Friday 18 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 4

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.

Chapter 2: Aquaponic System on Life Support

Days passed and the condition of our system’s water was no better—ammonia levels persisted at 8ppm or beyond and pH hovered around 7.2. We had done everything that was expected in an ammonia emergency: we discharged the ammonia rich system water and replaced it with dechlorinated fresh water, reduced ammonia production by starving the tilapia, and cleared all possible dead zones by cleaning every surface where algae and decaying biomatter may have been present. Dissimilation was unlikely given the adequate dissolved oxygen levels throughout this whole period. The number of treatment options we could conjure became limited. To add to our despair, the psychological and physical stress got to our fish and a couple of our resident tilapia jumped out of their home only to suffocate on the cold concrete floor. It seemed evident we had a biofilter crash and we were well on our way towards a total system crash.

Even though the situation looked bleak we recognized our responsibility to maintain the safety and security of our system and all her residents, the plants and the tilapia. Thus, we returned to the metaphorical drawing board to draft another strategy to save our system. As an interim measure, we broke the system’s main water flow into two separate water flow cycles: one that only recirculates the fish water and one that only recirculates the water in the plant bed. This way we would be able to rebuild our beneficial bacteria colonies by rapidly raising the pH in the plant bed without the nascent beneficial bacteria colonies being washed away from rapid water changes that were necessary for the tilapia’s survival.

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