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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APHIDS!   Arrgh the spearmint that I planted was taken from a pot that was started outside last summer.  I'm covered in aphids now.  So far (fingers crossed) they are only on the spearmint and not any of the other plants.  Following great advice (Sylvia), I pulled the spearmint and submerged it into my hospital tank. (The fish in there are officially off quarantine and awaiting transfer into the main tank tomorrow.)  How totally satisfying is it to watch goldfish go at those aphids like mad fish.  They cleaned off the entire plant in less than 15 min.  I was going to use some organic insecticide, but this was much more satisfying.  With the added bonus that now the aphid protein and nutrients are part of the food cycle.  Yum Yum.


They didnt make it to the growbed.  I think a bunch got sucked in there at the same time, slowed my water flow down to a trickle.  They got a proper burial.

Hey Alex

Don't know what grow zone you are in but If you have a chicken coop you could put a BSF colony in the coop as an auto feeder.

I'm trying to get them started here in N. central tn zone 6 with pinto beans but the temp is too low so I have to wait a couple months till Mom Nature sends them back.

I'm using a 5gl bucket digester design.


Alex Veidel said:

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

Ah Man, Now I have ICH in my tank.  I added my fish to quickly from the hospital tank into the system.  I though after 6 days of no signs or symptoms they would be OK.  Boy was I wrong.  Salt and temp protocol have been initiated, now I have something else to tinker with. Don't want to use any chemicals and compromise the edibility of my plants. 

I've been reading all night.  What I have come up with is a salt solution of between 2-4 teaspoons per gallon of water.  That sounds like a lot.  Anyone have any input or suggestions?  I'm bringing it up slowly, so far I'm at 12 tsp per my 20 gallons of water.  In the morning I'm going to add 12 more tsp.  

Should I take out my crawfish or let him ride it out?

Think the high salt content will harm my red wigglers in the Grow Bed?

This is starting to become a pain in the ass.  

Yup, fish can sometimes be that way (PITA)...I hope that you are salting a quarantine tank and not your system water...right? If your putting salt in your system water, make sure it doesn't contain iodine or anti-caking agents...

You can salt your system for general slime coat health, but those levels are much lower (1-2ppm) than the shock treatment salt levels for treating disease/parasites (4-6ppm) which is usually done in a separate tank not connected to the AP system.

But I'm much more of a 'plant and bacteria guy', maybe someone else could chime in.

I'm not too sure about 'teaspoons and gallons', how big's your teaspoon (grams)? 

Gram? What's that?

Unfortunately my hospital tank is only 5 gallons I don't think it could hold all my goldies.  I may have to try though.  I could stick them in there salt the heck out of it and do a total water change in the system tank.  Problem with that tank is that it is just a tank.  No filter or water exchange.  I add an air stone to help with oxygenation but it gets so dirty so quickly. 

I think I'm stuck with the system tank at this point.  Do you think the salt is going to kill the bacteria in the growbed? I'm using pure sea salt, no additives.

Well...your probably not doing your 'bugs' any favors but if you've got no choice...the total water change may have a deleterious effects on your bio-filtration capacity, probably not a deal breaker though...and the plants might not appreciate that level of salinity...but, if that's all you got, then go with it, and if you end up killing a couple of what. It really would be best though to use a different tank or tanks. (Tupperware a couple 5 gallon buckets whatever) could do daily 1/3rd water changes (manually) in those to keep things bearable for the goldies as you salt them...

sorry...that should read 1-2ppt NOT ppm as well as 4-6ppt NOT 4-6ppm

Vlad Jovanovic said:

You can salt your system for general slime coat health, but those levels are much lower (1-2ppm) than the shock treatment salt levels for treating disease/parasites (4-6ppm) which is usually done in a separate tank not connected to the AP system.

Buckets!!!! Vlad you are a genius! I have a boat load of buckets.  Yes, yes yes.  Now time to find where the snow buried them.  


Perhaps I should just go buy some more fish and start over.  Though I do like these guys, I feel I owe it to them to try and cure them.

