Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

Hello all!  Im new here and new to aquaponics.  Thought I would show off what I came up with for my first system.  I don't even have nitrites yet but already thinking of going bigger!  This aquaponics thing is highly addictive, isnt it? I learned about AP through a friend of mine who sent me a link to some company in australia.  I hope more people learn about how rad AP is and how it might even save the world(I certainly tell everyone i know!) :>  Here goes...

I wanted to use as much stuff i had laying around as possible so I built the stand for the growbed out of studs left over from my garage remodel.  The rubbermaid tubs used to be for christmas decorations but we had too many of that anyway.  Had to get rid of the animated Mr. and Ms. Claus...darn.  I also had a 250 gallon pump left over from a small hydro system I played around with for a while before I decided organic soil was the way to go.  So i also had plenty of tubing and stuff I had saved because im a borderline hoarder.  I had to buy the PVC, and media.  The media was most expensive.  I settled on a mixture of hydroton and earthrock.  My thinking on this is the hydroton will keep things moist through the drain cycle, while the earthrock being so porous it will let more air to the roots.  Also the earthrock was like $10 cheaper.  Maybe I should have went all hydroton but Im experimenting so Ill see how it goes... now im ranting....sorry

What I came up with is a simple flood and drain which is set to fill in about 20 minutes, and then it only takes a few min to drain.  The 250 GPH pump is overkill for a 30 gallon FT, but I used a "T" and ball valves to return most of that to the FT, which aerates the water pretty well.  Between that and the drain every 20 minutes the fish have plenty of oxygen (I think..), and it also creates a lot of movement in the tank which I read somewhere that fish like(like a stream).  The growbed is also 30 gallons.  I was worried about the water drop when the GB is almost full, but it doesnt seem bad as it is filled with media.  The FT level drops only about 30% or so the fish dont seem to mind but I have to make sure and keep the FT full( up to about an inch from spilling over.  Next time ill go with CHOP or SHIFT PIST or whatever.

So first I put 10 fish in the tank after i let the chlorine evaporate and I figured out the hard way that I left off the cover for the inlet on the pump.  They all got sucked up and I felt bad and had to explain to my daughter that daddy killed all the fish.  Terrible.  Had to fabricate a tube for the inlet so Its not sucking water from one gaping hole, and then back to petsmart. 

Then I got 5 fish.  Just to be safe.  One died a few days later.  Then I got 2 more.  I also picked up a master test kit and after 10 days I still didnt have much ammonia .25ppm, so I got 5 more fish the other day.  I also got 8 lettuce seedlings and washed the roots and stuck them in.  So its been almost 3 weeks now and all the fish and lettuce seem happy.  Lettuce isnt doing much, but it hasnt yellowed much, and the red leaf i got has gotten very red!! 

I made the mistake of using brass fittings to connect the vinyl tubing to the pvc, so I will have to remedy that this weekend when i get more funds...  I will just make the whole thing out of pvc and paint it white i guess, except for the tubing I have to use for the pump as it has a barb fitting.  Im thinking the hydro shop prob has a plastic 1/2" barb to 1/2" threaded fitting or I dont know what i will do. The brass fittings I used (3 total) are def starting to corrode ( that was fast!)

Outdoor temps here in San Diego have been the coldest in years.  down to low 30s. Pretty hardy fish and lettuce.  Looking good so far tho.

A couple questions I have for you seasoned AP folks.

1. how long before I start to see some ammonia.  I put 5 more fish in several days ago and my ammonia is dropping.  I am feeding them flakes and rice.  rice once a day and flakes about twice.  It is below .25ppm, a very light green color when  I test it.  Should I keep adding fish every week or so until I get a spike or just wait?

2.  I added some large coral pieces to the FT when I got the newer fish to add calcium.  Is that ok?  My ph has dropped to about 6.8 after I added coral and 5 fish, it was pretty high like 7.6 or so.  Is that normal? 

heres some pics i took with my phone.  The first is the most recent.  lettuce is looking WAY more red than in the last picture that was about 10 days ago.

