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Aquaponic system ph level and nutrients


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Old 03-06-2017, 06:08 AM
kr3t3n kr3t3n is offline
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Default Aquaponic system ph level and nutrients

Hello everyone, I don't know if this is the right place to post this (I saw there is an Aquaponics sub-forum but it looks deserted), I'm hoping some of you would have experience with aquaponic systems and would be able to help me understand the following:

I want to make an aquaponic growing system at home to grow various kinds of vegetables and am wondering the following:
  • Since different plants have different ph and nutrient needs, how would they grow with one source (the pond would have some mid-point ph level around 6 and nutrient for the plants)?
  • Some plants require higher levels of certain nutrients, is it possible to plan how much the plant is going to "eat"? In terms of nutrient and overall water?

I hope my questions are clear enough. Anyways, thank you very much in advance for your help and time!

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Old 03-06-2017, 04:07 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Hello kr3t3n,

Quote:
Since different plants have different ph and nutrient needs, how would they grow with one source (the pond would have some mid-point ph level around 6 and nutrient for the plants)?
The same way they would trying to grow various kinds of vegetables using one reservoir and nutrient solution. Some plants will do better than others, and some will suffer more than others.

Quote:
Some plants require higher levels of certain nutrients, is it possible to plan how much the plant is going to "eat"? In terms of nutrient and overall water?
Water consumption will be predictable. Nutrient uptake can be as well. However I don't think your referring to nutrient uptake, but rather nutrient manufacturing/concentrations.

Aquaponics is a living ecosystem that is constantly converting organic mater into the raw chemical elements the plants can absorb. Predicting the concentrations of each of the 13 necessary nutrients at any given time may be possible to some extent. But not an easy task and taking a lot of experience. Hear's a forum about aquaponics "Backyard Aquaponics" as well as a list of other resources on aquaponics I listed here A few sources of info on Aquaponics
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Old 03-06-2017, 04:20 PM
kr3t3n kr3t3n is offline
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Originally Posted by GpsFrontier View Post
Hello kr3t3n,



The same way they would trying to grow various kinds of vegetables using one reservoir and nutrient solution. Some plants will do better than others, and some will suffer more than others.

Water consumption will be predictable. Nutrient uptake can be as well. However I don't think your referring to nutrient uptake, but rather nutrient manufacturing/concentrations.

Aquaponics is a living ecosystem that is constantly converting organic mater into the raw chemical elements the plants can absorb. Predicting the concentrations of each of the 13 necessary nutrients at any given time may be possible to some extent. But not an easy task and taking a lot of experience. Hear's a forum about aquaponics "Backyard Aquaponics" as well as a list of other resources on aquaponics I listed here A few sources of info on Aquaponics
As I'm planning how to grow plants using minimum resources, when it comes to water needed, aeroponics (high and low pressure systems) are much more efficient then aquaponics and considering that the roots do the water cleaning for the fish, would these two watering methods be sufficient for the plants to "clean" or do they need ebb&flow or DWC to have more time?
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Old 03-06-2017, 05:20 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Hello kr3t3n,
I don't really understand the question.

First, Aquaponics is simply just a method of making your own nutrients. Second, I don't understand what you mean by "clean". Are you meaning consume the nutrients? Third, what two watering methods are you referring to? Do you mean high and low aeroponics? Fourth, what do you mean by "ebb&flow or DWC to have more time?"
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Old 03-06-2017, 06:40 PM
kr3t3n kr3t3n is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GpsFrontier View Post
Hello kr3t3n,
I don't really understand the question.

First, Aquaponics is simply just a method of making your own nutrients. Second, I don't understand what you mean by "clean". Are you meaning consume the nutrients? Third, what two watering methods are you referring to? Do you mean high and low aeroponics? Fourth, what do you mean by "ebb&flow or DWC to have more time?"
I was under the wrong impression that plant roots somehow affect the water so that the fish benefit but in reality it is the ammonia->nitrite->nitrate bacterias that grow in the system (usually in the growbed containers, as far as I have read) do that. The plants just use the nitrated water, right? (consume the nutrients)

Yes, I mean high and low aeroponics.

