Aquaponic Gardening

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Hi everyone,

I am currently using fish-less cycling on my aquaponics and I'm on day16.  On day 12 I got a nice helping of filter water from a co-worker who raises Koi.  Since that my Nitrates and Nitrites are rising nicely but my ammonia seems to be off the charts! My pH has stabilized at 7.2-7.4.  I am a little worried about the High ammonia.  I was adding 1/2 tsp to begin with to get the levels up but I haven't added any Ammonia in several days (unfortunately I got a little lazy with my data tracking for a few days so I don't know how long its been since I added any for sure)

My transplants and inital seeds have died off, but I thought that was due to a miss-hap I had with my bell siphon where the bed was full of water for about 12 hours with no drainage or high pH.

Bottom line:  how can I lower the ammonia besides a water change and do I need to be worried right now?  Again I don't have fish yet although I would like to add them soon


Day 1 above day 16 below

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I just watched your video that answered all these questions. Thank you!

David Berthelette said:

Nate Storey said:

Those crashes typically occur when your nitrification cycle finally consumes the residual carbonates in your system.  As soon as those carbonates are consumed, the system pH will drop suddenly and unexpectedly.  Believe it or not, it's actually a wonderful place to be in.  From here on out, assuming you don't slow down the amount of nitrogen entering the system, your pH should stabilize at a lower pH range- you'll have to correct a couple times a week with KOH or hydrated lime (ideally both) to maintain a range that's ideal for your plants (I recommend 6.2-6.8 or so).

Hi Nate,

There seems to be a lot of ways to get hydrated lime, including masonry hydrated lime at The Home Depot. Is that acceptable or is there a better source? I found some lime for lawns at a hardware store as well. The stats are: 

Component Percent
Calcium Carbonate + 2% Lignosulfonate 98.5
Anionic Polyacrylamide Emulsion 1
Anionic Linear Partially Water-Soluable
Polyacrylamide 0.5

Is that an acceptable product? Thank you for all of your help!

If you properly buffer your KH your ph will stabilize just fine.  Alkalinity like iron or any thing else in your system has to be maintained. Nate is wrong PH will not suddenly and randomly drop if you properly maintain your KH. As some one who's kept everything from 4,000 gallon reef tanks to green houses full of koi to betta bowls and more i can speak from experience that he is flat out wrong on that. Your PH will fly around if you have no alkalinity yes but it will do the same thing with out calcium or magnesium as well its just a basic party of water chemistry that must be maintained and tested regularly. I'm still working on my informative blog post about all of this with the holidays and such but I will put the record strait on all of this shortly.

Wow that's a pretty bold statement. I am not sure what you are saying Nate is wrong about. You are saying that if you properly maintain your KH that your PH will not suddenly drop. I don't remember Nate saying anything about KH so how can he be wrong in his statement?

The statement I read is that your PH can rapidly decrease once all of your carbonates are consumed by the nitrification process. I have just experienced that very thing. I had a constant PH of 7.6 for several weeks. In 5 days, the PH dropped from 7.6 to 6.0 without adding anything to the system. Thankfully, my fish didn't flinch and my plants absolutely loved it! The growth has been exponential.

I am not speaking of KH and not denying that you are correct about KH but the statement Nate made is valid. I think it is fair to say that Dr. Nate Storey, Ph.D also has a bit of experience from which he speaks. 


He's also very wrong on a lot of things in more than one of his videos. He has an old understanding of chemistry that has since changed. I've read his stuff he's not wrong on a lot of thing buts its not practical or wouldn't work outside a lab setting or with hydrates is way more work and way easier to screw up than just properly buffering your water. Again when I get a minute I'll have a detailed blood post explaining why he's wrong about KH.

If you would be so kind, please include the exact, verbatim quotes by Dr. Storey as well as your detailed explanations as to why he is so wrong. Some back up documentation regarding the "changed understanding of chemistry" would be especially helpful. 

So far, I have found Nate's information to be very useful and I have been using his methods quite successfully. But if you have better and easier methods based on new science, I am sure this community would be very happy to learn from you. 

There is one thing that is troubling me though. Dr. Storey earned a Ph.D. in Agronomy in 2011. How old can his understanding about chemistry possibly be? 

Anyway, looking forward to your informative blog. 

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