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Can anyone give me a somewhat scientific answer for why aquaponics systems take 10-12 months to fully mature?  I imagine it has something to do with trace minerals and organic materials breaking down, but I was hoping for a more thorough explination so that I might be able to search for solutions. 

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 http://community.theaquaponicsource.com/forum/topics/why-does-it-ta...

Well, I was sort of thinking of any mesophiles bacteria introduced after our main system has a foot hold but might be more capable to compete for space and nutrients, thus weakening our original thermophiles . I was specifically thinking though of bacteria that might hitch a ride right under our nose on the feed we give the fish and that was stored at different temperatures than the feed we started the system with.

http://www.pjoes.com/pdf/8.6/447-451.pdf may help explain. 

I don't know really, how likely such an introduction of widely capable micro organisms is. But I think such things should be understood and considered by all growers.

 

Hi Glenn. Thanks for taking the time to explain. Most of the microbes dealt with in that PDF are pathogenic...(so no, you wouldn't want to be adding any of those to a system, at least not on purpose) and the two that aren't pathogenic would be a most welcome addition to any AP system :)

Glenn said:

 http://community.theaquaponicsource.com/forum/topics/why-does-it-ta...

Well, I was sort of thinking of any mesophiles bacteria introduced after our main system has a foot hold but might be more capable to compete for space and nutrients, thus weakening our original thermophiles . I was specifically thinking though of bacteria that might hitch a ride right under our nose on the feed we give the fish and that was stored at different temperatures than the feed we started the system with.

http://www.pjoes.com/pdf/8.6/447-451.pdf may help explain. 

I don't know really, how likely such an introduction of widely capable micro organisms is. But I think such things should be understood and considered by all growers.

 

I was hoping the growth rate to temperature chart of differing types of bacteria would better illustrate how our system may be populated with  a friendly bacteria during warmer months and then by another friendly bacteria when the first slows down.  Then when the second's growth rate wanes, the first could be somewhat blocked, limited, or delayed.

I like to use a compost tea to kick off a new system. we use castings, molasses, kelp, and "Plant Success" for the base.. brew it for two days, then add BioZome (Archea) and sometimes Mag, Iron, etc.. and pour it into the growbeds.

when we install a new system, we add some live media with worms and castings from an older system as well as live water from an older system. add the compost tea, stocking fish at one fish for every 10 gallons, and are seeing zero ammonia and 5.0 nitrate with in two weeks! with good plant growth from day one.

IMO - there are soo many bacteria and fungi that perform the same functions, its hard to say which ones your waiting on.. or which ones you wind up with. i.e.- Archea is up to 3,000 times more efficient at nitrification than nitro-bacter, so adding BioZome in the startup will get some nitrification going, but waiting on it could take ...well, no telling how long.

but not all mineralization is based on ammonia oxidation, other bacteria and fungi have to be present, so a "through in all but the kitchen sink", or, "bacterial grab-bag" as Vlad would call it, really seams to help kick start every thing. or you can wait a year... mother nature takes her time, but she usually gets it right.

PS - be sure to keep your pH high for the first six months or so.. bacteria prefers 8.0 ish to really take off.

Vlad, I hear you are stateside again. Congrats. I hope your venture brings you and you're lovely wife much happiness. Where are you planning to settle, and what's your business? Secret sauce and an AP farm, I suspect?

As for 1 yr old system stability? I'm on the "nay" side of the fence. Nitrifying bacteria are the slow sloths of the bacterial kingdom. By the time nitrifying bacteria come into population balance, most other microbial residents have already spiked, slumped, crashed, renewed, went through the dark ages, and are sipping wine and eating cheese, basking in the great artwork of their kind. Sort of. No doubt things change, and become more or less diverse as time marches on and criteria change. I personally couldn't show you the difference visibly between old systems and new. My farm had, until just last week, 18 unique bodies of water in 18 different systems (they are being routed together now to form fewer unique systems, ultimately just one). By visible growth results, one could not tell in which order they were built. If anything, the youngest water is the most stable and brags the best growth at the moment. The runts of the system are, chronologically, numbers 16 and 17. Biologically speaking, they are fine, and seeded with stable system water such that they were born "fully cycled". Why they have slower growth probably has more to do with what Vlad used or didn't use to "spike the punch" with those (ridge 5, south, banks B and C, any ideas Vlad?).

