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Hi, I'll give the whole rundown, and I'd love it if anyone can help me figure out what the problem with my system is..

I am very new to aquaponics and I've set up a new system after reading through various websites about aquaponics farming. It is a 30 gal tank and recently bought some blue tilapia fingerlings to add after cycling without them for a couple weeks. I didn't realize at the time but I added to much ammonia when cycling it and it was still up around 4ppm as well as rather high nitrite levels when I added the fish, I feared that that may have permanently affected the fish, and I began losing a few fingerlings, so I took out the remaining few, in a separate tank until I cleaned out my main tank. I also initially washed the tank out using soap which I read was a huge no no so this time I cleaned it out with vinegar which I read might help clean the residue out of the tank, but when I put the fish back in the main tank, after about a week, they started sitting on the bottom of the tank and lost 2 more... So I pulled them out again and are back in the backup tank...

So my biggest question is: could it be the soap residue that's most likely causing all these problems? And if so how can I fix the problem?

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what's the ph, nitrate and nitrite levels.  That is what I would check first.  Cycling is done when you can add ammonia (small amount) and in 24 hours everything is back to 0 levels, if not your system is not cycled and will be deadly to fish.  Though not a problem, but something to think about as well - smaller systems with not a lot of water (something under 100 + gallons)  you'll have to keep an eye on much closer then bigger systems as when something goes wrong, it goes wrong fast.  The larger the water volume the easier it is to see things change in a slower progression which makes it easier to make corrections. 

Yes it is quite likely the soap. It takes very little to kill the fish, of course everything else was wrong too.  What a learning experience!

Thanks for the responses, I didn't think that they were as sensitive as they were to soap. After I cleaned the tank and out the fish back in, the ammonia and nitrite levels were 0 and pH was around 7, so I figured it only could have been soap in the system. I'll have to be much more careful in the future. Can I get the soap residue by washing out the system with vinegar or anything like that?

As you have learned always check the basic's first, the water quality. This was said in the above post.what's the ph, nitrate and nitrite levels. Okay how many fish a 30 gal tank is quite small? Do you have any air stones in the tank?? You say you cleaned the tank with soap, is this just a plain old glass tank with out anything else in the tank??? If so a super good rinse should of taken care of all the soap issues. If you had gravel in there then ouch. What is your water temp of the system? Okay last but not least do you have any type of filter system in place with the tank? or is all you filtering going to be done at the start via Gravel bed?? or deep water trough with plants??

If you could get some established plants in the system they would help get rid of allot the possible pollution problems and put oxygen back into your system. Just so you know starting a system needs to be done in phases and until each phase has been established you will run into issues like this. Cycling a system is the first step and it takes up to 4 to 6 weeks to get it started correctly.

Wes,
Thanks for your reply and yea, I've definitely learned from this experience.. I have had it aerating with an air stone and yes, it is a glass tank. I have a 3 gal grow bed of expanded clay with a pea plant growing in it at the time and when the I was losing fish after I cleaned it out with vinegar(that was to get rid of any soap residue) I woke up about a week later with a fish gasping on the bottom which later died. The ammonia and nitrite levels were 0.so I thought with brand new added wouldn't be a problem. I adjusted the pH to 7 before adding them back(I have a well so chlorine isn't a problem for me.

wes said:

As you have learned always check the basic's first, the water quality. This was said in the above post.what's the ph, nitrate and nitrite levels. Okay how many fish a 30 gal tank is quite small? Do you have any air stones in the tank?? You say you cleaned the tank with soap, is this just a plain old glass tank with out anything else in the tank??? If so a super good rinse should of taken care of all the soap issues. If you had gravel in there then ouch. What is your water temp of the system? Okay last but not least do you have any type of filter system in place with the tank? or is all you filtering going to be done at the start via Gravel bed?? or deep water trough with plants??

If you could get some established plants in the system they would help get rid of allot the possible pollution problems and put oxygen back into your system. Just so you know starting a system needs to be done in phases and until each phase has been established you will run into issues like this. Cycling a system is the first step and it takes up to 4 to 6 weeks to get it started correctly.

You used Soap!!!  Where did you get such a silly idea??

OK, they are all dead now.  So scrub out the tanks with Arm and Hammer Baking Soda - and a lot of it - get the big boxes.  Let the Baking Soda sit in the tank for a couple days.  Returning daily to scrub out the tanks again, and again.  Add more new Baking Soda to the scrub job. 

After about a week of this wash out the Baking Soda, refill the tanks and re-start the cycling process using ''feeder goldfish.''  They are about $.25 each at any pet store.  We use human urine with the goldfish to start the cycling process, but most folks use house hold ammonia.  

After the tanks have cycled, get a big net, and get the gold fish out of there - they will eat the fry.  For the ones that we simply cannot catch, we drop a big catfish  named Bruno into the cycled tank.  Hew gets the remaining goldfish in  day or so.  We then move Bruno back to his 55-gallon tank.

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