Wednesday, November 26, 2014

More Aquaponics -- New Tank Syndrome + Plants + Lights

November 27, 2014 Here is the latest update on a ferrocement, indoor aquaponic system. After curing the cement for well over a month with water sitting in it and changing it out every week, fish have been added, 5 swordtails and 10 zebra danios. That is way too many to put in at first and clearly a mistake. Why?

New tank syndrome, that's why. It is an easy mistake that confounds and frustrates many. No one likes setting up a tank and having all their fish die one by one in the first few days.

When you set up a new artificial environment for your fish they will begin releasing waste as all living creatures are bound to do. This waste, particularly ammonia, builds up quickly and becomes toxic for your fish. The more fish you have, the quicker it builds up and begins killing off your fish (3 is the tally so far). As this goes on, colonies of bacteria begin establishing themselves. Once they reach critical mass, the ammonia levels quickly drop as the bacteria consumes them and turns them to nitrites. Another colony of bacteria begins converting nitrites into nitrates which plants can consume.

Once all of that is accomplished your tank is considered fully "cycled." If you start with just a few fish, and add more in a week or two later the process should be fairly painless.

In addition to adding fish, there is also some pumice stone added to the growing bed, a clipping of mint, and an 8w 5,000K LED light bulb. The mint's leaves over the past two days have been following the bulb as its repositioned. Some basil sprouts were also placed in nearby and have straightened up to meet the light. They won't be getting much in the line of nutrients yet because as mentioned above, cycling is still taking place.

What's next? The 8w LED bulb is just a stop gap until I determine what option to go with for a full lighting solution. I have read good things about LED flood lights in the 20w, 30w and up to 50w range. Some herb growers use a mix of warm 3,500K and cool 6,500K LED flood lights and get excellent results. I might try for a combination of 30w or get 2-3 50w. Amorn and HomePro (in Thailand) have a great selection to choose from at decent prices. 

So impressive have other grows gone indoors using organic soil and LED flood lights, an adjacent system minus the aquaponics may be constructed to grow tomatoes, peppers, and others. Now, the LEDs in the projects I've seen have been used to grow "herbs." I'm not sure how well it will work on actual herbs, or fruits and vegetables. Only time will tell. Stay tuned!

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