Ebb & Flow or DWC to have more time was in the context of the roots (plants) doings something to the water which benefits the fish and the aquaponic system as a whole (but if the bacteria do it, then indeed it would not matter what watering system is used, as long as the bacteria is doing its job and the fish provide the right amount of ammonia.

It would be great if the bacteria can be in a "secondary" container/tank, not in every growbed container.

Are these assumptions correct? Then I would only need to know how much water I need to irrigate all growbeds and then determine what fish tank, how many fish, bacteria, etc are required?
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Old 03-08-2017, 12:50 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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kr3t3n,
Yes, root contact time with the water doesn't do anything for the fish. The water delivery system doesn't affect the plants, however the size and type of bio filter will. That's why it's most common to use a drip system/flood and drain system with the plants in a grow beds because of the large bio filter space. Fish have been known to eat the plant roots. If your going to use aquaponics and grow in a water culture system, you'll want to make sure to use fish that won't eat the plants roots.

Plants can't absorb the nutrients until their broken down into the single raw chemical element. There are 13 necessary nutrients. The beneficial microbes (that includes all micro organisms both plant and animal) break down the fish waste/organic mater into the raw chemical elements the plants can then absorb. In aquaponics the grow beds/growing media act as a bio filter. providing the necessary surface area for the microbes to attach to so they can grow, breed and multiply. In aquaponics any surface area that comes in contact with the water is somewhere for the microbes to attach to.

In order to separate the water from the beneficial microbes in the water you would have to kill the beneficial microbes using a UV light before the water reached the plants. Doing so would defeat the purpose of aquaponics. Dead microbes cant break down organic mater into the raw chemical elements the plants can absorb. Without the living microbes the plants won't have any food. Even only killing some will reduce the amount of the nutrients the plants will be able to get.

The beneficial microbes will continue to grow, breed, and multiply as long as they have food, a place to do it, and the environmental conditions are correct. As for how many fish you'll need, that all depends on how many, and what type of plants your growing. There is a formula for figuring that out, as well fish to water ratios, but I don't know what it off the top of my head.
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Old 03-08-2017, 02:06 PM
kr3t3n kr3t3n is offline
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Hi GpsFrontier,

I am looking for the cleanest, most self-sustainable method. From my point of view this means minimum risk from pests, minimum water usage and minimum reliance on the fish. I was thinking of separating the system in to three distinct sections:

1. Fish tank
2. Microbial tank - water will flow from the fish tank into a separate tank/container which will act as the microbial workspace
3. Plant growbed infrastructure - water will irrigate the plant roots coming from the microbial tank. Water draining out of the plant root containers will flow back into the fish tank.

I don't see any need to kill them with UV as long as they do not become a problem and as far as I can see they are the opposite of a problem. So, do I need a microbial tank or would the root containers act as the microbial environment? My concern is that if I truly use predominantly high & low pressure aeroponics, the container inside surface won't be constantly in contact with water and the bio-filter might dry out and die.
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Old 03-08-2017, 03:51 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Hello kr3t3n,
First off if you truly want the least amount of work and headaches don't use aquaponics to start with. Especially when trying to use aeroponics as the watering method. There are tons of small particles in aquaponic systems that can very easily clog mister/sprinkler heads. You would need a seatmate filtration system to get it out. And the learning curve trying to get the nutrient balance right and maintaining it takes a lot of trial and error as well as experience.

Also I'm not sure what you mean by clean, but aquaponics is far from clean. In fact you have to be very careful not to spread things like salmonella and e-coli. Anything that touches the water and the plants can spread it. Even tiny droplets of water that land on the plant, your hands, and even gardening tools etc.. Animal waste including fish poop carry it and the water is full of it.

As for your three separate sections. All aquaponic systems have those same three sections. However most people don't create a separate reservoir for the bio filter. Most of the time the grow beds contain enough grow media to act as the bio filter. If not and'or they wanted to create more, they generally just build an inline filter to increase the bio filter mass. Something like a 4 inch piece of tubing filled with coco fiber that the water passes through on it's way to the plants.

