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I *think* it's cycling...

Discussion in 'Water Chemistry' started by Mel Redcap, Feb 23, 2016.

  1. Mel Redcap

    Mel Redcap Active Member

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    Hey all, just a (hopefully) quick question about my baby test system!

    I'm cycling fish-in with a few goldfish, kickstarted the cycle with some mulm and water from established fish tanks, and have been keeping records of my water tests for a couple of weeks now. The first tests were pretty much what I expected to see, given that using the mulm put nitrates into my system right away:

    pH 7.5-8 Ammonia 0.25 Nitrite 0 Nitrate 5.0

    Those values all stayed rock steady for nearly a week, then the pH started rising and the nitrates started going down. Ammonia was steady at 0.25 and nitrites still zero. I've been dosing the pH down a little at a time to keep it within fish-happy levels.

    Now I've got this:

    pH 8-9 Ammonia 0-0.25 Nitrite 0 Nitrate 0

    So pH is continuing to trend up (still dosing it down carefully), ammonia is going down (good), nitrite never showed a reading at all (good? Maybe? If that part of the bacterial cycle established really quickly?), and nitrates have gone away. o_O

    I'm guessing that the cycle is kicking in happily and my plants are taking up ALL the nitrates (they are growing well!), so I could add some more fish, but I'm too paranoid to do it without coming here first and asking if the collective wisdom of the forum thinks that it should be OK. :confused:

    (Plants are DEFINITELY happy - the one exception had its roots go bad and has been chucked - and the fish seem happy and active. I'll post pictures in a bit.)
     
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  2. Mel Redcap

    Mel Redcap Active Member

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    Happy plants!

    image1.JPG

    More happy plants!

    image2.JPG

    Not a happy plant.

    image3.JPG

    Sprouts! Yay! (This is the salad mix requested by my husband :X3:)

    image4.JPG
     
  3. Mel Redcap

    Mel Redcap Active Member

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    As of today, pH is 8, ammonia nitrites and nitrates are all 0... tomorrow I'm gonna get some more goldfish. (I plan to name one of them Capfin Americarp. :X3:)
     
  4. adz

    adz Member

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    Hi Mel. Looks good keep reducing your ph, aim for 7

    Sent from my SM-G360G using Tapatalk
     
  5. Mel Redcap

    Mel Redcap Active Member

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    Yup, I'm being gentle about it! New fishies have been acquired and settled in right away.:)
     
  6. bigdaddy

    bigdaddy Super Moderator

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    Hi Mel,

    Your system appears OK to me.
    The pH is swinging a bit which is to be expected.
    If the ammonia rises a bit, don't be to concerned about that so long as it drops off to a trace or 0 quickly.
    Your system should of settled by now with the addition of your new fish.
    Give it a little while longer to settle some more.
    You may well find your pH dropping as things get going with your bacteria.
    If it keeps heading south I wouldn't do a graet deal more to your system but if it does not gradually and slowly lower your pH level.

    Cheers
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2016
  7. Mel Redcap

    Mel Redcap Active Member

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    Hi Bigdaddy!

    Yup, pH is still dropping, it's down to 7.5 as of yesterday. I've stopped dosing it down as it seems to be doing the job by itself; I'm aiming for an eventual level of 6.5-7 for happy fish and plants. Ammonia has twitched up slightly to 0-0.25, which I'm happy about as that was the desired result! The new fish are bigger than the ones I already had, so they're feeding a lot more. Nitrates were still at 0 and some of my plants were yellowing a bit so I did a water change on one of my established tanks and topped up the system with a bucketful of aged (nitrated) water to keep them happy - that gave the levels a good kick and the plants are already looking better. (Most of them are also developing flower buds! Woot!)

    I'm having tons of fun! I just have to keep reminding myself not to poke things that don't need to be helped, and no, I shouldn't add more plants right now as I obviously already have plenty... all those herbs are just going to have to wait until I've set up my BIG system. :D
     
  8. bigdaddy

    bigdaddy Super Moderator

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    Hi Mel,

    I did notice your plants yellowing a bit and that can be expected at this early stage...I just use Seasol and more efffectively Powerfeed to get my plants through this early stage. Seasol tends not to effect the ammonia levels to much but you do need to be aware that Powerfeed may... If it does just stop using it for while and you should find the ammonia levels coming back to normal in a short space of time...

    I wouldn't be topping up your tanks but if that tickles your fancy and it works for you why not...Just don't drop any of your newly cycled tank water as you will be dropping a lot of your hard work and possibly delay the process further.

    Now is a good time not to tinker with your water chemistry to much and let nature sort it out for a while.
    At this stage you should be expecting the ammonia and nitrites to not be showing or a slight show of ammonia, as it appears your system is cycling well and at some stage you should find your nitrates increasing...Don't be to impatient with this as you do have plants in and they should be using some soon...In the meanwhile you may expect to find slight yellowing of leaves of which you may need to add something to help while your nitrates are building.

    Also you should be aware you don't want to have to higher concentation of nitrates in your system as they are not good for your fish.

