Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

There has been some (much?) chatter on other AP forums about using redworms in your media beds to "process" your solids.  I love this idea!  Not only are the solids removed, but the plants benefit from the vermicompost.  I added about a pound of worms in my six beds a few weeks ago, and I'm hoping that they are happily going to town in there.

So here are my questions...

Do you use worms in your system?  How many to use per square ft of bed?  When do you add?  Do you feed them something (food scraps) besides the delicious fish solids?  

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Aloha Everyone
A word to the wise about any form of waste product ie manure be it rabbit, human (especially). The least of your problems may be E. col. O157, H7. If your aquaponic product is to be sold or consumed by anyone other than your family you could be in deep kim chee. I am sure you read about the Salmonella outbreak in eggs. Salmonella is carried by humans and chickens. Anyone ever hear of typhoid fever, this is a specific species of Salmonella. Shigella is transmitted only by humans to humans. By the way Google Typhoid Mary if you want to get a real good true story.
there are a myriad of bacteria that are transmitted by humans to people and from animals to humans. The great thing about aquaponics is the fish are cold blooded and do not transmit disease to people at least bacterial diseases. If you think organic means free from disease you are wrong. You are much more likely to get things like E coli because of using manure. Bacteria are the least of your worries there are many parasitic diseases transmitted by humans to humans and even animals to people even though less so.
I say this because there is no way you can be sure that you haven't transmitted something. It is just easier not to contaminate your system with manure. I don;'t think there is a problem with worms per say as long as they leave the manure behind and feast on the aquaponic manure.
I am not taking this off the top of my head. I am a Medical Laboratory Technologist and taught Microbiology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha for over 10 years. Because the bad bugs are much more common these days the likely chance of passing them on is much greater. You can not tell whether you are a carrier or not. Take the parasite Giardia. Many people are infected with no symptoms. Where do you get Giardia? Mainly from forest streams or mountain streams also from people to people.
Please be careful these things can make you sick and others as well. It is not necessary to contaminate your system with any human or animal waste.
Mahalo for listening I apologise if I offended anyone but it needed to be said
Thanks for the info TCLynx and Raychel A Watkins. It sounds like I should be composting the rabbit manure before adding it to the vermiponics system. It seems like it would also work to microwave it, since cooking kills off the bacteria. Not sure how my husband will feel about that... Might be better to carve out an area in our tiny backyard for manure composting, or a composting bucket in the basement maybe.
I highly recommend reading the humanure handbook as it does cover these topics fairly well.

Amy Youngs said:
Thanks for the info TCLynx and Raychel A Watkins. It sounds like I should be composting the rabbit manure before adding it to the vermiponics system. It seems like it would also work to microwave it, since cooking kills off the bacteria. Not sure how my husband will feel about that... Might be better to carve out an area in our tiny backyard for manure composting, or a composting bucket in the basement maybe.
I'm happy to find this thread on worms. In my system plans I planned for worms. It's nice to see others thinking along the same lines. In my plan, I saw three ways to use worms. The first is for feed, the second is for grow beds and the third is in my passive filtration. Adding nutrients and reducing solids all along the way. I've already started my wormbeds and I'm having great luck in propagating new worms. I'm using red wigglers and european nightcrawlers ( seperate bins). Of course the object is to grow everything the system needs within the system and stay organic. Does anyone know if worms and duckweed is a complete enough nutrition package for Tilapia? What eles could I add to their diet for health and an growth?
I just want to remind everyone that using worms in a system doesn't "add" nutrients. Only feed or materials added into a system actually add nutrients (with the possible exception of growing legumes or other plants with nitrogen fixing bacteria/fungi partners if those partners populate the beds and/or plant roots in the Aquaponic situation, I don't know of any testing having been done on this yet.)

Anyway, by adding worms you are not Adding nutrients unless you are some how giving additional feed to the worms. The worms simply aid in the process of breaking down solids and making the nutrients from the solids break down more available to the plants faster (this can happen without worms it just takes longer and solids build up becomes more of an issue.)

