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have had my system running for approx 7 months , have 150 gal tank pumping into 3 -25 gallon grow beds ...have not had much success growing plants of any kind ...using pea gravel and bell siphons ...the system works great mechanically....have 34 talapia  ranging in size from 3 inches to 10 inches long ...feed  med pellet cichlid food 2 times daily  what they can eat in five minutes have approx 25 plants  ranging from  a large peace plant to 15 or so marigold  and other various garden plants ...am alternating lighting  , 2 lowers in afternoon ,2 uppers in evening and turn off at morning ...full spectrum lighting.... my ph is perfect as is the nitrite level  its the ammonia 50ppm  and nitrates 80ppm  that stay elevated   and all plants are extremely leggy... grow up and not out . do approx 40 gallon water change every sunday and the ammonia changes very little and the nitrates not at all...while i have lost no fish so far  i feel that without the benefit of the edible food  i'm just spinnin my wheels . i would really like to see this project come thru for my family . any suggestions will be greatly appreciated

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50ppm ammonia doesn't sound like an accurate reading if your fish are alive and well and your nitrites are 0. What is the pH (not sure what "perfect" is)? What kind of bulbs are you using and at what distance from the plants?

Please tell us what the actual pH readings are.

What kind of test kit are you using?

Is the water you are changing out every week treated?  Chloramine will give you ammonia readings, are you using something that locks up the ammonia?  If so you might still get a reading but the ammonia is locked up so as not to harm fish  However a 50 ppm reading seems odd since most aquarium test kits only read to like 8ppm

Leggy plants are a sign that the light is not intense enough.  Florescent lights need to be almost but not quite touching the plants to be intense enough for them.

I'm going to guess most of your problems are probably lighting related since plants not getting enough light won't use up the nitrates very well.

If you actually mean that the ammonia is 0.5 ppm then I will say that 34 tilapia are probably a bit too much fish for your 75 gallons of grow bed, reduce feeding.  If you really did mean 50 ppm ammonia, I recommend figuring out why your test kit is telling you that, and if your test is accurate, that your 34 fish are WAY too much for your 75 gallons of grow bed and why are they not dieing from the ammonia levels.

oops i meant .5 it's an api test kit...what type of lighting would you reccommend...i bought these at lowes and made sure they were full spectrum and they are not florescent...one set is approx 10 inches from plants  and the other is 2 feet from plants ...am i doing the right thing turning off lights completly during the day since they are in my shop

TCLynx said:

Please tell us what the actual pH readings are.

What kind of test kit are you using?

Is the water you are changing out every week treated?  Chloramine will give you ammonia readings, are you using something that locks up the ammonia?  If so you might still get a reading but the ammonia is locked up so as not to harm fish  However a 50 ppm reading seems odd since most aquarium test kits only read to like 8ppm

Leggy plants are a sign that the light is not intense enough.  Florescent lights need to be almost but not quite touching the plants to be intense enough for them.

I'm going to guess most of your problems are probably lighting related since plants not getting enough light won't use up the nitrates very well.

If you actually mean that the ammonia is 0.5 ppm then I will say that 34 tilapia are probably a bit too much fish for your 75 gallons of grow bed, reduce feeding.  If you really did mean 50 ppm ammonia, I recommend figuring out why your test kit is telling you that, and if your test is accurate, that your 34 fish are WAY too much for your 75 gallons of grow bed and why are they not dieing from the ammonia levels.

am using api test kit ...using stress coat to condition water and stress zyme to help bio filter...my ph 7.4 and nitrites test is blue  not purple or green  ammonia .5  and nitrates 80 ppm  dark red

a pH of 7.4 is dealable though the plants will use more nutrients if the pH were a bit lower.  However if they are only getting a limited amount of light then they are not going to use up the nitrates very quickly.

Running ammonia at .5 indicates to me you are starting to push the limits of your bio-filtration now, might be time to start eating some of the bigger fish.  for 75 gallons of grow bed I would say 10 plate size fish will be pushing it especially if the plants are not thriving.

Now you say the lights are full spectrum but not florescent?  Well what kind of lights are they?  I've used some of the T5 florescent 4' long 4 tube fixtures for indoor growing of lettuce before and I was using the high color temperature more blue lights.  That was only good to light about the same footprint as the light (about 16" by 48") and I had to make the light adjustable to keep it about 1-2 inches from the top leaves of the plants.  For starting brand new seedlings It seems to work ok with the light about 5-6 inches from the tiny seedlings.

You might want to go look at the artificial lighting group and see if they people with more experience growing indoors can help you out.  One trick I've done when I have grown stuff indoors was make a curtain from some of those mylar emergency blankets to reflect light back in at the plants so it didn't blind us in the house and that way you could run the lighting longer without making it too bright in the shop?

