Aquaponic Gardening

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Aloha,

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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your pretty clear when your jumping on someone, i didnt take it that way all

i have never considered humonia as an option and am ignorant on the subject.

...but really, thanks for your efforts to help folks on this site, myself included. i look forward to the day when we all have it down to an art and are swapping success stories and boasting profits etc... till then, may we all find happiness and joy in every way!

Thanks Brother.

Hehe, the chemistry/biology seems like the 'easy' part...It's the 'profits' portion I haven't got a clue about. That seems like the real trick to AP. But I'm sure people are slowly making headway even on that front.

AP (or bio-ponics) really is a joyous endevor. Sure puts a smile on your face to watch everything grow, especially when it's grown in such a healthy and water conscious way, the way that it is...

Vlad, Urine is about 8 days young from last pee. 5 days old when I added it into the FT. How long are we looking at for urea breakdown?  Do you need to let it air? I have mine in a sealed juice bottle.

I drained the FT last night and refilled it with clean water.  Without adding anything my pH reading last night was 2ppm from what was left in the bottom inch of the GB.

Thanks all for the "EXPERT EYE's", you are making a case for my keep the system and my marriage intact.  As with most things operator error is the main factor.

Vlad, does the urine turn your tank yellow?  My aged pee is so dark that just a small amount begins to color the tank.  

Hi Keith,

When using urine to cycle you have to ensure that your that you are healthy enough, not on any antibiotics, steroids, or hormones. In agriculture the ratio for using urine is usually 1:8 with 1 = urine and 8 = water. I have used approx a 1: 50 ratio in combination with agric urea for cycling. My only concern is that some percentage of heavy metals are present in Urine and AP being a marine environment.....well. I don't mean to alarm anyone on urine use for cycling AP, and i haven't found any studies on these so far, so I'll wait and see.

If you are unsure about cycling with Urine there are a lot of topics in "Cycling" you can look up and try. The only reason for getting you here in the first place was inadequate water/oxygen turnover, so you can repeat the process again if you wish.

Hi Keith, depending on your body chemistry...you should keep the urine sealed in a bottle (like your doing) for at least 3 weeks. A month or more is better though. A good way to tell if the urea has converted to ammonia is to test the pH. It should be at pH 9 to 9.2.

At 5-8 days, that is just not enough time. What ends up happening is you pour some in then test NH4...and get no reading (or a super low reading) so you end up pouring more and more (way way too much) but your NH4 test wont pick up on 'unconverted urea'. Eventually when all that urea converts to ammonia you end up with a ridiculous amount. Anything much beyond 6ppm (ammonia) will create an "un friendly" environment for the bacteria to establish themselves. 1 to 4 ppm is plenty, and gives you some leeway when dosing. With such a small system, it shouldn't take much. And it may take a few hours of pumping/circulating to get an accurate reading (this is true even when using store bought 'janitorial ammonia').

I've come to believe/find that the darker the pee, the higher the ammonia content (generally)...

Nope, it hasn't discoloured my water ever that I've been able to notice. But my reservoirs are usually darked out, to block excess light (to prevent algae growth). In the big system, where the tank (little over 1,000 US Gallons was nice and white and highly visible...still did not notice any discolouration. All ammonia when poured into water (not sure if this is true with distilled water though...suppose I could check) will cause a cloudy streak that quickly disperses and dissipates.

When you said "...I drained the FT last night and refilled it with clean water.  Without adding anything my pH reading last night was 2ppm from what was left in the bottom inch of the GB...."

Did you mean your ammonia NH4/NH3 was at 2 ppm, right? I'm gonna assume that's what you meant...In which case, that is perfect for now, and you should not need to add any more for quite some time. If you have small leafy green plants (or any plants in the vegetative phase, they will use up small amounts of ammonia to grow...very small amounts though. So you may see a little bit of a drop in the coming weeks (in your ammonia test results). Don't sweat it. About the time you notice nitrites showing up is when you'll see a significant lowering of ammonia (NH4/NH3). Add a tiny little bit, (like a tablespoon), wait a couple hours then test again and just for from there...Note the amount it takes you to a given ppm...write it down (and shoot for the middle of the road 1.5 to 2ppm, but remember anywhere from 1 to 4ppm is just fine...But it's waaay better to make 2 or 3 small additions and a few tests that day, than over shoot your dose and screw up or stall out the cycling process. (Once the bacterial colony has been firmly established for a good while, you can fuck with them and water parameters a lot more...But right now (while cycling) they're like a little zygote that needs to form into a baby, real sensitive. Having a higher pH helps them at the moment so don't bother messing with lowering pH for now. There's really no need. My temps were/are super shitty and nitrification/cycling still occurred, plants still grew and are growing (albeit things move a bit slower, but they do happen just fine)...

Well, I'm sure your marriage will manage to survive...your system too  Use the search field to look up topics/threads like Harold suggested (most everything under the sun has been covered either here or at the BYAP forum). If not then, just ask what's on your mind. Most folks try to be pretty helpful. 

