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I have an indoor aquaponics system, this is my first, had it several months now.  Things seemed to be going great, plants really green and growing like crazy with just 3 gold fish.  I added this water sprite plant to the reservoir and about a week after lost a fish.  Well I ended up getting 2 more (for a total of 4).  One of the fish I have had since I set up the system. Its been a little over a month since this occurred.  Well in the past week I have noticed the fish seemed kinda slow and sluggish.  Today, they are all dead.  I have been checking pH, and that has been steady so I know that isn't the prob.  I guess I just wonder if the water sprite could be the culprit or if anyone has any tips or ideas.

I'd hate to keep adding fish to a system that they will just die in.  I know they are just gold fish, but they give me food, and I feel kinda bad when they die so soon.  I hope this is something I can fix or control...

Thanks in advance!

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Katie, 

Have you been checking ammonia and nitrites along with pH?

(Gold fish have been known to be kinda flakey too at sometimes. I remember when my brother and I kept fish as kids, we had a separate tank just for goldfish and guppies, and a lot of them would just die before we ever even had the chance to feed them to the Oscars or Red Devils).

Thanks Vlad,

What is the easiest way to check those??  Is there any other pet store fish you would recommend for a system? 

Any pet store that sells fish should (usually always) sell  nitrite as well as total ammonium test kits. Say Tetra test brand or something similar. They are the liquid drop type tests and are easy to use if you just follow the instructions.

It's really important that you are not somehow building up either ammonia or nitrites in your system, as they will in all likelyhood kill any species of fish that you put in there. I'd probably go with the tests first, before changing species or ripping out the 'water sprites' :)

thanks so much, Vlad!

I have another question... If I find that those levels are high, are the treatments that the fish store sells safe to use in my system with food?  

I'm thinking ammonia or nitrates are too high.  Either that, or someone is over feeding my fish... again.  But I dont think they would all die at the same time were that the case.

Hard to say...I'd probably avoid any "treatments" as this can be easily remedied. Worst case scenario, partial or total water change/re-cycle...or if you never really completely cycled in the first place, and if your ammonia isn't too high you could finish out a complete cycling process without a total water change. You could easily keep any plants going that you care about and may have in there, while you do all this......If it becomes necessary, but you really wont know until you test :)

Ammonia can build up for a number of reasons...Accumulation of un-eaten food, algae die offs, too many fish for your bio-filter to handle, a dead rotting fish, decaying plant matter, introducing an added number of fish is a good way to spike your ammonia and/or nitrites too...in your case you upped your stocking density by 25-33% (as funny as that sounds, by adding a couple of little goldfish, but still...if your system is small and has a small bio-filtration capacity this increase can be significant) etc...

See what the tests say first and/or in the mean time give us a description of your system. Sizes, volumes, bio-filtration type, when did you set this up, were you fully cycled or not etc... stuff like that would would help a lot.

Yep, Need more info about your system in order to help you out.

And you might want to read up on the nitrogen cycle.

This Rules of thumb might help you read up on a few of the basics.

Thanks for your input! I read the rules of thumb and knew most of that already (with the exception of testing for nitrates and ammonia, that's kinda new to me).  I'm going to pick up a test when I hit town tomorrow.

I'm still kinda confused as to what a 'fully cycled' system is?  Also, is the 'biofilter' my grow bed?  What do you mean by what kind of biofilter, what I have in my grow bed?  I'm really sorry about these noob questions.  Finding the more I learn, the dumber I feel

Well I have a 2'x4' grow bed filled with hydroton and lava rock that has been running for about 6 months.  About a 20 gallon tank with a 4 head air pump.  The water pump is on a timer to pump 15 mins every hr.  No heater, but the reservoir is near a heater vent that I keep on during winter.  I don't keep a thermometer in the water, but perhaps I will (already have one, just being lazy I guess).  It hasnt gotten too cold here, and the system is in my living room, so I know the temp stays pretty warm.

I'm growing lettuce, parsley, watercress, and lemon balm in my system.  Oh no, I just remembered I harvested my parsley.... maybe that was more of a filter than I thought and I dont have enough plants in my system now after adding the fish.  Man, small systems really are 'touchy'

Ok so basically a small flood and drain media bed system.

Yep need to hear the results of the ammonia and nitrite tests to tell you much more.

Cycled as in the bio-filter cycled up would mean that you have surviving fish and you don't have any ammonia or nitrite readings anymore or that they are basically 0.

Harvesting the parsley shouldn't have affected your bio-filter much unless you really disturbed the media a lot when you harvested.

Thanks for your reply TC,

what does disturbing the grow media do to a system?  I'm not sure if I 'disturbed' it.  I would think so because the roots were in there pretty good growing like crazy around the hydroton and lava rock.  I pulled out each 'clump or mound' of parsley then pulled the rock out of the roots with my fingers, going directly back into grow beds.  Do you have any suggestions when harvesting?

thanks again!

Usually harvesting isn't that big a deal.  Sometimes in a heavily loaded system, disturbing the media beds alot can cause the water to get cloudy for a time and sometimes even cause an ammonia or nitrite spike so in a large heavily loaded system people usually try not to harvest all their grow beds at once but instead try to stagger their harvests a bit.

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