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Starting small aquaponics, what kind of creature?

 
Steven Baxter
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So I would like to start a small aquaponic garden. I am thinking small since it will be my first time. Approx. a 10-15 gallon tank. My main question is my choice of fertilizer producing aquatic life forms, lol. Eating them will not be as important, yet I would not mind.

I have not checked what the temperature of the water will be outside where I live. I know that will play a factor. A rough guess would be around 55-65 F at the low and about 70's F for the high.

I'm considering:
Gold fish

But also am interested in crayfish and crawdads.

let me know what you all think. thanks
 
dominic McCoy
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goldfish are probably one of your best choices for that size tank, but dont get too many as they get pretty big........ maybe 3-7". they're messy and produce a considerable nitrate load.
 
Neal McSpadden
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Yeah, goldfish are probably your best bet. They are cheap and quite hardy, being carp.

I think crayfish become cannibalistic in close quarters.
 
                                              
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  crayfish would likely eat eachother in that close of confines. There is however this self cloning crayfish (dont let them into the wild!!! invasive) and since they are all sisters, I guess they are much less cannibalistic. Its not a huge variety but big enough you can eat it.

    This is not a condemnation of anything, just playing devils advocate here, and relting issues i came across when deciding against trying to grow land based plants for aquaponics.

    Im curious tough, whats your draw to aquaponics? I read hordes on it 1-2 years ago. from what i gathered once i really dug into it is it isnt an efficient way to grow land based plants at all. It costs a ton in raw materials. Also to get many types of plants to do well you needed to add specific nutrients, then regulate those so you dont have to much. In leafy greens that many grow there is an over abundance of nitrites (which can happen in th soil as well, but in a water system its their whole job) and end up unhealthy to eat. I saw some tests out of some third world country that showed lots of veggies were missing key nutritional elements, and they related it back to it being a land based plant being grown in the water.

      Im certainly not questioning you wanting to do this, I hope it goes well for you. Im just wondering if youve come across these issues? It seems most ignore them.  Ive read hordes of folks who never mentioned such things, even sources you would of thought would do so. but I also came across more then one source who studied it and said the things I related. the nutritional issues and the like, and also sources that sold the missing elements you need for land based plants growing in water.

      why spend so much effort and capitol to grow inferior plants?  there was a LOT of large scale investment lined up in the 90s for this, most of it feel through because of the exact issues Im talking about. It ounded great on paper but in practice had many holes in it, due to the differences between land based and water based plants. If you notice most actually productive systems grow green leafy stuff, as they will still grow fine, they just end up loaded with nitrates. which you dont really want, yet is their very role in the system.

      then on a side note, such set ups arent really designed to have large amounts of fish. It seems like a massive outlay of capitol for little real gain. especially since growing those land plants in soil is healthier and more productive, and there are lots of ways to grow the fish and their foods with the same capitol outlay that would actually put meat on the table....

      It kinda seems to me people like it just because it sounds cool. while studying it and talking about it on various boards, I had THREE different organizations contact me, apparently thinking I was an expert. (it wasnt such a post as this) when I related these issues to them. one group studied it, and then abandoned their project. (apparently fish wasnt their goal? i had thought it was at the time) the other two marched ahead and i never heard back from one of them, but the other one spent massive amounts of capitol, and ended up only able to grow small amounts of fish (their original goal) and grew inferior greens and tomatoes..... It can be rather productive way to grow inferior greens if done right though....
 
Tyler Ludens
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I agree with Silverseeds, aquaponics is not a good way to produce vegetables, though I believe it is a great way to produce fish in a small space.  If you want to grow vegetables, soil is the best medium, in my opinion.
 
duane hennon
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in aquaponics the best way is to have several cycles rather than one.
the normal approach is to have the water flow
fish -> solids filter ->plants -> aeration -> fish
while trying to grow the plants in the filter bed
the problem is the oxygen demand of the solids and dissolved ammonia
bacteria in the filter bed require O2 to convert this
this puts stress on the fish
flood and drain systems partially overcome this by exposing solids and plant roots to air.

the best way is to remove the solids as quickly as possible from the water. Algae can then be used to take up the dissolved nutrients (ammonia, nitrates, phosphates, etc). most other plants require the ammonia (NH3) to be oxidized to nitrate (NO3), algae is able to remove nitrogen as ammonia. thus reducing the oxygen demand on the system.

so a preferred flow diagram is

fish -> solids removal from flow -> algae tank (clear to encourage growth) -> aquatic plants
-> fish
the solids and excess plants are composted separately for growing vegatables
both the fish system (for optimun fish happiness) and plant system (for optimun plant happiness) can then be achieved.
 
