Aquaponic Gardening

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How are people tackling the bugs that find our systems?  I've been using a combination of beneficial insects (mainly ladybugs) and spraying with insecticidal soap when I have to...but I worry about the effect that using too much of that might have on the fish.  If a plant is pretty small (lettuces, greens, beans, peppers) and is pretty bug infested I'll take it out of the media and let it soak in the fish tank for about 15 minutes. the bugs drown, and the fish seem to love them.

I know some people use neem oil with success.  What are the downsides?  What else do you guys use?

Also, my most buggy plants are salad greens and peppers.  They've stayed totally off my herbs, broccoli, and tomatoes.  What have other's experience been with this?  Any hypothesis as to why?  Travis thinks it has something to do with nitrogen levels...

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Does anyone know of a remedy for spider mites/soft bodied insects that doesn't include oils? (neem oil, garlic oils, lavender oils etc)... I mostly get mites on my peppers and have noticed that peppers are especially sensitive to any recipes/remedies that include any sort of oils. Small young pepper plants much more so than older plants. Even small amounts of oils (3% to 4%) seem to really burn their leaves pretty bad. None of my other plants have ever seemed to mind the oils much, but the peppers...always.

Now, I understand that aphids, mites, most all soft bodied insects breathe through their skin and the oils are what suffocates the little buggers, but spraying small pepper seedlings with oils to kill mites seems akin to to trying to kill a mosquito with a 12 gauge shotgun (more harm than good).

Straight water just seems to knock them off the leaves, but they just crawl right back up. I have started brewing up a batch of worm tea, but don't know whether the chitinase (thought to be responsible for worm teas insecticidal properties) will have any effect on mites?

I've got about 230 small pepper plants, so I'm willing to experiment somewhat with any of your suggestions. So far, I've been killing them mechanically by squeezing them between my index finger and gently rubbing them til they pop. Though this works great and is effective, it's pretty much a pain in the ass with 200+ plants.

Things that people have actually tried and had success with would be most welcome. Also, any store bought sprays and such most of you could mention would be useless to me because of my location.

 If those plants are in flats and not in your Grow beds yet I would recommend "dusting'" them with diatomeceous earth and cut those soft bodied bastards but good!

Heck, if you have a dust mizer, I'd say dust the plants with DE even if they are in the aquaponics.

What about grasshoppers? I have been hand picking them, they are winning the fight. They have me outnumbered.

I have lost two lettuce crops to the aphids.  The first was an almost total loss.  With the second, I got green lacewings to eat the aphids.  Only moderate success there.  Now I wash down the beds every three or four days.  It seems to help with the bugs and it doesn't bother the fish.  I'd love to hear of other solutions.


I have bugs/fungus and would like to fight back with worm tea. Would like to get some recipes. I found the following site with instructions on making worm tea, was wondering if it was similar to what aquapons are doing.


Russ - I'm also attempting to combat bugs and fungus with worm tea. That video you sited is pretty much how I made my worm tea. I found this manual on compost tea that you may find useful -> The Compost Tea Brewing Manual by Elaine R. Ingham, PhD. There's a ton of information in here. Another useful document from the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA) is a free download called -> Notes on Compost Teas  Good Luck!

  Hi Russ,

   I looked up the "recipe" on the link.  I do have a few comments.  In order to effectively fight insect pests and plant maladies, you do need a concentrated ratio of worm castings to water...and then increase the  beneficial microbial population from there.  The recommended recipe is for 2/3 cup of fresh worm castings added to one gallon of non-chlorinated water. Add your 'sugar"/food source of 2-3 TBPS per gallon water. You  can multiply this factor for larger batches.

