical filtration, or another media bed), or less fish if you have the nitrates to spare.

I know it's a major pain, but you should try to pre-wash/rinse your media this time

I still suggest getting Sylvia's book to get a handle on the some of the basics.

And you might want to get those concrete blocks out of that water or you'll probably pay the price in forever high pH.

Also, you mentioned tomatoes, and I gotta tell ya NFT is about the worst technique for tom's. Especially without really good filtration (but really even with it can be a pain). The root mass is just massive with tom's and you may find that the roots get brown and gunky and the plant withers before it even gets to finish flowering. Tom's would be better in a mature media bed, or hell, even in a mature raft with some support for the plant. Even if your filtration is pristine you might encounter root blockage and O2 problems at the root-zone with tom's in the type of NFT channels you have.

NFT is great for short term leafy greens, lettuce, basil etc... 

Did the test kit you ordered come in yet?

Here is a decent article on NFT by the renowned (AP)  Dr. Wilson Lennard...http://www.aquaponicsjournal.com/docs/articles/A-New-Look-at-NFT-Aq...

Bio-filtration oldie but goodie...by Rebecca Nelson from Nelson and Pade...http://www.aquaponicsjournal.com/docs/articles/Aquaponic-Equipment-...

A lot of things can be grown in NFT, but realistically at this early stage in in your AP adventure, you may want to avoid plants with large root mass (like tomatoes,... some peppers do really well but you need to give them some support structure up top. And generally the longer a plant is in there, the better your filtration needs to be). Any shorter term low-ish root mass plants, like any leafy greens, salads and herbs should do well. 

That second question is not so easy, with no straight forward simple answer. Since you are indoors, that should make things a bit easier as your temps (and hence things like your fish's eating habits) should not fluctuate as much with the seasons, and if you control a  lighting schedule and come up with a good staggered harvesting/planting regimine, your plants use of nitrates should be relatively stable as well. So you already have a couple of things going for you that most folks do not.

Normally you would want to stock according to your bio-filtration capacity...here is a calculator you can download to help get an idea of a general rough baseline...http://www.aquaponic.com.au/backyard.htm

There is an imperial and a metric version.

Really though, you'll probably want to really pay attention to your nitrates and use that as an indicator. You want enough of them so that your plants don't suffer, but you don't want an excess of nitrates (means too many fish, or too much fish poo) as then you media bed may suffer in it's capacity as a solids filter/mineralization (in which case your NFT plants may quickly suffer also).

Keep in mind, your fish will grow, getting bigger, eating more and making more 'fertilizer'. and may need to be harvested regularly and/or replaced.

If you are looking at the fish as anything more than fertilizer making machines for your plants, and want to grow out/stock many of them, you in all likelihood will need some extra mechanical filtration (more expenses, more maintenance). I'd go with the lowest possible stocking density to drive the system for now, then as you and your AP system become more familiar with one another over time, see if you want to change that, and add more equipment in a way that will help your new stocking goals.

(I probably left some things out on the fish side, if so, hopefully TC or somebody else could elaborate. I decided to go with a strictly fertilizer making common carp which will hopefully live to a nice old age in the AP system, so the whole harvesting/replenishing/super fast grow out times, I could care less about, and am not familiar with their intricacies).

One thing you should definately do in the next couple of months though, is add red worms to your media beds. I would go so far as to say that this is not only wise, but probably essential to the long(er) term success of you bio-filtering (and hence your entire) operation. There is no special care you need to give them, and they will regulate themselves in terms of population, according to available food source (fish poo and solid matter). Just get them from a good clean (non-cow manure) source or better yet, start your own worm bin now to have a population ready in time. 

What Vlad said is good.  Perhaps keep an eye on aeration if you don't already have extra aeration for the fish tanks and such.

More Light.  Even putting the NFT in front of windows is not going to be super helpful unless the sun actually shines in them almost all day.  The store lighting in the ceiling is not enough to grow much veggies and it definitely isn't close enough to the plants.  Probably time to go join up in the artificial lighting group and learn more from the experts about growing plants using artificial lighting.

I expect for now, you will need to get as many low light using plants going as possible to use up the nitrates you will have coming because plants that don't get a huge amount of light are not likely to use a huge amount of nutrients.  Houseplants will grow but they are not greedy nutrient suckers.  Things like lettuce can grow without huge amounts of light but they are going to be leggy, spindly and probably not very marketable.  Most other plants are going to struggle, be very leggy and also not impressive without enough light.

Just to give you an idea of what TC is talking about with the lighting...I just snapped a couple of pics for you...

These two plants are from the same seed stock, planted at the same time, both emerged from seed around the same time, this one was grown with window light ...

 While this one was grown in a much better lighting environment, (still not an ideal one, but much, much better).

