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Brenton

New system in Adelaide, South Australia

12 posts in this topic

Hi guys,

Ive been building my system over the last 4 months since just before xmas 2012. I thought that I had cycled it successfully, but after leaving it alone over Easter I came back and found my ammonia had shot through the roof.

I realise that my understanding of what should have been happening is not complete. Well, Ive always been guilty of simple oversights which tend to come back and bite me in the bum. I wonder if anyone can offer their opinion about what I may have done wrong.

I bought my IBCs from Pat the drum man at Cavan. They had them for $66 dollars each. I got three. The downside was that they had PVA glue in them which needed to be cleaned out. It was not exactly what I had planned for my xmas holidays but progress was slowly made.

I got the main swag of plumbing fittings from Wet Earth. Definitely way cheaper than the big B, which I have been to way way too many times in the last few months. Why don't they have frequent shoppers rewards there???

The water pump turns over a rated 2400 lph. The beds both fill in about 15 minutes and drain in five.

For the media, I wanted to get river pebbles, but couldn't find any (in the two places I visited ) which didn't have limestone. I went with 20mm blue metal instead. I like the color scheme now. Way heavier and way cheaper than anything else. I used a spare 200lt drum of water and another big tub of water as a two stage slurry with a colander and hand washed it by the shovel full. However as a result when I finally turned on the system the water was very clean, no clouding at all.

Finally I assembled the pvc pipes together over two nights and spent another night glueing everything together. I was doing so well. I had just about finished when I spilt the red about 200ml of red primer over one of my media beds. So now I have some pink gravel.

I read about affnans siphon and built two of those. I was also half following some of murrays instructions and the two got intermixed. As a results my stand pipes finished about 50mm beneath the gravel surface. Too much? Anyway, I made another two and now its just over 25mm. Much happier the second time.

I decided to be a patient man and do a fishless cycle. Trying to source some ammonia I read about Urea. Perhaps this was where I have made my first mistake. I'd love to know what others think. My plan was to add two teaspoons per day. I did this for about 3 weeks and started to see predictable signs of nitrates appearing. My Ph started at 8.2 and over the course of the 3 weeks dropped to about 7.8. Water temps all the time were between 28-30 degrees C when I measured each evening. I noticed nitrates appearing 18 days in and also the tanks got a few green blotches and some fine algae (I actually celebrated the signs of life). The ammonia slowly raised itself to about 4ppm.

Twenty six days into the process the nitrites dropped off to zero and similarly did the ammonia (maybe .25ppm). The Nitrates peaked at what I read to be 20ppm (Does anyone else have trouble interpreting the colours? Should I hold the test tube against the card, or away a bit?

Regardless, this is where things get interesting. I went away for 4 days. Before I left I does the urea higher than normal (perhaps 6 teaspoons for the 4 days I would be away). When I came back, the ammonia has gone up to 8ppm. I felt gutted :( Since then I have done nothing to the system (except add maybe a cup of seasol for the few plants I put in).

Over the Easter break we had a bit of a cold snap here (maybe down to 12deg C) and had some rain showers.

While the weather was hot a few weeks ago I was topping up using tap water which had been sitting in a 200l drum for a minimum of 2-3 days. If the lid was on the 200l would this stop the chlorine from off gassing? Do people test for Chlorine/Chloramine before topping up?

I have reached the end of my understanding as to what could have caused that ammonia spike. It has been eights days since then and there has been no movement of any of my testings.

I hope that even if I killed off the bacteria, with the current burst of warm weather ~27 deg days there is some hope that the system will reboot and start cycling again in another week or so. Is having such a high level of ammonia a really bad thing? I don't really want to start preparing water changes for a 1300L system.

I also have question about air. I bought a hailea ac0-308 which overheated on the first night and shut itself off. I don't know if it was always bad, but now it overheats if I put more than two Haliea 4cm air stones (about the size of a fat 50 cent piece) about 20cms into the water. I accept that I overdrove it myself, so it was my fault. I ordered a resun lp-40 which is supposed to be a deep water pump. How can I tell if i am overworking this pump? I put four airstones (three dropping one meter into the fish tank and the last one into the sump (20 cms) and the water boils like a spa :D ) I read in one thread somewhere (of course I cant find it again) about making a pvc bridge with a blow off valve. Any recommendations? How do I know ahow many airstones I can use. The pump comes with a 12way splitter! I'd like to get more DO into the water but am nervous about leaving an air pump alone until I know its going to be ok.

