Aquaponic Gardening

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I have managed to kill several fish. It saddens me to see them die. I have made some mistakes with running my system and I believe that my lack of paying enough attention has caused this drama. I left the window above the system open until the wee hours of the night. Sometime around 2 a.m. I remembered I had opened a window on a 60 degree day to let my plants get fresh air. What I forgot was to close the window when the sun started to drop. It dropped to just above freezing outside. My tank also dropped from 71 degrees to 58 degrees. I m sure this causes undue stress to an already stressed population of fish. 


I am at a 55% fish loss. I have been running my system for about 35 days. This is a bummer to me. I do suppose that the lessons of aquaponics come at a price and through hands on learning. I am learning many lessons as it seems. I am not discouraged however and plan to continue to work out any kinks that I have gathered or will encounter. Things will be okay!

Any advice would be much appreciated. Please read my past posts to get the best picture of my issues.


On a side note my plants are doing excellent. Carrots and cat nip have all sprouted their 2nd and 3rd sets of leaves and they are growing fast. The onions are getting taller and starting to become pungent. I have staggered the planting of my veggies so that I can attempt to harvest at a regular rate. I only plan to pull a few of each vegetable when they are ripened and the rest will be behind by a couple weeks from each other. 

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Comment by Sean Short on February 1, 2011 at 8:40pm
Sounds like good info. I got the fish from PetsMart. So who knows how well they take care of their goldfish. I'll just have to let the fittest survive :)
Comment by TCLynx on February 1, 2011 at 4:36pm

Goldfish might be just fine if you are not aiming for eating the fish.  You might just need to find a better source or figure the few that survive the riggers of the cycle up and learning will be the good tough ones.  We got the cheap goldfish for my mom's ornamental pond and most of them survived for years before a particularly bad winter must have done them all in.


Then again, fathead minnows or guppies might be fun too, all depends on what you want from your system.

Comment by Sean Short on February 1, 2011 at 4:27pm
I kind of figured that the nitrates would go unused until plants were grown. I suppose that the goldfish are fish that expect to die. I'm going to choose a better fish soon.
Comment by AlbertF on February 1, 2011 at 2:13pm
see, that means that you had an ammonia spike and nothing to uptake any converted nitrates.
i usually recommend starting with plants bought from a nursery and adding hummonia/urea and testing until week 4 or put in fish that you expect to die.
Comment by Sean Short on February 1, 2011 at 1:40pm

Right on. I'll keep on keepin on. 



I began my cycling with fish. I added my seedlings at about week 3. 

Comment by AlbertF on February 1, 2011 at 1:12pm

Hello,  Sorry to hear, its always a bummer.  Someone said your not a true aquaponist until you have fish loss...   Personally, I'd rather have done without the fish loss.

At what week did you add fish?  I dont add fish until at least week 4.

Comment by TCLynx on February 1, 2011 at 1:08pm
yea, sounds like you just hit a bit of a bump.  Hang in there, it should get better soon
Comment by Sean Short on February 1, 2011 at 1:06pm

Thank for all the advice. It is much appreciated. 


I did happen to buy the cheapest fish possible. I figured it was best to kill $.13 fish in the learning process rather than get frustrated at the cost of pricier fish. I can imagine the lifespan for a feeder fish would be like you say.  I think hardier fish are in my future.


Audible alarms, good call!



I have been testing for ammonia. I am simply testing for total ammonia though. I am using an aquarium master test kit measuring ppm. I have seen a curve from high ammonia in the beginnig to a drop in ammonia sometime around day 20. Since then it has stayed at .25ppm and in the last couple days has read 0. I plant to keep testing it to monitor the levels. 


Comment by TCLynx on February 1, 2011 at 9:07am

Make sure you understand the nitrogen cycle.  A new system is rarely cycled up in less than 6 weeks so if you have only been running for 35 days, the system is still really new and you should still be monitoring the water tests for ammonia, and nitrite as well as pH regularly.


Cheap goldfish can often be really tough but the cheapest goldfish are often meant as feeder fish and may not be very robust (seeing as the people selling fish for that purpose don't expect them to live long anyway.)  Small systems are also a bit harder to get stabilized especially in the beginning.  As you found out, the chemistry can move quickly as can the temperature.


Ya might take to keeping a timer or alarm clock near the system so if you do open the window again, you can set the alarm to remind you to close it before dark and also use the alarm to remind you of other things too.

Comment by Kobus Jooste on February 1, 2011 at 12:17am

I had a quick squiz at your previous posts, and was wondering about the possibility that you could have a fair amount of unused / unconverted ammonia in your system.  Have you tested for these?  What is your Ammonia level?  Apart from the temperature swing, you could have inadvertantly given your fish a very bad knock when you suddenly raised the pH of your system.  If you had Ammonia present, the low pH would have suppressed the amount of unionized ammonia (NH3) in the system.  That is the really toxic part.  Fish can take far more ammonia (NH4) than the unionized form, of which anything above 1 mg/L starts getting to the fish.  For example, at a stable 77 degrees F, if the pH was below 6 and was brought up to 7.5 or above, you would have increased your NH3 from under 0.06% to as much as 5% of your total ammonia count.  Other than that, I agree that goldfish seem to be less robust in my systems than say Koi or Tilapia.  I hardly ever loose any of those, but eventually, all the goldfish I add dies.


Otherwise, your system looks well thought out - just the issue of monitoring more of the water chemistry as TCLynx pointed out

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