 Both pics are from today. Good lighting is really important. And unless you want to grow a lot of 'house plants' in the NFT channels the window just wont cut it beyond sprouting/seedling stages...even with things like lettuce in my experience. They'll grow somewhat, but I don't think you'd be very happy with the situation, especially if you are trying to sell any of them like TC says.

Can I use night crawlers instead of red worms.  I purchased 1500 of them.  I put them in my grow beds with the concrete blocks.  They kept getting into my auto siphon.  They may do okay in the rock beds i now have for a filter.



Vlad Jovanovic said:

A lot of things can be grown in NFT, but realistically at this early stage in in your AP adventure, you may want to avoid plants with large root mass (like tomatoes,... some peppers do really well but you need to give them some support structure up top. And generally the longer a plant is in there, the better your filtration needs to be). Any shorter term low-ish root mass plants, like any leafy greens, salads and herbs should do well. 

That second question is not so easy, with no straight forward simple answer. Since you are indoors, that should make things a bit easier as your temps (and hence things like your fish's eating habits) should not fluctuate as much with the seasons, and if you control a  lighting schedule and come up with a good staggered harvesting/planting regimine, your plants use of nitrates should be relatively stable as well. So you already have a couple of things going for you that most folks do not.

Normally you would want to stock according to your bio-filtration capacity...here is a calculator you can download to help get an idea of a general rough baseline...http://www.aquaponic.com.au/backyard.htm

There is an imperial and a metric version.

Really though, you'll probably want to really pay attention to your nitrates and use that as an indicator. You want enough of them so that your plants don't suffer, but you don't want an excess of nitrates (means too many fish, or too much fish poo) as then you media bed may suffer in it's capacity as a solids filter/mineralization (in which case your NFT plants may quickly suffer also).

Keep in mind, your fish will grow, getting bigger, eating more and making more 'fertilizer'. and may need to be harvested regularly and/or replaced.

If you are looking at the fish as anything more than fertilizer making machines for your plants, and want to grow out/stock many of them, you in all likelihood will need some extra mechanical filtration (more expenses, more maintenance). I'd go with the lowest possible stocking density to drive the system for now, then as you and your AP system become more familiar with one another over time, see if you want to change that, and add more equipment in a way that will help your new stocking goals.

(I probably left some things out on the fish side, if so, hopefully TC or somebody else could elaborate. I decided to go with a strictly fertilizer making common carp which will hopefully live to a nice old age in the AP system, so the whole harvesting/replenishing/super fast grow out times, I could care less about, and am not familiar with their intricacies).

One thing you should definately do in the next couple of months though, is add red worms to your media beds. I would go so far as to say that this is not only wise, but probably essential to the long(er) term success of you bio-filtering (and hence your entire) operation. There is no special care you need to give them, and they will regulate themselves in terms of population, according to available food source (fish poo and solid matter). Just get them from a good clean (non-cow manure) source or better yet, start your own worm bin now to have a population ready in time. 

No night crawlers aren't a good choice. You want red worms (E. fetida). Nightcrawlers are not good composting worms AT ALL (what we need in our growbeds). They have a totally different lifestyle, feeding habits etc...They will most likely just die off over the days/weeks and their dying bodies will just jack up your ammonia levels. Don't put them in if you haven't already...

If the nightcrawlers don't like the environment of the grow beds, they will probably just escape and you may find dried up worms on the floor.  Now not all nightcrawlers are the same.  Some are burrowing worms that are not well suited to worm bins or composting.  Others are actually just a different name given to a few species of composting worms and they might do ok in a grow bed or they might go escaping and becoming dried worms on the floor.  There are actually several different species of composting worms that people often call red worms or red wrigglers that will all do fine in grow beds and worm bins.  One of the best species is the one Vlad mentions which eats the most organic waste in relation to it's body size.  However E. fetida don't make particularly good bait because they tend to be kinda small and give off an odor that some fish seem not to like.

I haven't and wont.  Thanks Again.


 
Vlad Jovanovic said:

No night crawlers aren't a good choice. You want red worms (E. fetida). Nightcrawlers are not good composting worms AT ALL (what we need in our growbeds). They have a totally different lifestyle, feeding habits etc...They will most likely just die off over the days/weeks and their dying bodies will just jack up your ammonia levels. Don't put them in if you haven't already...

I ordered some red worms off the site.  Do they taste good with Chocolate on them.  LOL.

Thanks Again. 
 
Vlad Jovanovic said:

No night crawlers aren't a good choice. You want red worms (E. fetida). Nightcrawlers are not good composting worms AT ALL (what we need in our growbeds). They have a totally different lifestyle, feeding habits etc...They will most likely just die off over the days/weeks and their dying bodies will just jack up your ammonia levels. Don't put them in if you haven't already...

I've heard you can fry up worms to eat them so maybe with Katsup.

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