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Posts in category Aquaponics Problems

Water Waster! Water Waster!

When I was growing up, my older sister and I would relentlessly tease my younger brother about wasting water.  He would let the faucet run while brushing his teeth or while doing the dishes or would take long showers.  And we were probably harsh about it.

Now, I guess he can start chanting “water waster” at me.

spray_of_waterThe other day my family and I were out in the garden. I was harvesting lettuce (a huge batch!) and my husband was feeding the fish and topping off the sump tank.

And then we went inside.  Without turning off the hose.  I didn’t notice the flooding…all…day…long.

22 hours after we were in the garden last I noticed out the window that the pump wasn’t running. Upon investigation I realized our grave error.  The pump cord had been sitting in water and eventually shorted out. Luckily it had just tripped a breaker and we were able to still use the pump after resetting everything.

Our full day of the hose running had completely flushed our system.  Completely!  Since the hose water was running into the sump, the sump pumped all the hose water into the fish tanks and all the good fishy water flowed into the garden beds and back into the sump where it then overflowed the edges.

I was very relieved to see that our Tilapia had survived the system flush but our poor Koi couldn’t handle the transition.

Fish are very particular about their water.  High fluctuations in the pH levels can be deadly for them.  And so it was.  We unceremoniously dumped the Koi into the garbage, but we were very sad to do so.

So, a word of warning- don’t abandon your sump tank while the hose is running.  If you do, be aware that you could lose all your fish.  And you’ll have a super high water bill to boot…

Back in Alignment

A few weeks ago we discovered that our fish aren’t growing fast enough to support the plants we have growing in our garden.  We sadly watched as our peas seemed to all die off and our corn stopped progressing and our tomatoes, squash, and bell pepper stopped growing their fruits.

If you don’t remember, we came up with several solutions that we could use for our garden.

1. Pull up some plants

2.  Buy more fish

3. Feed the fish more food even though they seemed to not be eating

4. Wait it out

AquaponicsGrowthPeasNone of the options seemed ideal. This is what we ended up doing:

From the point we realized there was a problem we started feeding the fish twice a day. Rather than feeding them a larger quantity at one time, we increased their feed by splitting the feedings.  We also purchased 20 feeder gold fish and tossed them in the sump tank.  And then we waited.  In the process, several of our pea plants died (akin to pulling them up…).  So in essence, we did a combination of all four solutions.

What actually worked?  I’m pretty sure that feeding the fish the increased amount is what actually pulled the system back into alignment.  The feeder goldfish were so tiny and they kept getting sucked into the pump. All of them were dead within a week.  I’d assume if we’d purchased larger fish, they might have made a dent in the problem.  Some of the plants dying off definitely helped a little bit.  Unfortunately.

I was pleased to see that the peas are re-sprouting at the base of the stalks.  So, not all is lost.  And its an interesting turn of events as well! Our lettuce is also growing twice as thick now as it was before!

I’m grateful that this experience wasn’t as painful as it originally seemed it would be. And now I know what to look for if this ever were to happen again.

Yellow Leaves In My Aquaponics Grow Bed

Just over a week ago my husband and I walked out into our garden and were slightly dismayed to see that some of our leaves had yellow spots on them.  Oops.  We thought we knew exactly what was wrong and we thought we knew how to correct it too!

yellowing squash  So we trooped on over to our local Aquaponics store and picked up some Liquid Seaweed with Iron.  Iron is one of the few nutrients that fish don’t give your plants in a system so sometimes, depending on your specific circumstances, you need to supplement.  We poured half the bottle of liquid seaweed into our system and walked away, sure that all the tank needed was that extra iron and the leaves would be green and thriving by the next morning.

We were slightly dismayed to find we were wrong.

We put the remainder of the bottle of the liquid seaweed into our system and thought that would help…it didn’t.  Then we got to speculating.  And we realized what the problem really is.  Its this- there isn’t enough nitrogen for our plants to live off of and
so some of the leaves are dying.  Sadness.

yellowing peas - CopyNitrogen? I hope I didn’t lose you at that.  Nitrogen is the stuff that the fish put out, after the beneficial bacteria has transformed it into a form the plants can eat.

The problem is that our plants outgrew our fish.  Although we have 100 fish, they are not growing and they are hardly eating.  They just can’t keep up with putting out the amount of waste our system needs to support the plants.

At the moment we really have only a few solutions-

1.  We could rip out some plants.

2. We could purchase more fish.

3.  We can feed the fish higher quantities, even if they aren’t eating the food, the food will still break down into nitrogen at some point.

yellowingoregano4. We can wait it out and hope for our plants to survive long enough for the fish to grow.

At the moment we don’t really like option 1 (that would be a sad day!) Option two runs into problems in the long run because those fish will get bigger and there might be too much waste or not enough room for all the fish to grow. Option 3 will be an expensive way to add more nitrogen into the water.  Option 4 could ultimately kill half our garden.

We are thinking we will probably do a cross between 3 and 4, feeding our fish twice a day for a week or so and see if that’ll help things. (At the moment our fish don’t seem to be eating anything, most of their food continues floating on the top of the water after each feeding…thats probably why their growth isn’t in line with the plants.)

Its always interesting to me that as much experience as I’ve gained in backyard aquaponics, I’m still learning.  Something new comes up every day!

On a positive note, we are seeing several bell peppers growing, several of our edemame plants and bush beans are putting out fruit, our peas are starting to bud in a few places, we’ve gotten a few strawberries and one huge zucchini!  Its so exciting to be able to walk into my back yard and pick something for dinner that night.

Aquaponics Ut-ohs

We were super excited and stoked to get our Aquaponics system completely set up and running with the plants in it this week.  For some reason we had to turn the pump off for something and it never came back on.

It is now in the aqua-pump graveyard.

We had trouble with this particular pump all year.  Every time the power went out or we had to do maintenance we would practically have to take it apart to get it to start again. I’m not at all sure what its problem was.

We hopped on Amazon and ordered a new pump and it arrived yesterday afternoon.  Unfortunately, we had to buy a new fitting to get it to fit with our current system.  So, trip to Lowe’s.  I think some of the employees might know us by sight.  What other family drags 5 kids along with them to pick up one missing pvc joint? Haha.

We still have to use some glue to get the pieces to be water tight so we can’t actually start the pump again until tomorrow.  I’m very glad we don’t have fish yet. That could have been bad. Meanwhile, I’m dousing the garden with the water hose a few times a day to help the seeds continue to germinate.

And on that note- We Have Lettuce Sprouting!! (You might have to zoom in, but I promise its there!)

Growing Lettuce.jpg