Yeah, I think it will be a more fulfilling experience all around to cure them, or at least to try and give it your best shot, than to toss 'em and just buy new ones...

Keith, don't dump the fish. Ich is easy to fight, and if you don't fight it you won't cure it. It will just hang around in your AP system and attack the next round of fish. Ich is sort of like the common cold for fish, and will evidence itself anytime the fish immune system gets weak, just like how we catch the common cold. And, part of the life-cycle of the Ich organism is to make small cysts that drop to the bottom of the tank, and wait til your stank farm gets stanky again to cause an epidemic.

Now, salt will not change your pH, hardness, or harm your bacteria. So rest easy. The only negative thing about salt is that some plants don't care for too much of it, and some fish don't either. So far, I've caused death to nasturtiums, and stalled growth to strawberries from salt, at 5 ppt. I've never had anything but a growth SURGE at salt levels below 3 ppt. Rumor has it that catfish cannot tolerate salt above 3 ppt, and while that is the guideline I go by, I have had no trouble salting catfish to 5 ppt, so not all rules are gospel. For your purposes, a RAPID CHANGE in salinity of 3 ppt is all you need to nuke the Ich. Notice, that is a change in salinity, not total water salinity. If you have no salt in your system, then simply dumping in 3 ppt will do the trick, and honestly, everything will grow just dandy in 3 ppt, even strawberries, so I personally feel no need to remove that salt. Every single tank I have in AP is salted to some extent, from .5 to 5 ppt. BTW, plants and fish need choride, and .5 is the minimum for healthy systems, in my experience.

So, suppose you treat to 4 ppt, all is cured, you leave it alone and grow your plants and fish happily for a while, then have another Ich episode, or some fin rot, or some such protazoan/fungal/bacterial ailment. Now to add another 3 ppt of salt would be too high for your plants (though probably just fine for your fish). So, the easy thing to do there is a 75% water change, which would rapidly REDUCE your salinity to 1 ppt, and this rapid drop is just as effective at killing the parasite as a rapid increase. 75% water changes are a little taxing on your system, so be sure and equalize pH and temp of top up water beforehand to minimize stress. Got it? This would be a major PITA if you had to do it regularly, but it is probably something you will do this one time, maybe never again, so no big rip.

Salt is cheap, and any source of chloride will do. I had a hunch that any chloride salt would do the trick, and I have personally been using either 50/50 mix of NaCl and KCl, for a while now. I finally had that confirmed from a 30+ year fish scientist and aquaculture master a few months ago, that any chloride salt will suffice, ammonium chloride, calcium..., magnesium..., etc. NaCl and KCl are available in 50 lb bags at the water softening section of any hardware or home supply store. At OSH, NaCl is $5 per 50 lbs, and less than $20 per 40 lbs for KCl. Cheap, cheap, cheap. And while the KCl is more expensive, it will give you all the potassium supplement your plants will ever need. One warning, though, and I learned this the hard way. Striped bass are EXTREMELY sensitive to potassium. I killed all 7 of them from a dose of KCL, while the large mouth bass and sturgeon in the same tank suffered no trouble whatsoever.

How much salt to use? Tsp and Tbsp are lousy measurements if it requires more than 2 or 3. The math is easy, so do it that way. Multiply your total water gallons times 8 (8 lbs per gal, approx.) times .001 (1 ppt) times X (desired ppt) and that will give you lbs of salt to add. Powdered salt weighs a little more than water per unit volume, and course rock salt weighs a little less than water. I mention this because often times the layman doesn't have the ability to weigh small amounts, so you can use the old adage for water, "a pint weighs a pound". So a pint of salt also weighs a pound (more or less, depending on the "grit" size of the salt). So...if you have a 20 gallon tank, and you want to end up with 3 ppt, then 20 x 8 x .001 x 3 = .48 lbs. = 1/2 pint = 1 cup of salt. And yes that's a lot of salt, saltier than your pasta water, but that's what it takes.

Blabber blabber, sorry.

Jon, I appreciate your advice.  Truly I do. Everyone on here is such a tremendous help. 

Had one casualty this morning.  The war of attrition begins.

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