You stated "It would be great if the bacteria can be in a "secondary" container/tank, not in every growbed container.." But you won't be able to confine the microbes to the "Microbial/secondary tank" While the microbes will thrive best in some type of growing media/bio filter they will be in every drop of water. That is unless you kill them with a UV light as you pump the water through it into another section. I wasn't suggesting you do, I was pointing out that trying to confine the microbes to a certain area is impossible otherwise since that seemed like what you were trying to accomplish. But the microbes will be in every drop of water. So when you say a secondary tank for the microbes so their not in the grow beds, that's incorrect since the microbes will be in the entire volume of water.

Quote:
So, do I need a microbial tank or would the root containers act as the microbial environment? My concern is that if I truly use predominantly high & low pressure aeroponics, the container inside surface won't be constantly in contact with water and the bio-filter might dry out and die.
Think of a bio filter like a sponge. A sponge has lots of surface area because it's porous, but it doesn't have to be completely submerged to remain moist. Microorganisms grow all over the surface area inside and outside of the sponge because it's moist. While a kitchen sponge will grow harmful microorganisms, the bio filter that's inoculated with beneficial microbes will continue growing and breading beneficial microbes. While the bio filter just needs to be wet, the bio filter can be completely submerged as well. As I mentioned most people just build a inline filter, hence the name "bio filter." The inline filter is encased and remains constantly filled with water.
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Old 03-08-2017, 04:58 PM
kr3t3n kr3t3n is offline
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Thank you for the explanations! Now I understand it much better. I will definitely need to be very careful when it comes to contamination of any of the components of the system.

When it comes to planning the layout of the greenhouse, I am wondering how should I plan growbed positions to optimize space but still get sunlight. I'm wondering what calculations were made for such layout to work:







I understand how they are being irrigated and how the root system is contained but what I'm wondering is how to calculate the required spacing between "tower" to allow for sunlight to hit the lowest rows of growbeds.

Also, these examples are with leafy greens but I do plant custom growbed container towers for other types of plants as well (different shapes, sizes, numbers of plants per tower, etc..).

Basically, how close together can I put the container towers/boxes/racks without leaving the bottom plants completely out of sunlight?
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Old 03-08-2017, 05:46 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Hello kr3t3n,
Quote:
Basically, how close together can I put the container towers/boxes/racks without leaving the bottom plants completely out of sunlight?
Trial and error...... Research...


You need to know your plants.
That means if your not already familiar with the plants you want to grow, you need to research them. You need to know how big they will get when full grown so you can space them accordingly and size the reservoir appropriately. You need to know how big the root system will get so you can design the hydroponic system to accommodate their needs. You need to know if the plants can tolerate wet feet or need well draining soil so again you can design the hydroponic system to accommodate the plants needs. You need to know if the plants are warm weather plants or cool weather plants. you need to know about the type of lighting the plants prefer/need (full sun, part shade, full shade etc.). Knowing your plants, and how many you plan to grow is the first step in being able to design the right hydroponic system to grow them in, not to mention the best way to design it.


P.S.
The shelving systems in the pictures are rotating systems.... They rotate the plants to get even lighting.
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Old 03-09-2017, 01:55 PM
kr3t3n kr3t3n is offline
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If all of them are truly rotating (I have seen rotating growbeds but I was wondering if it is possible to keep the static and grow (I thought this is what is happening in the second picture I posted).

If necessary to rotate, that would truly make things a lot more difficult, not necessarily impossible, with a water wheel. I'm just thinking "out loud", of course, and would have to test it out to confirm how viable an option it is. Maybe an electricity-assisted water wheel generator, I imagine such exist?
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Old 03-10-2017, 12:30 PM
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Hello kr3t3n,
The vertical tubes don't rotate, their just spaced far enough apart so they get enough sunlight. Also because of the greenhouse glazing the light is diffused. Sunlight won't go through plants and solid objects, so either you have to design the system and space the plants so they get enough light, or you'll have to use supplemental artificial lighting.
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Old 03-10-2017, 12:47 PM
kr3t3n kr3t3n is offline
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Is it worth covering the containers and tables in reflective foil?
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Old 03-10-2017, 01:22 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Hello kr3t3n,
Sometimes, but I have no idea if doing so would help you since I have no idea how you plan to design your system/s, where you plan to grow them, how much natural light the area gets, or even really what type of plants you will be growing or how many you plan to grow. All I know about your plans is probably some type of aeroponic system, and you may or may not plan to use fish/aquaponics to make your nutrients.

