Aquaponic Gardening

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I'm just getting into Aquaponics and this is my first experiment.  I am running a 20 gallon fish tank (FT) and a 21.5 gallon grow bed (GB).  My auto siphon is set at the 20 gallon level in the grow bed leaving roughly 1 1/2 " of dry gravel on top.  The total GB depth is 15".  I started cycling the system three days ago using the Peemonia method.  Two days ago I added a hefty amount of bio active water from filter squeezings from my local fish store.  Within the last 24 hours my FT has turned a very cloudy yellowish color and my GB is starting to smell like my kids diaper pail.  I haven't begun to heat the tank but I'm considering it because the outside temp is sub zero and the room the tank is in is around 60.

My levels are:

pH = 7.4

Ammonia = 4ppm

Nitrites = 0

Nitrates = 0

Is this stink normal in the cycling process?  Can I expect it to subside as the bacteria colony establishes?  Will the tank clear up during the process?  I'm afraid that the stink may get me and the system kicked out of the house and into the cold.  

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Some additional #'s.  I'm moving approx 8 gallons every 14 min from siphon start to siphon start.  My flood is 10 min and my drain is 4.

My GB media is 3/4" gravel from my local quarry.  (No limestone/ sandstone to worry about here in AK, it is all glacial deposits)

I imagine most of my situation is from chilly h2o.

Hi Keith,

You may want to look at your temps. Read here

Thanks for the article Harold,  

I just bought a heater and checked the h2o temp, a balmy 58.  Guess the house is colder then I thought.  Heater running, perhaps the tank will warm that room a bit as well.

My wife made a comment that the house smells like piss. Oh boy.

Ooh, bad smell is probably the number one discouragement for your wife to let you keep that system in the house. Hope it clears up for you. It took me forever to talk my mom into letting keep redworms in the garage (not to mention the black soldier fly larvae that I'm wintering in there :) I would recommend a partial water change and then use household ammonia or some other source for your cycling. That and some air freshener :)

Hi Keith,

Ideally you want to pump with a turnover rate the entire Ft volume within one hour, although more than this, in your case will be better. An aquarium bubbler, or any other method of adding more aeration, spray bar etc., will also help with the smell. I know some people do it, but it may not be too good of an idea if you do a water change, to add household ammonia because of the additives it contains.

I was referring to a 10% janitorial solution that is just pure ammonia, no additives. Ace hardware carries one. Sorry, household ammonia was probably the wrong term. The point was: pure ammonia from a bottle.

OK so now that my h2o is up to temp (78) my pH spiked to very dark green.  I'm guessing somewhere above 8ppm.  So I did a 1/2 volume h2o change.  

My entire house smells like a urinal.  I wouldn't recommend to anyone cycling with urine.  Each drain of the GB aerates the piss smell out of the back room and into the main house.  I'm starting to agree with my wife that this is a very bad idea.

I'm going to give it 36 more hours if I don't see a smell reduction after that then I'm done.  I will drain and wash out the FT and start over using fish to provide ammonia.  What a catastrophe. 

Has anyone had success using urine?  If so where have I gone wrong?

Did you bottle your urine and let it "age" for a while? It takes time for pee to break down into ammonia. If your ammonia level is on the rise now, that could be what's happening.

i wouldn't recommend urine to anyone but a prisoner. ...go with a few gold fish, then add more. im not sure why anyone suggests any thing other than fish.. the goal is to get fish poop into the system... go with fish poop.

Rob, the goal is to get a good ratio of plant essential elements in your system. Not necessarily fish poop.

My whole 18,000 litre system and all the plants in it is being run with humonia (properly aged of coarse, so that I can get a proper reading with the NH4 test). Not a single fish in the system. The "jump start" you get with humonia is INCREDIBLE...and no fish to worry about need to piddle around, withholding feeding because of nitrite spikes, worrying about NH4/NH3 concentrations, pH and temp related un-ionized ammonia issues can dive right in and concentrate on getting a thriving bacterial colony going while cycling and have your plants do great pretty much right of the bat to boot...There are TONS of micro and trace elements present in humonia that your not going to get with 'janitorial pure ammonia'...from ammonia you get just nitrates...there are 12 other plant essential elements that plants require for proper growth, many of which humonia will provide... (and no solids to mineralize either :)

But just like with EVERYTHING else in life, there is a RIGHT way, and a WRONG way to do things.

I've run many a system using humonia as the primary plant essential element input (most of them indoors) with no problems whatsoever. I've Never had ANY problems with any kind of "smells"...

I'm guessing that Keith did not age the urine long enough for the urea to hydrolize into ammonia. So when he tested for ammonia he was getting unrealistically super week readings...Then when time and pH did there thing...WHAM-O-...Toxic ammonia soup...

oh,.. well than thats why one would go with humonia... thanks again for the thorough explanation... see folks, there is always something new to learn in ap.

Yeah, it's a great hobby and I'm always learning new things...

I didn't mean to sound like I was jumping on anyone...It's just that I get a little defensive about humonia/pee-ponics...the same way I get defensive about aquaponics...when someone say "AP is crap. It doesn't work...I tried it and all my fish died and my plants didn't grow..." etc...

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