Aquaponic Gardening

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Michael asked me to start a thread about my experience using Maxicrop during cycling, and I'm happy to oblige!  Maxicrop is a liquid seaweed extract that you can also get in a soluable powder form. Using seaweed extract is talked about quite a bit on the Australian forums, but they use a different brand. the purpose for using it is to give your plants food before the nitrates kick in.  Good plant food that is not harmful to the fish.

When I used it last September I actually had a one quart bottle for my 300 gallon tank (probably only filled to 200 gallons).  I couldn't find any instructions for using Maxicrop for cycling, and according to the dilution instructions on the bottle I was going to create a very dilute solution using the entire bottle...so I dumped the entire thing in.  Turned the water brown for a couple weeks, but my plants were perfectly happy and seemed to have no ill effect on the fish.  

There is also a form with iron, but I avoid that.  I'm super hesitant about adding anything but fish food and the pure liquid seaweed into my system. I'm just not enough of a chemist to feel comfortable with measuring iron additions to the system, and haven't seemed to need any.  This fear has served me well so far.

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I have recently begun adding a capful of Maxicrop (with iron) every few days. My plants had begun to yellow, and it would appear now that I don't have enough fish to create enough nutrients for the plants beyond what the algae bloom in my pond is consuming(!). I too had to guess at dosage, but decided to err on the side of caution (very unlike me) because of the iron content. Sylvia- if you dumped a whole quart into 200 gallons, how long before you redosed?
If I ever need to I'll have to try seaweed extract. Never used it before, but I have used fish emulsion to jumpstart things in the past. . . although I wouldn't recommend it for everyone. For iron I use cheap Ironite chelated iron- although in my new system I keep my pH in the mid to low 6 range and haven't had any iron problems since the system started.
Looking at Maxicrop online, looks like good stuff for micronutrients- although the phosphorus content might be a little high- that might have impacted your algae situation Shawn. . .
Maxicrop (which I use by preference) or Seasol (here in OZ)... is as Sylvia says... a great tonic and way to keep your plants going while you cycle...

But it really wont aid cycling at all... to cycle you need an ammonia source... although you will eventually cycle naturally without actually adding anything... Maxicrop isn't an ammonia source...

Maxicrop is a trace element, micro-nutrient plant "tonic"....

If you want to "fishless cycle".. then use urea or humonia... and a bit of Maxicrop to help the plants in the interim...
It seems to be a major misconception that seaweed extract can make up for the lack of fish or cycling in a system.
The seaweed extracts generally only provide trace elements and potassium. My system is high pH so I actually wish I could get the maxicrop with Iron easily.

(Nate, could you provide a link to the type of Iron you used? I would be interested in a less costly chelated Iron product than I'm currently using.)

But back to the point of cycling and seaweed extract. The Original Maxicrop I believe has numbers 0.1-0-1 for Nitrate, phosphorus, and potassium. In my system (1400 gallons of gravel beds and 700+ gallons of fish tank and 600 gallon sump tank) I will often use a quart per dose on the maxicrop but I probably only do that once every 4-6 weeks when I usually also dose with Iron when I notice plants showing signs of deficiency. I think I based my dosage roughly on grow bed square footage in the beginning. It does turn the water brown for a few days but the fish have never minded that. As the system matures, less supplementation is needed as natural ecosystems form in the beds to convert the solids into the trace elements usable by plants.

As Nate noted, fish emulsion can provide the ammonia source for initial cycling but one must be careful and it might not be the best choice for cycling for all situations. I would definitely not recommend using fish emulsion in any system with fish already in it unless you are an expert. It could spike the ammonia too high and kill off fish if one was not very careful how they went about it. For fishless pre-cycling it might be ok.

For those having issues with plants not flowering or setting fruit well, potassium deficiency can cause that and maxicrop original might be a good supplement to help improve things on that front.

As to people saying to dose with maxicrop to keep the plants going till the nitrates come online, well I'm not sure that is really an accurate comment as to what the maxicrop actually provides for the plants. However, in a new system, nitrate is not the only thing the plants are waiting for so giving a dose of seaweed extract can help your plants get a good start with trace nutrients and many of the complex substances that won't be available in a fresh gravel bed. (I also think some worm castings can provide much benefit for a new system too.)
Thanks Sylvia. I do need this :) Good call Michael. I am between fish atm and have reverted to hydroponic nutes. I was worried what would happen to the fish once I cycled in preperation for them. Do you think they will be ok or should i clean the system well? Can the beneficial bacteria survive with hydoponic nutes? RupertofOZ. so I should maybe add some carbamide? Do you recommend a brand? How much?

BTW, when I had the large mouth bass, shiners and minnows, my system was growing very well and now with hydroponics for the last 2 weeks I see absolutely no change. I am hoping to have that smooth transition once the tilapia come *cross fingers*.
It is hard to say what effect the hydroponic nutrients might have on the biota of a system. Not knowing the makup of the particular nutrients you are using, it is hard to know if they would be toxic to the bacteria or fish.

I fear a complete water change might be the very least you need to do to make it fish safe, you might even need to flush the extra mineral salts out of the growbeds as well. I don't know if that would even make it safe as I don't have enough information about the products or fish you are growing.
Shawn, I never redosed. I hold Maxicrop in reserve for when I'm cycling and have used it twice on my 300 gallon tank - once when starting it up (husband's humonia and Maxicrop - worked like a dream, and he thought it was the best gardening project ever) and when I got a disease in the system because I used feeder goldfish and had to flush and restart. I"m a big fan of getting everything in balance and then trying to stay as close to Mother Nature as possible...i.e. only fish poop and plants.

