Aquaponic Gardening

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After almost 3 months of awesome aquaponic success, no dead fish, great plant growth etc it all hit at once, almost overnight! One morning I had a pool of water in growbed #4 at the water inlet. I decided to "stir it up". I was rewarded with a disgustingly foul odor similar to old gym socks. I began pulling out old black roots and slime. Water chemicals maintained in the acceptable range and everything continued to grow. Having thought I had resolved the issue I flooded the bed with fresh water.
Then last week we discovered a blockage in the pipe going to our raft bed and upon opening it up to flush it we were hit once again with gross nasty water. I proceed to flush all the grow bed feed lines with the same gross results. The smell continued to grow and we were unable to isolate the source 100%. The fish continued to feed even though the water was murky enough we have been unable to do a count or see them but we have yet to have any " floaters" we don't know what lurks in the depth of the IBC tote of 250 gallons of water. We did a 100% change out of the sump tank water and manually dumped the 4 growbeds by flushing them with fresh water during the water exchange. I then stirred up the fish tank hoping to be able to see some fish or dislodge any dead ones on the bottom. Nothing floated to the top other than some dead worms and fish poop.
We went to bed imagining the worst of having to "start over" and draining our tank and cleaning out the grow beds that are just beginning to produce beautiful squash, cukes, tomatoes, peas and beans. Then this morning as we opened the door off the kitchen to the greenhouse expecting the nauseating odor we were greeted with normal greenhouse smell. We will still do maybe a 50% exchange of fish tank water just so we can actually do a head count--
To be continued-- lesson learned so far-- regular maintenance is vital no matter how new your system!

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Comment by Verna Gross on April 29, 2013 at 1:26pm
Finally took the big step to re access my growbeds for anaerobic spots. I started with # 4 as this was the one with the pooling water problem. Well my beautiful tomato plant currently producing cherry tomatoes) that I transplanted from dirt to hydroton early in the cycling phase I believe was the problem. When I pulled it out there was a large nasty smelling black slimy ball of roots I cleaned and flushed the bed and moved on to "clean and trowel the other 3 beds as well. I think I Found my problem so now I will only plant what I start from seed be see this chore s so time and energy consuming
Lesson learned. Only plant what I start from seed or do a triple super dooper root cleaning before planting any plants into my system!
Comment by Verna Gross on April 27, 2013 at 4:04pm
Update. We did a 50% water exchange last night and increased our flow rates for 12 hours. This is always a challenge because it screws all the timing up but is necessary to turn the tank over more frequently and get a good mix of old/new water. Made a huge difference in the odor problem, we were able to do a somewhat accurate fish head count including verifying our "bat man" bottom feeder was alive
Cleaned out all the filters.
We had no fatalities overnight and I actually enjoyed working in the growbeds today as it smells like a greenhouse should. No adverse affects on the water chemistry either so all is well for a while--at least until the next lesson pops up for us new bees!

Thanks for the comment Lee. We have a screen filter in our fish tank that traps any large solids
Comment by Lee Scott on April 27, 2013 at 5:22am

Maybe you need a RFF (Radial Flow Filter) to remove some solids and some secondary filters to keep the solids under control?

My system initially did not have a filter and I was unaware of the amount of solids entering the grow bed.  When I checked, I found a lot of 'gunk' in the GB where the water entered from the fish tank.  I added a RFF and I was amazed at the amount of 'stuff' collected on the first day.

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