    The other thing is as your pH has been a bit high for efficient uptake of nutrients, you are likely to find the yellowing of leaves.
    Now your pH is heading down you should find your plants to be getting a bit greener anyway. If not, I'm sure Yabbies would be happy to tell you what to do there to help.

    All looks good to me, keep us informed on progress hey?

    Cheers.
     
    sirustandi likes this.
  9. Mel Redcap

    Mel Redcap Active Member

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    Will do! :)

    I'm not taking any water out of my system - the water change was on one of my fish tanks indoors, I poured a bucketful from that into the aquaponics setup instead of onto my garden. (My phrasing wasn't 100% clear, sorry about that!) As of today I have two small yabbies in the sump tank, and I've lost one of my goldfish... not a water quality issue or anything like that, it jumped out and I didn't find it until it was dead and crispy. :cry: The fish tub now has a cover on it!

    Ammonia's still just showing (somewhere around 0-0.25), nitrites still zero, nitrates already dropping again after the boost from the fishtank water. Plants are looking happy and one of my marigolds is starting to bloom.
     
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  10. Mel Redcap

    Mel Redcap Active Member

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    Things my husband didn't expect to hear me say today (or ever, really): "Yay! I've got worms!" :LOL:

    I bought a 'booster box' of composting worms today. One handful went in each growbed and the rest are now living in our compost pile, hopefully happily. The ones in the left growbed have been collectively named 'Squiglet', and the ones in the right growbed are all 'Worm-Bob'. As I pointed out to my husband, the worms are employees, and it's only polite to refer to your employees by name. :X3:
     
  11. Mel Redcap

    Mel Redcap Active Member

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    Other, less silly, bits of progress:

    My first batch of seeds arrived! Most of these are things I can plant right away... if I had room... but there's a few that will need to wait until Spring. I have been looking for spaghetti squash seeds for a long time, so when I actually found them there was no way I was going to wait to buy them! I've direct-sown some cress into a space, and started seeds for chicory, pak choi, and the Winter Ishikura bunching onions.

    IMG_1934.JPG

    The first fish tub lid (after the apparent suicide of Natasha Swimanoff the Black Minnow) was just a chunk of shadecloth with a drawstring, but that wasn't convenient at all - it was in the way whenever I wanted to look at the fish, feed them, adjust their water supply, or take water samples. I know myself. If it's inconvenient to do something, I'm not going to do it nearly as often as I should. :meh: Self-knowledge is a good thing, boys and girls.

    So! New fish tub lid!

    tublid.JPG

    I'd like to see the kookaburra that's been hanging around suspiciously try to get through that.

    I'm viewing my little test system as the 'Mel Finds Out What Won't Work' setup, and I'm well aware that most of the stuff in it was planted too late to expect much, so everything that happens is an awesome bonus. And look! Stuff is growing! :D

    IMG_1938.JPG

    Stuff is growing well! I have flowers! Including one on a jalapeno!

    yayflowers.JPG

    And holy cow, the squash are determined to do something. Lookit all those buds!

    Er... anybody got any advice about that fuzzy white patch there? :eek:

    squashflowers.JPG
     
  12. Ringer

    Ringer Active Member

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    Hi Mel Redcap,
    I love the way you approaching this aquaponics stuff, testing small scale stops mistakes later . Sounds like your system is starting to balance itself as per expectation. Regarding your yabbies , this is one though lesson I learned early while trying to keeping "yabbies" successfully in an IBC system . I keep and breed reclaw crayfish in mine and just want you to be aware if you keep your Ph below 7 in the future they will have molting and shell hardening problems. They might not survivor the moulting process or be vulnerable to predation with soft shells that won't harden. Between moults crayfish accumulate two pellets of calcium that they store in there heads ready to be used to help build their new shells ,acidic water dissolves the available calcium. They generally prefer neutral to alkaline water with high calcium carbonate hardness for shell development specially formulated high calcium feeds like "crab cuisine" can help ( I swear by it as a supplemental feed)
    Like everyone says in aquaponics there is no manual , do what works for you , I've decided I want redclaw ,veggies and fish from my system so I have compromised and maintain my system at a higher Ph (7.2) so I can have all three .

    Ps. Redclaw or yabbies (destructor) in the southern states are great in AP sumps and taste amazing when grown in clean water. They eat food the fish miss as well as accumulated algae . I use thin carrot strips ( veggie peeler) as a staple feed. One spawning can produce up to 800 craylings so the cost of keeping them is very low. Good reasons to make a spot for them in an AP system I reckon.
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2016
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  13. Ringer

    Ringer Active Member

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    Wow, blah blah blah. Talk about spinning off on a tangent , my bad .
    When starting ponds I use fist sized bundles of barley straw in mesh bags if I need to lower the Ph.
    It releases acids in to the water as it breaks down also helps with algae bloom control in new systems.
    I use coral skeletons in mesh bags to raise and buffer Ph when required.
    Place either where there is plenty of water movement .
    Hope that helps.
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2016
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  14. Mel Redcap

    Mel Redcap Active Member

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    Hi Ringer!

