tom

Tom from Iowa

14 posts in this topic

I have been thinking of doing an aquaponics for a few years now and just recently put up a shop, so I thought this would be the time to start one.  I decided to use ibc tanks so I have 2 growbeds with 1 200 gallon fish tank. I decided to take a few plants out of my garden to get it going faster so I transplanted a cherry tomato, strawberry and a few pepper plants.  I planted them and got them adjusted to there new beds, then I added 100 tilapia babies.  After I got that going I built 2 more systems.  the systems are 2 - 4'x4' growbeds with 3 strawberry towers in each bed, that drain into a sump bucket and I have a 300 gallon fish tank with it.  I took some of the fish out of the 1st tank and put into the other tanks.  My last system is running great with the plants(bean, lettuce, cabbage, cucumbers and squash) and I have added 100 more tilapia babies to that system.  the second system is starting to turn, the plants are starting to grow.  the first system that I transplanted the outdoor garden plants to is struggling. the plants that I put in are producing a crop, but I can not get anything new to survive.  I am still trying to learn how to adjust things, I have a white powdery stuff on some of my grow media and some one told me that it was to high of ph/alkaliane, but my ph is always 6.2-6.4  so if anyone has a suggestion my ears are open. I lost 15 fish after a few weeks do to high ammonia, the ammonia is still high, but I add something to it to naturalize it.  after 12 weeks some of the fish don't even look like they have grown much roughly 1" long and some of them are about 4" long.  my system is 100% indoors with growlights, heat and air condition and air exchange system.  I am having so much fun doing this, it is a joy.

 

Tom

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Hi Tom,

 

Welcome to APN..It's a great place to learn here...Plenty of nice people willing to help you...My initial thoughts straight away when reading this post is you have way to many fish for the filtration you have available...To start, I',d reduce the amount of fish to well less than 40 for your first system and a similar number for your next....You need to know how many cubic gallons of media you have for your bio filtration on each of the systems you have...Then work out how many fish you can safely grow....

 

With a basic system which only uses the grow beds for it's biofiltration and...Although not technically correct. it's a good basic rule of thumb to use and get you started, until you understand it all I'd use a "so called ratio" of 1:1 That is 200 gallons of fish tank to 200 gallons of standard media...With a total water  turnover/s of your system of at least 1 per hour...I started off this way then I quickly learnt about the principles of solids removal and bio filtration, this took me a while to learn, but once I got my head around it I was right) and applied them to my system.

 

If you are just using your grow bed as the primary solids removal and biofiltration, I'd quickly add a solids removal device and a mechanical biofilter as quick as I could, If at all possible...Until then, I'd suggest making more grow beds and lighter stocking....The main reason why I use added mechanical solids removal and biofiltration is, I can get a longer life out of my grow beds as the solids build up is minimal, causing less maintenance in the long run...I add the solids collected back into the system via foliar spray and other methods which always helps the plants....

 

So in summary Welcome, I'd stock less fish, and increase your grow bed capacity to start with...

 

I hope this helps...Good luck...

 

Cheers.

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Hi Tom,

 

Welcome to APN.

 

I second BD's comments about the number of fish that you have.......and the need for mechanical and biological filtration.......ASAP!

 

 

Gary

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could you explain what a mechanical and biological filtration is?   in my earlier post I said 2 growbeds to 200 gallons, which is wrong. it is 3 - 40" x 44" growbeds roughly 11" deep and the fish tank is 40" x 44"  with 20" of water and I have 30 tilapia 12 weeks old, so 1" to a few 4".  the other tanks have 25 fish in them the same size.  the 3 system I put a laundry basket in it to put the new babies in.  I got the fish in last week and when I got them the water temp in the shipping box was only 61 degrees so right know out of the 100 there is only 68 left and a hand full still look bad, so that third system that is doing the best has 25 bigger fish and 68 little ones that I have had for a week.  so I don't think that my ratios are off, but open for input from anyone.

Thanks Tom

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Mechanical filtration is the removal of solids from a system. Biological filtration consists of providing some kind of surface area for the bacteria to live in that detoxifies the ammonia your fish give off and is produced by decomposing solids. The bacteria oxidizes the ammonia which then becomes nitrites and then a reltively benign nitrates. This is known as nitrification, and not only keeps your fish from being poisoned it also feeds your plants with the nitrates.

There's some good info on this in the FAQ section. You might want to read up on cycling.

Edited by Cecil (see edit history)

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Hi Tom,

 

could you explain what a mechanical and biological filtration is?

 

Mechanical filtration is anything which removes solid waste in the system.  Examples include sieve filters, radial flow separators, swirl filters, clarifiers, settling tanks (in my order of preference) which remove sedimentary solids.......and then there are those that remove suspended solids including packed media, filter brushes and mat filters.

 

Biological filters are simple devices that facilitate the colonisation of the beneficial bacteria that drive an aquaponics system.  Once again, there are different types......and they include moving bed bio-filters, trickling bio-filters, etc.

 

What you have currently is a basic flood and drain system....where the grow beds are required to perform the mechanical and biological filtration functions.  While that might seem like a nice simple idea.....and it will work up to a point......it's like any other combination machine/device in that it's full of compromises.

 

Aquaponics systems that are fitted with dedicated mechanical and biological filtration (and I never get tired of saying this) are more productive, resilient and versatile than any system of an equivalent size that is not so equipped.

