Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

I just noticed that with all the topics we have going, none are about the most mystifying topic of all - cycling your system.  How did you start up your system?  Using fish or "fish-less"?  Pee-ponics? Pure ammonia?  A bacteria product?  If so, which one?  Did you supplement with anything?  Liquid seaweed?

It's been a while since I last cycled a system.  Once you have done it a few times you get to where any new system is started with media and tank water from a fully cycled system so it becomes much easier and less dramatic.  The first system I cycled was a nail-biter.  I just used fish...period...and watched anxiously as the ammonia, then nitrites spiked.  The next two systems were cycled at the same time and I used a ridiculously expensive product that had to be refrigerated in one tank, and a combination of peeponics and Maxicrop in the other tank.  Much, much faster results (unfortunately I didn't keep great records so I can't remember more detail than that) with less angst.  I seem to remember that the two tanks cycled at about the same rate, so I'm never buying an expensive product again!  The Maxicrop enabled me to get plants in there immediately, and I followed up with fish in about a week once I could see through the water again.  What I would probably recommend at this point is cycling with a little pure ammonia and Maxicrop, and add fish once you see the nitrites going down and a glimmer of nitrates...if you have that much control over when your fish arrive.  

Anyone else?

Views: 2577

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Thank you TC.

TCLynx said:
Sylvia sells a cycling kit now.  If you go to the SHOP tap up at the top it will take you to her store.

Hi Johann,

You'd probably grow crop like lettuce and such with the well water, although growth may not be comparative to fish fed AP. Fish food is manufactured to give fish all the correct inputs for optimal growth and from our experience there is sufficient left over to grow healthy plants in AP, which rivals most the other types of agriculture. The way fish food is formulated seems to give Ap the right balance of inputs for maximizing plant growth.

Johann said:

Back in my mind, I thought that there is more in the well water than just nitrate, since the well is in farmland country.

I expect that there are nitrogen, phosphate, sulfur, iron and maybe zinc in the well water, since that are basic ingredient in a fertilizer. On top of it, not to mention some insecticides. 


TCLynx said:

There is more to it than simple nitrate.  We tend to just measure the nitrates since they are linked with the nitrogen cycle and making sure the bio-filter is working and that we are not having problems with ammonia and nitrite.

 

Assuming that nitrate is all that is needed to grow plants would be like assuming people can survive on protein only.  There are far more nutrients in fish feed and fish waste than just nitrates.  Now if your well water is providing everything needed, well then yes, just watering your plants may be all you need, some how I suspect that your well water isn't a perfectly complete balanced fertilizer though.

If the well water there is safe for drinking and washing new borne babies then it is probably safe enough for aquaponics.  If it is on safe for those things, then I would be careful about using it for aquaponics.

I grew up around farmers and I have been grown veggies most of my life, but AP is new. This is why I love this forum to get good input from folks that have done this and still doing this.  Growing veggies and keeping fish is not new to me even though I didn't have fish for many years now, sometimes I just get impatience, but I never can learn enough.

Thank you folks for all the info and inputs.

Harold Sukhbir said:

Hi Johann,

You'd probably grow crop like lettuce and such with the well water, although growth may not be comparative to fish fed AP. Fish food is manufactured to give fish all the correct inputs for optimal growth and from our experience there is sufficient left over to grow healthy plants in AP, which rivals most the other types of agriculture. The way fish food is formulated seems to give Ap the right balance of inputs for maximizing plant growth.

Johann said:

Back in my mind, I thought that there is more in the well water than just nitrate, since the well is in farmland country.

I expect that there are nitrogen, phosphate, sulfur, iron and maybe zinc in the well water, since that are basic ingredient in a fertilizer. On top of it, not to mention some insecticides. 


TCLynx said:

There is more to it than simple nitrate.  We tend to just measure the nitrates since they are linked with the nitrogen cycle and making sure the bio-filter is working and that we are not having problems with ammonia and nitrite.

 

Assuming that nitrate is all that is needed to grow plants would be like assuming people can survive on protein only.  There are far more nutrients in fish feed and fish waste than just nitrates.  Now if your well water is providing everything needed, well then yes, just watering your plants may be all you need, some how I suspect that your well water isn't a perfectly complete balanced fertilizer though.

How I get my systems to cycle within 24 - 48 hours.

 

This is in response to halemart’s comment on the “How do you cycle?” forum.

 

I don’t know about you’all, but I seem to be constantly pulling fish out of one tank and restocking with smaller fish. This fluctuation seemed to cause some amount of stress on the system. That was until I started making my own living organic nutrients. Now there is almost no interruption or stress.

 

You can buy specifically formulated bacteria at your local fish store. I stuff I used to use was called "Bio-zyme".

