Followup on land plants and loach tank- aquaponics

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Vancmann
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Followup on land plants and loach tank- aquaponics

Post by Vancmann » Sun Nov 15, 2009 9:53 pm

Hello everybody, I wanted to post an update on my project with growing land crops using nothing but water from my loach tank as nourishment.
So far, it has been a big succes for me in many ways. I will list the pros that works for me and the cons.

Here are some observations:
1. Algae hardly grows in tank or glass. I have cleaned the glass once since July and it was just a transluent film, maybe muck.
2. Fish have bigger appetite and seems healthier with nicer looking skin and happier. Maybe subjective but I will have to take and post pictures to confirm this. Also, baby clown loaches more than double their size in 3 1/2 months. I used the striadas for reference.
3. Longer duration of water changes. every 10-12 days instead of every week.
4. Water is very clear and does not smell like "fish tank"; it smells like plants/roots now.
5. Nitrates are not affected as much as I expected. Was hoping for 0-10ppm. Although nitrate levels are maintained lower than before I planted plants (40-60ppm now vs 90-110ppm before) the fish seems to be not as affected by nitrates or less water changes. Leads me to think that my previous issue was the buildup of continaminants that included posphates, dissolved metals and other imputities. I have not tested phospate levels but I assume that the plants are scrubbing the system because the lack of algae in the tank.
6. Plants are trimmed frequently. It is winter here and I have green trimmings in my yard.
7. Today I noticed my string bean vine with a flower. Hope it bears.
8. Some plants do better than others.
9. Tomatoes and peace lillys are doing very well.

Not sure if I missed anything but here are some pictures.

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120 gallon planted aquaponic tank with 10 clown loachs, first one since 1994, 1 modesta and 3 striadas.

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chefkeith
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Post by chefkeith » Sun Nov 15, 2009 10:36 pm

Perhaps you just need more light? That is a significant decrease in nitrates though. You chopped the nitrates in half and are doing fewer water changes. Bravo!

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Vancmann
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Post by Vancmann » Sun Nov 15, 2009 11:19 pm

Actually, I have been considering more light. At the moment, i just have two 4 ft flourscent (40W) plant bulbs and the stock tank light. Been thinking about some T5 setup but its pricy. It will be my next purchase for the setup and thanks.
120 gallon planted aquaponic tank with 10 clown loachs, first one since 1994, 1 modesta and 3 striadas.

andyroo
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Post by andyroo » Mon Nov 16, 2009 2:13 pm

Don't plants use ammonia directly, such that it might not appear in your nitrate measurements?
Can't remember where i read that....
Fish don't eat the roots off? I can't get anything with exposed roots to grown with loaches.
A
"I can eat 50 eggs !"

Diana
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Post by Diana » Mon Nov 16, 2009 6:47 pm

Land plants are generally pretty good at using all the forms of nitrogen in the tank. Yes, they can use ammonia, and then the remaining ammonia gets turned into nitrite and nitrate by the nitrifying bacteria.
Seeing significantly less nitrate in this case means that the plants are probably grabbing a lot of the ammonia before it even gets to the bacteria.

Yes, plants that are exposed to the air are better at removing all the nutrients and minerals than aquatic plants because they get all the CO2 they want whenever they want it from the air.

Probably the next direction is indeed increasing the light to the plants, or adding more plants.
38 tanks, 2 ponds over 4000 liters of water to keep clean and fresh.

Happy fish keeping!

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Keith Wolcott
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Post by Keith Wolcott » Mon Nov 16, 2009 7:29 pm

That's amazing Vance! I am glad to hear about your successful results. I am also testing a similar system that I will post pictures and data from soon.

I am impressed with how fast your plants have grown. Well done.

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Vancmann
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Post by Vancmann » Tue Nov 17, 2009 1:58 am

andyroo wrote:Don't plants use ammonia directly, such that it might not appear in your nitrate measurements?
Can't remember where i read that....
Fish don't eat the roots off? I can't get anything with exposed roots to grown with loaches.
A
Andyroo, Diana is right and plants will use all the forms of nitrate or amonium nitrate etc. Based on the design of the system however, my plants do not get ammonia or maybe very little if at all any. If my plants are getting ammonia, I am in big trouble. Reason, I wanted the system to function safely with or without the plants. Explanation: Before the water gets to the plants, it has to go through two canister filters. The canister filters are fully matured and I calculated that they have enough bio media to more than do the nitrification job for the tank. There is an auxillary pump on a timer that floods the system for a very short period.

To answer your second question, the fish do not eat the roots unless a piece breaks off, passes through a prefilter spongs and drains into the tank. I did it that way so that dead roots don't end up back into the tank which could lead to a nitrate problem. The plants are fully located outside the fish tank.

Here is the initial post with pictures of the setup to help you understand. You can also see the growth with the difference in the size of the plants.

http://forums.loaches.com/viewtopic.php ... highlight=
120 gallon planted aquaponic tank with 10 clown loachs, first one since 1994, 1 modesta and 3 striadas.

