Let’s start the pump… (and see if they system works as designed):
- water goes up from the pump
- water enters the dump-tank and (after a while) fills it up.
- the dump-tank syphon activates (no moving parts — it just works)
- the water goes down the feed-lines to the grow-beds — filling them up
- the grow-bed syphon(s) activate (again no moving parts)
- the water returns to the fish tank
- no leaks and no overflows? GOOD!!!
Place fish into the fish tank at this time. We put goldfish (within bags, from the pet store) floating in the fish tank for 15 to 30 minutes …to allow the temperature of the bag to adjust to the fish tank temperature…
Release the fish into the water and let them “be”; no need to feed them today… They may/will be “a bit” upset, but they will be just fine, later.
In about 6 weeks; two types of bacteria will develop in the gravel (THAT IS GOOD). The first type to develop (Nitrosomonas) will take the Ammonia from the fish tank water and convert it to Nitrites. The next type (Nitrobacter) will take the Nitrites and convert them to Nitrates. The plants (soon to be growing) in the gravel will use the Nitrates as food, so that the water returning to the fish tank will be cleaner.
This makes a “closed system” there is NO “waste water” from this system. Some water will be “lost” due to evaporation, but there is no need to change the water (as in an “aquarium” fish tank). Just add water whenever the fish tank’s water drops 8” which is about 100 gallons of water.
NOTES: The best fish to start with: Should be hardy types; goldfish, or feeder goldfish. start with 12 or so… you need enough to get the system “started”… AS the system “matures” you will be adding additional fish, a few (3 or so) at a time (every month)… so the first month you add 12 fish, the next month 0 (none) because the system is “cycling” (building up the good types of bacteria), the third month you can add 3, same the following month, and so on, until you have about 40 fish (that should be a good “load” for your system… I mean that it is not too many fish for a 300 gallon fish tank, so IF something goes wrong (electricity goes out, the pump clogs, etc) the fish will remain safe, and happy.
Let this NEW Aquaponics system run without plants for 6 weeks to 2 months to complete the Nitrogen Cycle… Only then can you add the plants. Too soon; NO FOOD for the plants!
IF you are using “starter plants”; remove all the dirt from the roots (we rinse plant roots in a bucket of water).
Move aside the gravel (for the plant’s roots) and cover roots up (try not place the plants too deep). You could also “direct seed” the veggies, just sprinkle/spread the seed over the gravel (some will go too deep, some will stay on top, the rest will be “just right”.
You can have lots of plants growing in a “mature Aquaponics system” so mix it up!!!
A NEW Aquaponics System will need time to mature (about 6-8 months) then you will see amazing growth of your plants; as long as the sun shines you will have growth. This is the time to add more plants, cram them in, you will have plenty of nutrients for growth… Up here in Vermont, around January – February, we get very slow growth (not enough sunlight) but as March rolls around, we get good growth, all the way through the summer into the fall and most of the winter. By the way we do NOT heat the water, nor the greenhouse during the winter. We have noticed, the goldfish do fine, all winter, we do get ice forming on the top of the water, but the fish will survive just fine.
As you add your extra fish (each month), this will increase the amount of nutrients in the water, and will allow you to plant more demanding plants (plants that are heavy feeders). So start with light feeders leaf lettuce, swiss chard etc… The heavy feeders will be tomatoes, Celery, spinach, chinese cabbage etc. can be added after 9 months.The plants do not need much room to grow; because, the nutrients are available in abundance, so you can place more plants, closer together than in a dirt garden. This will increase the yield 2 or 3 times… We did find that you need air circulating around the plants, or you will get mold growing on the base of the plants. Either add a fan, or increase the space between the plants. We plant in blocks NOT in rows.
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