Monday 7 October 2013

Bio-filter Crash of a Hybrid Deep Water Culture and Grow Bed Aquaponic System: Diagnosis and Handling an Aquaponist’s Chlroamine Nightmare—Part 1

Summary: Aquaponic system bio-filter crash likely caused by chloramine poisoning of bacteria, which then led to buildup of high levels of ammonia. Subsequent treatments to reduce ammonia in the system ultimately proved ineffective. Follow us through our trials and tribulations as we tried to avert an aquaponist’s nightmare scenario.

Prologue 1

What do you do when endless water changes do not reduce the ammonia levels in your aquaponic system—and you have followed all the instructions?

Before starting the story it would be a good idea to provide some relevant information. Ammonia or NH3, a substance which can turn into ammonium or NH4+, is a substance that plants can tolerate but is extremely toxic to fishes. Ammonium is a better to have than ammonia in an aquaponic system as the video below will explain. Thus, prolonged exposure to extreme levels of ammonia (>3ppm), could kill all of the fish, which will then starve the plants, and may eventually spell doom to the system. In order to avert a complete system failure the ammonia levels must be reduced rapidly. The fastest way to do so is to dump the ammonia rich water and replace it with dechlorinated and dechloraminated fresh water.

Although a system crash is not the end of the world, it can be emotionally draining and materially expensive experience for the hardworking aquaponist. After a system has completely crashed, the system will probably require a full cleaning and a full water cycling—a time consuming and potentially expensive process. Any serious aquaponist would avoid this scenario at all cost.

As well, it would probably be a good to idea show you what system was used. The system was a hybrid of deep water culture, media bed, and Zip Grow Towers attached to a tilapia tank. In addition there was a separate water reservoir with water that had been allowed to sit for several days to allow all the chlorine to burn off.

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