Anyway. The one year myth has probably more to do with the lack of pH control and hard water that most AP practitioners follow. At one year, chances are that nitrification has brought the pH down to plant favorable range. My $.02

Hmmmmm. Will your system be fully matured in a year? I doubt it (I'm not even entirely sure what a completely mature system would even look like or if it even exists), but I don't think that's what this discussion is about. My understanding of the question was why there is an existing concept of significant increase in growth potential after a system's 6 month (or 1 year) milestone. I realize the term "fully mature" was used, but I think it was more in reference to said concept, rather then meaning "fully mature".

I don't know whether or not a system will continuously improve upon itself infinitely over an indefinite period of time, or if there's a "limit" to how good it can get, but I think it's safe to say that after 6 months or so, your system hits puberty and begins to kick things into overdrive.

From my understanding, if you want to take things beyond the first year and compare older systems to younger ones, then there have to be a LOT of factors to consider. Like which ones Vlad got his hands on, for instance ;) Vlad was taking pains to bolster beneficial microbe populations, so it would make sense that if biological maturity was being knowledgeably and meticulously strained for in one system and not in another, then obviously that would be a significant factor in comparing the two.

I remember Vlad saying that without the direct intervention of the grower, there are a few kinds of bacteria that take longer than six months to even show up in a system, much less have a population necessary for benefiting the system as a whole.

Hopefully I'm not misquoting anything :)


Jon Parr said:


As for 1 yr old system stability? I'm on the "nay" side of the fence. Nitrifying bacteria are the slow sloths of the bacterial kingdom. By the time nitrifying bacteria come into population balance, most other microbial residents have already spiked, slumped, crashed, renewed, went through the dark ages, and are sipping wine and eating cheese, basking in the great artwork of their kind. Sort of. No doubt things change, and become more or less diverse as time marches on and criteria change. I personally couldn't show you the difference visibly between old systems and new. My farm had, until just last week, 18 unique bodies of water in 18 different systems (they are being routed together now to form fewer unique systems, ultimately just one). By visible growth results, one could not tell in which order they were built. If anything, the youngest water is the most stable and brags the best growth at the moment. The runts of the system are, chronologically, numbers 16 and 17. Biologically speaking, they are fine, and seeded with stable system water such that they were born "fully cycled". Why they have slower growth probably has more to do with what Vlad used or didn't use to "spike the punch" with those (ridge 5, south, banks B and C, any ideas Vlad?).

Anyway. The one year myth has probably more to do with the lack of pH control and hard water that most AP practitioners follow. At one year, chances are that nitrification has brought the pH down to plant favorable range. My $.02
By fully mature, I mean the bulk of the resident microbes have shown up, balanced, and are plugging away. That may happen in just a few weeks/months if smart innoculants are used. Will it further "mature"? Sure, and of course, forever. As criteria change, so do the resident microbes. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not. Even a fresh, sterile, new system will "mature" in the course of a summer growing season. There is no magic date, or minimum length of time that suddenly changes a system for the better, in my experience. For me personally, I let my nitrifyers balance, the. Pull pH down, and then performance is in full gear. I do things differently as far as overall design, and I actively cultivate biological diversity, but it does not take a year by any means.

Rob Nash uses a great system starter. I do something similar, with my own twists. Rob, do you experience a magic timeline where things "mature", and suddenly growth is better than the month before (unrelated to the weather and external inputs, of course)?

absolutely.... but like you said, it could be 3 mos. it could be 1 year... I agree with Jon, I think the most likely thing that's happening is the systems biological processes have found the pH they prefer and everything is jiving right along, thus... happy plants. 

I believe that when we change the system water's pH, its not the same as allowing the media's "biological pH" finding its own happy place.

... in fact, im a fan of leaving the system's pH as high as it wants to go for as long as it feels the need. I see the cycling happen faster and the system "goes acidic" faster on its own... if you constantly try to drop the pH in a new system, it seems to take much, much longer. ...I'm sure its confusing as hell to the bacteria, and the plants, and the fish!

PS ...my last build was a 300 gallon system.. stretched over 240 sft of growbeds,, we added just five gallons of live gravel to each of the four grow beds, and 120 gallons of live water.. we added plants and fish on day three... its been five weeks and the plants are 5 times bigger and the nitrates are at 5 and as far as I know, the ammonia never got above .25

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