As to duckweed and worms, I don't know the answer here but I'm gonna guess probably not, and even if it did, you may find it difficult to grow enough worms and duckweed to keep many tilapia well fed enough to grow out quickly. There has actually been lots of study into fish nutrition, granted most of it for fish farming which is mostly interested in getting the fastest growth in the least time with the least health issues to the fish. You can do some searching online to learn a bit about fish nutrition and fish feeds, many universities have done studies on such things for feeding all kinds of different animals. Unfortunately, those papers are not usually written with the home kitchen in mind. There are vitamin admixtures made to be used for fish feed so at least then you simply need to make sure you get the right % of things like protein, fat and carbs.

Worms tend to be too fatty to be the sole feed and few people are really interested in rendering worms to remove the fat and make worm meal to then add to the mix. (I know my other half won't let me render worms or BSF in the kitchen.)

Then again, if you don't mind slow fish growth, many thing could be possible.
I thought I basically said that just in another way. The worms are not actually "adding" but making the nutrients that are there more available quicker which I suppose in a sense is sort of like adding nutrient to the system but not quite. The nutrients need to be there for the worms to eat and convert to a more available form. You can't simply put a hand full of worms into a gravel bed and expect them to produce the nutrients without feeding them something. The nutrients are actually added by whatever is being fed to the fish and the worms.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of worms and I've been vermicomposting for longer than I've been doing aquaponics. I would not do aquaponics without worms because they play an integral role. The worms make solids into something useful (bio available nutrients) instead of something that needs to be removed from a system. The worms and their castings are also a great kick start for cycling up a new system.
ernic,
How bout this, can we at least agree that the worms and their biota are not "adding" the nutrients them selves but they are converting them from the organic matter, fish waste, plant roots etc in the system. That is all my point was about. That the worms don't "add" nutrients from thin air or plain water. The worms have to eat something to convert the organic matter into more nutrient rich plant feed.

I do a fair bit of organic gardening. Instead of feeding the plants, you feed the soil and worms and micro life in the soil and the soil (and all the life in it) feeds the plants.

Ya know, the "where the advice is coming from" post had more to do with re-checking assumptions and realizing that a wider range of things might work for someone and reminding them that any one person's advice is usually coming from a particular location and type of system and type of fish and there are so many ways of doing things that people should expand their thinking and research and just because one grower says the water temp should be 74 F, that does not mean a person in Florida must purchase a chiller in order to do aquaponics.
The nutrients in any AP system is added as a component of the fish food. Just because it hasn't been broken down does not mean that you are not adding nutrient to the system.

As food is the only thing added to your system, you are therefore adding your only nutrients when you feed your fish.

TCLynx was correct in saying we only add nutrients when we feed. Worms do not create nutrients out of thin air or water.
Speaking of nutrients, does anyone know of the US equivelent to Murray's Ausie Seasol?
Maxi-Crop Original will do
be sure to get the stuff that has the NPK numbers 0.1-0-1
There is also Maxi-crop with Iron that some people have used that seems to be fine.

Avoid adding any seawweed extract that has added fish emulsion since that would overload a new bio-filter.

Joseph Orlando said:
Speaking of nutrients, does anyone know of the US equivelent to Murray's Ausie Seasol?
Could you please tell us a little more about how this is set up in your plant bed? Thanks!

Murray Hallam said:
Worms are the Aquaponics secret weapon that is for sure.
I actually add food scraps to the grow beds using a worm feeding station in the corner of the grow bed. Works very well
I've seen pictures where people have put a bucket with holes or the bottom cut off down into a corner of a flood and drain grow bed and then they put veggie scraps down into the bucket to get eaten by the worms.

Natalie Desrosiers said:
Could you please tell us a little more about how this is set up in your plant bed? Thanks!

Murray Hallam said:
Worms are the Aquaponics secret weapon that is for sure.
I actually add food scraps to the grow beds using a worm feeding station in the corner of the grow bed. Works very well

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