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Aussieponic

Pure ammonia

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Gary hi. In your book "Urban Aquaponics" You talk about cycling the system with pure ammonia. I can get hold of some of this as 25% in water solution. My question is how much do i need to cycle my system? I have 2500 lt in the fish tank, 4500 lt in the sump tank and 5000 lt of Growbed space.

Thanks

Aussieponic

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Hi Brian,

Good to hear from you.....and I'm pleased to hear that your system is almost ready to go. It will look a treat when it's in full flight.

While I understand that your total system volume is 12,000 litres, you don't say what quantities (and what cost) your ammonia is.

You have two options around the pure ammonia......you can attempt to cycle the entire system at once or you can just start up part of it. It depends on how much ammonia you can get and how much it will cost as to which option is preferable.

If you opt to just start up a part of your system......once you have the necessary bacteria proliferating, they will breed quickly and extend into the rest of the larger system.

Regardless of which way you decide to go, the goal is to get an ammonia reading of 5ppm and keep it there until nitrite production kicks in.

Once you have achieve a nitrite reading of 5ppm and then everything (ammonia and nitrite readings) returns to zero, your system has cycled.

I suggest that you add the pure ammonia solution in small amounts until it registers on your water tests and then continue to add small amounts until you reach the appropriate reading.

I'm happy to provide you with up to 100 litres of fish tank water (at no cost) which will also help to kickstart your system. Remember, the Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter bacteria inhabit the water as well as the grow bed media (and the air for that matter).

In the absence of pure ammonia, I recommend the use of fish meat for fishless cycling. While this is somewhat controversial in BYAP circles, it's a practice that's well know to aquarium operators and one which I'm happy to defend.

I'd prefer to use pure ammonia but it's not easy to find. Are you at liberty to disclose the source of the ammonia solution that you can access?

I hope this helps Brian.

Gary

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Hi Gary , thanks for your reply. I can get bottles of 500ml or 2.5 lt. I think the 500ml is about $12.00 not sure on the 2.5. I have not spoken to the company yet but The school where I work gets it through Bayside Chemicals. I will ring them next week and see if I can buy through them. The lab techs seem to think I can. Do you think if was to start putting in the amonia a little each day as you suggest, would i need the 2.5 lt bottle? The ammonia is 25% solution. It is dangerous stuff and not to be fooled with. I will need to wear eye, lung and skin protection.

Thanks again

AP

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Hi,

Maths is certainly not my forte.

You're looking to achieve a level of 5ppm. I suggest that you ask the maths head of department at your school to do the calculations for you.

Gary

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I think that Urea would be the easiest and most readily available chemical to start the process. Any garden shop should have it and it readily dissolves in water. Any left over can go to the soil-based garden. Urea consists of a bonded ammonia and carbon dioxide molecule.

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Hi,

I hadn't thought about urea.

My only real concern would be that urea sourced from a garden store might have something else in it.

The whole issue of cycling is a once-off problem. Once you have one system operating, the easiest way to cycle another one is just to transfer water from the cycled system to the new one.

......which brings me back to the question I asked early AP.

Would you like a drum of water from my system to get you going?

With the volume of water that you have, you could stick a big bunch of fingerlings in there without any real issue. I would hav thought that the number of bugs in 100 litres of water would colonise your system fairly smartly.

Gary

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Gary thanks for the offer of the fish water I would love to get some. Also a small amount of duck weed to start me off would be good.

Thanks

AP

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No problem.

I've PM'd my phone numbers. Give me a call and we'll make the arrangements for a pick up.

You're welcome to come to my place......or I can take the water and duckweed to work at Tingalpa (just south of the Gateway Bridge).....or I can visit you and take a look at what you've achieved. Your call.

Gary

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Hi,

I hadn't thought about urea.

My only real concern would be that urea sourced from a garden store might have something else in it.

Gary

www.incitecpivot.com.au/zone_files/PDFs/Urea_Factsheet.pdf

The above gives a brief description of the manufacturing process and uses. I believe that due to the manufacturing process the resultant would be quite pure. The main reason I suggested it, is it is cheap and readily available (about $4 for a 500g packet) and can be used on the regular garden. In an AP situation it might prove helpful when you have a crop of heavy nitrogen feeders and limited fish density. Since it is very soluble it could be added after the fish tank to the growbeds, perhaps by hand watering between normal flood cycles.

On another ammonia note, I saw on Better Homes and Gardens last night the vet, Dr Harry, advocating the use of a cooked prawn to create the ammonia to set up a marine fish tank. I wonder what your detractors thought of that?

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Hi Echidna,

Thanks for that Urea data sheet.....it's got some good information in it.

I guess my concern about urea was borne of the fact that it comes out of a gas well originally.....and that it might have some impurities in it. Gas wells contain all sorts of interesting stuff in addition to gas. It's certainly worth a go and it's a lot more user-friendly than handling 25% ammonia solution.

I'm leaning toward using a few litres of water out of a healthy AP system as the best way to cycle another one. When I cranked up my last system, I just changed half of the water out of my original system into the new one and it was away in no time.

As for Dr Harry and his prawn.......let's just say that I'm demonstrating patience around detractors at the moment........but I do appreciate your bringing it to my attention.

Gary

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Gary have not recieved you phone number via PM yet. I would love you to come here with the water and the duck weed so you can see my system. I should be ready in about 2 weeks.

