Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners



Study of microscopic organisms,
biochemistry research,  and the use of microscopes in gardening.

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Latest Activity: Jun 24, 2017

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Comment by Converse on June 21, 2013 at 9:23am

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Identical...What I knew about soils and the biochemistry going on there, and then reading about what went on in AP is what caught my attention for AP in the first place years ago.  Kind of a geeky way to get hooked, but honestly that is how I knew from the first time I read about AP that it would work....Its been a fun and wild ride ever since.

Comment by Paul Holowko on June 21, 2013 at 8:47am

The food web created within the proximity of the roots in solution is identical to soil.

Comment by Bob Campbell on June 21, 2013 at 8:20am

@Converse -  I totally agree about 'Teaming With Microbes'.  This book changed my entire view about gardening, and is directly responsible for my purchase of a microscope.

The book was so interesting that I took detailed notes as I read it.  I then used those notes, together with other papers to condense the subject in this blog post.   It's a dry read compared to Teaming With Microbes which I would highly recommend even though it focuses on soil. It's not an expensive book.

They basically say grow your soil and your plants will follow.  Ever since reading about the 'Soil Food Web' I have tried to imagine how that works in a soil-less system.  I think it would be an interesting experiment to look for the food web created within the proximity of the roots in solution with a microscope. 

Comment by Converse on June 21, 2013 at 7:25am

  I have a favorite book called "Teaming With Microbes :The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web," by Jeff Lowenfels and  Wayne Lewis.  I  got my first look at this book through the local library system after hearing about it  when it was first published.  Great read!  Fantastic photos (of the micro-world)!  I recommend this book to anyone...the first really non-boring book about  the world we 'cannot see'.  Wish it was available when I was at the Univ.! It would have made the subject seem less 'dry' at the time.

  While this book is not about AP, it does go through nitrification, and other subjects pertinent to AP...and did I mention the photos?  Wow!

  I use this book with the photos to show the kiddos at After School Farm, the 'world they cannot see'....that really gets them excited about trying to use a microscope. But, I do agree that trying to teach the two subjects together can be discouraging for many..

   Anyone can ask for this book at their local library.  It is a great resource.

  The photos that have been posted on this group are pretty nice.

- Converse

Comment by Paul Holowko on June 19, 2013 at 5:06pm

The link below is from Tim Wilson.  He studied with Elaine Ingham.  He sells a 2 DVD set showing bacteria, fungi and protists under a microscope.  It's really boring, but worth the money. 


Changing subjects:  Below is a picture of some green stuff from one of my biospheres or aquaponics system.  The green stuff can be found where light hits the side of your tank or in your grow tank.  The picture is at 400X I think.


The string of small circles is cyanobacteria.  The odd shaped circle within the cyanobacteria contains fixed nitrogen.  The sample also contains filament algae (the thin semi-clear stands)  This microbiology growing indicates low ammonium levels in the water.  :-) 


Comment by Bob Campbell on June 19, 2013 at 2:22pm

@Paul - Thank you for the link to

I followed that to

You really did a great job documenting these lessons!

I would encourage everyone here to take a look.  Paul get's right to the important information, and has some great images, and short videos to make it all clear.

Paul you are a great teacher. I was impressed by the way you answer questions.

I've let my samples become anaerobic so that I can study the stuff I don't want to see growing in my garden.  I found the information about cillates and pathogenic fungal hyphent to be right on and very useful.

I also found this site to be very good too.

Comment by Dave & Yvonne Story on June 17, 2013 at 7:09pm

I am on several websites learning to be effective, efficient, and successful off the grid. Engineers are way too technical. I think what we want to learn here is what is good and how to improve a bad situation.

Comment by Paul Holowko on June 17, 2013 at 3:23pm

When teaching kids/adults about microscopy and/or microbiology, it's best to separate the two subjects.  Teach microscopy as a subject and teach micro biology as a subject.  Never together.  Their attention span will not allow it.  The same goes for adults.  When using a microscope to teach micro biology, have your samples ready to go or print images of them.  Showing microscope images on a video screen or wall helps.  When teaching microscopy, have live samples of things moving around.  Both subjects can be dry and quickly loose interest.

Comment by Paul Holowko on June 17, 2013 at 3:00pm


Any microscope is useful for backyard aquaponics.  It needs to be able go up to 400X.  It's very hard to ID bacteria without sequencing the DNA.  A microscope helps to understand what is going on in your AP system.  Indicators (pH, DO, EC and etc..) for running small or industrial aquaponics systems is well understood.  It just takes practice for a new aquaponicer to learn how it works for food production.    Here is a posting for what kind of microscope will work for compost, teas and AP systems.


Here is another link for preparing a sample.

Comment by Dave & Yvonne Story on June 17, 2013 at 1:49pm

I believe contributors need to be active, not just a reader.

So, I can see this is important. What Is a good microscope for a backyard gardener using fish?


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