Aquaponic Gardening

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My apologies, I am sure this is covered, but I couldn't find it.  

My system is pea gravel, out of cost necessity. It has worked great, I have flood/drain bell siphons. The beds are 2 feet wide by 8 feet long, and 12" deep.  I have TONS of red worms in my gravel, and they seem to be thriving.

My fish (KOI) have gotten quite large, and that's great... but I have a LOT of fish poop, and so naturally, I have TONS of gnats. My beds are almost completely clogged, I am so discouraged. I am sure the solution is solids removal, but that adds a whole other component to my system that I had wanted to avoid.

My questions:

1. Is there a simple way to filter out the solids (likely to feed to redworms in another place). I have been putting coco-mats under the inflow outlets that go into the beds, and these seem to help (a lot collects there). Looking for better ideas.

2. What is the best way to CLEAN my beds to get the solids OUT! They are jammed full. I have tried using a hose and putting a tall stand pipe into the outflow to the fish tank and try to agitate the solids out. This seems very inefficient.

3. Do worm castings ever break down and become consumed completely or are they adding to the solids?! I just keep wondering. There is no odor in my beds whatsoever, thank goodness.

Thanks for your patience. I will keep trying to find other solutions.

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Theresa, try Rob Bob on youtube. He made a radial flow filter to remove the solids, seems to work pretty well. He also has a video on cleaning your gb's with an attachment that he connected  to an air pump. Hope that helps. We're still in the building stages of our  AP system so i haven't tried it yet.

Thank you so much Joe! I will do that. It's so frustrating, things were working so well. Now they are all plugged up!

Fish removal is where I would start. How many fish do you have? How much feed are you putting in your system? If you are higher than 20-30 grams per square meter of grow bed than you are overfeeding the system.

can the beds be disconnected? if so, disconnect one, flood the bed, and try to stir up the media, drain and repeat as necessary (you can use the water in your garden/yard).. if you can, replace some of the media with larger media (river gravel)
and get some worms in your growbeds (red wigglers, can usually be found in bait shops)
adding an RFF should help but maintenance is required (draining sludge regularly)
I recently had the same issue, and I simply added a swirl filter between the FT and the GB's. In my case the GB's are cleaning themselves out. Worms keep working over the solids, and allowing the water to penetrate areas that have been clogged for a while, causing the solids (little by little) to make their way to the blue barrel swirl filter. I drain the sludge about once per week, and I am consistently surprised how much accumulated (considering nothing was removed for over a year previous). It has been about 6 weeks, and the gravel is clear to the bottom again, and the worms have exploded in population with the increased habitat.

In another group of beds, I ended up moving the FT's to another area, and simply disconnected the clogged GB's completely. They are now simply wicking beds, and 4 years worth of solids (in lava rock flood and drain beds) are acting like raised planters.

Thanks everyone. Good ideas.  I am very pleased that I have just millions of red worms in my beds, so maybe I don't have to have an elaborate solids filtration system, just something to take the load off... and probably another grow bed or two to handle the amount of fish I now I have.  I certainly won't be adding any fish!!  I have created a sort of make-shift solids filter with a couple of containers using just gravity, and that seems to be collecting a substantial amount. PLUS I am manually draining the beds and letting them have more time between filling to give the worms more opportunity to work the mucky areas until I can get them all cleaned out. Wishful thinking maybe, but with my schedule, it's about all I can do for now. Thankfully I have a couple of beds that are fully functional again and seem to be keeping the water balanced.

Thanks again for your help. SO appreciate it.

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