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System cycling newbie

Discussion in 'Water Chemistry' started by Johnny3nglishman, Jul 21, 2014.

  1. Johnny3nglishman

    Johnny3nglishman Member

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    Hi,

    New to this aquaponics stuff but have read a lot over the past four years. It's something I want to do larger scale when I build my own place in about six years. This is a learner system. Two tote box grow beds about 150 litres of hydroton. A large sump and 200 litre tank.

    I dosed with seaweed extract from the hydroponics store. So far into day six of cycling. Am a little worried I added too much seaweed extract. Ammonia seems very high. I heard this can inhibit the bacterial growth?

    Ammonia is pushing the 8.0 ppm range, pH 7.8-8.0, zero nitrites and nitrates. The plants seem happy though.

    I added some rocks from a Clearwater stream near me to help establish bacteria.

    It's not been raining of late so changing water is not currently an option for me. Our supply has chloromines which is big no no apparently. I could treat with vitamin c but then I would be adding a bunch of ammonia to an already high level....

    Any comments would be appreciated.

    Cheers
     
  2. Johnny3nglishman

    Johnny3nglishman Member

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    image.jpg
    Here's a pic of this mornings test results...
     
  3. Robert123

    Robert123 Active Member

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    Just wait it out. Patience is the hard part.
     
  4. Yabbies4me

    Yabbies4me Administrator Staff Member

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    Hi Johnny3... Welcome!

    Ammonia at 8.0ppm+ will inhibit, or even stall the cycling process completely.

    I recall a thread a while back where someone had Amm at 8.0ppm for 3 months+ and their system simply wouldn't cycle. I suggested they do a couple of 25% water changes, they did, within days their system cycled.

    Even if you could do just one 20-25% water change and get the Amm down to around say 6.0ppm it would be preferable.

    A couple of other alternatives could be:

    a). Broadcast the seeds of fast growing leafy greens (such as Lettuce, Asian Greens, even Rye grass, Barley etc) across your entire GB. When seedlings first germinate and for the first few days, they actually absorb quite a bit of Ammonia. You could then remove them, or thin them out once they'd served their purpose.

    b). Put some Zeolite gravel into stockings or pots etc, so it can be easily removed, and immerse it in the system water. It will absorb some/all of the Ammonia, then remove it. You can keep it for use again, ie: if you ever need it in an emergency. The Ammonia can flushed from it by immersing it in salt water, or heavily salted water, then store it away for Justin (Justin Case).

    Cheers!
    .
     
  5. Robert123

    Robert123 Active Member

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    Half water change certainly won't hurt. :)

    Common knowledge in aquarium fish less cycling is to target 5 ppm and stay below 10 ppm as that is where inhibition starts.
     
  6. Johnny3nglishman

    Johnny3nglishman Member

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    Thanks guys, I guess I have no way of knowing what the level truly is right now. If it reads 8.0 then I could be way higher as the test reaches it's limit.

    I have emptied the water barrel and will change water with rain as it comes. I can't use tap due to chlorinates and I don't want to use the chemical solution to this as it will add ammonia.

    Have sown lettuce mix. I am interested to see how the stuff germinates! This is experimentation and learning after all.

    Once I have a decent amount of resin water I will change out some of the water and retest.
     
  7. Yabbies4me

    Yabbies4me Administrator Staff Member

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    It sounds as though rain water is at a premium in this case though Robert, and with the town water containing Chloramines that would only exasperate the Ammonia issue.

    Granted 5.0ppm would be preferable to 8.0ppm for cycling, but even 5.0 isn't required.

    There was an aquaponics book released in the US a year or two back that suggests 5.0ppm is the minimum required, at least from what I've been told by a couple of people that have read it, but you don't need anywhere near that to cycle a system. I recommend only 1.0ppm-2.0ppm to my customers, and to prove the point I cycled my IBC display system on only 0.5ppm, it cycled in 21 days, I put 12 Trout in and it was fine.
     
  8. Yabbies4me

    Yabbies4me Administrator Staff Member

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    The test does keep getting darker in colour as the level increases above 8.0ppm. It goes much darker green, then blue/black. Yours looks about 8.0 to me, I wouldn't be panicking too much, just do a small partial water change when you have the rain water... any level below 8.0 will be fine.
     
