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Using Maxi crop with Iron and Worm Casting Tea for plants during fishless cycle.

So I have done alot of research about Using maxi crop with Iron and Worm Casting Tea for plants during fishless cycle. I have a few questions for a few of the experienced people in this community and would love any ones input on it.

My system is currently fish-less cycling at an ammonia PPM of around 3 and pH is around 7.4.  No nitrates or nitrites yet.

1.Is the Maxi crop with iron the best kind to get?  I have seen a lot of people talking about that in my research and wondered what made it better.

2.  How much maxi crop should I use for a 1200 gallon system with 5 ibc grow-beds that are 16 square feet in area.

3. Where should I dose it, in the grow-beds, sump tank or fish tank.

4.  How often should I add the maxi crop?

5.  How do you use worm castings to make worm tea for your system and where should I put them in the system.

6. How much worm castings do i need for a 1200 gallon system.

7.  Is it ok to use both maxi crop and worm castings or is that to much fertilization?

8.  How long will the Maxi crop or worm castings turn the water brown and will it effect water testing.  Examples such as ph, ammonia, nitrate nitrite and salinity. Does it ever eventually clear up and become clear again.

 

9.  Does anyone recommend any companies they use for their worm castings?

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1.Is the Maxi crop with iron the best kind to get?  I have seen a lot of people talking about that in my research and wondered what made it better.

I'm not sure if maxicrop with iron is best or not since there is some info to indicate that the form the iron is in may not be as plant available in aquaponics as we might hope but it seems to work for some people.  I've done well enough using separate maxicrop and a chelated iron product so I can dose them separately when I need them.

2.  How much maxi crop should I use for a 1200 gallon system with 5 ibc grow-beds that are 16 square feet in area.

I believe I originally looked at the maxicrop label and used it's dosing guide.  Don't quote me on this though, read the label yourself. But if it said use 2 ounces in a gallon of water and use that for 100 square feet so then I would just pour those 2 ounces into the grow beds under where the water enters the grow beds.  I would probably say start with a spoon full under the water inlet to each grow bed every week while cycling up and later you will use less, and less often.

3. Where should I dose it, in the grow-beds, sump tank or fish tank.

I always dose in the grow beds under where the water comes in so it will mix as the bed fills.

4.  How often should I add the maxi crop?

I usually add it when the plants ask for it by showing signs of deficiency.  But to start you might use it fairly often like small amounts each week for the first several weeks and then maybe once every three weeks or once a month after that.

5.  How do you use worm castings to make worm tea for your system and where should I put them in the system.

This is a question for converse as to how to make tea (but the tea is really good for spraying on the plants.)  When I cycled up my new system I used a small hand full of worm castings and the worms from my own worm bins that were well aged and didn't get fed any manure.  I just placed the small hand full of castings and worms under the water inlet to the beds.  Worms and worm castings tend to bring with them much beneficial bacteria.

6. How much worm castings do i need for a 1200 gallon system.

Depends on what you are doing with them.  As I said, I used about a hand full of fresh castings and worms (maybe 1/4-1/3rd of a cup per grow bed) but I was using them to help seed the system with beneficial bacteria and worms to eat the future fish poop and old plant roots.

7.  Is it ok to use both maxi crop and worm castings or is that to much fertilization?

depends on how much of each you use.  Maxicrop doesn't provide much nitrogen or phosphorus and worm castings are very gentle as far as the nutrients they provide.  If you are only using several spoon fulls of maxicrop and a small hand full of worm castings per bed just once, then using both will be fine.  If you are mixing up 5 gallons of worm tea and dumping it in the system every week, well that will probably be too much and cause you some cloudy water.

8.  How long will the Maxi crop or worm castings turn the water brown and will it effect water testing.  Examples such as ph, ammonia, nitrate nitrite and salinity. Does it ever eventually clear up and become clear again.

