My water has turned green. What am I supposed to do?

pencil2 This is a typical problem during the first few weeks of setting up your new Aquaponics system. What you are seeing is suspended algae. If you try to dip a glass into your fish tank and you fill it with water and take it out the water will look very, very green and it would be difficult to see right through it. Don’t panic and don’t’ worry because this is just a natural phase of your system. All new systems go through this phase as the cycling happens. I suggest you pump full time if you still are not ready. Stop all the feeding because any nutrient that you feed in your system will also feed the algal bloom making your water greener. As much as possible, cover the topmost portion of your fish tank to shut off the light from the water.

The bottom and the sides of my tank are all covered with green goo, what should I do to clean it all off?

pencil2 This green goo is actually called a biofilm and we do not recommend that you remove this. Normally this biofilm grows as a thin layer and attaches itself on the surface of your tank. This green goo is not a threat to your system neither is it a threat to your fish. As a matter of fact, it is even helpful in harboring beneficial bacteria for your Aquaponics system. We’ve also discovered that a lot of fish eat on the biofilm found on the inner surfaces of the fish tank.

I found long strands of algae in my tank. What should I do with it?

pencil2 Filamentous or stringy algae are generally not nice and if you do not do anything to control the algae there is a very big chance that it will begin to take over your fish tank with its long, filamentous strands. To keep its growth under control try to keep the light away from your fish tank water or if you can cover your tank to shield it from the light, the better. You should also manually remove the algae growing from the sides of your tank. If you intend to add more fish you can go for the algae-eating species to help clean up the algae. When we had this problem we incorporated yabbies to our fish tanks (the tanks that had tons of stringy algae) and they did a pretty good job at cleaning it up.

How long can my fish go without me feeding them?

pencil2 Not to fret because most fish species can live for weeks even without being fed. If let’s say you will be out on a vacation or a holiday like seven days or up to two weeks we highly recommend that you ask someone perhaps a friend or a neighbor or a family member to come to your house once or maybe twice in a week to check on your Aquaponics system and to feed your fish. If however this cannot be possible and you will be left without a choice but to leave your fish without feeding them for seven days or fourteen days the most then don’t you worry because this will not cause any problems at all. I would rather leave them without feed than employ an automated feeding method. This is because an automated feeder will keep on dumping food into the system and this may foul or contaminate the water.

My fish look unwell as if gasping at the surface of the tank or manifesting labored breathing. Sometimes I notice strange behaviors like flashing, what is going on?

pencil2 If your Aquaponics system is pumping on a timely cycle then we suggest that you increase your system’s pumping to one hundred percent of the time. If you have not salted your system before now is the time that you salt your Aquaponics system water. If you are using pool salt we suggest you salt your system to 3ppt. This means you will add around three kilograms of salt for every one thousand liters of water. Salt enhances the health of your fish and, what’s more, is that this amount of salt will not affect your plants but plants such as strawberries may potentially suffer.

What should I do if my fish are off their feed?

pencil2 If it has only been a day or two days do not worry and do not panic. There are some things you need to think about before you go crazy like what kind of fish do you have in your fish tank? What are the ideal conditions for these fish? What is the water temperature of your fish tank? How long have your fish been in your system? It’s good to keep in mind that fish takes a couple of weeks to familiarize themselves with their new home so don’t be anxious. Add a few pellets at a time. Your fish may just be shy. Add pellets and come back after a while you’ll see that your fish have already eaten them.

How much should I be feeding my fish?

pencil2 There is no limit as to how much you should feed your fish just so long as your Aquaponics system is cycled well, this means that your fish can eat as much feed as they want. There are certain types of fish like the trout that are considered eating machines. You throw a fistful of feed into your tank and your trout will go into overdrive leaping and jump around like they’ve just won the lottery. Trout appears to have a very voracious appetite but not all fish are the same. There are other fish species that appear to be shyer and will eat feeds with caution. But as soon as your system has been established a basic rule of thumb is to feed them with as much as they want in a short span of time or within a few minutes. Throw in a fistful of feed in the tank and if your fish is able to eat all of them throw another batch in and continue on until you think they are fully seated. You’ll know they are sated and full when they start to eat slowly or if they do not look hungry at all. There are also some fish who are more than happy to eat feed all day long without showing any signs of fullness and that’s okay, there are also some fish that prefers to eat at specific times of the day like in the morning, mid-afternoon or at night time. You can also choose to train your fish like example if you are used to feeding them every day after you come home from work then there’s a big chance that our fish won’t eat when you feed them in the morning or at lunch.

What pump size am I going to need to my system?

pencil2 This is one of the most common questions that we get on our site especially in forums. A general rule should be applied to all and that is to turn over the fish volume once every hour. Let’s say you were able to design a system with a couple of IBCs, so you have a one thousand liter IBC fish tank and two grow beds right above the fish tank that is made from another IBC. First of all, you need to determine what head your pump will be pumping too. To know this all you need is to get the height from the surface of the water where your pump will be up to the highest peak it will be pushing the water.

For this sample let’s say you have around seventy centimeters from the water surface in your fish tank to the top of your grow beds where you will find the water inlet. You will need to pump one thousand liters at the very least per hour at a head of seventy centimeters. If you are fond of reading pump boxes then you will likely see that most if not all of them show a graph that compares pumping rates at various heads. For me, I would go a little further to give allowance just in case I want to do an expansion and some changes in the future or if in the future I would require extra plumbing. Always keep in mind that if a pump says that its flow rate is two thousand liters per hour that are zero head without any restrictions from fittings and pipes.

