Aquaponic Gardening

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Sylvia, my husband & I came to visit you a few months back.  We really enjoyed seeing your setup.  We are trying to make our system work but I keep having problems with the plants.  At first it was aphids so we bought some ladybugs and that seemed to help but they slowly all died.  Now I think it might be spider mites.  I have been spraying with neem oil and seems to help.  My plants just seem to die off before they finish producing.  I'm not very knowledgable about gardening yet.  I've attached some pics to see if you might have some input or advice.  Not sure if my problem is bugs, not enough light ( our system is inside), or something else??  The peppers seem to produce but then they just wither up before they are mature and the leaves are falling off.

I'm kinda frustrated at this point.  If I need more light, I'm just not sure the expense in electricity can be justified.  The fish seem to be fine.


Would appreciate any advice,

Michael & Elaine Sanders

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Ian? You still there? Hate to pester, but would love to get some answers about those predators. Thanks.

alright mate sorry i havent been on for a while been very busy with work. i dont have much experience with that sort of scale but i have given your problem to a friend of mine and he will get back to me with some reccomendations i will post next week when im near a computer again. sorry its been ages

Thanks for the reply, Ian. I really want to put faith in predators, and it sounds like your experienced. So, mind if I ask a few questions? Good, thanks.


Suppose I have a have 2k' GH, what is 2K? 2000 square meters?


with various crops, and I have it under control with some sprays, DE, etc.; but if left unchecked I would have problems with spider mites, aphids, ants, and white fly and some caterpillars.


How much of what kind of predators do you recommend? Approx cost?


Spider mites – Ambly Californius sachets when plants are large enough, these will do thrips too. Replace every 4 weeks. 1-2 sachets per m2. 2000 Phytoseilus to control any hot spots/outbreaks. 1 bottle per 500m2 max, or 100m2 for quick control.   


Aphids – ACE mix. This product contains the mummies of three different parasites: Aphelinus abdominalis, Aphidius colemani and Aphidius ervi, which will attack many different species of aphids. Mummies will produce 500 adults). Use at at first signs of Aphids, reintroduce every 4-8 weeks depending on pest pressure. 1 bottle per 500m2.


Ants – not really a pest but they do farm aphid. Nematodes applied to the nest areas works well.


Whitefly – Encarsia Formosa introduced when fist whitefly is seen, 1-2 cards per m2. Reintroduce every 4 weeks.  


Caterpillars – difficult to control but nematodes will work on contact. Small pack will treat up to 120m2. Spray foliage with water first, then nematodes.  



How many re-stocks per year?


See above


How do HID lights affect them?


Most mite predators prefer longer day lengths, although temperature is more important. None like cold conditions.  There is lots of info online about what conditions are best for each bio-control.


Strong oscillating fans?


No problem, as long as they are above the crop. You wouldn’t want strong fans blowing plants anyway.


Now, if they're are doing there job, everything's all good, and you get some powder mildew, can you spray any fungicide without nukings the predators? Worm tea?


Sprays are fine, as long as they don’t have any effect on insects. Worm or compost tea is a good. Chemical sprays for mildew may have some negative impacts on populations, particularly sulphur. Use a bio fungicide like bacillus subtilis (Bud Rot Stop, Serenade etc) or Potassium Bicarbonate- which is great for mildew control.

hope this helps mate, for costings id find a supplier near you as i have no idea as to prices apart from here in the UK.

Potassium bicarbonate is also good to have on hand for aquaponics system buffering and potassium supplement so that would be a good choice against powdery mildew.

With many sprays you should be careful that they are not going to affect the aquaponics (especially anything with any soaps or other spreader/stickers or oils can be detrimental to aquaponics so use with care to avoid getting it into the system water.)

If I have spider mites, should I rip everything out and start over?

Sylvia Bernstein said:

Sorry for not jumping back in here earlier, Elaine.  Busy day yesterday.  A ceiling fan won't do it because that is mainly pushing the air down, which doesn't really affect insects because they tend to live under the leaves.  What you are trying to do is emulate a constant breeze, which the insects find pretty annoying.  Needs to be a horizontal breeze.  I use a couple inexpensive oscilating fans from Target.  Good air circulation will also help with mildew and fungus.


I totally agree with AJ - if you are seeing spider webs you are screwed.  I just ripped out every strawberry plant in my greenhouse a couple weeks ago because of GD spider mites.  You have to go into pretty toxic territory to get rid of them once they are at that stage, and I'm not going there.


I use insecticidal soap for spot treatment and neem every other friday in the trouble spots, and beneficial insects as I think about it.  Generally works...except with spider mites    If you go to our website under Insect Control you can see some products that I'd recommend...and use.

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