Depends on how much you use and how good your filtration is etc.  Your water will likely take on an amber tint forever more if you are going to use maxicrop and worm castings all the time.  But if you have lots of plants and your filtration is good, then your first dose may turn the water brown for a few days but it will clear up and I wouldn't expect it to mess with your testing too much unless you way over dose.  The water should definitely clear up to the point where you can see everything in the system as well as you can now but a healthy aquaponics system usually has a tint of color to the water somewhere between slightly yellow to weak tea or coffee color but it still should be easy to see the bottom of the fish tank and the fish.  Keep sun off the fish tank water to avoid algae blooms and pea soup.

9.  Does anyone recommend any companies they use for their worm castings?


I recommend fresh worm castings from a bin that has not been fed any manure or has been given at least 4 months to process since it was last fed anything beyond some moisture.  Unfortunately I don't know of any company that ships totally fresh (as in not dried out) worm castings since they are heavier and more costly to ship and not good to store.  I suppose if you are simply using the castings for nutrients then it might not matter so much that they be fresh but I always used them for the beneficial bacteria.  Sorry I don't know of any companies in your area to send you to.  Now if you want worms to start your own worm bin I can send you to the company where I got mine.  Heck I suppose I could sell some of mine but since I'm not really set up to harvest lots of worms or castings, they would cost much in my labor trying to separate them out at this point in time.

Thank you so much TC you are awesome. 

So instead of getting the Maxi Crop with iron and using just chelated iron, How much chelated Iron do you put in the system and what purpose does chelated iron serve? 

Also on the "worm" side of things last night I purchased 2000 red wigglers (Found an awesome price only 29.99 for 2000) from Mr Jims worm farm and I'm going to distribute them evenly in the 5 beds.  Does that seem like to much or is that ok.

2000 Red Wigglers for $29.99 

I am also thinking of starting a worm bin.  Do you recommend them for the fresh castings and of course the worms?  Are they hard to keep up or pretty easy? Can I also use them to feed my fish. Also do you recommend a certain kind of worm bin?

Also I purchased worm castings and wanted to know if you think that these are an "ok source" to use in my beds for the nutrition. 

Worm Castings

When you speak of beneficial bacteria is there anything else other than worm castings I can put into my system that will help add beneficial bacteria.  I had read one of your posts on someones comments once that said you thought allot of those "Bacteria in a bottle" companies where a waste of money because by the time it gets to you and you use it most of it has already died.  Any suggestions on that to aid in the cycling process?

Also something off topic but really has been on my mind.  I am trying to decide what fish to use and how many and wanted to run this by you and get your input. 


From everything I have read that you have commented on it seems that when stocking your fish 1 pound per 10 gallons of growbed seems like the norm. So for me I have 5 beds that are 105 gallons a peice of gravel so from my math I would be able to stock 52 pounds of fish.  Is that correct or could I add a little more.

Also does that mean 52 pounds worth of fingerlings or fingerlings that will grow to equal 52 pounds (Figuring each fingerling will grow to roughly a pound so I am figuring 52 fingerlings)

I want to have a mixture of Tilapia, Bluegill, Catfish and red claw in my tanks to add variety to the dinner plate.  Does that seem like to many mixtures of fish and will it make things more difficult in the means of water quality, breeding and fish health and also do any of these fish (and crustacean) not do well with each other?

Also what Kind of Tilapia do you recommend and use?  I have read allot about blue tilapia being the best strain with the largest plate size in the quickest amount of time.

Do you recommend any good fish breeders that have a high quality fish for the best price.

Thank you so much in advance!  I would love to donate a few dollars to you for all your help.  Do you have a website where I could make a donation to you for all the help you have given me.  You have saved me so much time and effort so far I feel like I should pay it forward to you! 

Hi Brandon,

  TCLynx gave you excellent input, and I will try not to duplicate anything she wrote.