Lighting is part of planning. So often people go all out designing a system first and then try and decide what they can grow in it, that's doing things backwards. Then they find out they wasted their time and money because they wanted to skip the planning and go straight into the building. Can you build a house without a budget or design plans? Yes, but you'll be wasting a lot of time and money building it without planning it out first. Same thing building your hydroponic systems.

First you have to decide what budget you have to work with, what you plan to grow, how much of it you plan to grow, where you plan to grow it etc. etc.. A successful hydroponic system is one that you design and build around the needs of the plants you will be growing in it. In order to be able to do that you first need to know the needs of the plants and understand how the six different types of hydroponic systems are different so you can tell which ones will benefit the plants needs best. As well as known what budget and space you have to work with. Then you can start thinking it out and designing it. After you think it out and design it, you can start building it.
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Old 03-10-2017, 06:09 PM
kr3t3n kr3t3n is offline
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These sketches are all a bit premature but they provide an idea of what I have in mind. Each of these containers will hold several plants.
3D views:








Here is the actual floor plan (keep in mind there are elevated containers which hide certain ground containers, all visible in the 3D views):




As for the container specifications, they are documented here: greenhouse.pdf

Thank you very much in advance for your thoughts on this! Don't spare my feelings

P.S. Dimensions are in cm

P.S.2 The greenhouse is separated in 3 sections to allow different climate control.

Last edited by kr3t3n; 03-10-2017 at 06:35 PM.
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Old 03-11-2017, 02:29 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Hello kr3t3n,

1. Well my first thought is I don't think you have grown those crops before and/or aren't really familiar with them.
2. My second thought is your trying to do to much and won't be successful. You have 12 crops listed and 96 different containers.
3. My third thought is you not only have way to many containers complicating things (96), but their way over crowded.
4. My fourth thought is the containers aren't sized for the crops.
5. My fifth thought is many of those crops will do better in a different type of system, like a drip system.
6. My sixth thought is not only are the crops over crowded, but your blocking all the light.

I'm not trying to discourage you, but you said not to spare your feelings so I just said my thoughts. So often I see people new to hydroponics try to do to much right from the start, only to wind up spending a fortune and being unsuccessful. Then having to go back and rethink it all over and spend more money fixing problems and redesigning and building new the systems.


P.S.
No I don't think using reflective material will help, from the looks of it you have it to crowded so that there won't be enough light getting in anyway, reflective material or not.
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Last edited by GpsFrontier; 03-11-2017 at 02:41 PM.
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Old 03-11-2017, 03:03 PM
kr3t3n kr3t3n is offline
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Thanks for the points! It is very likely you are right and I will play with the arrangement and the floor plan to make more room for light to reach all plants.

The sizes of containers have been adjusted according to plant foliage and root system average max dimensions (from the Internet). My initial plans were to use high and low pressure aeroponic irrigation depending on the type of root systems I am looking to grow. Today I found out about upside-down growing of plants (tomato as a prime example) and am wondering if this is also an option I should look into (for plants that do not grow too heavy).

Could it also be an option for potatoes, where the root system will be on top in a light-protected container and the foliage grows downwards from it?

And yes, I have never grown these plants and have zero experience. I am planning how to build my future house and the greenhouse in front of it (towards South). I still have tons to read and learn. Right now I'm trying to find out what area, water, and power I will need to grow these plants (according to my calculations, that is the approximate number of containers my family would need for year-round produce) so I can then calculate the energy/water supply and construction costs, etc.

Last edited by kr3t3n; 03-11-2017 at 03:07 PM.
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Old 03-11-2017, 05:29 PM
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Hello kr3t3n,
The main reason I stated I don't think you have grown these crops before is because it looks as though you haven't spaced things out to account for the size of the plants when they get full size. The greenhouse may be far bigger that I think, or the spacing is way off. Even if so everything is so close together it wont allow for light to get to the plants. The other main reason I didn't think you had any experience growing the plants is because they all have different types of foliage and I don't see that accounted for. Not just in size, but in how they grow as well. It appears like you plan to build 96 different boxes, all similar in shape and size. Not only is that unnecessary and a waste of money, but wind up being a lot more maintenance too.

