Aquaponic Gardening

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 Ok so I am working with my first AP system.

275 gal IBC as fish tank.

2' X 4' X 12" (11" media) times 2 Grow Beds.

2' X 4' X 10" (10" media) single bed.

4 air bubblers in fish tank.

10 constant flow terrace bucket system. (bucket half full of clay pebs, water falls in top washes pebbles exits bucket thru bottom, No Standing water ((not nft or raft))).

So I tried to use Murry's technique of adding water MaxiCrop 1 qt into 250 gallons and added plants.

Waited two weeks and introduced 1 catfish 2 red ear perch.

Cycling tested via API Master Freshwater, showed cycling as expected, all be it slower than expected. Water was at about 60F. Ammonia showed then subsided to the nitrite. Had an algae boom as spring started. Nitrite climb into 5ppm. One perch died. Stopped feeding and nitrite subside to nothing but no nitrate readings. (I have plants in system) Elected to add 25 small Tilapia hoping to bring my system to about 1/2 fish capacity (but fingerlings).

Now it is two weeks after adding Tilapia and I have no readings of anything (other than ph 7.2). However the fish feed almost entirely on the Algae that grows sparingly on the inside of the IBC. I cant measure intake or weight gain. Visually they appear to have put on no mass. They will not eat and half lie lethargically at the bottom of the tank while the other smaller ones stay very near the surface. The ones at the surface might be gulping air, not real obvious though seems if the just like to hang there. (have air in tank) Several fish appear to be Dying with a single Tilapia dead.

Known system possible problems.

Close to not being able to turn over 275 gallons in an hour. (600 gallon pump running two 15 minute intervals per hour.)

55 gallon sump barrel has lots of clay and general gunk in it from System (looks expected, broken clay ball, red sand etc.)

BLUE unidentified pool liner, lining the grow beds.

Tried multiple types of food to encourage fish to eat. (Excess removed*, what I could)

Any ideas or encouraging words?

I guess it is OK to not see the Nitrate if the plants are eating them but I fear something else is amiss. Since test are good I am leaning towards bacteria if it is a problem I can do something about. Just hesitant on salting the tank as I feel now I am blindly guessing at problems and throwing a solution at it that might be multiplying the problems.

Thanks in Advance


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I would question aeration.  Temp was border line for tilapia.

How did you make out ? 

The system is now in its second year. Not entirely sure if I know what was wrong however this year I have spent more time guessing at my mineral shortages. I believe potentially I have always had a shortage of not just nitrogen. I have added calcium, pottasium, iron seem to be doing better this year. Aphids seem to be my biggest concern now. I am growing in open air so my lady bugs seem to fly off. Tomatoes grow like wild fire but everything else seems about the same as ground grown or a little less. No fish deaths in abut a year, but I do have to move them indoor thru the winter, so sort of a pain to have to swap fish. Bought a Chinese aquarium heater but didn't trust it this year to keep the water temp up, will be ablessed to watch more closely this fall.

In all the system works just not all that great but I feel over time as I learn to identify what my leaves are telling me it can improve. Without all the proper testing equipment it is difficult to assess and as we all know it takes time and money to collect the tools you need and even then sometimes I stare blankly at my PH meter when it swings .5 within two tests back to back.

Think I need to find a local growers group to combine knowledge about the deficiencies and just general plant health in order to really feel like I am learning and controlling the system.

Thanks for asking.

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