                                              
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duane wrote:
in aquaponics the best way is to have several cycles rather than one.
the normal approach is to have the water flow
fish -> solids filter ->plants -> aeration -> fish
while trying to grow the plants in the filter bed
the problem is the oxygen demand of the solids and dissolved ammonia
bacteria in the filter bed require O2 to convert this
this puts stress on the fish
flood and drain systems partially overcome this by exposing solids and plant roots to air.

the best way is to remove the solids as quickly as possible from the water. Algae can then be used to take up the dissolved nutrients (ammonia, nitrates, phosphates, etc). most other plants require the ammonia (NH3) to be oxidized to nitrate (NO3), algae is able to remove nitrogen as ammonia. thus reducing the oxygen demand on the system.

so a preferred flow diagram is

fish -> solids removal from flow -> algae tank (clear to encourage growth) -> aquatic plants
-> fish
the solids and excess plants are composted separately for growing vegatables
both the fish system (for optimun fish happiness) and plant system (for optimun plant happiness) can then be achieved.



I agree totally, especially if those aquatic plants and algaes are things that feed the fish!!!  in which case you still have compostable materials, as you need more plants then the fish eat(chickens and other animals will eat many of them to, and theres useful things for humans as well)....

I like to grow phyto plankton with my aquatic plants to, as the fish love them also, and they just grow on their own in my plant beds.....
 
Mekka Pakanohida
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oracle wrote:
So I would like to start a small aquaponic garden. I am thinking small since it will be my first time. Approx. a 10-15 gallon tank. My main question is my choice of fertilizer producing aquatic life forms, lol. Eating them will not be as important, yet I would not mind.

I have not checked what the temperature of the water will be outside where I live. I know that will play a factor. A rough guess would be around 55-65 F at the low and about 70's F for the high.

I'm considering:
Gold fish

But also am interested in crayfish and crawdads.

let me know what you all think. thanks



This isn't small scale, this is micro. 

Do not use crayfish / crawdads in that system, they will eat your fish. 

Sorry, but this is a bad idea, given the size and current information on how you wish to approach this.
 
Brenda Groth
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in my pond my goldfish have survived - 20  temps and solidly frozen ice over my pond..so they are hardy..and they breed like rabbits
 
Steven Baxter
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Thanks for all he useful info everyone. I have never done this before and was curious. The best experience is first hand experience. I dont plan on selling, marketing, distributing, living off of what, if at all what I produce. It is just for fun.

Silver seeds, if you were to have a system where you had fish only could you use their waste water as a spray fertilizer for the plants in soil, well I guess that would be like a pond then. Anyways thanks.
 
                                              
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oracle wrote:
Thanks for all he useful info everyone. I have never done this before and was curious. The best experience is first hand experience. I dont plan on selling, marketing, distributing, living off of what, if at all what I produce. It is just for fun.

Silver seeds, if you were to have a system where you had fish only could you use their waste water as a spray fertilizer for the plants in soil, well I guess that would be like a pond then. Anyways thanks.


Yes, a great one. In the soil though those plants have the other missing things from growing with water in a rock medium.

I didnt say anything to discourage you, i hope I didnt. just to share what I found when i looked into the same thing.
 
Steven Baxter
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Thank you SILVER, I appreciate your info. I am going to look into this more. I will still try it with the golsfish I think on that micro scale, thanks mekka  . I will let you know how it goes. thanks.

SILVER have you any thoughts on biodynamic farming? I was introduced to that a few years ago. It seems a bit to involved and unnecessary to say the least.
 
                                              
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      Ive known people online who swore by such things, and others who went into it with no results.  Id have to see it work to believe lots of it though. Perhaps i will try it someday.


     

   
 
Emerson White
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Goldfish are an extra poor choice. They get BIG if you keep them in a humane manner.  A tilapia or a bluegil or some smaller aquarium fish like Florida flag fish, Gambusia, or a whole mess of White Cloud Mountain minnows. It's unlikely that you will be able to fit enough fish in there to get anything edible.
 
Steven Baxter
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What would be the smallest Fish tank I could go. I am thinking maybe 30 gallon container now. Would minnows be able to keep outside in lets say, 55-60F water?

Emerson, what do you mean by humane manner?
 
            
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oracle wrote:
Thanks for all he useful info everyone. I have never done this before and was curious. The best experience is first hand experience. I dont plan on selling, marketing, distributing, living off of what, if at all what I produce. It is just for fun.


For me, the fun factor is definitely the draw.. but I also think systems in controlled environments where evaporation is limited (i.e., not an outdoor pond) have valid applications in arid regions and shouldn't be discarded out of hand as a waste of time.
 
