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Hi guys.  After cycling my system for about 6 weeks and completing start-up without fish, I added 15 tilapia fingerlings 4 days ago.  I fed them a few grams of powdered fish food and they eagerly ate it up.  I followed this with several more feedings the next day.  I think I made a mistake here.  Now 4 days in, I've lost 1 fingerling last night.  Water quality seems cloudy and there's a notable fish smell from the system (the fish food is made from fish by product).  I've tried to keep a detailed AP log and I hope someone can suggest my next steps.  My system is 50 gallons with a constant flood and drain using loop siphons and hydroton.  My growbeds are not full yet, my seedlings are still too young.

Should I do any of the following:

Add composting worms

Add a small swirl filter

Continue to not feed the fingerlings

Change water

Add (Buy immediately) more plants to the grow bed

Add more sea salt to help with the Nitrite.

 

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I'll let the pros weigh in on this, as I'm just started my system up a few days ago,  but it seems that possibly you may be overfeeding....and in any case I'd cut way back on food until you get the water fixed....immediately. I've also read that when water gets that bad, change out some of the water asap to get the nitrites out of the water.  (Maybe also cut down the number of times you feed them to maybe twice a day also). 

Can the pros verify for Fred on this ??

Thanks Brady.  I did stop feeding and won't resume until I get the Nitrites down.  I was surprised how quickly they spiked when my system (on ammonia) had rapidly removed them from the water.

From what I've read and experienced myself... it seems that you will have to be very careful as you have such a small water tank size.  Everything you do has to be in small amounts and steps I think.  You will have to become master of water control I think ...but I think it's do-able.  One more thing I read about a lot on this forum....was algae growing fast.

Make sure you have NO direct sunlight shining into your fish tank.  That algae they say will deplete the oxygen and kill them all real quick !  Water temerature also will greatly effect your fishes response to the different water conditions...whether too much ammonia, or not enough oxygen, or ph being off....it's all related with temperature also. There is a chart somewhere that shows you all these things together but I can't find it now.  Maybe someone else can tell us where it is.

I'm new to all this...just repeating what I've read :-)

I hope you get it all balanced out Fred...

I just posted 10 pictures of my system ...as well as the 2-"volunteer koi" that I put in the tank Friday morning.  This AP stuff is quite a science !

Bradly

Your nitrites are coming down. Wait until they are zero and then feed a small amount. Fish do not require food to keep their body temperature. They use food to grow and move so they actually need much less than you would think and can go weeks with out food. Sure they won't grow during that time but they also won't die. Your system is in it's infant stages... take baby steps.

Thanks for the suggestions guys.  One lesson I learned is how my DO meter works and the delay in getting an accurate reading.  I have a milwaukee meter and it takes up to 30 minutes to burn off any oxygen in the sensor tip if it hasn't been used in a few days.  Early on I didn't realize this and my DO readings are probably too high.  I ended up leaving it in the tank for a few hours and confirmed the reading.  I'm still not trusting the meter so I ordered a DO test kit to confirm and calibrate.  The air pump seems to have helped and I'm still holding off food until my nitrates zero as suggested.  I wish my water was a little less cloudy but I suppose that's normal now that I have fish.

 

Any thoughts about adding a small 5 gallon swirl filter to clarify the water abit?
 
Jonathan Kadish said:

Your nitrites are coming down. Wait until they are zero and then feed a small amount. Fish do not require food to keep their body temperature. They use food to grow and move so they actually need much less than you would think and can go weeks with out food. Sure they won't grow during that time but they also won't die. Your system is in it's infant stages... take baby steps.

Sorry Fred, but I have no knowledge about that yet as it hasn't happened to me yet. My aquarium gets cloudy when the filters are dirty so I just clean them.  I don't know what you can do in AP system. Sorry.  I wonder if they make a little aquarium filter for like a 70 gallon tank that could be adapted for outside use?  Just an emergency idea ??

Your media bed is your filter so you shouldn't need any additional filtration provided that your pump is removing all your solids from your fish tank and your pumping at least the volume of your fish tank once an hour. Your tank should clear in a day or two.

Fred said:

Thanks for the suggestions guys.  One lesson I learned is how my DO meter works and the delay in getting an accurate reading.  I have a milwaukee meter and it takes up to 30 minutes to burn off any oxygen in the sensor tip if it hasn't been used in a few days.  Early on I didn't realize this and my DO readings are probably too high.  I ended up leaving it in the tank for a few hours and confirmed the reading.  I'm still not trusting the meter so I ordered a DO test kit to confirm and calibrate.  The air pump seems to have helped and I'm still holding off food until my nitrates zero as suggested.  I wish my water was a little less cloudy but I suppose that's normal now that I have fish.

 

Any thoughts about adding a small 5 gallon swirl filter to clarify the water abit?
 
Jonathan Kadish said:

Your nitrites are coming down. Wait until they are zero and then feed a small amount. Fish do not require food to keep their body temperature. They use food to grow and move so they actually need much less than you would think and can go weeks with out food. Sure they won't grow during that time but they also won't die. Your system is in it's infant stages... take baby steps.

My Nitrite levels hit zero by holding off feeding so I began feeding again in very small amounts.  I think adding an air pump helped.  Not sure what affect the worms have had yet but they've all burrowed down into the grow beds to do their thing.

One thing new is my PH dropped from 7.9 to 6.5 in about 24 hours.  I did plant a few tomatoes and a cucumber plant to try to help the biofilter.  

Any other advice or should I continue to monitor?

Yes the air pump will help the bacteria do their thing... from what i read most nitrification happens in the water column and the bacteria need the O2.

Now the next critical thing is to get your self some potassium bicarbonate & calcium carbonate (organic) or potassium hydroxide & calcium hydroxide (inorganic) You will need these very soon - like today! Your PH will go too low soon and you will need to use these to buffer against acidification. Alternate buffering with the potassium and calcium. ALWAYS buffer slowly because raising your PH too quickly can cause chemical changes in the water that will burn the gills of your fish.

You can cheat and go to a hydroponics store to buy some PH up which is potassium bicarbonate in solution - but that will be expensive in the long run. While you are there pick up some Iron Chelate (HEDTA) for when you notice your leaves are yellowish and not as green as you would expect.

Thanks Jonathan.  I'll get those right away

Fred,  I just did research and found some potassium bicarb at www.nuts.com for pretty good price.  Check it out and make your own decision.  It was kind of hard to find so I thought I'd give you at least one lead. This stuff mixed with water and put in a spray bottle will also help you once plants get bigger if they develop powdery mildew or other such normal plant problems.

Also, to add to Jonathan's comments... I've been alternating between the potassium bicarb and then builders lime to slowly raise my PH up a tiny bit every day.  NOTE: you have small system... don't use too much. 

For an example... for my system which has over 400 gallons of water in it...I cautiously will  use 2 teaspoons of one or the other(builders lime one day and potassium bicarboate the next time I think PH needs to come up a little).  Then I'll let it mix all day in the system, and then I'll test the next day.  Small amounts at a time...take it slow and try to premix it in as much water as you can so that you don't just dump the powder into the tank...at least that's what I do.

Cycling is a beautiful thing when it happens

Fred said:

My Nitrite levels hit zero

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