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hydroponics stores often carry “bio in a bottle” but be wary because they can’t keep long. Once the beneficial biology has been activated and multiplied, it does not stop growing at the end of the brew cycle. When placed in a bottle, the biology continues to grow and feed off the provided oxygen. Once the bottled oxygen has depleted, the organisms begin to starve and die. This liquid must be placed in a reservoir or in soil eight to ten hours after the brewing process has stopped. The best viability comes when the solution is used directly after decanting the extractor. Refrigeration at 40°F will slow the rapid growth of the biology, extending the shelf life to five days.

 

The compost tea method is not bad (I use to do it; but you have to run it longer to put the "bad" bacteria like e-coli to sleep), as long as temperatures stay low because without high heat to kill them, they just stay dormant until.... So don’t bother with that old hippy juice stuff. We have science now.

 

A few standard items should be looked at when using an organic tea/ solution/ brew:

 

• biodiversity of micro-organisms

• total and active micro-organisms

• full-range levels of biology (bacteria, fungal, chitinase- and cellulase-producing microbes, and protozoa, which includes amoebas, ciliates, flagellates, and beneficial nematodes)

• base material being used for extraction

• overall biological levels of the tea

or solution.

 

That’s why I am using worm castings/ poop instead of animal manure, (most worm casting runoff is not worm manure/ casting. It has to be digested by the worms to make it safe). The good bacteria are all aerobic, so as long as you keep the air going, your teas should be ok, the higher the diversity of critters the better. Molasses only make more of any existing bacteria strains. You do not want this balance to be out of whack! I try for a bio diversity of 20-30,000 different types of aerobic recyclers.

 

Please be careful with adding too much sugar. Sugars feed the bacteria but too many bacteria may overwhelm the fungal side of the equation. The balance of bacterial and fungal is very important to create a symbiotic relationship with your plants. The feed mix also takes into account the growth of recyclers such as amoebas, ciliates, flagellates, and beneficial nematodes. The proper mix of sugars and carbohydrates must have fungal attachment sites to develop beneficial communities of fungal. You can keep a healthy colony by giving them a home. I use a stocking filled with perlite and hang it off the side of my reservoir.

 

These organisms must then be aerobically brewed for 24 hours in an environment where the dissolved oxygen level is maintained above 6 ppm during the whole brewing process. The temperature of the brewing water must be maintained at 60°F–85°F. This material can now accurately be called Biologically Active Microbial-rich Solution. When using this type of living catalyst, it is important to use as pure a water source as possible. A reverse osmosis filter would do just fine.

 

The quality of solution can be determined by a biological test. These tests are not the tests used to provide typical soil reports. The bacterial levels should be 10–150 micrograms per milliliter (mg/ml) active and 150-300+ mg/ml total. The fungal levels need to be 2–10 mg/ml active and 2–20+ mg/ml total. There must be a balance of both bacterial and fungal. Bacterial organisms are easy to grow and can overwhelm the fungal if the feed mix is not properly controlled. The hyphal diameter of the fungi needs to be 2.5+ micrometers. The protozoa should show flagellates in the range of 1,000 /ml, amoebae at 1,000/ml, and ciliates at 20–50/ml. The beneficial nematodes should be at 2–10/ml. The chitin degraders and cellulose degraders should both be above 100 million cfu/dwg.

 

The protozoa and nematodes are the large-sized recyclers. The chitin degraders and cellulose degraders are small-sized but very active recyclers. These make the nutrients from the bacterial and fungal biology available for the plants. If the test numbers do not show values in these ranges, assume the material is not optimal.

Hi Carey,

Thanks for the detailed information although it goes way beyond the topic of cycling. I am particularly interested in the system biology ratios you've compiled in your report. I am always looking to gather information on these ratios for Aquaponics and realize that there is a lot of varied information available on the subject. Can you tell how you've arrived at these ratios? Are these ratios the standard for optimal AP beyond cycling?

Haha...I know I'm a bit long winded but this is no report. Just a bit about what I'm doing. I believe there are a few companies and Uni's that have done research in this area but I'm not sure where I originally found these ratios. I think I got these from a class in soil science back in Washington State U and are typical examples of content found in the soil of healthy, mature forest.

I began using this guideline for my soil-based organics, then I experimented with using it in my hydroponics system, both with fantastic results. So I tried adding it to my AP system with no apparent negative impact on the fish. Today I run it through my wicking beds (half hydroponics, half soil, raised bed system attached to AP) to bring it closer to being truly organic.

 

I am truly sold on this method! I believe EVERYTHING is better. Everything tastes better, more/ faster production and much longer shelf life.

Hello, 

We tried cycling our system by adding Aquascapes' "Beneficial Bacteria", then added the fingerlings and seedlings a few weeks later (actually a month later). It seems to be working but I think the cement fish tank is throwing the pH to 7.5-8 or so. That's giving us a slow start.

I have tried adding Maxicrop w/ iron and doing fresh water changes of 100 gallons about twice a week. The pH has dropped a little bit but we are still slightly basic... My hope is that the pH will soon be buffered by the biological cycle. Maybe I have high hopes. Maybe not.

