Aquaponic Gardening

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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?

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I expect it is the AG runoff.  I understand there are areas in the midwest where the nitrates are so high in the public water supplies that they advise not even bathing new borne babies in it let alone drinking it.

I wouldn't worry about a nitrate level of 10 ppm for the system. And I think it is really good that you did a baseline test before you started

Your right TC, i always try to drink and shower through water filters.  I believe im really looking for ammonia and nitrite levels when im cycling anyways.  I think i read your previous post saying when you dose to 1PPM A and get 0 A and Ni in 24 hours then your rdy.
pretty much.  Usually still takes several weeks.

Yeah! I forgot to mention that!

 

Keeping records and doing lots of tests is really important. Without the baseline test you may have wondered where the nitrates came from, and could have thought your were cycled before you were or something. 

 

I was losing fish, and had a funny feeling it seemed to occurred just after rain. Lucky for me I had all my test results  scribbled on scraps of paper, and all it took was to drop the meteorology figures for my area into my spreadsheet to discover a correlation (graphs can do that). It turned out the culprit was rainwater splashing off a poison plant I had overhanging my fish tank. Thanks to records, tests, and your normal every day aquaponics community helpfulness, I found the problem.

Without all the tests and keeping good records I never would have discovered it.

 

I probably would have given up on aquaponics as well :(

 

 

TCLynx said:

And I think it is really good that you did a baseline test before you started

Hi AJ,

In Aquarium cycling the standard is to dose between 3-4ppm ammonia. This was the method that i used when cycling. I have 80 deg. weather here so we cycled fairly quickly. I would maintain that level until the system could digest this amount in a 24 hour period. With this happens it means you have a very robust bacterial colony more than capable of handling over the maximum rule for fish/media ratios. Finally after 6 months I'm finally getting a reading of 5ppm nitrates, which means that the plants we utilizing almost all nitrates produced by the system,and as fish are growing(more nitrogen) they are only now crossing the plant consumption levels of available nitrates.

AJ Grottke said:

Your right TC, i always try to drink and shower through water filters.  I believe im really looking for ammonia and nitrite levels when im cycling anyways.  I think i read your previous post saying when you dose to 1PPM A and get 0 A and Ni in 24 hours then your rdy.

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.

FYI, if you get an ammonia spike really high and do lots of water changes, this actually slows the process.  Too high of ammonia not only kills fish but it can also inhibit bacteria.

 

Also, the source water, if it is treated with chloramine or chlorine it can be a big problem in cycling.  Chlorine can be off gassed but chloramine takes weeks or more to go away.  If you were to add chlorinated water into a system with high ammonia during a water change, you will likely wind up with chloramine and that will stall the process too.

 

Slimy rocks can help (though slime might be algae and not simply bio-slime) but even adding pre cycled media into a system doesn't cause the system to be instantly cycled.  The entire system needs to cycle up.  The surfaces of the fish tank and grow beds as well as the pipes need to build up their coating.  Adding jump start bacteria or media can help speed the process a little but there is no "magic bullet" that makes a system instantly cycled up.  The bacteria must be allowed time under good conditions (pH, temperature, good water, enough ammonia but not too much) to colonize the surfaces in the system.  Patience.

 

Fishless cycling is the closest thing to a magic bullet that I know of but it still takes several weeks.

Just a thought.

If you have 10ppm of nitrate in your well water. Does this mean that you could nourish your growbeds without having to have fish ?

Especially if the nitrate level in your well is stable. All you would have to do, cycle your well water into the growbeds. Talking about free plant food ?!

AJ Grottke said:

I just started cycling my system last night.  I did a baseline test (before i put in ammonia)  and i got a 10 PPM of Nitrates instead a 0 PPM. How will this affect my cycling?  I added all the seedlings i had started to the system to begin using those nitrates up.  Im pretty sure it is because i have a well and live in a heavily farmed area which is all monocropped to corn.  The nitrate fertilizers they use are never efficiently absorbed by the soil, so it runs off to pollute all kinds of water sources.  Damn GMO corn; they should grow Elm trees instead of corn which produce more protein per acre from their acorns and require little, if any, fertilization.

I have tap water with very little chlorine and/or sodium hypochlorite.

Here is the link to our city water treatment plant with procedure how they do it. http://www.hickorygov.com/egov/docs/1222796597643.htm

I done a base line test on the tab water.

Ammonia  0

Nitrate      0

Nitrite       0

Chlorine    0.25 or less, barley would read anything

Total Alkalinity 40

Ph           7.2

Hardness 25

 

Fishtank H20 temperature 72 F

I usually let the water gas off.

I guess I have to give it more time.

What kind of ammonia can I add, after I remove the fish? I do not care to much about pee :),

FYI, if you get an ammonia spike really high and do lots of water changes, this actually slows the process.  Too high of ammonia not only kills fish but it can also inhibit bacteria.

 

Also, the source water, if it is treated with chloramine or chlorine it can be a big problem in cycling.  Chlorine can be off gassed but chloramine takes weeks or more to go away.  If you were to add chlorinated water into a system with high ammonia during a water change, you will likely wind up with chloramine and that will stall the process too.

 

Slimy rocks can help (though slime might be algae and not simply bio-slime) but even adding pre cycled media into a system doesn't cause the system to be instantly cycled.  The entire system needs to cycle up.  The surfaces of the fish tank and grow beds as well as the pipes need to build up their coating.  Adding jump start bacteria or media can help speed the process a little but there is no "magic bullet" that makes a system instantly cycled up.  The bacteria must be allowed time under good conditions (pH, temperature, good water, enough ammonia but not too much) to colonize the surfaces in the system.  Patience.

 

Fishless cycling is the closest thing to a magic bullet that I know of but it still takes several weeks.

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.

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

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.

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