Aquaponic Gardening

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First I want to thank Sylvia Bernstein for writing her book for with out it, I would be nowhere and second I can't thank those involved in this Forum enough! When you put so much time and effort into your aquaponics set up and something does not go well, it's not like you can run down to the local store and get advice. Nobody in my area is any kind of authority on this subject, so I really feel like a Lone Ranger! Thank you Aquaponic Gardening Community!!!!

I guess I'm just looking for some support/guidance/ on cycling my pond/AP for the 1st time, I just don't want to mess it up.

1. Started cycling 4/12/13 (fish less) . Temps. were a little  cool, but I was eager to get any kind of   jump start.

2. 3,000 gal. AP. Water temp is now 65 Degrees F.

3. Ph is around 7.2, Ammonia 4 ppm, Nitrites 4-5 ppm, Nitrates around 2-3 ppm.

4. Grow beds are planted and seem to be doing well.

Just looking for any comments/help/direction in addition to Sylvia's book. Thanks!!

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Things seem to be looking good. Have you needed to add ammonia daily to keep your levels at 4ppm?

Hi Alex! Thats the strange thing, I started the cycle with ammonia and have only needed to add it 3 or 4 times over the whole month? I probably added too much in the beginning (1 gal. for 3,000 gal of water over 3 or 4 days- 1 qt per day) so i stopped adding. levels never went above 6 ppm . Last time i added ammonia was April 21 (1 qt.) it dropped to .25 ppm from 2-4 ppm the previous day, went back up to 4 ppm the next day. I would say my ammonia was always in the higher side +- 4ppm. Nitrites are really kicking in over the last week (temps steady mid 60 degrees F) and finally picking up[ a nitrate reading.

now that i think about it Alex, i added red worms to my grow beds before the system is fully cycled and noticed dead ones while planting, probably a good reason for the lack of need to add ammonia?

I don't think that's strange at all. The ammonia mostly just sits in your system until your system starts cycling. Redworms don't have much to them, so I'd imagine it'd take an awful lot of worms to bump up your ammonia levels. I am a little concerned though...how many dead worms did you see? If there was a lot, you might have a problem. Worms dissolve rather quickly when they die, so you should rarely see a dead worm, much less a bunch. Which would mean something is killing them on a slightly larger scale.

I saw what I thought were dead worms (2). As I scooped away hydrocorn clay media. Was a little order too. Caught me off guard. I got the worms at a major department store in the sporting goods section, they were for baite. No telling how long they were there in the little cooler. They were moving VERY slow but seemed to be alive. Since then I've been adding a few here and there that I find around the yard.

Oh, okay, 2 is no big deal. How many sq. ft. of grow space do you have? And how many worms did you buy? A container of bait worms doesn't really seem like an adequate amount for a 3,000 gallon system. I highly recommend purchasing 1 lb of redworms from Uncle Jim's Worm Farm. (about 1,000) Usually will run you about $30.

George, earth worms will not survive in an AP system.  You need to get EF's (composting red worms) to put into your system.  If you are getting worms out of the yard they may just be earth worms and will die.
 
Gregory J. Showalter said:

I saw what I thought were dead worms (2). As I scooped away hydrocorn clay media. Was a little order too. Caught me off guard. I got the worms at a major department store in the sporting goods section, they were for baite. No telling how long they were there in the little cooler. They were moving VERY slow but seemed to be alive. Since then I've been adding a few here and there that I find around the yard.
Are you certain that earthworms will not survive? Or they are just not ideal?

Well Alex, you made me go do some research.  I can find sites that go either way.  All worms require water.  the problems seems to be that some worms need more oxygen in the water than others(?), and that earth worms can drown if the soil becomes to soggy.  So, now I don't know anymore if earthworms will survive in the AP system or not.  If they will then the worm industry has put one big one over on us with the red wigglers when we could have just gone out in the yard and dug up our own for free.
 
Alex Veidel said:

Are you certain that earthworms will not survive? Or they are just not ideal?

Bob, I wouldn't necessarily say that. Redworms are the poster child for composting worms. They are small and lively, making them active tunnelers. And they wander aimlessly, as opposed to your average nightcrawler, which makes permanent burrows to live in and only comes to the surface to feed. So redworms are still ideal.

Bob Terrell said:

Well Alex, you made me go do some research.  I can find sites that go either way.  All worms require water.  the problems seems to be that some worms need more oxygen in the water than others(?), and that earth worms can drown if the soil becomes to soggy.  So, now I don't know anymore if earthworms will survive in the AP system or not.  If they will then the worm industry has put one big one over on us with the red wigglers when we could have just gone out in the yard and dug up our own for free.
 
Alex Veidel said:

Are you certain that earthworms will not survive? Or they are just not ideal?
The worms that I bought said Red Worms on the carton. Is there a red worm and a red composting worm? Or are they one in the same?

Well, bait stores will often sell "red worms", but these are usually nothing more than worms that just happen to be red. What Bob means by "EF" is eisenia fetida, which is THE redworm, the stuff of composting myth and legend :)

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