Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

this is a site for the aspiring aquapon to post their questions and have them answered by the more experienced members.  No question is too basic!  This is a great opportunity to tap into advice from some of the most experienced growers in the country.  Go for it!

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I have a question about Hydroton as my growing media. I bought some at a local HW store (Mcguckins in Boulder) and spent a couple days rinsing it off. I've got it in my 12" deep bed above a 10 gallon water tank and I have my Flood and Drain system with a Bell Siphon all set up and cycling for about a week now.

I've changed the water twice already, and even now on the third iteration I can see rust-colored residue just lightly coating my gravel at the bottom of the fish tank. The tank itself has just the tiniest bit of cloudiness to it.

Is this level going to be toxic to the goldfish or black mollies I had planned on introducing this week? I can't seem to get the media as pristinely clean as I'd like, but am I worrying too much?
I would say relax a bit. As the system cycles up, the bio slime will build up and small particles will get trapped which will reduce the cloudiness and in a properly mature aquaponic system, the water will have a slight tint of amber (anywhere from yellow to red/brown) to it. Neither of these things is going to bother the fish. My big system went white and completely cloudy for a day after it was cycled and I added new grow beds with shells as the media and I washed them well. The catfish and tilapia didn't seem to mind.
Got it - I was hoping that the introduction of the plants later would help a bit with the filtering, but I suspect I'm still a bit worried about killing off any fish if it is avoidable. Thanks for the tip, again!
Read up about cycling (since you could fishless cycle if you want to reduce stress for both you and fish) and learn about water quality and testing and pH as well as researching what sort of source water you are using. If you are using city water, you will want to find out what the treatment is (chlorine or chloramine since there are different ways to deal with them depending on the situation) or if you have well water or rain water they will affect how you deal with pH and buffering.

Welcome to the addiction.
Hi Brent. Didn't know McGuckins carried Hydroton - go figure. That crazy place carries everything. The discoloration you are experiencing is just the dust from the Hydroton and is completely harmless to your fish. It will settle out soon. And for the record the water in Boulder is excellent - no worries about chloramines, and it is naturally very soft. I haven't adjusted pH in over a year. It's almost too easy here ;-)
I have a question that I can't find any clear info on. When adding additional tap water to my tank to top off - and I find myself adding maybe a gallon and a half a week or so - when do I start to worry - or do I at all - about build up of minerals in the water being a danger to fish? Do my plants also use up enough of the dissolved salts in tap water as micro/macro nutrients to not worry about it? Appreciate any info anyone has on this. As a note, I've been thinking about this because there has been no reason to do any water changes, everything is progressing beautifully cycle wise. So I'm only ever adding water to an ever increasing amount of dissolved salts.
Thank you so much for that! Seattle uses chlorine as well, and I do have water already out and sitting for at least two days before I add any. I wasn't really expecting to find anything else particularly exciting or new in the city water, was just curious if anyone ever had any problems with it. Basically I was looking at the very slight mineral build up line on my tank where it evaporates and started thinking about if there would be a point where there was too high of a build up of minerals since water changes weren't happening and I was only ever adding to the system, not taking away. I've been reading your other posts on here, and seeing the pics of your system, you seem to have quite the grasp on the topic and good experience. Thanks so much for sharing :)

Kobus Jooste said:
You typically will not find info because everybody tries their best to use the best possible water source for their system. Well, rain, and then municipal all gets used, but municipal is likely to have stuff in that no one can measure with home kits. Most people are concerned with driving the chlorine or chloramine used to treat tap water out of their water supply by standing and aerating the back-up water for a few days to a few weeks, depending on personal preference. I do not know much about chloramines - we have chlorine in South Africa and that is easier to get rid of. What else do you expect to have in your water supply? I think most people operate on the assumption that once the choline / chloramine issue is resolved, the water is fine. I ran a system like that for over a year with no fish health issues, but again, none of us have the kind of equipment to try and determine what may be coming from the municipal sources. Is there anything in particular that you worry about?

Ricky Flickenger said:
I have a question that I can't find any clear info on. When adding additional tap water to my tank to top off - and I find myself adding maybe a gallon and a half a week or so - when do I start to worry - or do I at all - about build up of minerals in the water being a danger to fish? Do my plants also use up enough of the dissolved salts in tap water as micro/macro nutrients to not worry about it? Appreciate any info anyone has on this. As a note, I've been thinking about this because there has been no reason to do any water changes, everything is progressing beautifully cycle wise. So I'm only ever adding water to an ever increasing amount of dissolved salts.
Does anyone have any info on growing ornamental plants with aquaponics? For example can you transplant plants from an aquaponics system to a soil/media based container. The reason I ask is I'm a horticulture student and would like to explore the idea of using aquaponics to grow ornamental plants for eventual sale. The savings on water and fertilizer along with reduced labor from not having to water the crops manually is very appealing.
The biggest worries about build up in water would be of things that would be bad to consume because the build up in animal/plant and human tissues. Like heavy metals. But most of us are using drinking water in our AP systems which should be free or at least very low in those things.

Now if you live in a place where salt water intrusion into the water table is a problem, salt build up in an AP system might reach a point where certain low salt tolerance fresh water fish might become uncomfortable and some plants will start to suffer but this is still unlikely to become much of a problem with drinking water seeing as many people add salt to their systems and plants will slowly use salt too.

You notice the mineral ring around the water line of an aquarium, I expect to a large extent that will be lime or calcium, while unsightly, that would not be a problem, it is simply what precipitates out when the pH is high enough that it doesn't stay dissolved in the water. My big system has a white coating all over because of the shells I used as about 40% of the media in that system.