 

Think of it as being the difference between a lawn mower and a Mack truck. 

 

Filtration is just one aspect of running a high performance aquaponics system.   As you're currently discovering, temperature is a critical success factor (as is pH).   If you keep things clean, and manage your system for optimal water temperature and pH, you'll grow lots of fish and vegetables.

 

Gary

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Hi Tom,

 

I think it sounds like a couple of things could be contributing to your high ammonia....Most definitely if your ammonia is to high you need to drop it post haste....IMO this is the most important immediate thing you need to do....If your system has not completed it's initial cycle, your bio filtration will not be working correctly...You will not have enough of one type of bacteria and too much of another, the system may not be balanced and you would be getting a high ammonia reading...The other thing that could be happening is your system is cycled but your fish are producing too much ammonia for the filtration capacity of the system.

 

I suggest you take a battery of water tests every day at the same time and log them here for us to comment on for you The readings we would need are

 

Tank temp

pH

Ammonia

Nitrites and

Nitrates

 

If we have these tests we can more clearly work out what is happening with your system.

 

Going back to the two likely scenarios If your system is not cycled, then we need to let it finish, as you have fish in the system we need to be extra careful with the ammonia, and nitrite spikes that will happen.

 

I would suggest salting the system to a max of 1 part per thousand 

 

If your system is producing to much ammonia for the filtration to handle then there are two options you can do...The first is lighten up the fish density and secondly build more grow beds and extra media and grow more plants.... 

 

There is one more senario...That is you have a dead fish or animal in your system somewhere or rotting fish food..All these things may happen in an aquaponics system so it would pay to check for that and remove if it is there...

 

We need to know what is happening so the tests should help us there.

 

The pH of 6.2 is OK..It is on the lower end of the pH scale for your fish...When my pH gets to 6.2 That is the time I gradually increase my pH up to about 6.8 and not much more...

 

You asked about mechanical and biological filtration....I started by adding a swirl filter followed by a moving bed Bio filter...Both were simple and inexpensive to make, the swirl I later changed to a radial solids separator which Earthan Group has shown us how to make on this forum somewhere...Basically you can make it using a 44 gallon plastic drum...After this I made a moving bed biofilter which is made using another 44 gallon drum an air stone/s in the bottom and I use the best filter media available IMO, Kalnes k1...This has the best surface area for which the bacteria can grow...This moving bed reactor is placed straight after the solids removal device...After this My water goes to a sump made from another 44 gallon drum from which my pump pumps water to my grow beds...

 

Finally Tilapia are a tropical fish so they need warmer water...I forgot what the optimum water temp is for them as we are not allowed to farm them here in South Australia...Others on this forum will quickly tell you the best temp to keep them...Whilst tilapia are a very hardy fish it is most important to keep the water temp at a reasonable temperature for them....

 

I'd still get back to the basics first then do the others quickly after I had the basics sorted...Sort the ammonia issue first then gradually bring up the pH then add the others quickly...

 

It looks like you have a couple of other very experienced people helping you so I'll bail out for now, and let them help you through...You know the saying don't you? Too many cooks spoil the broth...

 

Good luck...

 

Cheers

Edited by bigdaddy (see edit history)

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The other guys have the filtration dept. well covered, but I'd like to join them in welcoming you to the forum.

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I am having so much fun doing this, it is a joy.

 

tom, I am in Sioux Falls, if it is a matter of getting your system cycled, i have some lava rocks in my system i can share with you to help speed up the cycling. i am not a pro by any means but i would be happy to share any experience i have had up to this point. shoot me a message and i could get you some of my systems nitrifying bacteria.

 

its fun to be able to this indoors with below freezing temps outside!!!

 

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temp is a steady 76-77 degrees

ph is always around 62 sometimes 64   weekly I add stuff to increase this #, but what I have read is that ph is always low using plantit! clay media

ammonia on my 1st system is 8 all the time, have done 3 water transfers reduced fish to 30 and for the past 3 months have been using a powder to naturalize the ammonia.  the other 2 systems range from .5 to 1 mostly .5

nitrites are 0  each system had a spike but have been 0 for a months

nitrates 0

 

like I said earlier system 1 has plants that I got from my garden and they have been producing(small amounts)for 3 months, but anything new I plant takes off fast then dies after a few weeks.

System 2, I stuck seeds right into the media and they all grew fast, but now they haven't grown much, still green.

system 3 is growing the best, not fast, but still growing and have not lost any plants

 

any help

Tom

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Hi Tom,

 

Like BD, I'm wondering if your first system has cycled properly.  Can you do a full battery of water tests.....including nitrites and nitrates?

 

Gary

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so it has been a while, fish are growing like crazy and plants are also.  my problem is my ph is always low, I bought builders lime and I am adding 4 or 5 times a day and by morning it is showing 6 on the test.  after reading many articles on this forum it sounds like my problem is gh and kh, so I bought a test kit.  gh is very hard 300 and kh is 0.  if anyone could tell me what I need to add to get this stable.

Thanks Tom

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Hi Tom

Try reading this http://www.koiphen.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=471798&d=1371212511

on page 5 and further KH is explained and it's importance in getting a stable ph.

Is it your tank water or source water that reads 0 ? to me it sounds like you have had a ph crash, all the carbon is used do to, to high organic load.

You should adres the problem in a another place than the welcome wagon to get more respons either make your own system thread or make a KH Q in general disscusion.

 

cheers

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