Mekka Pakanohida
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M. Edwards (fiveandahalffarm) wrote:
For me, the fun factor is definitely the draw.. but I also think systems in controlled environments where evaporation is limited (i.e., not an outdoor pond) have valid applications in arid regions and shouldn't be discarded out of hand as a waste of time.


I couldn't agree more, but people keep looking for the easy short cuts, or say "I can't"

Personally, I'm an Ameri - CAN! 

 
Mekka Pakanohida
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oracle wrote:
What would be the smallest Fish tank I could go. I am thinking maybe 30 gallon container now. Would minnows be able to keep outside in lets say, 55-60F water?

Emerson, what do you mean by humane manner?


Your problem is 2 fold.  Surface area size for proper O2 & CO2 exchange at the surface, not including the extra oxygenation from the system itself. 

A 30 gallon tank, is just not enough room to grow fish humanely.  I.E. enough room for the fish to be a fish, & not stocked that they have no room to turn, no room to not bump into another fish, etc.  Go to a pet store ((I have seen this in NJ)) and you can find a "feeder tank" of goldfish.  Something 500 goldfish in a 50 gallon aquarium. That's inhumane.  The higher the fish density, the higher the chance for things to go quickly wrong to the point of death.

Your problem is you are trying to raise food in a container that has the dimensions of 36" x 18" x 12"....  3' is NOT long enough for any of the following fish to be raised:

Trout
Catfish
Talapia
Perch
Cod
Koi

If you are going to use the fish water solely for growing plants, I would recommend using the 30gal & it doesn't matter one damn bit what fish you use.  Then start learning about aquarium husbandry, etc.  Start with having a surface skimming unit draw the water to a solid waste filter, usually this is something like a white fluffy material, it is important to change that often.  It is also important to use a surface skimming system because dissolved protiens which are hard to see on the 'skin' of the water can build up over time.

Water from there drains to your grow beds with whatever hydroponic growing medium.  I would suggest something inert but with insanely high surface area, even microsurface areas because it is not only the plants that will help with the water polishing system but also the hydroponic growing medium by the use of various bacterias.  Water then pumps back up and into the tank ensuring a mix of water and air.

Absolutely no chemicals are needed whatsoever, the system can & should be utterly organic in its operation.  You may even be able to grow the fishes own food, but that is another whole kettle of fish. 

You could set one up inside your kitchen this way to grow herbs year round on this scale.
 
            
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Mekka Pakanohida wrote:
Your problem is 2 fold.  Surface area size for proper O2 & CO2 exchange at the surface, not including the extra oxygenation from the system itself. 

A 30 gallon tank, is just not enough room to grow fish humanely.  I.E. enough room for the fish to be a fish, & not stocked that they have no room to turn, no room to not bump into another fish, etc.  Go to a pet store ((I have seen this in NJ)) and you can find a "feeder tank" of goldfish.  Something 500 goldfish in a 50 gallon aquarium. That's inhumane.  The higher the fish density, the higher the chance for things to go quickly wrong to the point of death.

Your problem is you are trying to raise food in a container that has the dimensions of 36" x 18" x 12"....  3' is NOT long enough for any of the following fish to be raised:

Trout
Catfish
Talapia
Perch
Cod
Koi

If you are going to use the fish water solely for growing plants, I would recommend using the 30gal & it doesn't matter one damn bit what fish you use.  Then start learning about aquarium husbandry, etc.  Start with having a surface skimming unit draw the water to a solid waste filter, usually this is something like a white fluffy material, it is important to change that often.  It is also important to use a surface skimming system because dissolved protiens which are hard to see on the 'skin' of the water can build up over time.

Water from there drains to your grow beds with whatever hydroponic growing medium.  I would suggest something inert but with insanely high surface area, even microsurface areas because it is not only the plants that will help with the water polishing system but also the hydroponic growing medium by the use of various bacterias.  Water then pumps back up and into the tank ensuring a mix of water and air.

Absolutely no chemicals are needed whatsoever, the system can & should be utterly organic in its operation.  You may even be able to grow the fishes own food, but that is another whole kettle of fish.   

You could set one up inside your kitchen this way to grow herbs year round on this scale.



Or in a naturally heated garage with skylights or P.V. panels to power grow lights during the winter in a climate inospitable to growing outdoors. There's a million possibilities.
 
Mekka Pakanohida
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No! It's not a matter of heat.  It's a matter of the size of the tank for holding the fish.  It's simply not enough.
 
