Aquaponic Gardening

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Alright, I've broached the subject of Pee Ponics in my Fishless Cycling Post.
Did you know that you can run a system indefinitely without fish?
I ran a Pee Ponics system for quite a while. It was my original Barrel Ponics system I built and cycled up fishlessly. Then I continued to run it fishless. I found that the pee ponics system needed about the same supplements as a system with fish.

Ok, I know many people get all grossed out by this, let me go into a little of the research I've done as to the safety of using urine as fertilizer. I learned that you can bottle and age the urine for a period of time until the pH goes up to 9 and the urea content has turned into ammonia. This has the effect of killing off many pathogens. I ran tests on e. coli which is on and in all of us and will get into urine from our skin even on a healthy person. So I tested fresh urine and fresh urine deliberately contaminated by fecal material. Both came up positive for fecal coliforms. Then I took samples of fresh urine and sealed it up and aged it till the pH got to 9 as well as taking a sample of fresh urine and again deliberately contaminating it then sealing it up till the pH got to 9. When both samples had the high pH I again tested them. Both came back negative for the fecal coliforms even though both samples when fresh tested positive. So this convinced me that my own urine when aged is not going to make me sick if I use it as fertilizer for a pee ponic system. I would suggest that one would not want to use the urine of some one who is sick nor would I suggest collecting the urine of non family members to use in your garden. When taking antibiotics, I would probably not save my urine for use in an aquaponics system and I don't think I would want to use the urine of anyone on especially toxic medications like chemotherapy. Otherwise, I don't really think saving urine to use as fertilizer is dangerous or even all that gross. I mean, do you know what happens to your urine when you flush it down a toilet? It is essentially getting sent back into the water supplies one way or another. Septic systems with leach fields simply leach the water back down into the ground water and hope that dilution will take care of the problems and sewage treatment facilities simply try and separate the solids from the liquids and add some chlorine before sending the water back to nature. If the flows are too high, they simply dump the excess that can't handle. There is no guarantee that sewage treatment will remove pathogens from the water.

Anyway, Pee Ponics does work for those who might need to keep a system running fishless for a long period of time and no, it doesn't require much pee unless you are talking a very large system. I'm fairly certain that most medium backyard scale systems could run on about one big pee a day.

There are still those who will be grossed out by this. To each their own. If one doesn't want to pee ponics, I certainly wouldn't force them just as I wouldn't insist on some one else doing Humanure Composting. I also wouldn't want to use all the pee for aquaponics since good hot humanure compost requires a fair bit of pee to keep in going really good.

I do highly recommend the Humanure Handbook even to people who wouldn't compost humanure, It taught me how to compost without having problems with stinking compost.


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Comment by TCLynx on June 8, 2010 at 1:02pm
It will be your call if you feel ok using it as is (many people cycle with fresh.) You got an ammonia reading so you could probably go ahead and use it though I'm sure the ammonia levels are still climbing in that sample and it might just need more aging.
Comment by Kristen Langhorn on June 8, 2010 at 12:29pm
Ok, so I ran the amonia test on the urine/water sample and i got a reading of 2.4. I`m using a test kit i got at a pet store, using drops in test tubes and comparing colours on charts. I collect/store the urine in a glass mason jar.
Comment by TCLynx on June 8, 2010 at 12:01pm
What did you use the test the aged pee's pH? I've never had an issue with my urine taking very long to reach a high pH but I don't think mine even starts that low? I don't think the pH is likely to go back down after it goes high. How long it takes to get to a high pH will of course depend on the body chemistry of the donor as well as the diet shortly before supplying the sample and even the time of day collected. I've read studies that kept the bottled pee at different temperatures and some in light and some in dark and some samples took longer to get to the high pH but I don't know if they came up with any rules other than it should be aged till it gets to 9?

What sort of container was used to collect the urine? If it was a juice container, I wonder if the remains of the acidic juice might have affected things?

Many people have cycled up with fresh urine without having major trouble, the biggest issue is if the ammonia hasn't shown up yet, you have to be careful not to over dose. Perhaps add a few drops of the aged pee to the test tube and fill the remainder with plain water then run an ammonia test to see if the urea has converted enough to ammonia for you to measure it.
Comment by Kristen Langhorn on June 8, 2010 at 11:50am
I just tested my aged pee(two weeks) and it gave me a pH of 6. How long do I have to wait till it reaches 9 or did i miss it? I used my little girls urine as i thought kiddie pee scored lower on the yuck factor. I am over this now and will use what it takes. i just want to see my system working.
Comment by TCLynx on June 7, 2010 at 7:21am
Hum, think people would catch on if we started calling it People Ponics?
Comment by Rob Torcellini on June 7, 2010 at 6:37am
I run my system with a fairly low fish density. Once my greenhouse is in full production, the little guys can't keep up with the nutrient demand. I personally contribute to my system on a regular I save 1.6 gallons of water since I don't have to flush a toilet!

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