Yeah, anti-biotics and humonia is a pretty big no-no (along with some stuff Harold mentioned). Most recreational drugs (ones that I can think of at least) and alcohol shouldn't be a problem whatsoever. I consider beer "raw material" for the greenhouse/garden (wonder if I can deduct that from my taxes as 'work related expenses'...

I have a "Fish-less" group here that might be of some use (info wise). Theres a bunch of pee related stuff strewn about the various threads... http://community.theaquaponicsource.com/group/fish-less-systems

and other potentially helpful stuff...



Keith Barkwood said:

Vlad, Urine is about 8 days young from last pee. 5 days old when I added it into the FT. How long are we looking at for urea breakdown?  Do you need to let it air? I have mine in a sealed juice bottle.

I drained the FT last night and refilled it with clean water.  Without adding anything my pH reading last night was 2ppm from what was left in the bottom inch of the GB.

Thanks all for the "EXPERT EYE's", you are making a case for my keep the system and my marriage intact.  As with most things operator error is the main factor.

Ahh, I love the aquaponic community! Where else can you have an in-depth disscussion on the merits of urine and aquatic life? Not amongst normal people to be sure! It's so cool to come here and not wierd people out; everyone is on the same page and has similar passions. It feels like you have an instant connection with everyone!

You guys rock.  I thought this was going to be an introduction to my Stank Farm and look what it has turned into.  I have done everything wrong that Vlad has mentioned.  Looking back I see it as a comedy how accurately you pegged me.  

The house smells much better today returning home from work.  Patience is the key word now.

Well, there's only a limited number of ways for things to go wrong (or right for that matter), at this stage in the game, so it wasn't too hard to 'peg' . Believe me, you learn a LOT (sometimes more even) from your mistakes, than your success'. So no worries, just live and learn. (Just don't piss off the missus too much while making them :) 

Keith, test your ammonia every other day or so just to make sure it doesn't rise. If there is any unconverted urea left in there, it will eventually convert to ammonia and you'll see that reflected in your NH4 test results. You should probably be OK now, but it would be wise to keep an eye on it just in case...

Glad to hear the house smells better. Yeah, patience is definitely a key word now. Sometimes doing nothing is the most difficult thing of all.

Also, with that amount of water (20 or 40 gallons...I'm not sure what your total water volume is, it's going to take a very little amount of humonia to get you on the range. If I were you, I'd take a 5 gallon bucket, fill it with water, add 2 or 3 ml of humonia (you can use one of the vials from your test kit, or a bottle cap or what ever...) and do a couple tests to see how much it takes to get you to 2ppm. Then just multiply that ammount according to how much total water is in your system. You get the idea...Say it takes 2ml of humonia to get your 5 gallon bucket to read 2ppm, and you have 30 gallons total in your AP system. 5 gallons multiplied by 6 is 30 gallons. 2ml x 6 is 12ml. Blablabla...But make sure the urine has completely turned into humonia before you do this   (And I'm puling these numbers out of my ass, so don't get hung up on any of the actual numbers I used...But start with a super small amount...like a teaspoon full. don't be fooled humonia is pretty strong stuff)...

If you can/want to...the 'ideal' temps for establishing a bacterial colony while cycling is about between 25 to 28 degrees Celsius. My temps with the new outdoor system were nowhere even near that, yet it cycled. 16 to 18 degrees should be fine (might take a bit longer, but it'll work. Also, most plant roots are fully functional at 16 to 18 degrees, so you'll be good on that side of things as well)...

Man, I hope your not one of those whackos who wants to grow frggin tilapia in a northern or even temperate climate. If so, buy some stock in your local electric company and or logging operation, because they seem like the jewish american princess' of the fish world, as far as heating and keeping them happy and actively making fertilizer for your plants goes...

Hi Keith,

I see you're on course by this time. I did a similar water change in a recent system, with tap water(chlorinated) , the temps were between 75 F and 80 F, and it took about 7 days to fully cycle. This system however was outdoors. I know you've been waiting a long time, so crank up the temps, and best of luck. The time is soon coming when store bought  urea, potassium, iron, and fish feed for AP won't be readily available, making the work people like Vlad and yourself do here now.....priceless indeed!

There should be very little odor from your system.   The only times I've noticed an odor is when the Ammonia or Nitrite levels get too high. I'd check those readings again

Hi Harold...Not sure if you're aware of this tid-bit or not...But here is where MaxiCrop (an often times suggested product, shit, almost touted as a pre-requisite for a new AP system by the AP "gods"...added regularly...and added to take care of the stuff pure ammonia will not provide, yet humonia will) clocks in on the heavy metals side as follows:

Maxicrop  <10ppm Arsenic, <5.0ppm Lead, <0.5ppm Cadmium, <1.0 Nickel,  <0.05 Mercury

Just sayin'...



Harold Sukhbir said:

 My only concern is that some percentage of heavy metals are present in Urine and AP being a marine environment.....well. I don't mean to alarm anyone on urine use for cycling AP, and i haven't found any studies on these so far, so I'll wait and see.

If you are unsure about cycling with Urine there are a lot of topics in "Cycling" you can look up and try. The only reason for getting you here in the first place was inadequate water/oxygen turnover, so you can repeat the process again if you wish.

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