Aquaponic Gardening

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i'm new with questions i recently met  a guy that has indoor aquaponics artificial lighting , tolopia, fed comercial food. he gave me tomatoes ,he can,t get them to produce even medium size fruit. The taste was flat no flavor.If thats what can be expected for flavor I'll give up on tomatoes.Any advice? thanks.

 

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I think the 'generic' answer you'd get for system maturity is 6 months to a year...This seems to be supported by some AP vs. Hydro research/side by side comparisons that have been done. Though there seem to be a number of ways around this.

Cycling with hummonia (aged pee) should give your system a nutritional advantage from the start. Finding ways to add Phosphorus and Potassium to those heavy feeding plants like tomatoes without negatively impacting your new system is the 'trick'...Foliar feeding in combination with some other things might be a way to do it. This is something I've given a bit of thought to, and here is the best I've been able to come up with so far...http://aquaponicscommunity.com/group/fish-less-systems/forum/topics...

As far as starting over each spring? Maybe someone else could chime in, but it seems highly unlikely that the bacteria would survive long at or below freezing temps and without a food source over the winter. Sorry, that's probably not what you were hoping to hear...The situation isn't hopeless though as you can keep the seedlings you've prepared in the early spring-time going well in your system with a handful of worm castings brewing above your airstones in a nylon sock, while you are cycling up again. Far from the ideal of not having a winter to deal with, but much better than nothing...

You can overwinter systems so long as you keep the media moist- there's a bit of a slump and recovery in nitrification in the spring. . . 

Also, going back to the original post, tomatoes and artificial light really don't mix.  You need sun for tomatoes- a good tomato is pure, unadulterated, packaged sunlight.  That's not to say it they can be grown with artificial light, but tomatoes are light-hogs and you won't get good production or ripening with poor to mediocre lighting.  And as Vlad says- so many of the modern seed varieties are crap when it comes to tomatoes, you need a good heirloom variety for something really special.

What kind of slump are we talking about here Nate? (Though anything would be better than full blown re-cycling) This is something that interests me a bit. This year we had record breaking (low) temps, for record breaking lengths of time (it figures). Had I been in first year production (with all the other first year expenditures) I might have had to throw in the towel and just keep the pipes from freezing til it let up. I've always half harbored this fantasy that getting back 'online' after such an event, might not take as long as cycling itself, but nothing I've come across (til now) gave much hope of this. This is really good news. Thanks a million for 'chiming in'.

As a beginner, not familiar with all the technical and made up terms you use on this forum, I'm sorry, I didn't understand "slump and recovery". Will you explain, please, because this is very interesting.

I learned a lot from your linked discussion too, Vlad, but I'm still so basic that I dont even have an AP system yet...

Nate Storey said:

You can overwinter systems so long as you keep the media moist- there's a bit of a slump and recovery in nitrification in the spring. . . 

Well, if you can keep your entire system from freezing and keep oxygenate, liquid water around your media, you can keep your nitrifiers alive fairly well.   You want to ease into feeding in the spring to let the colonies rebound- and of course minimize feeding in the winter to minimize DO depletion and also because the low temperature slows oxidation reactions and nutrient uptake by your biofilms.  If you ease into feeding, keeping your levels low for the first 2-3 weeks after thaw, you shouldn't have any problems- your microbes will still be there, it just takes a little bit to warm up and get going.  If you run your system as long as you can into the fall, your spring rebound can be accelerated.

The problem is really keeping the whole thing from freezing completely solid and blowing up your pipes and managing to maintain adequate DO.

Louise,

Nitrifying icrobes are limited by a number of things.  The usual limiting factors are DO (dissolved oxygen), pH and nutrient availability.  In overwintering systems, temperature is added to this list.  Chemical and biochemical reactions are much slower at lower temperatures, so nitrifying capacity decreases in overwintering systems.  In the spring, once thaw hits, the tendency is to go feed those hungry fish, but you want to hold back and make sure your microbes have fully recovered from the winter.  They'll come back with a little warmth and a slow acclimation to ammonia again.  During the winter, they'll oxidize the low levels of ammonia being produced, but you really want to minimize the amount that can be produced by not feeding your fish, or feeding sparingly.  They'll survive.  Maybe the better way to do it is to harvest all the fish and then winterize the system.  Then crack it open in the spring, add new fish and head into spring/summer production.

