I have a large box and am going to put in pots within the large box, I supposed I will fill the box with some kind of medium that isn't important since it won't house the plants but in the pots I'm c onflicted. someone said I shouldn't use the clay pellets because if I get a disease from the fish its too hard to clean them out, Can I use soil? will that dirty the fish water? I was thinking of using gravel because its cheap, just want some advice input.
Gravel is heavy and may affect your PH. I believe the pellets are the best if you can afford them. Using soil or the pots defeats the purpose of the media beds. If you need to save money(Don't we all?) use lava rock topped off with about 3 inches of pellets and you will save your hand damage. Be sure to wash the lava rock as it usually has a lot of dust, which just gums up your grow bed.
thanks for the advise! where do you get lava rock? Also was wondering the pots you put your plants in I've seen the baskets with a lot of wholes or coconut husk baskets can I just use regular potting pots and drill a bunch of holes in them?
If you live in North Phoenix, try Preach Masonry at abut 17th Ave. and Hatcher. Jim Troyer has a source on the East side.
I am going to do the same thing come spring in my hybrid system. I, personally am an advocate of using quartzite material as it is pH nutral and will not affect the pH of the fish tank. I would not use soil but I know, in this type of growing system, Will Allen of Growing Power, (Milwaukee and Chicago), uses soil, actually compost, in his pots with great results but is constantly cleaning his media and fish tank bottoms. This may work well in a comercial sized system but in a hobby or backyard system this may be too much labor for it to be enjoyable. Do a search for quartzite material in your area, be sure to check it for any limestone deposits with the vinegar test, and see if this will be a viable alternative to gravel. As to the type of pots to use, anything that will allow good water flow is sufficcent. Flower pots with extra holes, buckets with holes drilled up 2-3 inches from the bottom. Net pots (which can get expensive are also a choice. I can acquire 5-gallon buckets for $1.00 apiece and I have quite a few but I also have 5" nursery pots that I have sanitized by soaking them in a bleach solution and allowed to set outside in the sunshine, good to go, just waiting for spring to roll around.
My friend uses soil in the pots and has them sitting in coconut coir as his wicking bed. I have also grown plants in pots with soil in my AP. I lined the bottom and sides of net pots with a porous fiber called 'sure to grow' and they sit in my gravel medium which is my general grow bed medium. The roots can grow out into the general bed but the liner holds the dirt in. This has worked well.
Read other posts and I got lava rock from a local landscape and rock company. They have it here in Portland in big out door open bins. So very inexpensive.
The vinegar test work on the limestone material in the media. It will fizz like an alkeselzer tablet in water. Take a handful of your chosen media and rinse it in plain water. This is to remove any dust that may react to the vinegar. Put it in a glass jar. Add white vinegar to cover it by about an inch and watch to see if any bubbles appear. what you may see is some air releasing from the media, this is natural but if there are tiny bubbles coming from the media itself, then limestone is present and this will slowly release into your water causing pH spikes that can be so annoying.
Go online and look for the API Freshwater Master Testing Kit. They make one for salt water testing also so be sure to get the freshwater one. This kit comes with four glass testing vials and four solutions for the testing of pH, Nitrites, Ammonia and Nitrates. A booklet describes the proceedur for each test. Nitrates and Ammonia come in two parts and a certian amount of each solution needs to be dripped into each water collection vial. Wait the alloted time and check the color on the provided chart.
If you use municipal water you may run into a problem if chlorimine is used instead of chlorine to sanitize the water. With chlorine, it is a matter of letting the water stand for a while so the chlorine can dissipate into the air (airating the water with an air pump helps). If you have chlorimine in the water this is a bit trickier. This is a question for someone mor knoligable than I and is a lot more complicated. Check with your municipal water service and see what is used to sanitizs the drinking water supplied to your home.
Yes I agree if you are going to do media beds, you do not need to mess with the net pots.
I would say get media. Clay balls like Hydroton are great if you can afford them but a limestone/marble free river gravel in1/2" to 3/4" size is also quite functional though heavy. Lava rock if rinsed well works but is hard on the finger nails when digging/planting (though some people will use it in the lower levels of a bed and put a nicer to work with media on top.)
1/2" Stalite (espanded slate) or 1/2" expanded Shale are both functionial options though I recommend rinsing it well.
Crushed granite or basalt work too but it is heavy and may not be very easy to plant in.
I don't recommend sand or dirt in the bed. If you already have some potted plants and you set them down into the bed to get some bottom water through, that normally doesn't pose much problem. If you have containers that will keep the dirt, sand, compost, potting mix from washing out you can set those into the bed to wick up moisture but you want to make sure your media bed will provide enough media for filtration for your system and fish load. You want about a cubic foot of media for each fish that might grow to a pound.
Yes I second the recommendation for the API freshwater master test kit. Most aquarium shops will carry them or you can order them online, I believe Sylvia even sells them through her store (click the shop tab at the top.)
If you are on city water, you will need to be able to test for whatever they treat your water with and you will need to take appropriate steps to neutralize it.