Daniel, if you feel you need to temporarily go to a complete hydro nutrient my recommendation is Pure Blend. We tested all the organic hydro nutes out there at AeroGrow at one point (JT can attest to this) and Pure Blend won hands down. We even used it extensively in our nursery because it grew plants so well. The downside is it is expensive, but my theory is you have a better chance with saving your biota (I like that term, TCLynx) with an organic nute made of kelp, bat guano, etc. than mined mineral salts. All that said, I'm personally more comfortable with seaweed extract around my fish no matter how organic the nutrient.
TCLynx said:
My system is high pH so I actually wish I could get the maxicrop with Iron easily.

(Nate, could you provide a link to the type of Iron you used? I would be interested in a less costly chelated Iron product than I'm currently using.)

But back to the point of cycling and seaweed extract.

Here you go guys and girls....

http://www.shopmania.com/shopping~online-garden-outdoors~buy-maxicr...

http://www.horticulturesource.com/maxicrop-maxicrop-liquid-seaweed-...
Daniel E Murphy said:
I am between fish atm and have reverted to hydroponic nutes. I was worried what would happen to the fish once I cycled in preperation for them. Do you think they will be ok or should i clean the system well? Can the beneficial bacteria survive with hydoponic nutes? RupertofOZ. so I should maybe add some carbamide? Do you recommend a brand? How much
Daniel, even between fish, your bacterial colony will survive for some time... and "re-cycle" and ramp up rapidly as soon as an ammonia source becomes available...

Using small amounts (it's powerful) of urea... will provide an ammonia source... but a note to all...

Urea... in the form of Carbamide is quite a strong oxidising agent... and shouldn't be used when you have fish... as it will remove oxygen from your system... and spike your ammonia... both could be fatal...

You really only need a level tablespoon in about 1000L... to register an ammonia level... and you migth be surprised how high... always test after adding... and allow the spike to fall to zero for a few days before adding any more...

I'm with Sylvia on the question of adding hydro nutes... somewhat uneasy as they're soluble chemical salts that level metal ions in solution...

If you're just wanting to keep your plants growing... use Maxicrop...
Has anyone tried General Organics nutes?

RupertofOZ said:
Daniel E Murphy said:
I am between fish atm and have reverted to hydroponic nutes. I was worried what would happen to the fish once I cycled in preperation for them. Do you think they will be ok or should i clean the system well? Can the beneficial bacteria survive with hydoponic nutes? RupertofOZ. so I should maybe add some carbamide? Do you recommend a brand? How much
Daniel, even between fish, your bacterial colony will survive for some time... and "re-cycle" and ramp up rapidly as soon as an ammonia source becomes available...

Using small amounts (it's powerful) of urea... will provide an ammonia source... but a note to all...

Urea... in the form of Carbamide is quite a strong oxidising agent... and shouldn't be used when you have fish... as it will remove oxygen from your system... and spike your ammonia... both could be fatal...

You really only need a level tablespoon in about 1000L... to register an ammonia level... and you migth be surprised how high... always test after adding... and allow the spike to fall to zero for a few days before adding any more...

I'm with Sylvia on the question of adding hydro nutes... somewhat uneasy as they're soluble chemical salts that level metal ions in solution...

If you're just wanting to keep your plants growing... use Maxicrop...
Daniel E Murphy said:
Has anyone tried General Organics nutes
While aquaponics loosely utilises "hydroponic" styles for growth... it is not a hydroponic system...

In fact the defining difference between aquaponics and hydroponics... is that aquaponics does use... or need to use hydroponic "nutrient" solutions or chemical formulations... such as traditional N:P:K fertilisers... which is really all those products are...

And many could be fatal to your fish...

Just feed your fish a quality aquaculture pellet feed... they contain all the essentially trace elements necessary for plant growth in an aquaponics system.. and the ammonia wastes from the fish... provide all the necessary "nitrates" required for abundant growth...

It's that simple.... and safe...

Other additives are only utilised if deficiencies show... usually due to pH associated "lockouts"...

Cycling a system only requires a pure ammonia source.. and only takes a few weeks...

Liquid seaweed extracts are high in trace elements... pure and fish safe... and all that plants need during cycling... or as ocassional "tonics"...
I agree 100% with everything RupertofOz is saying here. One of the biggest appeals of aquaponics to me is that you can avoid using things like GH nutrients. They are expensive, build up in your systems and need to be regularly replaced (the opposite of an AP system) and toxic.

RupertofOZ said:
Daniel E Murphy said:
Has anyone tried General Organics nutes
While aquaponics loosely utilises "hydroponic" styles for growth... it is not a hydroponic system...

In fact the defining difference between aquaponics and hydroponics... is that aquaponics does use... or need to use hydroponic "nutrient" solutions or chemical formulations... such as traditional N:P:K fertilisers... which is really all those products are...

And many could be fatal to your fish...

Just feed your fish a quality aquaculture pellet feed... they contain all the essentially trace elements necessary for plant growth in an aquaponics system.. and the ammonia wastes from the fish... provide all the necessary "nitrates" required for abundant growth...

It's that simple.... and safe...

Other additives are only utilised if deficiencies show... usually due to pH associated "lockouts"...

Cycling a system only requires a pure ammonia source.. and only takes a few weeks...

Liquid seaweed extracts are high in trace elements... pure and fish safe... and all that plants need during cycling... or as ocassional "tonics"...

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