   Redworms are very easy keepers.  In fact, they do best if left alone for the most part, so they really do not require a lot of 'messing with'.  If you feed them, and keep their bedding moist, they will be 'happy', and eat and reproduce like crazy.  As far as what kind of set-up to use, I always recommend going the most simple route.  It is less expensive and the redworms seem to respond to the set-up well.  Of course, there are the stacking units, and some come with quite a price tag.  To be honest, the redworms do not care what you paid for their home.  For as many different designs as there are, you will find someone who will sing its praises.

   So my advice is to go the simple, inexpensive route.  Less to go wrong with it.  Redworms do well in it.  A single rubbermaid or sterilite type tote.  Any size you want.  Just make sure it is not see-through or opaque.  The light that clear-ish bins let through is detrimental to the redworms, and you will find  the matter at the sides of these bins does not get processed by the redworms readily. You want solid colors. Melt or drill holes the size of a pencil eraser head in diameter all over the bin, in the lid, on the sides and on the bottom.  You need adequate aeration and drainage.  No, the redworms will not leave a well managed bin with all these holes. There you have it!  A redworm palace!  If you want more details, send me a private message, and I will give you more particulars on how to set-up the bedding, and manage your herd of worms (also called a "squirm" of worms) in your bin. While I do run a commercail redworm farm complete with huge wormbeds, I also do use  vermicomposting bins, so we do practice what we teach, and are familliar with the successes and challenges of smaller scale vermiculture/vermicomposting too.

 

   It sounds like you already have purchased worm castings.  If you are definately wanting to avoid castings that were generated via manures as feedstocks, this might not be a good source for your AP system. On the bag there should be an e-mail address or website for the place they were generated.  I'd contact them and ask what feedstocks consisted of for the worms.  They should be able to tell you.  Differing feedstocks will produce differing quality of worm castings, so they may not want to tell you amounts of each (sometimes a closely guarded secret in the vermiculture/worm castings industry), but they should be able to tell you the inputs.  If they will not give you that they should be able to tell you whether or not any animal manures were used as feedstocks. Hopefully the the worm castings were not in a sealed solid plastic container. Worm castings need to breathe - they are very alive. A woven pastic/poly bag (like some feed sacks are) is fine. Any castings that have been kept in a sealed container for any length of time will have a dying or dead microbial population.  The nutrients are still there, but the benefit of the micorbes is gone. If it is/was sealed, check the date of packaging.  Also check to see if the castings were pastureized/heat treated - a process that will kill the microbes. 

 

    TCLynx already addressed the rest of the pertinent cautions for worm castings and AP systems. Her advice for placement of worm castings at the inlet is great. You can also top-dress any media beds you have with castings...a light sprinkling.  It will work its way down into the media, and you will find the beneficial microbial population associated with worm castings will then be spread throughtout the bed.

   Worm Casting Tea: 2/3 C worm castings mixed in one gallon of non-chlorinate water.  Add 2-3 Tablespoons of table sugar or molasses (do NOT use honey- it has anti-microbial properties). Aerate with a fish tank air stone for 12-24 hour (24 hours+ is better). Add to your worm beds, or use on your plants.You can increase the recipe to any amount of tea you'd like to make.  We make our batches in huge barrel-sized containers.  Use it/add it to your system within 18 hours of removal from the aeration source. Do not keep brewed wrom casting tea in a sealed container.  It will build up pressure, and can blow the lid off or the container could errupt.   NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION (yes, we have had people insist they'd like to try it), kind of a duh-thing, but these days...... It is completely safe to use around children, pets, and ponds/fish and indoors as well as outdoors.

 

  Yes, you can feed the worms to your fish. (We do).  An added benfit to keeping a vermicomposting bin.

 

 I hope I hit the main questions you had that had not already been addressed. If anything is not clear or needs clarification, please let me know. My best to you as you forge ahead on your project.

 

- Converse

   

@ Converse I wish I had seen this before I bought a worm tower but oh well.  :)  Thank you for all the advice I greatly appreciate it.  @TC I bought some maxi crop from a hydroponic store where I live and the instructions say add 1 oz per gallon.  That seems like ALOT and would be really expensive.  What brand do you use because I would like to go with something that is already working for someone else.

