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PostPosted: May 2nd, '17, 20:06 
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Hi guys, I have had my system running for about 1 month now with plants, but still cycling without fish. Media is 20mm gravel which was tested with vinegar with no fizzing.
System is 1000 litre IBC fish tank, with 3 x cut down IBC growbeds all over a 750 litre cut down IBC sump. CHIFT PIST system with 3600 litre per hour pump pumping about 1.2m head. 32mm diameter delivery pipe up to a T and then splitting to 2 x20mm lines, one feeding 2 x growbeds and the other feeding the other growbed and fishbtank return. Fish tank has a 40mm SLO to a radial flow filter which the gravity feeds back to sump.

I have been cycling with seasol (white bottle) not the power feed version, as per Murrays first 12 months video with 400ml initially and then a capful every 1-2days. I added about 3ml of 10% ammonia solution, about 20 litres of aquarium water, and then about week later a teaspoon of urea, then 2 weeks later another 2 teaspoons of urea and finally on Saturday a desert spoon of urea. The urea takes about 3-4 days to convert to ammonia. I have done this over the last 4 weeks. I believe my system is now cycled with readings over the last week. PH has been droppiing. Initially it was fairly consistent at about 7.2 to 7.4.
25/4/17 ph 6.8, ammonia 0.25, Nitrites 0.25, Nitrates 40
27/4/15 ph 6.40, ammonia 0.25, Nitrites 0.25 nitrates 40
28/4/17 ph 6.00 ammonia 1.00, nitrites 0.50, nitrates 160
29/4/17 ph 6.00 ammonia 0.25, nitrites 0.25, nitrates 160.0
30/4/17 ph 6.00, ammonia 0.25, nitrites 0.00, nitrates 80.00 added 1 desert spoon of urea after testing
1/5/17 ph 6.00, ammonia 1.00, nitrites 0.25, nitrates 160.0. Todays readings were exactly the same.

Long way round of asking, but my plants basically haven't changed in the 4 weeks, except the 3 chilli plants dropped all their leaves, one lettuce has died, some minor growth on the cauliflowers, broccoli are dropping some leaves, but have produced some new ones, net effect zero, the strawberries initially replanted from a dirt garden struggled but produced some fruit but now have stalled, carrots are picking up, onions are goung fair, snow peas are much the same, sugar peas have produced some pods but now appear to be yellowing off and some look pretty unhealthy. I planted some silver beet and it hasn't done much either. Chives seem to be doing ok and picking up.
I added about 50 grams of blood and bone (with potash) to each of the growbeds and watered in lightly on Friday hoping to give the plants a lift, but no signs of any change for the better. Tonight I added about 300 litres of tank water to the sump and 1.5 heaped teaspoons of hydrated lime to bring the ph up. I also added 1 teaspoon of chelated iron last night hoping that this might be the solution to the plants distress.

Should I still be adding seasol at this stage with my nitrates so high? Any clues on why my plants are doing so poorly. They certainly do not exhibit the lush growth indicated by this forum and the photos I have seen and it is actually quite a disappointment and disheartening. I realise that it takes time for systems to mature and they don't really come into their own until 12 months or so, but I feel my plants are only just surviving, and some are dying. I can upload some photos shortly.

Any clues or help will be greatly appreciated from the aquaponics experts. PLEASE

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PostPosted: May 2nd, '17, 21:12 
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Please don't stress about the plant growth. Smaller plants work on growing roots then foliage then roots then foliage and so on until they are big enough to grow both at the same time. Its a rough ride and some will not make it that's one of the reasons you put many of the same plant in.
Pick a date when you get your fish and stop the Seasol and any other additives 5 days before, you've got plenty of food for the plants so they won't starve.

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PostPosted: May 3rd, '17, 00:22 
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kadarra wrote:
1/5/17 ph 6.00, ammonia 1.00, nitrites 0.25, nitrates 160.0. Todays readings were exactly the same.


:? I'm sure you're cycled but if you stop adding anything do the readings go to zero like you want them to?

It's pretty typical to have slow growth in a new system especially trying to start them as the day lengths get shorter and the temps get lower. Definitely need some pictures of the plants (both up close and whole plant) :thumbright: I think the addition of blood and bone should help with nutrient deficiencies so you may see an improvement soon.