Mistakes I know I made:

1. Not spending the money for food grade and cleaned ibcs on day one.

2. Cut stand pipes too short for grow bed -> redo standpipes and bell siphons

3. Spilt red pvc primer over gravel!

4. Cooked my first air pump

5. Killed my bacteria???

6. <just a matter of time>

Finally I want to thank all you contributors who got me into this. Its been an awesome addiction so far.

Wishlist:

- trout

- nft tubes over fish tank

- diy hoop house for winter.

- battery 12v backup

- arduino

Thanks in advance for comments, advice for next steps!

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my youtube video of the system up and running:

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Hi Brenton,

Finally I assembled the pvc pipes together over two nights and spent another night glueing everything together. I was doing so well. I had just about finished when I spilt the red about 200ml of red primer over one of my media beds. So now I have some pink gravel.

Ouch! Are you happy that you got most of the primer out? Did the remaining stuff have sufficient time to harden before you added water?

I read about affnans siphon and built two of those. I was also half following some of murrays instructions and the two got intermixed. As a results my stand pipes finished about 50mm beneath the gravel surface. Too much? Anyway, I made another two and now its just over 25mm. Much happier the second time.

Affnan is the man to go to when it comes to auto-syphons.

Regardless, this is where things get interesting. I went away for 4 days. Before I left I does the urea higher than normal (perhaps 6 teaspoons for the 4 days I would be away). When I came back, the ammonia has gone up to 8ppm. I felt gutted frown.gif Since then I have done nothing to the system (except add maybe a cup of seasol for the few plants I put in).

The most common problem with urea is that people tend to overdo it. With the benefit of hindsight, you'd have been better to leave it since you were inching toward cycling as things were........but even 8ppm is not a disaster. The worst that will have happened is that the ammonia will have stalled nitrite production. It'll come good.

While the weather was hot a few weeks ago I was topping up using tap water which had been sitting in a 200l drum for a minimum of 2-3 days. If the lid was on the 200l would this stop the chlorine from off gassing? Do people test for Chlorine/Chloramine before topping up?

In Adelaide, the water is dosed with Chloramine. Drop a couple of Vitamin C tablets into the drum and that will break the bond. Put an air stone in the drum and it will help gas off the chlorine.....and most of the ammonia.

I hope that even if I killed off the bacteria, with the current burst of warm weather ~27 deg days there is some hope that the system will reboot and start cycling again in another week or so. Is having such a high level of ammonia a really bad thing? I don't really want to start preparing water changes for a 1300L system.

Leave the water as it is.......and wait. Do nothing except pH, ammonia and nitrite tests......preferably at the same time each day.

I also have question about air. I bought a hailea ac0-308 which overheated on the first night and shut itself off. I don't know if it was always bad, but now it overheats if I put more than two Haliea 4cm air stones (about the size of a fat 50 cent piece) about 20cms into the water. I accept that I overdrove it myself, so it was my fault. I ordered a resun lp-40 which is supposed to be a deep water pump. How can I tell if i am overworking this pump? I put four airstones (three dropping one meter into the fish tank and the last one into the sump (20 cms) and the water boils like a spa biggrin.gif

Haillea pumps run hot at the best of times but, if yours is cutting out on thermal overload, return it to where you bought it and get a refund.

The Resum is a diaphragm pump so it's important not to throttle it. If you have too much air, incorporate a bleed valve into your system....so that you can adjust the airflow to various air stones - without choking the pump.

Mistakes I know I made:

1. Not spending the money for food grade and cleaned ibcs on day one.

2. Cut stand pipes too short for grow bed -> redo standpipes and bell siphons

3. Spilt red pvc primer over gravel!

4. Cooked my first air pump

5. Killed my bacteria???

6. <just a matter of time>

You haven't done anything that a thousand (or more) people haven't done before you (with the exception of the red primer), so don't sweat it.

Finally I want to thank all you contributors who got me into this. Its been an awesome addiction so far. Thanks in advance for comments, advice for next steps!

Start planning for some dedicated mechanical and biological filtration for your system. It will only require 2 x 200 litre blue drums and it will make an enormous amount of difference to your system.

Gary

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Thanks for the comments and advice. I hadn't heard about the vitamin C effect before. I will get on it. I had to add a bit of top up water this morning after a week of not doing so since the weather has been better. Hopefully that wont be another set back.