Steven Baxter
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Thanks everyone for your informative input. 30-40 gallon tank with a 30 gallon grow bed. I think gold fish would be my best bet in this situation. The grow bed would be about 18 inches deep, this should provide good filtration. How many fish do you think? I have heard 1 pound of fish per5-10 gallons. That would be about 3 pounds of gold fish. Or 1-2 fish per 10 gallons. Which = about 5-6 fish.

I think somewhere in between these two estimates should be good.
 
Emerson White
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WCMM's can handle temps down to 40F

By humane manner I mean a manner in which the fish will not be suffering through several months of it's unnaturally shortened life. Goldfish get big.
 
duane hennon
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perhaps starting with a dozen "bait minnows" from the local sport shop. if you can keep them alive (some will probably die from abuse of the holding tank) then its an indication your system is on the right track.
 
                    
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I have a business partner who is looking to start such a business. He wanted to go full scale and at first it seemed exciting and filled with potential. But as I delved into the material written I found it less and less encouraging. Some even argued Aquaponics isn't a real thing and any kind of aquaculture must contain plants (or at minimum nitrifying bacteria). but back to your original question.

I have set up a small 20 gallon system in my basement with a grow light. I filled it with cherry shrimp and apple snails. I originally started with an elaborate set up but the only part of the system that was a success really was a few plants i had dropped in the filter i made out of hydroton, and a empty pot (plant pot). I have kale growing in there that has done better than or equal to anything else i have grown in dirt, inside. The snails are easy to keep so far, because they are used to muddy waters. I have one small filter and the filter i mentioned with the plants in it. They produce offspring quite often and are edible, although i dont really plan on eating them. I feed them algae pellets and have a few bubblers and plants in the water (hornwort and duckweed).
 
            
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Mekka Pakanohida wrote:
No! It's not a matter of heat.  It's a matter of the size of the tank for holding the fish.  It's simply not enough.


I was referencing my previous post in which I said there's a lot of applications for it and it shouldn't be discounted out of hand. I was offering an example, not a solution to this guy's issues in particular.
 
            
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boddah wrote:
I have a business partner who is looking to start such a business. He wanted to go full scale and at first it seemed exciting and filled with potential. But as I delved into the material written I found it less and less encouraging. Some even argued Aquaponics isn't a real thing and any kind of aquaculture must contain plants (or at minimum nitrifying bacteria). but back to your original question.


From my reading I understand most people prime their systems with pond or lake water or add some fresh river rocks in with the substrate. Anyone have personal insight?
 
                    
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M. Edwards wrote:
From my reading I understand most people prime their systems with pond or lake water or add some fresh river rocks in with the substrate. Anyone have personal insight?



yea this jives with my research although i have also heard of people just priming their systems by letting them run for several weeks without anything in them. or even taking a leak into the water to introduce amonia and invite the bacteria
 
Tyler Ludens
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boddah wrote:
I have a business partner who is looking to start such a business. He wanted to go full scale and at first it seemed exciting and filled with potential. But as I delved into the material written I found it less and less encouraging. Some even argued Aquaponics isn't a real thing and any kind of aquaculture must contain plants (or at minimum nitrifying bacteria). but back to your original question.


Wow, seems like there are some great success stories out there, like this one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jV9CCxdkOng

Sorry your friend got so discouraged. 

Some people will argue that almost nothing is a real thing because it is like some other thing somewhere.  Like permaculture isn't a real thing because it is like some other concepts. 
 
                    
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:
Wow, seems like there are some great success stories out there, like this one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jV9CCxdkOng

Sorry your friend got so discouraged. 

Some people will argue that almost nothing is a real thing because it is like some other thing somewhere.  Like permaculture isn't a real thing because it is like some other concepts. 


Its not he that got discourage its me. Most the print sources i have been reading have had negative things to say about it.

I have seen that video and it is very encouraging.

Our plan is to open a greenhouse and start at maybe 20 percent aquaponics and go from there. i think thats wiser because neither of us has very much experience in it.

maybe im just reading too much homgren and fukuoka lol. i guess there is some potential in it. i just have a very anti-techonology back to nature thing going on in my brain right now. i like getting out there with a shovel and wheel barrow and making things happen. but then again i dont feel like giving up the chainsaw either.

its all lines and where we draw them.
 
                                              
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by definition aqua culture does include plants. if your using land based plants nitrifying bacteria ARE mandatory for the nitrogen to be in a form land based plants can use. water based plants can use it as it is. Land based plants need the addition of other nutrients though, so its not a closed loop cycle while using land based plants, nor does it grow those plants any better then being in soil does. Leafy greens work best, needing less outside inputs, but according to many sources they build up excessive amounts of nitrates when grown like this.