There are lots of possibilities on the plant growth problems. You may also find that some things grow well and others just don't depending on your local conditions and setup. Get some photos up, post the water temp and we'll go from there.


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PostPosted: May 3rd, '17, 07:18 
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Also, there's a very good chance your pH is actually below 6, possibly far below - that's the lower limit for several types of test. If it is, your plants will be suffering from lockout, where they can't use nutrients even if there's plenty in the water, and if you add fish at this point they won't take the change well and could either sulk (refusing to eat) or die.

So yeah, stop adding urea and see if your ammonia and nitrites come down to zero over the next few days; start applying the Seasol as a weak foliar spray instead of adding it to the water, so the plants can actually use it; and keep working to bring your pH up to about 6.5 (at this level it's comfortable for most fish, the important nutrients are all available to your plants, and it should be within the range your water tests can actually show accurately). Scotty or Yabbies can probably give you more ideas about what else to use to bring the pH up, I haven't actually had to do it yet in my system though I think I will soon.

Even once you get things settled for now, the chillies, cauliflower and broccoli probably won't do well until your system is quite a bit older; mine is about a year old now, and the little chilli plant that has been sitting there dropping leaves and insisting it's not dead yet finally stopped languishing and put on a growth spurt last month. Same with the eggplant. Your silverbeet will probably sit there looking like nothing is happening for another couple of weeks and then go nuts if it's anything like mine, though!

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PostPosted: May 3rd, '17, 07:30 
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I'll have to disagree with some previous posts, I think there is no reason for plants to do poorly in a new system, I cycled with just pee, look through the pics in the first half dozen pages here: viewtopic.php?f=18&t=16345#p388635
Cauliflowers, chard and peas all grew very quickly, with just nitrates and other minerals from pee and a little Seasol.
I started that system at the same time of year- my fish went in in early June.

As Mel mentioned your pH6 is meaningless, as it could well be off the scale, but the test wont show it. Get yourself a decent pH meter!

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PostPosted: May 3rd, '17, 18:25 
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I am rather sure its the PH of the water. I had a similar problem with my plants but it wasnt the PH. Turned out to be root rot since I didnt have a poop filter before my floating beds. However there was a post in the tread from somebody suggesting it was the PH and sent this photo showing which nutrients are available to the plants at certain PH ranges. Probably a good idea to get a buffer going. You will need it eventually when you add fish so getting the learning curve on how to use and manage it will be good experience.

Hope this helps

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PostPosted: May 4th, '17, 00:57 
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I don't really disagree with Gordon (Gunagulla) - Provided all the plants needs are included in whatever you're starting with and in a plant available form then Gordon is right. The problem is that many new systems don't start out with everything the plants need and there is no reservoir of these to draw from yet in a new system. Human urine is actually a pretty good fertilizer with Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium but commercial urea is mostly nitrogen. Urea is fine for getting the Nitrogen cycling started but does not provide everything the plants need (not even all the major nutrients). Seasol has some potassium and growth promoters but again not all that's needed. The Blood and Bone might do the trick and provide whats missing but expect that some of these things must break down to become available and the plants will have to snap out of their slow growth mode which can take a few days and some might never snap back. Anyway you are on the right track and you'll get there :thumbright:.


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PostPosted: May 4th, '17, 19:58 
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Ok so we have some control with the pH. It is now at 6.4 after adding a teaspoon of hydrated lime for the last 3 nights. I also added 150 litres of aged water with more to add after draining some from the system tomorrow. No more seasol or ammonia producing products added over last three days.

Ammonia has dropped to 0.5 tonight from 1.00 yesterday. Nitrites are stable at 0.25 ( same as last 4 days) and Nitrates are still high at 160ppm. Water temperature is 15 degrees.

Hoping the 150 litres tonight has diluted the Nitrates with more to occur tomorrow hopefully.

I think the high nitrates and the low pH has caused nutrient lockout. I have noticed that the fruiting strawberries have not changed colour in the last week and by now they would be larger and red (and ready to eat)

anyway here's some pics of my sad plants.
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Last edited by kadarra on May 4th, '17, 20:10, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: May 4th, '17, 20:04 
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and more pics
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PostPosted: May 4th, '17, 20:22 
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plants are starving


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PostPosted: May 5th, '17, 02:21 
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Basically Brian is right.