If things seem to be going wrong, a water change might be in order but with the plants and bacteria using up most things that build up in the water from feeding the fish, most AP systems rarely do water changes.
On the question about growing ornamental plants in AP and later transplanting to soil. I've done it.
Mostly when rooting new bamboo cuttings and then transplanting them to soil once they are well rooted. The key when moving them to soil is going to be that the plants are used to the posh environs of an automatically watered and well aerated situation so when you move them to regular soil type situations, you will have to baby them for a bit to get past the shock. When transplanting from dirt to AP that shock is rarely as much of a problem.

Another option might be to test out some potting medias for your horticultural ideas to see what would be compatible with AP. Then design nursery tables where the plants could be potted up with the media and placed in flood and drain tables like used in Hydroponics and they could be watered with AP water that way and avoid the whole transplant shock. This method I have sort of done where I had a shallow AP bed where I would dig the gravel out of the way and sink potted plants with compost into the bed to keep them watered. Some people will warn against such methods but other people use them just fine. One must be careful what is in the potting mix though as you don't want to introduce anything that would be harmful to the fish or bacteria.
Thanks for that, from what I already knew about plants/animals/snails/bacteria using the trace elements, I figured it might be OK - though I wasn't certain about the absorption rate vs. how much I was adding. I also appreciate the clarification about what minerals make up the white ring. It wasn't something that seems to be affecting my tank, but I have still have another 2 weeks or so till a full cycle is complete and this is the first place I found where I can actually ask people aquaponics questions instead of looking up facts and trying to put them together. Thanks everyone.

TCLynx said:
The biggest worries about build up in water would be of things that would be bad to consume because the build up in animal/plant and human tissues. Like heavy metals. But most of us are using drinking water in our AP systems which should be free or at least very low in those things.

Now if you live in a place where salt water intrusion into the water table is a problem, salt build up in an AP system might reach a point where certain low salt tolerance fresh water fish might become uncomfortable and some plants will start to suffer but this is still unlikely to become much of a problem with drinking water seeing as many people add salt to their systems and plants will slowly use salt too.

You notice the mineral ring around the water line of an aquarium, I expect to a large extent that will be lime or calcium, while unsightly, that would not be a problem, it is simply what precipitates out when the pH is high enough that it doesn't stay dissolved in the water. My big system has a white coating all over because of the shells I used as about 40% of the media in that system.

If things seem to be going wrong, a water change might be in order but with the plants and bacteria using up most things that build up in the water from feeding the fish, most AP systems rarely do water changes.
I will keep you posted. I knew going in that smaller amounts of water mean less water for buffering any chemistry issues - but years ago, when I had fish for a hobby, I had lots of luck with smaller tanks and using bacteria as much as I could for min cleaning. I figured with aquaponics I could do the same and do what you suggested, keep a low fish count and still have plenty of dissolved nutrients for my plants. When I move to phase two, it will be a 20 or 30 gallon tank - still not as big as I want, but I'm in an apt in Seattle and one point of this is show people they can do this at home and get food from it. Thanks again, and look for more pics and videos :)

Kobus Jooste said:
Thanks for the compliment about my system - have been researching AP for almost 3 years, but from a very specific interest point - still a bit fuzzy on some issues. I think that your system might pose some unique issues though, as it is so small compared to a typical micro system. Just as small aquariums react differently to big ones, I think small AP may have slightly less flexibility for human error or chemical build-up, thus I think your point of concern is valid. Your plant to fish ratio will have to be over rather than under, as there is very little room for ammonia build-up. I am considering a small system too- my daugter's small 5 gallon aquarium ad a window planter.

Keep us posted about any issues that may develop, and then we will see what scale issues may develop in small systems.

Ricky Flickenger said:
Thank you so much for that! Seattle uses chlorine as well, and I do have water already out and sitting for at least two days before I add any. I wasn't really expecting to find anything else particularly exciting or new in the city water, was just curious if anyone ever had any problems with it. Basically I was looking at the very slight mineral build up line on my tank where it evaporates and started thinking about if there would be a point where there was too high of a build up of minerals since water changes weren't happening and I was only ever adding to the system, not taking away. I've been reading your other posts on here, and seeing the pics of your system, you seem to have quite the grasp on the topic and good experience. Thanks so much for sharing :)

Kobus Jooste said:
You typically will not find info because everybody tries their best to use the best possible water source for their system. Well, rain, and then municipal all gets used, but municipal is likely to have stuff in that no one can measure with home kits. Most people are concerned with driving the chlorine or chloramine used to treat tap water out of their water supply by standing and aerating the back-up water for a few days to a few weeks, depending on personal preference. I do not know much about chloramines - we have chlorine in South Africa and that is easier to get rid of. What else do you expect to have in your water supply? I think most people operate on the assumption that once the choline / chloramine issue is resolved, the water is fine. I ran a system like that for over a year with no fish health issues, but again, none of us have the kind of equipment to try and determine what may be coming from the municipal sources. Is there anything in particular that you worry about?

Ricky Flickenger said:
I have a question that I can't find any clear info on. When adding additional tap water to my tank to top off - and I find myself adding maybe a gallon and a half a week or so - when do I start to worry - or do I at all - about build up of minerals in the water being a danger to fish? Do my plants also use up enough of the dissolved salts in tap water as micro/macro nutrients to not worry about it? Appreciate any info anyone has on this. As a note, I've been thinking about this because there has been no reason to do any water changes, everything is progressing beautifully cycle wise. So I'm only ever adding water to an ever increasing amount of dissolved salts.

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