@TC I bought some maxi crop from a hydroponic store where I live and the instructions say add 1 oz per gallon.  That seems like ALOT and would be really expensive.  What brand do you use because I would like to go with something that is already working for someone else.

No you don't use one ounce per gallon in your aquaponics system.  The instructions probably say use one ounce per gallon and use that gallon to water a certain amount of square footage of plants.  I probably use about one ounce per grow bed in my 100 gallon grow beds.



Brandon nardoianni said:

Thank you so much TC you are awesome. 

So instead of getting the Maxi Crop with iron and using just chelated iron, How much chelated Iron do you put in the system and what purpose does chelated iron serve? 

Chelated Iron is to correct iron deficiencies in plants.  They show up as new leaves yellowing but the veins stay green.  This is often due to the pH being high and locking the iron out, chelated iron stays more plant available even when the pH is high.  How much to use will depend on the product you get and how strong it is.  the stuff I get, I usually use about a spoon full per grow bed.

Also on the "worm" side of things last night I purchased 2000 red wigglers (Found an awesome price only 29.99 for 2000) from Mr Jims worm farm and I'm going to distribute them evenly in the 5 beds.  Does that seem like to much or is that ok.

There won't be a heck of a lot of food for your worms in the beds when you first start out so you might want to just put a small hand full in each bed to start and then use the rest of the worms to start up your worm bin.  2000 worms isn't really that much worms though.  I probably started out with about 100 worms in each bed (that is about a small hand full.)

2000 Red Wigglers for $29.99

I am also thinking of starting a worm bin.  Do you recommend them for the fresh castings and of course the worms?  Are they hard to keep up or pretty easy? Can I also use them to feed my fish. Also do you recommend a certain kind of worm bin?

Also I purchased worm castings and wanted to know if you think that these are an "ok source" to use in my beds for the nutrition. 

Worm Castings

When you speak of beneficial bacteria is there anything else other than worm castings I can put into my system that will help add beneficial bacteria.  I had read one of your posts on someones comments once that said you thought allot of those "Bacteria in a bottle" companies where a waste of money because by the time it gets to you and you use it most of it has already died.  Any suggestions on that to aid in the cycling process?

Skip the bacteria in a bottle and if the worms came from bins that were not fed manure then they can be your source of start up bacteria in the beds and if the castings are still live they can provide beneficial bacteria too.  If you know some one with a disease free pond or aquarium, you could get filter squeezings from them.

Otherwise just cycle it up the bacteria will colonize naturally and it doesn't tank that much longer to do it that way then when you provide a starter culture.  What takes the most time is for the bacteria to "settle in" to their new home and really get down tot he business of doing their job.  All the stuff you do to speed the process will only do so much, time is still needed.

Also something off topic but really has been on my mind.  I am trying to decide what fish to use and how many and wanted to run this by you and get your input. 


From everything I have read that you have commented on it seems that when stocking your fish 1 pound per 10 gallons of growbed seems like the norm. So for me I have 5 beds that are 105 gallons a peice of gravel so from my math I would be able to stock 52 pounds of fish.  Is that correct or could I add a little more.

Also does that mean 52 pounds worth of fingerlings or fingerlings that will grow to equal 52 pounds (Figuring each fingerling will grow to roughly a pound so I am figuring 52 fingerlings)

NOT 52 lb of fingerlings.  Most of the rules of thumb figure on the Max size of the fish.  So if your fish might grow out to 1 lb you should only stock 52 fish.  Of course the stocking will depend on the type of fish.  With channel catfish, they grow big so I stock less of them.  With bluegill they tend to stay small so I stock more of them.

I want to have a mixture of Tilapia, Bluegill, Catfish and red claw in my tanks to add variety to the dinner plate.  Does that seem like to many mixtures of fish and will it make things more difficult in the means of water quality, breeding and fish health and also do any of these fish (and crustacean) not do well with each other?