AP

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Copy of my post just moments ago in “Re: Ammonia suggestions for cycling without fishâ€

Urea is identical in its composition to that of the fish wastes and needs to be converted exactly as does the fish waste by the microbes found in the soil/gravel bed will work perfectly a hand full or two should suffice (large hand full that is per 900L). Alternatively, why not add a hand full of Urea and a hand full of Calcium Nitrate. Calcium Nitrate is readily plant available source of nitrogen and with the added bonus of calcium; Calcium Nitrate also increases dissolved oxygen in the water and is commonly used in aquaculture dams for that reason. Both together will kick start any system off safely.

Trust me I have had a long running system and have never lost one fish yet.

PS: Wait 2 or 3 weeks and it will be fine.

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hi Johnathan. I have a total of 7000lts of water and 5000lts of Growbeds. If I was to use urea to kickstart my system, do I dose it once or several times along the way?

Aussieponic

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G’day Aussieponic

Your best bet for sure is to dose the entire amount of urea at the start. Yet, if you decide to use some calcium nitrate as well 1/3 at the start along with the urea and two weeks later add the remaining 2/3.

No questions of it, it will take a good three weeks for the microbes to kick into gear and multiply in your grow beds until you can safely add your fish and plants; it should be quite stable from now providing you keep a close eye on nutrient levels and plant growth.

You can also buy from most aquarium shops these microbes in a bottle although not essential as there should be these microbes found on your gravel and in the water that will multiply over time yet, are a grantee if you like to assure that you system will be stable when you add your fish. It may be worth planting out some plants into your bed several days prior to introducing your fish your plants are much more forgiving over your fish and the plants will consume any excess nutrients remaining from the urea and/or calcium nitrate.

Providing you have 7,000L of fish tanks I would recommend use around 2kg of Urea total and additionally if you can get your hands on some calcium nitrate (don’t bother if you cant) use around 0.5kg total. I do strongly recommend that you purchase a bottle of these microbes however, it may set you back $50 no more. But, you will have a new clean disease free system that should'nt cause you any grief.

Regards Jon Dyer

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John I have used the urea as per your instructions. Ammonia is 4.0 ppm, Nitite is 2.0 ppm and Nitrates are 0.5 ppm after 9 days. PH is 7.2. Gary D supplied 80 lts of fish water containing the bacteria and some duck weed.

Aussieponic

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My established system was running out of Nitrate due to large GBs (3x1200litres) and very small fish (about 100 60-80mm Tandanus catfish) so I decided to add urea as an extra source of Nitrogen. I bought 400g of Yates pure urea from a garden shop and have been adding 4g a day for the last 10 days or so. Reason for small dose is that I didn't want to run the risk of hurting the fish.

Anyway it seems to be working well- tomatoes look a lot better and fish seem unaffected.

I have been monitoring ammonia, nitrates and nitrites every day and the levels of ammonia and nitrite have stayed at nil to trace while the nitrate has risen from about nil to perhaps 10-20ppm

Another reason for using Urea instead of ammonia is the urea is easy to obtain and cheap wheras ammonia of a non cloudy type is hard to find and seems a lot more expensive. Also potentially more toxic to the fish.

I might add that to establish my system I followed Gary's suggestion and used about 500g of fish meat in the water for a couple of weeks BEFORE adding fish.

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Hi Jimbo,

You've resolved my only outstanding concern about using urea in an aquaponic system.....how it would impact any fish in the system.....and I'm delighted that you were able to vindicate the practice of nitrogen dosing using fish meat.

Ironically, my fish meat detractors (elsewhere) failed to suggest the use of Urea and persisted with pure ammonia which, as you suggest, is hard to get hold of anyway

Thanks to Echidna for the original urea suggestion (for nitrogen dosing for start up purposes) and to you Jimbo for the experimentation that vindicated the use of urea in a system containing fish. Excellent work!

Gary

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Ditto Gary!

I went straight out and bought myself a packet of urea today so I can give it a try! I have one system in the early stages of cycling and another struggling due to a lack of large fish producing ammonia. Both it seems will benefit from urea.

Thanks for sharing the love gentlemen!!!:)

I have a question that potentially may put me up there as the bozo of the month but I have been reading an organic gardening book from Europe recently where they advocate strongly the benefits of urinating into your compost heap. Bit gross I know but seems to work :eek:! Is urine a form of ammonia like fish waste? Is it a form of urea? Surely there is no place for it in my pond system??:o

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Same stuff Martin, its just one is organic form and the other is inorganic. they still need to be broken down the same in the soil/water by the microbes.

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In fact ammonia is essential in the assisstance to break down organic matter in compost the microbes consume the ammonia as a food source so no ammonia present no breakdown of waste. Same applies with aquaponics.

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I have read a bit about using urine in your aquaponics system. I guess in theory it will work, but never been too keen on the idea.

I would rather use some very inexpensive Urea.

I was taught by my mother to wash my hands after going to the toilet....germs and all that stuff......not natural to pee in the fish's house, I would not think......germs and all that stuff :rolleyes:

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Hi,

Urine in a healthy person is sterile......but who knows (without pathological examination) who's healthy or not.

The other issue is that I feel that it must detract from one's enjoyment of the cooked fish when one remembers that one has been piddling in the pond. How would the dinner guests react to that revelation?

Keep piddling in the compost heap Martin.....that really is the best place for it.

Gary

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