Aquaponics USA

Aquaponics 101 Part 5


Aquaponics 101

Part 5

"You only have 3 more Parts to go before you're ready to build and operate your AP System so hang in here. Make sure you're taking the Quizes as you go along. They really help to solidify your knowledge. This Part 5 is a Continuation of Part 4, System Start Up, Operation and Maintenance."


Here's a group of fingerlings that are about the size of the fingerlings you receive when you order fish from our website.

These fish ship overnight and are guaranteed to arrive alive.

You can choose from  five different species; and they are all  GMO and Hormone free.

We use about four ounces a week of API Stress Zyme total in our three 120 gallons fish tanks. It works as advertised. Our fish tank water is relatively clear, and there are no fish waste solids over accumulating in the grow beds after several years. There will always be some fish solids in your grow beds because it takes time for them to break down. With the addition of the Stress Zyme, we have not seen any continued build up of solids; and we have cleaned our grow beds several times to remove the excess roots mentioned below.

For your first planting, it is best to plant only leafy green vegetables like lettuce, spinach or basil; as they do not require high levels of nitrates. Leafy green vegetables will grow quite well on 40 ppm of nitrates. Do not plant tomatoes or other flowering plants the first time out because when they start to flower, they will suck up all of the nitrates from your system. The other plants, along with the flowering ones, will respond by putting their efforts into growing roots in search of nitrates, which are not there. You will end up with grow beds full of roots and not much happening above (experience speaking here). Wait until your system is considered mature, which is about one year, and your fish have grown out to plant your flowering plants. Even then, go slowly with just one flowering plant per grow bed. Test your water weekly and take special notice of the water measurements when they start to flower. You will need nitrates at or above 80 ppm to support flowering plants, and it will drop considerably when they flower.

As always, make regular water chemistry measurements. If you notice your ammonia or nitrite levels rising too high, reduce or completely stop feeding your fish until they are at safe levels. If they get to very unsafe levels then do a water exchange, which means dumping a lot of your existing water and bringing in fresh water, which will bring them back to safe levels. These safe and unsafe numbers depend on the species of fish you are raising. Again, get to know your fish species' requirements.

At this point you have enough basic information on how an AP system works, the components necessary to put a working system together and how to start up,  operate and maintain your system. What I have given you here is just a thumbnail sketch of the complexities of operating an AP system.


If you are serious about becoming an AP farmer, then I suggest that you join an AP forum such as DIY Aquaponics. This particular forum is for Aquaponics do-it-yourselfers located mainly in the USA. There are, however, members from all over the world on board. You will find knowledgeable people here as well as beginners. There are several other fora located in Australia where Aquaponics has been around for some time. I have learned much from the Aussies about Aquaponics. They use metric units in describing their systems and talk about local fish which are not available here in the USA. Still, much information is to be had from down under where they've been dealing with extended drought conditions because the physics is the same regardless if their fish swim upside down. I just don't know how they make water run uphill, though.

Becoming an AP farmer can be an emotional experience. For some this will be quite the journey into this area of feeling. For others, it will be a little intense. To see your first plants grow out and especially to see, over time, your fish become edible size and then have to make the decision as to whether or not to have them for dinner, is what I am talking about when it comes to emotion. Perhaps the roughest part of becoming an AP Farmer is to see one or more of your fish die, especially once they have become fully grown. I mention this here only to let you know that it is part of the life of an AP Farmer and ask that you not become discouraged over these little setbacks, for life goes on, the system continues to produce and you will receive the benefit of having grown your own food for you and your family.

I hope you have found this tutorial valuable so far. For now, please consider what you have read and the possibility of becoming an AP farmer. These parts, up to this point, have given you what you need to start your first system. Read on for more information.


To Go Directly to Part 6, Click Here

Or get a piece of paper & a pen and take the Part 5 Knowledge Quiz below:

To Go to Part 6, Click Here

Aquaponics 101 Part 5: System Start Up, Operation & Maintenance Continued

I believe the best way to cycle your system is to place your baby fish, be they fry or fingerlings, into the fish tank and begin feeding them small amounts of food. When adding in new purchased fish to your system, you will always be adding in some water from their previous location. This water will contain the bacteria that you need for your AP system. It is a good idea to add some bottled bacteria as well, like API Quick Start that we discussed in Part 4. Slowly increase the amount of food given to your fish while making daily water chemistry measurements. If the ammonia or nitrites get too high (1.0 ppm), reduce your fish food feeding amounts or stop feeding your fish until they settle back down to about 0.5 ppm or less. This is just an indication that your fish feeding increases are getting ahead of your bacteria growth.

After about two weeks, you should be able to feed your fish as much as they will eat and not have an ammonia spike. At that time, you can reduce your water measurement chore to a frequency of once every few days instead of daily. However, you should never go more than a week without making a measurement. It is important not to over feed your fish because the excess food will have to be broken down over time by heterotrophic bacteria. In the mean time, your fish water will become cloudy. During this two week cycling process, you should see your nitrates begin to climb. Not to worry, for as I stated earlier, fish can handle higher levels of nitrates than they can ammonia or nitrites by about one hundred to one, depending on the fish species.

Once you see nitrates in your system water, you can start your seedlings in a seedling tray. If the ammonia and nitrite levels are below 0.5 ppm or less, you can then use some of the nutrient rich (nitrate) water from the fish tank to spray the seedlings once they have sprouted. This will help condition them for the transfer into the grow beds where they will receive the full dose of the water chemistry in the system. By the time they get transferred into the grow beds, your nitrates should be high enough (10 ppm or higher) to start to support them as long as you stick to leafy greens. As a note, never transfer plants into your grow beds from a soil environment. Soil contains pathogens that can be detrimental to your fish. Always start from seeds.

Go on line and purchase some API Stress Zyme. Stress Zyme contains heterotrophic bacteria; and as I mentioned in Part 1, it will process any left over fish food and fish solid waste. It will also help keep your fish tank water clear. Just follow the instructions on the bottle.


Congratulations! You've just completed Aquaponics 101, Part 5.

Now it's time to test your knowledge. Take the Part 5 Quiz here:

1.  What is the best way to Cycle your System?

2.  When you add new purchased fish into your AP System, you're

    also adding water from their previous location, which contains


3.  As you slowly increase the amount of fish food, you also need

    to make daily __________ _________ measurements.

4.  If the ammonia or nitrites get too high (1.0 ppm) what action

    do you need to take?

5.  You should never go more than ____ _____ without making

    water chemistry measurements.

6.  During this initial two week cycling process, in measuring water

    chemistry you should see your _________ levels increase.

7.  Fish can handle _____ times more nitrates than ammonia or


8.  What do you need to see in your system water chemistry

    measurements before you start to sprout your seedlings in a

    seedling tray?

9.  How high does your Nitrate levels need to be before you plant

    leafy greens in your grow beds?

10. You should never transplant plants from __________

    into your AP System.

11. What kinds of vegetables should you plant in your first planting?

12. Once your AP System is cycled and growing plants, what do you

    need to do if you see an ammonia or nitrite spike?

13. If your water chemistry goes to a very unsafe level of ammonia

    and/or nitrites, what action should you take?


Part 5 continues the important subject of Cycling your System. In Part 4, Oliver discusses "fishless cycling". Here he discusses Cycling with Fish while taking Daily Water Measurements. This daily chore is reduced to once a week once your System is stable, but a this early Cycling Stage, numberous Water Measurements are necessary.

Aquaponics 101 Part 5