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New Aquaponics System - Use of soil medium over hydroton with continuous flow

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Started capturing most of the solids and giving them to the worms, and they are loving it. Fish seem healthy and active, and some are about 12" so we should have our first feast in the upcoming weeks. I did some reading about breeding and from what I gather, it would have been better to separate a breeding colony before they grew this much. Looks like the 50Gal aquarium will be way too small, and I'll have to go with the 150Gal stock tank.

 

On a separate note, I am having trouble with my ammonia and pH levels. I had gotten relaxed about taking regular readings, and was just monitoring water clarity, and how the fish seemed. When I did take readings, I was shocked that pH had dropped to under 6.0, and ammonia was over 8.0 (dark green on API kit). I redid the tests b/c I couldn't initially believe the readings, but subsequent tests, and with a different kit confirmed the findings.

 

I added some ammo-lock and stress zyme, cut back on feeding and have been adding potassium bicarbonate daily (first one tbsp, then two, now three), and taking readings 24hours later. After about a week or so, pH has barely budged (initially went to 6.4 after two doses, then came back down to 6.0), and ammonia is still pretty high, albeit lower. Plan to keep adding pot bicarb, cut back on feeding even more, and may get some calcium hydroxide.

 

Any advice?

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Hi Ed,

 

The low pH means that the high ammonia readings are not going to be toxic but you're right to move to reduce them. 

 

I don't know how frequently you are removing the solids but that may be a factor in your high ammonia readings.......they'll begin producing ammonia within hours.

 

I can relate to the complacency thing.   Just when you're about to start eating your fish, you start to slacken off on the management......and, before you know it, it's crying time.....and dead fish to bury.

 

Try to avoid adding packaged chemicals into your system.  If you focus on water quality management basics, it shouldn't be necessary......and that means less expense and cleaner food for you and your family.

 

Gary

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Hello folks, here's an update:

 

After a month long battle to eliminate ammonia and raise pH without killing my fish, I'm making some headway. Ammonia is now down to 1.0 and pH is at 6.6 or so. This was a valuable lesson that thankfully did not result in any casualties - patience and slow, methodical adjustments prevailed.

 

I did make a small system addition that is working very well - added a plastic bowl strainer over the top of the 5 Gal bucket that I used to catch solids dump. In this bowl, I place a paper towel that serves as a very fine strainer. Every few days, I dump the paper towel and solids into the worm bin. The water that passes through and collects in the bucket is clear enough that I can add it back to the system.

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Hi Ed,

 

Good work with the balancing act.

 

Your ammonia readings - at your relatively low pH levels - are not dangerous…..but should be managed down to a level that provides a reasonable safety margin.

 

The worms would love your paper filter and your fish would be all the better for you giving it to the worms - everybody's happy.

 

Gary

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If you need to speed the process up, a couple of layers of stocking material over the bowl would remove most of the bulk and that could be dumped onto some dry straw to suck the last of the wetness out before the worms get it.. Then the remaining dirty water put through your coffee filter.

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Another simple filtration option is the disposable paper-based hair covers used by bakers…….or cheesecloth - available from most haberdashers.  The cheesecloth can be washed for re-use.

 

Gary

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Thanks for the ideas gents. I first tried cheesecloth, but found it much easier to just dump the whole mess in to the worm bin, instead of trying to keep the cheesecloth, but remove the solids.

 

Yahoo, I think I'll incorporate a modification of your suggestions since it should leave me cleaner water to return to the system - stocking over the strainer, paper towel and then a coffee filter on top. The coffee filter with solids would be given to the worms every few days, the paper towel would be added to the worm bin when it looks worn, and periodically wash off the nylon. Thanks!

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Just wanted to share this pic of part of the harvest a few weeks ago. Have ten fish remaining, which I will let grow for time being, and see if they reproduce. My plan is to set them up in the same tank they were in with their fallen brethren (currently in an aquarium), where they'll have plenty of room (25-30Gal/fish). I expect that this would make the system very easy to maintain - we'll see.

post-2252-0-96026100-1422629694_thumb.jp

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