With a new system, I would recommend choosing one kind of fish for your first season so I would say pick one kind for your first stocking.  Tilapia are over rated unless you are in a climate controlled facility or a tropical location since they need water to stay over 70 F if you expect them to eat and grow fast.  Catfish and bluegill can survive a wider range of temperatures but the catfish will grow faster though I only recommend catfish for tanks of at least 300 gallons or more.  I have no experience growing redclaw but I know they need quite a lot of space per creature for what you get from them.

Catfish and bluegill will likely eat tilapia fry if they can catch them and tilapia can be darn aggressive when breeding.

Also what Kind of Tilapia do you recommend and use?  I have read allot about blue tilapia being the best strain with the largest plate size in the quickest amount of time.

I don't really recommend tilapia.  Blue tilapia are the ones legal here in most of Florida for home growers but if you can't keep your water over 70 F they won't eat and grow well in cooler water.  When the water gets down below 55 F you are in the danger zone for tilapia and if the water gets below 50 F they are likely dieing.

Do you recommend any good fish breeders that have a high quality fish for the best price.

The shop tab at the top of this site has some types of fish for sale.  There is also tilapia vita farms

I would personally recommend seeing if you can find any local fish farms that sell fingerlings for pond stocking and that way you can get locally climate appropriate fish.

Thank you so much in advance!  I would love to donate a few dollars to you for all your help.  Do you have a website where I could make a donation to you for all the help you have given me.  You have saved me so much time and effort so far I feel like I should pay it forward to you! 

You can always stop by my web site though I'm not shipping any fish at this point in time.

http://www.aquaponiclynx.com/

Greetings Again,

  I'm a firm believer in using what you have, which just makes good economic sense.  You now have a worm tower, and you can make it work for you.  I do want to give you a caution about a worm tower however.  Is this the same PVC pipe -type set-up shown on the internet if you do a google search?  This is where the pipe with holes in it is set in the ground and you feed in the tube where the redworms are supposed to come and eat and live a bit and deposit the castings there too?

  If you have a raised bed soil garden, this would be a good option for you to do some vermicomposting.  If you plan on using it in an AP media bed, I caution you there.  The idea is that you add food matter down into the tube,  The redworms will consume the food.  It is also set-up to drain down.....there is where the main problem lies for AP application.   Think of a refrigerator that drains down to the bottom under the drawers.  The yuck that is down there is a combination of water and such that has gone through food at various stages of wilting/rotting/decomposition.  In these stages you will have not-so-desireable bacteria living.  This is the same with a worm tower. The Leachate is not what you want on your plants, it is a petri dish for (bad) bacterial growth.  If the worm tower is placed in a media bed, that is what will be draining down into the water, something you do not want started in your AP system. Yes, redworms 'clean up' food matter that is 'bad', but they are also secondary decomposers, which means that the food needs to first be 'attacked ' by the primary decomposers, symbiotic beneficial microbes, on this the redworms feed. Often times the primary and secondary processes are occurring side by side. So there is ample opportunity for nastiness to drain down into the AP water before the redworms get to work on the decomposing food matter.  Yes, there are people who may be using these Worm Towers  in their AP systems semingly with impunity, but it is playing Russian Roulette with your AP system that you will have invested a lot of time and $$ getting to balance and work for you.

     If your Worm Tower is something other than the "tube/pipe with holes"-design I mentioned above, I apologize for this large amount of non-applicable info....

 You are off to a great adventure. By the way, I am glad to help out all fellow AP enthusiasts as I am able...So ask any questions about vermiculture/vermicomposting/worms-and-AP, and I'll do my best to help out.

- Converse

Awesome and thanks so much converse.  Actually luckily thats not what I am using.  Here is what I am using

Worm Bin

I almost did what you were talking about though but did not think it would be wise to be putting in more solids into a grow bed.  Thankfully, my intuition was right!