Any comments, help or constructive criticism is welcome!  Thanks for reading!


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oops my bad!  I dont know where i got earthrock...its actually called growstone.  My media is half expanded clay and half growstone.

Do you have any nitrites or nitrates yet?

Just got home from work and tested again.

ph - 6.4

ammonia - between 0 and .25ppm

nitrites - 0

nitrates - 0

Seems to be holding pretty steady over the last few days except for my ammonia seems to have fallen slightly.  I thinks me needs mo fish!  Have seen pretty conflicting reports of how many fish per gallon of FT.  one site said 3 goldfish was plenty for a 55 gallon tank (mine is 30 gallon), and another 3 fish per gallon of FT.  Im not sure 90 fish would be very happy in my small tank.  I think Ill put like 5 more in this weekend and see how that goes.  Any thoughts?

Added 10 more fish on Sat.  Starting to get ammonia finally!  Temps here have been up as well.  Should help with the bacteria.  Put in a thermometer also.  Gets into the upper 70s in the FT during the day and it was 59f this morning.  

ammonia - 1ppm

ph - 6.4

nitrites - 0

So far so good.  Four and a half weeks now.  Added a few things..Made an aerator bar for the return to FT from the pump.  Its kind of loud.  So far no complaints about the waterfall on my patio.  Put a screen over the front half of FT.  Also put an inlet in the growbed to help keep temps stable, i think it looks better too...Added one ounce of maxicrop.  Thats about a quarter of the recommended dosing of 1 quart per 250 gallons (if i did that math right...), it didnt make the water very dark and the fish dont seem to mind.  red leaf is looking great and romaine seems to be taking off.  The garlic seems to be kicking butt too!!

ammonia - between 1 and 2ppm

ph - steady at 6.5

nitrites - 0

nitrates - 0

Thinking of adding sharks with frickin laser beams shooting out of their heads!!!  Hope this thread is not as boring as watching this damn thing cycle.  At least the plants are growing!  Bacteria are being STUBBORN

Ammonia - 1 ppm

Nitrites - 0

ph - 6.5

What type of plastic are those bins made from? Is that media guard ABS plastic? 

The bins are Sterilite brand...not sure what type of plastic.  Media guard is ABS I think.  Not sure if Home Depot didnt have the 3" in white, or if I just grabbed the ABS a bad thing? 

I don't claim to be an expert. I'm basically regurgitating what the dude in the grow store told me. He said to avoid ABS at all costs. Something about it breaking down and getting into the food cycle. I didn't really research it beyond that because I was planning on using PVC all along. Might be something worth looking into.

As far as the bins go, plastic has a number code on the bottom.

The best is #2 (food grade)

Good are #4, #5 & #12

Bad are #3, #6, & #7

Again, not sure why they are bad, I just know that the #2 is the best so that is what I went with.  Of course, best = $$$.

Here is what I use, the 22 gallon one. Though my project is a very small bedroom experiment. 

Thanks for the info. 

I just did some research.  Im not sure its worse than pvc. The wiki for ABS says it is damaged by sunlight.  The MSDS for ABS has an aquatic toxicity section that says toxicity level low due to insolubility in water.

As far as the bins I looked on the bottom of one of the lids and I cant find a number.  Cant get to the bottom of the tanks either so I guess I will hope for dumb luck... I wont have that problem when i build my bigger system. Im going to go the IBC and blue barrel route I think...  glad I started small so I can get a feel for it as well as learn as much as possible.

Amen.  I think we are all learning as we go.  

I have a sterlite bin in my storage room, I looked at it while I was out there today.  I didn't see a number on it either.  Things that make you go....hummmm.

Somethings happening here.  2 days ago I tested and the ph had gone down slightly and the nitrites seemed a little darker than normal...this morning I have nitrites and nitrates.  ph is still low tho.  Wasnt expecting to get NO2 and NO3 the same day.

ph - 6.3

ammonia - 1ppm

nitrite - .25

nitrate - 5 ppm

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