The total system combined is 2000 gallons so that's not too much screwing around. Patience is so hard.   

Any thoughts on that? 

 I just checked out 'Maxicrop and the product was about $9,but the S&H was $18. WOW ! And that was ground shipping. Guess I'll check for local distributors unless some of you wise people have a better idea.Thanks,Marie.



Johann said:

Correct me if I am wrong.

I have been reading through this thread and links. It is very interesting and educational.

If I go to the nearest river, lake or creek and I get lets say 3 hand size slimy rocks I could head start a system in no time, if I wash the rocks into my system as long I keep the rocks wet or submerged in water while I transport them.

As i understand slimy rocks means bacteria grows, witch ....the slime, the bacteria is releasing to attach to a substance.

It has been years since I cycled a fish tank. I am cycling a 10 gallon tank at this time and I am almost 3 weeks into it with no sign of drop of the ammonia, even though I performed a total 80% water change through-out the cycle-up to prevent the ammonia level to spike out of reach. I started with 24 minnows and there is only one left.

I will go tomorrow and get me some slimy rocks and let you know how this works out. I should see a result within a few days. I did not think about it until I read through this thread. I do not know anyone that has a fish tank otherwise I would ask them for a bacteria donor bank from there filter media.

I got a tropical fish store in town that would be willing to give me some live bacteria from there filter material, but I know I will pick up diseases with it, since these fish are stressed between shipping when  bought from there supplier and selling them.

At a later time, when I am done building  my barrel system I will put the fish tank In line with all the works. This way I should have no problem with my expansion and water quality.

I'd be really careful what you get from rivers. We had goldfish and 8yr.old beautiful koi in our pond several years ago. We took some plants from the river and put them in our pond, lost most of our fish. The rest we gave to a geeky tennage kid who had a 'fish hospital' he healed what was left.

The parasite came from the river. It gave the fish some kind of worms and he did surgery on the large koi.Plus put in some kind of fish antibiotic. This kid had time ,we don't have knowledge or time for all that,haha.

Hi Sylvia,

This process is definitely mystifying. I'm cycling a 600 gallon system. I purchased your large cycling system. It's been eight days of fish-less cycling now. This has been my process. I allowed my system to run for 7 days prior to doing anything to off gas chlorine. 

  1. Day 1 - PH 8.3 - added bottle of PH Down a little at a time over an 8 hour period - did nothing to change the PH - Added 2 tsp of powdered ammonia - resulted in 3 ppm for that day. Added 1 cup Nite Out II later that day. 
  2. Day 2 - PH 8.3 - Ammonia test was 2 ppm - Added 2 tsp of powdered ammonia - added another 1/2 cup microbe - 0 nitrites - 0 nitrates
  3. Day 3 - PH 8.3 - Ammonia 2 ppm - Did not add any ammonia this day - Added bag of powdered Maxicrop - Added 1/2 cup microbe - Planted beds with about 70 different plants. 
  4. Day 4 PH 8.3 - Ammonia 1 ppm - Added 2 tsp ammonia - Added 1 quart of liquid seaweed - Added 1 cup microbe - 0 nitrites - 0 nitrates
  5. Day 5 PH 8.3 - Ammonia 2 ppm - No ammonia added - NItrites 0 - NItrates - 0 - added 1 cup microbe
  6. Day 6 PH 8.3 - Ammonia 2 ppm - No ammonia added - NItrites 0 - NItrates - 0 - Stopped adding microbe because I figured 4 cups would be enough and I ran out. 
  7. Day 7 PH 8.3 - Ammonia 2 ppm - No ammonia added - NItrites 0 - NItrates - 0 - Had to add 100 gallons of water because when I got up in the morning the sump was empty. I'm assuming a result of water uptake by the plants and evaporation because I don't have any leaks. 
  8. Today - Day 8 - Ammonia still at 1 ppm - added 2 tsp ammonia - Nitrites - .25 ppm Yay!! - Nitrates - 0

Is this typical progress for a system of this size? Does it take this long for Nitrites to appear and how long before Nitrates start appearing? Oh and one more question, How often do I add the Maxicrop? 

Sounds fairly typical.

You may start seeing some nitrates even while the nitrites are going to be high here shortly.  Still to get to the point of completely cycled up (where you can add between 1-2 ppm of ammonia and have both ammonia and nitrite be back down to 0 ppm within 24 hours) can still take between 4-8 weeks, average of 6 weeks.

How much maxicrop to use.......  Perhaps a cap full or an ounce per grow bed every 1-3 weeks.  I tend to use more during initial cycle up and while the system is still really new and then I might reduce down to just a splash per grow bed every few weeks and then eventually I might not use it much at all once the system is mature.

Reply to Discussion

RSS

© 2020   Created by Sylvia Bernstein.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service