Thank you so much for your help and do you think that worm tower I am using is going to be a good one?

The reason people get away with using a worm tower in aquaponics sometimes is that they have very low stocking densities for their fish and they only put the rare bit of food scrap into the "worm feeder" in the bed, ya know, like the rare banana peel or scraps of lettuce.

If one were to treat a "worm feeder" like a real worm bin in a heavily stocked or under filtered system one could definitely cause some major problems for their systems.

 Hey Brandon,

    Thanks for the clarification on the type of system you are using.  There are a few quirks on a system like this.  You'll do fine with it though.  Just please keep in mind that the spigot on the bottom of the system should be looked at as a way to drain off unusable leachate.  It is NOT 'worm tea' or 'worm casting tea' .  That is the 'petri dish' I mentioned in that last post I made.  Do not use the drained off liquid in your AP system or on your plants. This is something those of us in the vermiculture/vermicomposting world are trying to get the word out about.  So many of the commercailly available vermicomposting systems have these spigots (or similar) and then state in the directions, that this is to drain off 'worm tea'.  It is leachate, and not something you want to use.

   You'll be able to use the worm castings your redworms will be producing for making wonderful worm casting tea soon enough!

 

- Converse

  

Wow thank you so much converse! I'm sure you just saved my AP system because I was definately going to be using the "Worm Tea" for my grow beds. I will just be using your worm tea recipe instead but I'm sure the growbeds and fish will appreciate the fresh worms and worm castings they provide. Is the "Worm Tea" that comes out of the tower ok to use on soil plants outside? Or would you recommend not to use it at all. I hope to fertilize my entire yard and AP system with the castings and worms themselves and maybe be able to recoup a little bit of my costs by selling the worms for bait to the local bait shops. Once again I really appreciate all of your help. This forum is such an awesome community to be a part of for getting into the aquaponics and self sustainable living!

   Greetings Brandon,

  Glad I can be of help. 

     From the years of doing vermicomposting/vermiculture and reading current research, I can honestly tell you that you that you are better off disposing of the leachate on your lawn away from crops, or on a weed patch you do not care about.  You will hear of people who use leachate seemingly with impunity.  Yes, some get away with it, and will tell you they have wonderful results with it....But what they do not realize is that when the leachate sits for any length of time unaerated, they will be growing bad bacteria as well as there may be some good in there too.  And of course they will be some of the nutirents from the castings leaching down into the leachate as well....By loading their soil with this Russian Roulette mix, they run the risk of creating very unhealthy soil, and a set-up for crops that I would definately NOT be willing to eat. And they can create a disease/fungual challenge for their crops.

    Once you get your vermicomposting system set-up and running, there really should not be much leachate coming from the set-up. If there is, you are adding too much moisture. Often times there will be quite a bit of leachate when the system is first set-up and the bedding is balancing out the moisture levels it will hold.  Other times you may find more drainage would be if there is a lot of moist food being added (as in if some one is doing canning and there is a lot of peelings).  Be very careful about over loading with overly moist food.  Too much of this can cause the food matter to go anearobic.  After the initial set-up time frame, drainage should be very minimal.  Be sure to cover up any food stuffs in your system with 2 inches of bedding (like moistened coco coir/peat moss/shredded paper, etc.)  The food stuff needs to be covered top, sides, and bottom with bedding (This means keeping food away from the sided of the trays).  This will keep you from having to deal with a gnat or fruit fly challenge.

  Yes, you can sell your extra redworms for bait.  We have done this. You may find at first that bait shops may balk at redworms sold as bait.  It seems anglers look for the larger cousins for bait.  But the positives for using redworms as bait:  1)They do not require refrigeration, so they will stay alive for anglers in their boats or on the trail for a very, very long time.  2)You can get an entire worm on a hook, so you get better worm action, and better fishing results.    As sign posted along with the bait with this information will go a long ways to help with redworm sales for bait.

 

- Converse

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