As you may have seen I have a 200L radial flow filter. Is it possible to just dump a bunch of bio-balls into the sump to help with more surface area, or should I be looking at something more specific?

Ok, two last questions about ammonia.

1. Apart from the nitrifying process, is ammonia otherwise inert? Or does having a pump making bubbles do something to off gas the same as chlorine.

2. There is a small amount of leaf matter in the bottom of the filter and in the tank. As this breaks down, could it be another source of ammonia?

Regardless, Im not going to be doing anything rash, and hopefully given time the ammonia will come down and the nitrites reappear.

Thanks again for your help.

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Hi Brenton,

As you may have seen I have a 200L radial flow filter. Is it possible to just dump a bunch of bio-balls into the sump to help with more surface area, or should I be looking at something more specific?

If you're going to create a moving bed bio-filter, I'd recommend Kaldnes K1 in preference to bio-balls.

Ok, two last questions about ammonia.

1. Apart from the nitrifying process, is ammonia otherwise inert? Or does having a pump making bubbles do something to off gas the same as chlorine.

2. There is a small amount of leaf matter in the bottom of the filter and in the tank. As this breaks down, could it be another source of ammonia?

Some of the ammonia may gas off but, since a functional AP system is equipped to deal with ammonia, what remains is of no concern.

Regardless, Im not going to be doing anything rash, and hopefully given time the ammonia will come down and the nitrites reappear.

That will happen......just be patient.

Thanks again for your help.

My pleasure..

Gary

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Well, good news. Since the other day I have added my new resun pump which is running 16hrs a day and took your advice and added 4 vitamin c tablets to the water yesterday. Today, my ammonia levels have dropped to about 4ppm. They were at the elevated levels for up to 11days, so perhaps it was just time...

I still haven't seen any Nitrite movement. Do you think I can expect to see any, or will the bacteria that is in the system consume it before I can get a reading?

cheers for now

Brenton

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Hi Brenton,

Why are you only running your air pump for 16 hours? Are you shutting it off overnight?

We are talking about adding Vitamin C tablet to the make up water.....and not the fish tank, aren't we?

The reason that they were elevated for so long was probably because very high ammonia levels will retard nitrification.

Now that the levels have dropped, you can expect nitrite readings within the next few days. You can expect that your ammonia levels will drop to zero....and your nitrite levels will climb.....and then suddenly fall away to nothing. This is the precise point at which cycling occurs.

Just wait......it's going to happen.

Gary

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Nice one Brenton, don't worry about the mistakes it's all about learning. If you didn't know tooperang trout farm is one the cheapest place to buy rainbow trout in SA. My 100 fingerlings at 4 inches cost me 80c each.

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Ok, thanks again Gary. As you predicted, last nights test showed 0.25ppm Ammonia. My understanding of what has happened is not really clear (too much ammonia given at once leading to spike which inhibited nitrification), so my readings about the cycling process aren't much help to myself.

Of course still no nitrites, and nitrate levels are still the same. Today's question is: if there is no ammonia recorded will nitrites still appear or should I start dosing a small amount of urea? I think I should still wait a few more days to see what the system can do by itself.

And thanks fatman for the mention about tooperang. Is 4 inches still a fingerling? Its the only place I was aware of that I could get trout, so when the time eventually comes hopefully they will have some available.

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Yeah not sure on the size parameters. A great buy , last year I paid $1.10 but they were larger. 1aquaponics has cod and perch and other fish from time to time. Also west beach hatcheries has barramundi. The fish farm at prospect hill has closed.

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Hi Brenton

I asked that Q a few years ago, slightly different though, my Q was:

How old is a yearling.

And the answer or conclution ended up being fish from last year stock.

Wich means their actual age (a yearling) deepended on what time of last year they were born(date) and at what time of the present year(date) you ask

Not a wery precice measure(some would say)

So your Q

Is 4 inches still a fingerling?

Quote: Fingerling – refers to a fish that has reached the stage where the fins can be extended and where scales have started developing throughout the body.[4] It this stage, the fish is typically about the size of a finger.

From here : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juvenile_fish

Hehe, neither a werry presice or acurate measure some would say, in fact a adult within some species are much smaller than a finger, and opposite a fry of another can be larger than a finger.

So yes 4 inch can be a fingerling, by the "standard"

cheers

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