  If you relate it to hydroponics, it can be cheaper to manage and as productive, but again its not a closed loop system as many at first glance believe. And adding those missing elements can work just fine, (though I dont want any greens grown on such a system) You dont need the outside inputs growing in soil though, so i guess I dont see the point.

   thats why for me personally water based plants that will feed my fish, and other animals (and myself if you know any cool water edibles) are key. Easier to work with, and much more efficient growers then land based plants anyway.

   
 
Emerson White
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Don't add river rock, add gravel or sand. You can introduce diseases to your system this way, also never release and fish or water or anything from your system into the natural waterways, diseases head out that way too, best to dump water into the soil where it can soak in and everything bad dies.

The advantage of aquaponics over more conventional fish farming is that you don't need those huge volume water changes, you can get by with just small ones. I would be surprised if the plant crops paid for the cost of running the aquaponic systems, but in some areas the reduced water needs easily pay for the systems. If you were fish farming in Arizona it would be a lot more economically attractive than if you were fish farming in Wisconsin.
 
Tyler Ludens
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boddah wrote:
Its not he that got discourage its me. Most the print sources i have been reading have had negative things to say about it.


Ok, sorry to misunderstand.  I haven't seen the negative stuff, though I believe you its out there.  There's negative info about any technology.    Including (maybe even especially) the shovel and wheelbarrow technologies!   Just suggest it might be a good idea to choose low-input food-growing methods in some circles and you'll get blasted by people screaming "You just want everyone to starve!"  
 
                                              
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Emerson White wrote:
Don't add river rock, add gravel or sand. You can introduce diseases to your system this way, also never release and fish or water or anything from your system into the natural waterways, diseases head out that way too, best to dump water into the soil where it can soak in and everything bad dies.


yes PLEASE take this advise. Releasing invasive animals or disease into water could easily bring us laws that make it harder for responsible folks to do these things. Its true about river rock as well. you can do it, but why risk it? those bacteria will show up just fine on their, own... and start cultures are cheap if youve got a decent pet store around.
 
                    
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silverseeds could you elaborate on what you are saying about the nitrates? are you saying that the leafy greens are becoming unhealthy due to a concentration of nitrogen? this makes some sense. can plants be tested reasonably cheaply to see if this is happening?

 
Mekka Pakanohida
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boddah wrote:


maybe im just reading too much homgren and fukuoka lol. i guess there is some potential in it. i just have a very anti-techonology back to nature thing going on in my brain right now. i like getting out there with a shovel and wheel barrow and making things happen. but then again i dont feel like giving up the chainsaw either.

its all lines and where we draw them.


I haven't read Homgren, but I have Fukuoka, E. Hazlip's work and Akinori Kimura's Miracle Apples.

Which is why I want to try it outdoors with a pond or tank of my own design to raise things like trout or something equally viable for my area.  However, to properly do so I want to replicate the environment and use local food & insectiary plants, and have overflow be used elsewhere downhill. 

Mr. Edwards.. I apologize, my bad for the misunderstanding.
 
                                              
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boddah wrote:
silverseeds could you elaborate on what you are saying about the nitrates? are you saying that the leafy greens are becoming unhealthy due to a concentration of nitrogen? this makes some sense. can plants be tested reasonably cheaply to see if this is happening?




Yes, the leafy plants need less outside inputs then other land based plants. theres a few key things land based plants need..

leafy greens can often get by with little or none of that, and grow well, but they build up excessive nitrates. As for tests for such things? well Im not sure really. youd have to research it. the same greens can do this in soil as well. but being a water based system, according to many sources its pretty standard. I got the impression it was more like if you grow them like this, it will be an issue. Now if you had a real big growing bed, per amount of bio load they were expected to handle, Im sure it would be much less an issue. I wouldnt know how to tell you how to gauge this though.
 
Mekka Pakanohida
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A Nitrate reactor can be installed to remove nitrates all the way down to 0 ppm.  They are used in coral propagation, and can be utilized the same way in this application.  The question is, has anyone done it yet.
 
                                              
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Mekka Pakanohida wrote:
A Nitrate reactor can be installed to remove nitrates all the way down to 0 ppm.  They are used in coral propagation, and can be utilized the same way in this application.  The question is, has anyone done it yet.


doesnt that defeat the entire purpose of the loop? the point is to use those nitrates to grow useful things.... lots of water based useful things for a homestead.
 
Emerson White
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Location: Alaska
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I think a lower fish to plant ratio would do the trick.
 
                                              
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Emerson White wrote:
I think a lower fish to plant ratio would do the trick.


certainly, but in the case of nitrates in greens, how would a backyarder know it was reaching poor levels?
 
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