Aquaponic Gardening

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So I set up my system last December 2014 and I was "cycling" initially just by circulating water for a couple of weeks. I added some lettuce, basil, brussel sprouts and onions in the growbeds with a sprinkle of spinach seed. Then I started adding pure ammonia. I went through the high ammonia phase, then the ammonia went to zero and the nitrite spiked off the charts for a few weeks, then one day it was just zero and my nitrates were about 20. The plants were doing awesome and had tripled in size. So I stopped adding ammonia and threw in a dozen goldfish as "guinea pigs." They seemed to do well so after a week I added 20 blue channel cats about 5 - 6" long. The nitrite went up to 1.0 within two days, and has been there for the last two weeks. I'm feeding only once a day to keep nitrite to a minimum and careful not to overfeed.


So I am surprised that after fully cycling that the nitrite is not zero and I need to be so careful with feeding. I also read somewhere that the pump needs to be on 24/7 for healthy bacteria. I shut off the pump during the night to prevent excessive temperature drop. Especially since we've had a cold spell and rain over the last several days in the SD area.


My water temp is now 60°F though normally it ranges 63 - 72, pH steady at 7.6. Plants have virtually stopped growing but otherwise appear healthy. I throw in a couple tablespoons of Maxcrop liquid seaweed plus iron every couple weeks. I just really want to start feeding the fish all they can eat, and even add additionaql ammonia to supplement the plants until the fish get bigger. But with the nitrite at 1.0 and holding I don't dare. Also leaving town for about 10 days in the not too distant future and I hope to be stable before I go. Otherwise, I can't rely on an occasional check by the neighbor to keep everything alive.


I really hope I don't need to wait another 4 - 6 weeks to get the nitrogen cycle re-established. Anyone else have comments / experience? Anyone else in east county / Santee area?

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Replies to This Discussion

If you hadn't, you should probably do a water change of some non-tiny amount.

You added a pretty large volume of fish with the catfish. Even if you weren't feeding them much, they're still putting out waste since they were eating before you got them (5-6" fish). If they were eating their fill, it'll go up.

Also, personally, I'd feed them incrementally more, just test more often.

But you added a lot of fish. :)

You can always, though obviously want to minimize how often, do a water change.

If you had storage enough, the water you pull out in a change, you could just de-chemicalize (ammonia/chlorine/nitrate remover stuff) and then add in again later or use for lawn/etc.

I did a couple small (25 gallons or so; 300 gallon system) water changes early on. I also added a product to "bind" the nitrite and block it's toxicity. I have not found any product that removes nitrite, only -ate, ammonia, chloramine, etc. Nitrite finally lower yesterday and warm weather is returning. So hopefully things will get better going forward. Thanks for the reply.


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