  9. Johnny3nglishman

    Johnny3nglishman Member

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    Roger wilco, appreciate the advice very much. Nice information to have with regards to the test kit. Does this apply with all the tests? IE a darkening towards the top end of the range.
     
  10. Yabbies4me

    Yabbies4me Administrator Staff Member

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    Unsure on the other tests... I only know about the Ammonia kit because I've seen tests that have been really dark green and even a couple that went blue/black... it looks black in the test tube, but dark blue around the cap... one just last week.
     
  11. Johnny3nglishman

    Johnny3nglishman Member

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    Ok well not doing so bad then lol. We actually do get plenty of rain in Kingston. The problem currently was I used a lot to water the regular garden veggies. I topped up with some tap waster and contaminated my supply. Sure there will be a thunderstorm soon, usually is. Thanks again for the advice.
     
  12. Johnny3nglishman

    Johnny3nglishman Member

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    image.jpg
    Maybe it's me but it seems a little less dark on the ammonia today. Maybe it's the light. Maybe it's wishful thinking.
     
  13. Robert123

    Robert123 Active Member

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    Went back to my old records. As Yabbies' inferred what has always worked well for him and his clients, I also was sub-5 ppm NH3 when I first started my systems. We began with about 3-4 ppm NH3 (from household ammonia source), pH 7.5 and temp 75-80 F. Took about 2.5 weeks for the ammonia to disappear and another 4-6 days for the nitrites to fully convert to nitrate. pH started falling as soon as the nitrite conversion started kicked in. Fell about a total of a half a unit during the cycling process, and then we started holding it up with carbonate after that and added some fish. We had lettuce and basil seeds planted from the very beginning. Worked out well. Seemed like absolutely nothing was happening for the first two weeks, then the system just took off.

    If you are concerned about reading your ammonia correctly and want to make sure it's not higher than you think, take some of your AP water and cut it 50:50 with tap water THEN run your test. Just remember to double the result you get when you read your chart.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2014
  14. Johnny3nglishman

    Johnny3nglishman Member

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    Good idea I will try! Cheers
     
  15. Johnny3nglishman

    Johnny3nglishman Member

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    Water change of approx 40% seems to have brought it down to between 2-4 ppm. Confirmed this with a 50/50 dilute. Bring on those nitrites lol.
     
  16. Johnny3nglishman

    Johnny3nglishman Member

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    Interesting readings this AM. The ammonia is approx 4.0, nitrates 0.0 and nitrates however looked somewhere between 0.0 and 5.0

    Just for fun I tried one of those multi strips with six tests on I use for tap water and checking filter quality. The results were interesting.

    It read that there were nitrates present between 0-20 ppm and a flickr of a trace of nirite. Very faint but when you compared an unused strip to a used one it was there.

    Is this what you guys would expect for early cycling? Reading some of your other threads should I still lower the ammonia a bit more to the magic two number?
     
  17. Robert123

    Robert123 Active Member

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    You are looking for the ammonia to drop and the nitrites to come up. That will be the first step. Then, then nitrites will drop and the nitrates will come up. THEN you are cycled.

    Just be patient. :) How long have you been cycling?
     
  18. Johnny3nglishman

    Johnny3nglishman Member

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    Only just over a week, so not long really lol. I wasn't inferring I was cycled more wondering if this indicated things had kicked into gear. Maybe the test strips are not as accurate as the solution style tests. It did indicate the presence of nitrates though which has me a bit puzzled. Surely it have nitrates indicated I must have nitrites?

    Our tap water is clean of both and so was the rainwater I used to dilute...

    Will plants consume nitrites? I do have a fair amount of stuff in the beds. Mostly lettuce but also threw in a spare ocra and a chilli pepper.

    It's experimenting and learning the process for me so no problems waiting I just want to make sure I understand what's going on.
     
  19. Robert123

    Robert123 Active Member

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    Most plants only consume the nitrates. Nitrites are simply an intermediate to getting to the nitrate.

    I do remember how anxious I was to also get my first system rolling. No worries. I know how much you want to help it along, but at this point the best advice I was ever given was to pull up a chair, open a beer and simply wait it out.
    drinkanim

    About the time you get bored with the testing is when the system will come alive :)
     
  20. Johnny3nglishman

    Johnny3nglishman Member

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    Hahaha just pouring out a very nicely hoppy IPA now! Cheers to you!
     

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