What kind of fish can I grow in my system?

pencil2 The type of fish you can grow will depend on your location. The principal factors you need to consider are government agencies or government bodies and what they can allow in your current area or you can also check with a fishing department or an agricultural or gaming department. The next factor you need to check on is climate. I highly recommend you grow a fish at natural temperatures without the need for cooling or heating. I have witnessed some owners who go out of their way in an attempt to heat and cool their water to keep specific species of fish alive. But in the long run, these fish don’t really last because of the effort in maintaining the right temperatures, the expense and the tediousness of attending to their specific needs. If you happen to live in England do not even attempt to grow Tilapia. Well yes, you can grow them but you if you do you are required to keep the water temperatures up all year. If you want you can grow trout instead. You can grow then the whole year round without adding heat to the water.

Is my pH low or high and if so what should I do?

pencil2 There are several things you can do but you have to keep in mind that little changes are better. After I ran my Aquaponic systems for over a decade I have never attempted to adjust the pH in any of them. At the display center, we recently tried to test some of our systems and discovered that quite a few of them had a pH level down to 5.5, this pH level is considered as extremely low. As a matter of fact, a lot of resources will tell you that nitrification will cease at pH levels below 6 but we found out that this isn’t true. There are actually several fish species that do not like low pH levels while there are other species that love low pH. It would be well worth it if you try to check your own fish species to see if they are okay and what pH levels they prefer.

Your plants are definitely happy at a low pH level and the good thing about having a low pH is that a lot of elements are available. High pH, on the other hand, is more of a problem compared to low pH because this means that ammonia is more poisonous and more harmful to fish and that a lot of micronutrients become locked up and unavailable to plants. pH automatically comes down with an Aquaponic system and people are attempting to find ways to elevate the pH level of their system. If you have a high pH level you need to know a few things like checking the water that you use to top up your system. If your water has a high pH find another water source. If it’s not your top water then maybe it’s from your media found in your grow beds. Try to test your media by using a vinegar test. But whatever the results of your test keep in mind that you should not panic. Especially during the early stages of your Aquaponics system during your cycling and even after a while after like the first six months of your system. During this time, you will likely experience capricious pH swings so just allow it some time to settle and mature. If you have tested your media as well as your top water and both of them are okay and doing fine then just leave your Aquaponics system be. Everything will come back to normal given enough time.

My ammonia, nitrites, nitrate levels are really high, is this okay? What should I do?

pencil2 First of all if your problem is nitrates don’t panic. The reason why you should not panic is because nitrates at high levels are not toxic to your fish. If you do not want these elevated you need to consider planting more plants so they can use up the excess nitrates. If your problem consists of nitrites or ammonia there are a couple of things you should do. The one thing you should do immediately is to stop feeding your fish. Second, look for any trace of uneaten feed that has settled at the bottom of your tank and remove anything that you find. If your system is not pumping water full time then maybe you should turn on the water pump for twenty-four hours a day for a couple of days.  You should also consider salting your system to 1ppt as this will help increase the nitrate levels of your system.

My ammonia, nitrites, nitrate levels are too low, is this okay? What should I do?

pencil2 Be very, very happy that’s all we can say. Kidding aside, a lot of systems at the display center display zero for ammonia, nitrites and nitrate levels yet despite these the systems are doing very well. All the nutrients have been converted and the plants are not forced to feed.

Does my fish need sunlight?

pencil2 Not necessarily, but if your fish ever gets exposed to sunlight then it should be in minimal amounts. It would be nice if you can keep the sun off of your fish since most fish feel secured when they feel that they are protected in the shadows. Not a lot of fish like to sit outside in the sunshine. This habit has been seen through countless of generations of breeding since those who sit out in the sun are likely going to be preyed on from in the water or in the sky. You know fish are happy when they are not stressed and when they are not stressed they are less likely predisposed to diseases and will eat more and subsequently weigh more.

Is it okay to put plants and other things inside my fish tank?

pencil2 We usually recommend that you keep your tank free from objects as much as possible so you can maximize your space for your fish. Instead of adding objects it would be better if you add fish. The more objects you have in your tank whether settled or floating the more areas there are for solids to build up. There are times when we incorporate a couple of short sections of a pipe at the bottom of the fish tank for the tiny crustaceans to give them a place to hide and as a form of protection from other fish. If you plan to add lotus plants, water lilies, and Chinese water chestnuts I suggest you don’t because crustaceans and fish may attack these. However, if you have the right species of fish and if you have low stocking levels that it is okay. Floating plants work tremendously well in an Aquaponic system and they are widely talked about in previous sections of this handy manual.

Should I have an air pump for my system?

pencil2 Perhaps not although this will depend on the number of aspects you have in your system. We have discovered in most if not all of our systems that water splashing back into the fish tank can create sufficient amounts of dissolved oxygen in the water for the fish of a fully stocked system at the desired stocking levels. Extra air definitely wouldn’t go astray but really, there is no reason for you to get yourself a massive air pump with tons of air stones for your IBC system.

I have discovered algae on my grow bed media. What am I supposed to do?

pencil2 Don’t panic, collect yourself and look at several things: Do you have water that goes out over the top of your media where the sun will likely reach it? If so then this is one of the reasons why your algae are growing. The best thing you can do is to ensure that the water is channeled straight down into your media far away from the sunlight. I have learned that one way of solving this problem is when you add some worms into your grow bed. This is because composting worms will help eat the uneaten food that has settled including dead root matter and algae in your grow bed. Once you add your worms you won’t have to worry about algae on your grow bed media anymore.