It looks like you've got some deficiency problems but what you've done with the Blood and Bone already should hopefully take care of these. I see some plants with iron deficiency and looks like the strawberries might have either a potassium deficiency or a phosphorus deficiency. The basil is showing a stress reaction with the upward curling leaves and looks like it's probably got a potassium deficiency but I'm not sure. The water temp is pretty cool for basil which is a warm weather plant so don't be surprised if it doesn't get better anytime soon. Chilies are warm weather plants but not quite as sensitive as the basil - considering all the leaves are gone and the days are getting shorter I'd probably replace it with something else but APers local to you will know if it's too late to grow more chilies. I'm not sure what's going on with the peas but I think it might be a fungal problem along with at least one deficiency.

You've added iron to the system water and at pH 6.4 it should be available. For future reference, I usually like to spray apply iron because it's not very mobile within the plant and this avoids the pH lockout problems you get in the system water. If the upper leaves that are yellow don't start to become green then I would spray apply some iron - the package will probably have instructions for this.

Some of the beds are too damp on the surface and you need to lower the water level on these beds or direct the spigot down instead of out toward the plants (peas and strawberries for sure). Having the high water level can encourage algae and contribute to fungal problems on the plants (basically you want to keep the damp surface to a minimum). You also want to avoid any splashing on the leaves.

Lowering the water level and/or splashing in some of the beds and the blood and bone you already added will take care of most of these issues but some of the plants are too far gone and you'll have to replant with new stock. You may need to give another dose of blood and bone in a couple of weeks to keep the system going or get some fish in the system (depending on if the ammonia and nitrite drop to acceptable levels to get your fish going). I wouldn't do any more water changes, just let the nitrates come down as they are used by the plants unless you see the levels start going back up. Fish aren't usually that sensitive to the nitrate levels and the plants should lower them pretty quickly if growing conditions improve.


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PostPosted: May 5th, '17, 06:34 
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I'll just add to what Scotty said above- you need some dipel on your broccoli, the leaves are being eaten. Have you noticed any cabbage white butterflies around? There are heaps of them here ATM.

I'd forget the chilli for now, it will be too cold.

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PostPosted: May 5th, '17, 07:47 
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Gunagulla wrote:
I'll just add to what Scotty said above- you need some dipel on your broccoli, the leaves are being eaten. Have you noticed any cabbage white butterflies around? There are heaps of them here ATM.

I'd forget the chilli for now, it will be too cold.

Thanks Gordon. I sprayed with dispel the other night. I have pulled off a couple of caterpillars I found, one last night.

I also have a mystery water loss too. I lost about 150 litres last night. I have noticed it the last couple of times I have topped up the sump. It seems to get to a certain level and then doesn't drop anymore, which makes me suspect the sump. I found a couple of minor weeps in plumbing but fixed those but 150 litres overnight is substantial.

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PostPosted: May 7th, '17, 05:32 
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scotty435 wrote:
Some of the beds are too damp on the surface and you need to lower the water level on these beds or direct the spigot down instead of out toward the plants (peas and strawberries for sure). Having the high water level can encourage algae and contribute to fungal problems on the plants (basically you want to keep the damp surface to a minimum). You also want to avoid any splashing on the leaves.

Lowering the water level and/or splashing in some of the beds and the blood and bone you already added will take care of most of these issues but some of the plants are too far gone and you'll have to replant with new stock. You may need to give another dose of blood and bone in a couple of weeks to keep the system going or get some fish in the system (depending on if the ammonia and nitrite drop to acceptable levels to get your fish going).

The beds were damp on top because I had just given a foliar feed. Normally there is a dry zone of about 35~40mm. I have ripped out the chillis and replanted with some brochollini, added some more lettuce and added some Chinese cabbage. Nitrates are still high, but ammonia has dropped (0.0) and so has the Nitrites (0.25).

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PostPosted: May 7th, '17, 13:44 
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Sounds good and explains the damp leaves. The ammonia and nitrites should fall to zero and the plants should start doing better soon so it's just a bit of a waiting game. You'll be getting some slow release of ammonia from the blood and bone but you probably won't see any ammonia reading. You're probably good to get some fish once the nitrites fall but check on the pH before you do, since it was giving you problems and it's easier to adjust without the fish in the system. Once the fish are in any pH change should be done gradually. It would be nice to see the nitrates fall first but it's probably not essential to the fish.


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