WOULD ADDING ANOTHER GROW BED HELP

TCLynx said:

a pH of 7.4 is dealable though the plants will use more nutrients if the pH were a bit lower.  However if they are only getting a limited amount of light then they are not going to use up the nitrates very quickly.

Running ammonia at .5 indicates to me you are starting to push the limits of your bio-filtration now, might be time to start eating some of the bigger fish.  for 75 gallons of grow bed I would say 10 plate size fish will be pushing it especially if the plants are not thriving.

Now you say the lights are full spectrum but not florescent?  Well what kind of lights are they?  I've used some of the T5 florescent 4' long 4 tube fixtures for indoor growing of lettuce before and I was using the high color temperature more blue lights.  That was only good to light about the same footprint as the light (about 16" by 48") and I had to make the light adjustable to keep it about 1-2 inches from the top leaves of the plants.  For starting brand new seedlings It seems to work ok with the light about 5-6 inches from the tiny seedlings.

You might want to go look at the artificial lighting group and see if they people with more experience growing indoors can help you out.  One trick I've done when I have grown stuff indoors was make a curtain from some of those mylar emergency blankets to reflect light back in at the plants so it didn't blind us in the house and that way you could run the lighting longer without making it too bright in the shop?

sorry for caps

Yes more grow beds and better lighting will probably both help.  But you may still need to eat some fish since you have quite a lot for you system.  Even running MAX stocking numbers that are better left to the experts, if you grow out all those fish in that system, without removing any, you are way over stocked.  According to those MAX stocking numbers, you only have enough filtration for 15 lb of fish so if you are growing your fish out to 1 lb then you have more than twice as many fish as your filters can support. 

The more sane stocking levels for people who are not experts at fish keeping would be 1 fish per every cubic foot of grow bed (or about 1 fish per every 7.4 gallons of grow bed) which puts the recommendation for the number of fish in your system currently at about 10 fish growing out to 1 lb each.  It isn't about how much fish tank you have, it's more about is there enough filtration.  Start eating the big fish.  And add more grow bed and better lighting and things will probably settle in for you.

thanx for the advice...think i'll stock up on tarter sauce

TCLynx said:

Yes more grow beds and better lighting will probably both help.  But you may still need to eat some fish since you have quite a lot for you system.  Even running MAX stocking numbers that are better left to the experts, if you grow out all those fish in that system, without removing any, you are way over stocked.  According to those MAX stocking numbers, you only have enough filtration for 15 lb of fish so if you are growing your fish out to 1 lb then you have more than twice as many fish as your filters can support. 

The more sane stocking levels for people who are not experts at fish keeping would be 1 fish per every cubic foot of grow bed (or about 1 fish per every 7.4 gallons of grow bed) which puts the recommendation for the number of fish in your system currently at about 10 fish growing out to 1 lb each.  It isn't about how much fish tank you have, it's more about is there enough filtration.  Start eating the big fish.  And add more grow bed and better lighting and things will probably settle in for you.

Hi John,

As everyone has mentioned, you need to get Ammonia to 0. Nitrates at 80 is not a problem.

I would also eliminate the additives - an AP system is not an aquarium. You shouldn't need anything, especially at 7 mo.

I'm guess the stress coat contains or is sea salt? Fish like it, plants hate it.

thanks for the info chip but was wondering  when doing a 25% water change  with household tap water what would you reccomend to de chlorinate the water that wouldnt be harmful to the plants?

Chip Pilkington said:

Hi John,

As everyone has mentioned, you need to get Ammonia to 0. Nitrates at 80 is not a problem.

I would also eliminate the additives - an AP system is not an aquarium. You shouldn't need anything, especially at 7 mo.

I'm guess the stress coat contains or is sea salt? Fish like it, plants hate it.

I use a product called ClorAm-X for declorination of my tap water and have lots of microscopic creatures thriving in my system. It will get rid of the dreaded Chloramines which don't evaporate as fast as regular chlorine, and is supposed to reduce ammonia as well. You can also use a garden hose carbon filter.



john taylor said:

thanks for the info chip but was wondering  when doing a 25% water change  with household tap water what would you reccomend to de chlorinate the water that wouldnt be harmful to the plants?

Chip Pilkington said:

Hi John,

As everyone has mentioned, you need to get Ammonia to 0. Nitrates at 80 is not a problem.

I would also eliminate the additives - an AP system is not an aquarium. You shouldn't need anything, especially at 7 mo.

I'm guess the stress coat contains or is sea salt? Fish like it, plants hate it.

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