    The text at this link also tells you that for storage, to refrigerate in a sealed container.  DO NOT DO THIS. (caps for emphasis only.)  You run the risk of an explosion of freshly brewed worm casting tea in your frig..  Yes, I realize the cold temps will slow down microbial processes, but this is a dangerous recommendation to make across the board.  Never keep brewed worm casting tea in a sealed container..  Also, given the non-lab like conditions in which most people make their worm casting tea, I do not recommend introducing a container of this into a refrgerator your keep your family food source in.  Yes, the worm casting tea is generally safe...but we are talking about cautions here. No health inspection would pass a refrigerator containing freshly brewed worm casting tea being stored with a family food source.  Thank goodness there are no 'refrigerator police', for now.

  It is very important to note that when you are using worm castings to fight insect pests and plant maladies, you want fresh worm castings.  Live ones.  If you have to buy worm castings from a store, do not buy them if they are in a sealed non-breathable container, or if they are dried out.  You need the naturally occurring microbial population to be live, so you can "grow" it/increase it in the brewing process.  These microbes need air circulation and moisture to stay alive in the worm castings, which is why a sealed plastic bag or jar is not a good place to store worm castings.  Worm castings which are stored this way will still have the amazing plant available nutrient content, and are still a great nutrient boost for plants and soil. Worm castings also need moisture to support this microbial population live.

  There are some things which differ in worm casting tea brewing on our  redworm farm as opposed to what the info on that link mentions...but for the most part, the rest of the information on that link works. I cannnot get the video link to work though because our computer speed is too slow, so can't comment on that part of the link.

   Here is a recipe we recommend for use to fight insect pests and plant maladies:

        1 gallon non-chlorinated water

         2/3 cup pure worm castings

         2-3 TBSP table sugar or molasses

          Add above ingredients and put in a container with an air stone connected to a fish tank pump.  Aerate for 12-24 hours (24 hours+, recommended).  After this, apply to your plants using a sprayer, coating the plants completely with the freshly brewed worm casting tea. Use tea within 18 hours of removal from aeration source. Do not store in a sealed container.

  We brew our worm casting tea  by the barrel. Local organic farmers use our worm castings and freshly brewed worm casting tea with great result.  You should be able to have good results too.  Let me know if you have any specific question.  You can send me a private message if you want more detail.

  The article by Elaine Ingham that Steve recommends above is a very good source of information.

   I wish you the best in your efforts to get the fungus and bug onslaught under control!


- Converse

Russ Grant said:

I have bugs/fungus and would like to fight back with worm tea. Would like to get some recipes. I found the following site with instructions on making worm tea, was wondering if it was similar to what aquapons are doing.


Some online articles have suggested that creating a hostile environment for pest bugs could be another approach instead of fixing problems as they arise. They recommend trying a combination of growing catnip, lemon grass, lavender, marigold, and introducing ladybugs and/or praying mantis (apparently praying mantis eat a larger variety of insects including aphids, beetles, and worms compared to lady bugs and on average eat 20 bugs each day). Seems to make sense but would be hard to experiment with quantifiable evidence.

Can you open the greenhouse up more?  I watch the birds and beneficial insects go in and out of my greenhouse all day long. If not, can you modify it some to allow more interaction with mother nature? just a thought.

Sylvia Bernstein said:

I agree TCLynx about stressing less, and that is definitely my attitude when I'm outside for the summer. When you are indoors or in a greenhouse, however, you unfortunately need to pay pretty close attention because bugs can get out of hand pretty quickly without good bugs and birds to keep them in check. I'm moving out of my greenhouse and on to our deck in a few weeks mainly because I can't keep the greenhouse cool enough. The best part, though, is that I can stop worrying about bugs for about 5 months!

i recently read that you can make an easy pest deterrent with cucumbers and an aluminum pie tin..

cut up the cuke, place in the aluminum pan, put the pan in or right next to your gb, the chemical reaction will keep quite a list of pests away

I'd like to see the studies on that one. It sounds like magic and not tested science. i recommend the book The Truth about Garden Remedies by Jeff GIllman. He tests organic pest control methods and illustrates which work and which don't. 

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