    Yeah, I want my yabbies too, so I'd better cater to them hey? :D I have a couple inside in tanks as pets, they're awesome fun to watch, and man do they taste gooooood. (Unlike the worms, the yabbies in my systems will not be getting names... employees get names, and you don't eat employees.) Most of the stuff I've looked up says they need pH of 7 and higher, some says 6 or higher, and it all says high carbonate hardness. I can supply that pretty easily! I want silver perch in my main system (they fit my local temperatures best), and they're happy at the same levels as yabbies, so all should be well. I plan to let this little system get down to 6.5-7 pH, supplement the yabbies' diet with the occasional prawn shell to supply shell-building materials, and see how they go; if these two have any problems, I'll make sure to keep the big system above 7.

    Crab cuisine food? Sounds good, where do you get that?
     
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  15. Ringer

    Ringer Active Member

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    It's a "hikari" product most good pet stores will have it or be able to get it for you. But it's way cheaper on eBay .
     
  16. Mel Redcap

    Mel Redcap Active Member

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    Time for another update!

    Teeny wicking bed for seed starting:
    [​IMG]

    And I built a strawberry pipe (it's sort of halfway between NFT and DWC):
    [​IMG]

    My cress is coming up nicely:
    [​IMG]

    And wow, the basil smells awesome! This was a tiny cutting my mother gave me:
    [​IMG]

    It can't all be perfect, though. The weeds are getting bigger:
    [​IMG]

    And I think I need new gardening flip-flops! :p
    [​IMG]
     
  17. Mel Redcap

    Mel Redcap Active Member

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    Two months since I started my teeny test system, and it's doing awesome!

    I ate my first salad from it yesterday, tomato was bought but the lettuce and basil were from the aquaponics and tasted delicious:

    [​IMG]

    I got a squash! A decent-sized green button squash! And there are more female flowers developing, which is a relief, because I was starting to think the darn thing was going to produce only male flowers forevermore:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    That strawberry plant is probably happier now that the lettuce isn't invading its space quite so much (I picked most of my salad from the leaves overhanging it), and those two look nearly ready to pick:

    [​IMG]

    And tonight's aquaponic contribution to dinner was a big handful of basil in the spaghetti sauce. :broc1:
     
  18. Mel Redcap

    Mel Redcap Active Member

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    System update time!

    I've got three more squash growing (one big enough to pick, two still teeny), we've had multiple salads from the lettuce and basil, and the strawberry plant in the media bed is taking off - there's half a dozen nearly ready to pick and a bunch more coming (yummmm!). The biggest change is that I've built a teeny little DWC bed!

    [​IMG]

    Isn't it cute? :X3: GrowGrips are way easier to set up than net pots, thumbs up from me.

    And I don't need to hand-pollinate things any more; the bees have finally found my setup and they seem to be enjoying it...

    [​IMG]
     
  19. Mel Redcap

    Mel Redcap Active Member

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    Welp, the teeny test system is looking a bit denuded at the moment. I pulled out the biggest marigold a few days ago because it was the center of a massive eruption of spider mites (wtf, marigolds, you are supposed to be bug-resistant) - it's all under control now, thanks to some homemade spray (emulsifiable oils and a little Dr Bronner's soap), but the buglets had that marigold basically wrapped up in a solid cocoon of webs and I decided that total destruction was the way to go. So that put a big hole in the wall of green and flowers I had going across the back of the growbeds!

    Things have been slowing down in general because it's getting pretty cold, and also the teeny test system is in the worst possible location for winter. It gets zero early morning sun, is in full shadow behind the house until very late morning, and gets kinda sketchy afternoon light/warmth as well because the sun is so low on the horizon it's blocked by trees and fences intermittently. It was a good place to put it in February, but it was never meant to still be running now - if my slab and tanks hadn't been kinda delayed I would have my big system up by now and everything in the teeny system would have been moved over there. I don't really regret the delay, because my plans kept evolving and it'll end up a better system than if I'd built it last month, but that still leaves the current system literally out in the cold.

    ...as in, really cold. We had our first frost last night, and although it only hit -1 officially, I'm wondering if our back porch actually got colder than that... or at least held -1 longer than elsewhere... because things froze all right! The patches of open water around the jar reservoirs in my seedling trays froze over (gotta move those inside), the splashback from the water inlet in the fish tub froze on the mesh cover, and both were still iced up at well past 10am when I went out for a look. The basil went black and fell over, so that's been pulled out (it had a really good root ball which is currently sitting on top of the media to dry out), and although the squash looked OK this morning, all its leaves have now gone completely limp. Methinks I shall have to pull that out tomorrow too.

    My tanks for the big system won't be here for another couple of weeks at least, and then it'll take a while to finish the growbeds and plumbing (and gravel washing, ow), so the teeny system has to soldier on a bit longer! I've got corn salad and bunching onions filling in a bit of the open space, and I've got some seedlings that will have to go in the new spots as there's no way they'll be happy in the seedling trays for weeks waiting for the big system to be ready; hopefully they'll do OK until I can move them over!
     

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