You can do what you want, but what I do is design and build the hydroponic system to grow the plants I plan to grow in them. I make it as productive as I can using as little resources as I can, while keeping in mind the plants size and needs. As well as keeping in mind easy maintenance. Anyhow I may be missing something, but what you have planed, and the way you plan to do it seems unnecessarily over complicated and under productive. That's not even considering the overcrowding.
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Old 03-11-2017, 05:55 PM
kr3t3n kr3t3n is offline
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You are completely right when it comes to having separate containers, I definitely need to optimize and consolidate containers. If I plan for long containers, I need to have a way to reach the roots, either being able to lift the growbeds or to have a side door. I have to work on that specifically per plant (or type of container if plants share "system design").

I have taken into account the dimensions of the fully grown plant's foliage in the container dimensions and the different container codes represent different "types of containers". For example, all B1(2,3, etc) containers are "balcony box" types where the container is a vertical box with protruding "balconies" where the plant foliage grows. The height of the container is calculated to fit 2 or 3 levels of containers. Since the "balconies" protrude from the sides, that should allow space for the plant to grow. The depth of the container is usually calculated to fit 2 plants (rows). The width of (almost)all containers is 100 cm which should account for 1 to 5 plants per "row" (depending on the plant).

You are completely right about the spacing being inadequate for sunlight to reach all plants. I need to work on that and am thinking of ways to simulate sunlight hours in my theoretical greenhouse.

Do you think upside-down grown plants would be a good option? Considering foliage will get somewhat less sunlight (at least in the beginning, until it acclimatizes and spreads) while the root system will have no impact unless gravity is a major factor in growth. Would that produce similar yield in plants which can maintain an upside-down structure?

There is also this concept which I'm yet to fully grasp: https://omegagarden.com/?content_id=175&product_id=1

On a previous note: regarding the rotating growbed containers; would it be viable to use the artificial water stream to "power" a water mill (generator) and use that to rotate growbed installation?
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Old 03-13-2017, 06:54 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Hello kr3t3n,
As an example you have a spot for tomato's set aside to grow out of what appears to be two 6-8 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide boxes. Not to mention right in a corner. That won't work well unless your growing bonsai tomatoes. Not only can one tomato plant grow up to 10 feet tall or more, they can easily get 5-6 feet wide. Taking up 25-36 sq feet of floor space for each plant and requiring a trellis to grow on. Then theirs the issue with the 6-8 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide box itself. Not only is that a waste of materials, but serves no useful purpose. You wont get vertical rows of tomatoes growing outside of the sides of the boxes. All you will get is one tangled mess you will have to tear down and start all over with. You have another spot for cucumbers that will be the same thing.

Another example, you have numerous boxes for broccoli. Those boxes go all the way up to the roof so I can only assume you plan to try and make openings in the sides to grow the broccoli out of. However broccoli plants are very large, getting 3-4 feet wide and tall. Not only is trying to grow them out the sides ridiculously difficult because of their size and weight, you would need at least 12 feet of space between rows to accommodate them and be able to work around them. You would also have to build a support structure to support the weight or they will break off.

Quote:
Do you think upside-down grown plants would be a good option?
No, I have yet to see it work well.

Quote:
There is also this concept which I'm yet to fully grasp: https://omegagarden.com/?content_id=175&product_id=1
If you break it down it's simply a over priced and more complicated drip and/or flood and drain system depending on the water path. It' doesn't save anything on space. While it might be able to save a little electricity in lighting because of the circular shape, it also uses more electricity in an electric motor to rotate it. You can also turn it on it's side, take off the rotating motor, water from the top, and you have essentially the same thing without needing the electricity to rotate it.

Quote:
would it be viable to use the artificial water stream to "power" a water mill (generator) and use that to rotate growbed installation?
Whether it's viable or not is up to you. You have to weigh the pros and cons to determine if you can gain anything, and if it's worth it.

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