This is a pic from when I first set up the tank. I don't have much room - or experience with aquaponics. Of all the systems I read about, I've read a lot that said there are many ways to set up. I decided to use the lava rocks as my bio filter, solid filter, and growing medium. I have a small tank with a larger pump, so lots of circulation and exposed surface area (with water streaming down sides of the central vase) so didn't feel the need for additional filtration. In case anyone is wondering, this set up is meant to be more beautiful than anything else. By the end of winter I want a lush, planted tank that is healthy with min upkeep - hence all the use of glass bricks & vases. I'm also using as many recycled materials as I can.
To my surprise, the tank cycled faster than I thought it should. It cycled without fish, just the two plants (a sickly ficus from a friend that I cured of spider mights and a schefflera in the same condition) that had some decaying organic matter still clinging on the roots. About a week after starting, it seemed ready to go. I'm not using any chemicals in the system, not even to get rid of chlorine (I let the water sit first) - even though I'm not eating the houseplants, I'm going for organic here. Based on observation, plant reaction, and my prior knowledge of tanks & chemistry - I went for fish about a week later.
These are my first two fish. One of them got damaged in the first couple days - then disappeared on his own - very odd.
Since then, I've added two more goldfish, two more aux filters (I wanted max space in a 10 gallon for bacteria) and more plants. I'm currently growing a ficus, schefflera, dieffenbachia, creeping ficus, ivy, spider plant, christmas cactus, java moss, and various terrestrial mosses on top of the filters. The way the filters are set up is the pump directs water through hoses to the bottom of the containers. The water flows up through the lava rocks & roots, then spills back out into the tank. So far everything seems very healthy, the water is nice and clear, and the fish are growing and happy.
The water has remained clear, free of smells & I have seen other life start to flourish such as two types of snails, some baby slugs, and even a centipede (I welcome these critters as part of the natural cycle, plus there's not much room for a population to get out of control). Not just enormous root growth, but also full leaf production. Most plants have shown a significant amount of growth in the past two to three weeks, much more than I would have expected. No yellowing or small leaves, and reaching full maturity. Old leaves also look very healthy. The only thing I did notice was some, not all, of the leaves on the ficus have a warped, crumpled look. They are not dry (it is planted in water, LOL) they are soft and green as a new leaf should be. Then grow bigger into a mature leaf - but look weird. Can't figure out why, its also not the whole plant, just some of the leaves.
The only other thing I noticed (I'm doing a lot on observation and no test kits for this first one because I'm literally doing this on a dime) the other day was my goldfish gulping at the top and a bit of highly foamy water. Wasn't a problem before, but I was thinking low O2. In the pic above you can see a tan line looping down off the main filter vase. That's some natural twine I added to divert some of the water flow away from the side of the vase to drip down on top of the water and break some surface tension and help with O2 exchange. I added four such dripping pieces yesterday - and so far the fish seem happier (not gulping anymore and happily swimming near the bottom of tank now) plus zero foam. Looks like I fixed the problem, I'm guessing as the O2 needs for fish, plants & bacteria went up, the initial agitation was no longer enough?
Anyway, this is my first aquaponics tank - any feedback or thoughts are quite welcome, and I'm new to this site so it would be nice to hear from some more experienced users :)