Louise said:

As a beginner, not familiar with all the technical and made up terms you use on this forum, I'm sorry, I didn't understand "slump and recovery". Will you explain, please, because this is very interesting.

I learned a lot from your linked discussion too, Vlad, but I'm still so basic that I dont even have an AP system yet...

Nate Storey said:

You can overwinter systems so long as you keep the media moist- there's a bit of a slump and recovery in nitrification in the spring. . . 

I can never be sure that the entire system will not freeze through. Even inside the greenhouse, it does freeze. The normally fluffy soil was rock hard in there last week, though today the daytime temperature was + 8 degrees Celcius (46 F), because it was a sunny day. (Outdoor temp of + 2 C today).

When you say "ease into feeding" do you mean there are fish in the system all winter? I couldn't do that, too risky.

DO depletion - finally one of all the acronyms used on this forum that I think I know- Dissolved Organic matter. But what I didn't know was what role it plays in the AP system. Because ammonia is not called DO, right?

Nate Storey said:

Well, if you can keep your entire system from freezing and keep oxygenate, liquid water around your media, you can keep your nitrifiers alive fairly well.   You want to ease into feeding in the spring to let the colonies rebound- and of course minimize feeding in the winter to minimize DO depletion and also because the low temperature slows oxidation reactions and nutrient uptake by your biofilms.  If you ease into feeding, keeping your levels low for the first 2-3 weeks after thaw, you shouldn't have any problems- your microbes will still be there, it just takes a little bit to warm up and get going.  If you run your system as long as you can into the fall, your spring rebound can be accelerated.

The problem is really keeping the whole thing from freezing completely solid and blowing up your pipes and managing to maintain adequate DO.

Louise,

DO is dissolved oxygen and it tells you how oxygenated your water is.  

Yes, for cold-tolerant fish, you can overwinter them in the system- so long as you maintain aeration and you don't have them stocked at too high a rate.  If you're using a fish like tilapia, then overwintering isn't an option.

Ammonia is not DO, but nitrification is closely related to DO.  For ammonia to be converted into nitrite, dissolved oxygen in the solution is absorbed by the microbes, and used in the chemical conversion of ammonia to nitrite.  If there isn't enough DO, then nitrification can't take place- this usually isn't the biggest problem for winter systems though, since less ammonia is being produced.  The primary problem in the winter- oxygen is more soluble in cold water, but if there's ice on the surface and sludge anywhere in the system, DO is consumed but not replenished fast enough by diffusion from the air (because of the ice or limited exposed water surface).  So, with all systems being overwintered, a good clean out to remove anything that can decay is important for overwintering to minimize DO depletion (I should have mentioned this earlier).

Much of what Nate is talking about is what people with outdoor ornamental ponds in cold climates must do to keep the fish from dieing over winter.  Clean out as much sludge and leaves as possible and try to make sure at least part of the surface will have an air hole for air exchange.

And if the system is big enough in the greenhouse you may be able to keep things circulating even without fish.  Insulation and covers and something to keep the pipes from freezing might keep the bacteria alive so that spring start up won't be as bad as starting all over each spring.  As Nate says, you have to ramp up slowly in spring since the bacteria will have been starving all winter and will be a bit slow to recover.  It will be like a mini cycling back up instead of the whole 6-8 weeks.

With a high quality fish feed and some judicious supplements of seaweed extract and perhaps some other things, you should still be able to grow tomatoes.

Thanks, Nate and TC, I realize I need to go back and dig deeper into the basics of starting an AP system, there are too many gaps in my knowledge yet. I'll have a think, and then I'll write my thoughts in my system introduction, or start another thread.

Hi,  Last year was my first year with the pretty blue barrels.  I did nothing to winterize my system except get a 10 gal aquarium and moved my little goldies inside the house.  I was planning on using the aquarium water, goldies and the filter to restart the system this spring.  I kept a little pond pump going in the FT to keep it from cracking.  The rest of the system is dry.  Amazingly, the media in the GB's is still wet looking, top is dry.

 

Wow, those are gorgeous!  

May I ask about the flavor?  How does the flavor compare to lovingly grown soil-based tomatoes?

Great work!



RupertofOZ said:

I like my tomatoes... here's another harvest..

 

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