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Vancmann
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Post by Vancmann » Tue Nov 17, 2009 2:03 am

Keith, cant wait to see what you have done.

Diana, I have the nitrification process before the water gets to the plants. See my reply to andyroo. Thanks
120 gallon planted aquaponic tank with 10 clown loachs, first one since 1994, 1 modesta and 3 striadas.

wasserscheu
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Post by wasserscheu » Tue Nov 17, 2009 6:12 am

Thanks Vancmann for the update, it's a pleasure to see the nice plants. Very glad the experiment turns out successful.

Even though it does not matter in above setup, Ammonia is the form of N, that takes submurged plants the least energy to absorb.

Now you could grow Echinodorus, crypto's etc emers in that setup too ...

Vancmann forgot one major "pro", he does not need to water the plants :lol:
Wolfram

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Vancmann
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Post by Vancmann » Tue Nov 17, 2009 12:46 pm

Thanks wassercheu :)

Do the Echinodorus grow outside of fully submerged conditions? My tank may not have enough lighting or CO2 levels to grow any aquatic plants. Havent tried either.
120 gallon planted aquaponic tank with 10 clown loachs, first one since 1994, 1 modesta and 3 striadas.

Diana
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Post by Diana » Tue Nov 17, 2009 3:57 pm

With that arrangement (bacterial filtration before plants) then the plants are indeed likely getting more nitrate, and much less ammonia (if any).

Most of the stronger tropical plants that are grown in aquariums can be grown emersed, but the humidity needs to be quite high.
Crypts, Anubias and others spend part of the year (in the wild) under water in the rainy season, then part of the year at the edges of the streams, or only partially submerged.

Some people do grow these types of plants in a greenhouse that is set up to give them lots of water, just not deep enough to cover them. The roots are in wet soil, the leaves are in humid air. In fact, this is the way that many aquatic plants are grown for the hobby.
38 tanks, 2 ponds over 4000 liters of water to keep clean and fresh.

Happy fish keeping!

wasserscheu
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Post by wasserscheu » Wed Nov 18, 2009 5:39 am

Vancmann wrote: ... Do the Echinodorus grow outside of fully submerged conditions? ...
I had a very detailed thread about my emersed Echis, but it disappeared.

It depends on which kind, I have 3 kinds that grow like normal potflowers and got through last winter fine. Normal German house climate, behind the window in summer in direct sun (behind glass) and cool in the winter. They don't really bloom in winter in a cold place, they in the tanks.
Here some different use which I just made and I will make another for my daughter in the near future.

The flower

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Emersed appearance

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The submerged form

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The one in the following pics stands very cool with not that much light, it grew two leaves so far, a different kind then the above, they love clay and sand and lots of water, but below I used orchard substrate as I was not home when I made that one:

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older leaves loose the spots on this kind

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Wolfram

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emi-chan
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Post by emi-chan » Wed Nov 18, 2009 9:41 am

hmmmm...this is giving me an idea. i'm growing a mystery plant at the moment and i have loads of them...i wonder how it would react to this sort of treatment......hmmmm
moo

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Vancmann
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Post by Vancmann » Thu Nov 19, 2009 1:08 am

You guys are correct about humidity etc. Wasserscheu those are some healthy looking plants. I have never seen those plants flower. You must have some experience with plants. As for me, in the past 13 years living at this residence, I have never had luck with any plants. Colorado desert air is too dry and everything else worked against me from keeping a plant for more than a couple months. On the other hand, I dont have a "green thumb" but a "fish finger". Meaning: I do well with fish. I have yet to loose a clown loach and it has been around 15 years.

Back to the subject, I am so excited that I am actually growing plants and that they are even flowering. It has been about 4 months since i started. Keep in mind, these plants are not ornamental but are actual crops. Yes, tomatoes, green beans, bell peppars, Butternut squash. Only the green beans are flowering and I will not let the squash get big enough to bear. Your plants seem to thrive and clay (soil) is definitely a plus. I dont think I can include anything that needs humidity, or uses clay. Clay will color the water and I wouldn't see my loaches. :( I may be able to eventually build a large canopy over the system to trap moist air but until then, I am stuck with hardy land plants. Thanks for the interest, its motivating.
Vance
120 gallon planted aquaponic tank with 10 clown loachs, first one since 1994, 1 modesta and 3 striadas.

wasserscheu
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Post by wasserscheu » Fri Nov 20, 2009 5:39 am

Vancmann wrote: ... Clay will color the water and I wouldn't see my loaches. ... Vance
it's ok to stick clay balls (with or without fertilizer) in a normal tank substrate, it's common practice around here (even though I do not do it currently, but did in the past). When pulling out a plant a cloud does spoli the water, but settles quickely.
But you are right, in your setup you have flow through the soil, hmmm another interesting experiment?

Actually, if it were me, I'd prefer crop towards Echis, harvesting crop is real fun and in the garden the snails eat all of it.
Wolfram

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