Aquarium Treatments

There are many different types of aquarium treatments, from active medications, to passive filter augmentations. Many of these treatments are perfectly fine to use in an aquaponics system, many can be toxic to some plants, and some have really weird, unintended consequences.

Aquarium Salt

Aquarium salt is an old standby for treating freshwater fish. The presence of low levels of salt in fresh water enables gill function to improve, increases a fish’s immune response, and is used as a general aquarium tonic. It is common practice to add small amounts of salt to freshwater tanks, as the fish’s native lakes and streams generally have higher salt concentrations then tap (ground) water.

The salt additions have to be monitored as an aquaponics system will have a higher water evaporation level then the aquarium by itself. Many stand alone aquariums are nearly closed up with a light hood, while an AquariPonics system will be more open, have a larger water surface area exposed to the air, and will loose water to the plants transpiring water into the air through their leaves.

Impact to the Hydroponics System

Salt levels play a part in plant growth. Salt levels up to 500ppm are generally tolerated, while some plants can handle higher levels, although it’s not recommended for optimal growth. Sodium is needed in trace amounts for plant growth, so some of the salt will be consumed by the plants.

Recommendation

If you have a test method for salt levels, use it regularly until you get a feel for the salt levels. Then test during every change in plant growth -flowering, fruiting, etc. and when you change plant levels – harvesting lettuces, planting new seeds. This will give you a good feel for what the salt concentrations do in your system.

If you don’t have a salt test kit, don’t fret. You should be able to calculate it to a rough degree by looking at all the bottles of ‘stuff’ you use, figure out how much salt they have, and add any salt so the total level is in a range comfortable for both your fish and your plants.

Activated Carbon

Activated carbon is a filter media used to clean aquarium water. It is commonly used in many aquariums to achieve crystal clear water. The very fine pore structure and ability for ionic minerals to ‘stick’ make it an excellent water filter. It is often made by ‘acid washing’ charcoal made from very dense woods like peach pits.

Impact to the Hydroponics System

Activated Carbon will filter out the very nutrients the plants need!

However, I have a theory that if you use the ‘old’ activated charcoal from your aquarium filter in the growing medium of ebb and flow systems, the plants will be able to access the accumulated nutrients that the material has collected.

Recommendation

Don’t use Activated Carbon in the aquarium filters of your aquaponics system. If you have water clarity issues, increase the use of very fine floss or fabric media in your filter. This should help remove the particulates in the water.

If you feel you must use carbon, try an experiment. Move it into one half of a grow bed. See if the plants on the carbon side grow better or worse then the plants on the non-carbon side. Let me know the results if you please!

See Also

http://www.aquariponics.com/tanks/aquarium-filtering#TOC-Activated-Carbon This site’s discussion on Filtering.

Dechlorination

Dechlorinators remove chlorine from municipal tap water. I believe they work by having a chemical in them that attracts the chlorine and precipitates it out of the water as another compound. Many of the bottles I have seen claim to also remove ‘heavy metals’ which could also be read as ‘trace minerals’.

Impact to the Hydroponics System

Chlorine is bad for plants and fish. The chlorine drops are potentially harmful to hydroponics systems.

Recommendation

I don’t use chlorine drops for treating my tap water before I put it into my system. I age the water. I simply let it sit out in an open bucket for a few days to let the chlorine outgas. Surface area is key for this, the larger the surface area, the faster the chlorine escapes. Surface agitation is good too – more surface agitation means faster diffusion out. Airstones work well for surface agitation.

Parasite Medicines

A common parasite is Ich. This is those little white spots on fish that resemble chicken pox. A common cure is Methlyne Blue, basically a blue dye. It permanently gives the silicone sealer a blue tint and can tinge airline tubing blue as well.

Impact to the Hydroponics System

I don’t know what this will do to plants. Still researching this. If you know, please let me know.

Recommendation

None currently.

Fungal Medicines

Fish can get several types of fungal problems such as fin rot and cotton mouth.

Impact to the Hydroponics System

I don’t know what this will do to plants. Still researching this. If you know, please let me know.

Recommendation

None currently.

Aquarium Cycling Treatments

There are many Aquarium Cycling products and techniques out there. Aquarium cycling is building up the levels of ‘good’ bacteria that convert ammonia to nitrites to nitrates. This can be done the ‘old fashioned’ way by adding a very few fish (just one) for a month, add a few more for another month, etc. until you have a full tank.

Impact to the Hydroponics System

I would expect that these are beneficial to hydroponics systems. By using these products you can potentially move much of the nitrogen processing capabilities into your growbed mediums. This will functionally give you a much larger filter system by using all of the hydroponics system.

Recommendation

None at this time. I am researching specifically if these are indeed good or bad for aquaponic systems.

Peat Moss

Peat moss can be used to reduce PH through a couple of methods, the predominate immediate method is attracting the metal ions in the hard water.

Impact on the Hyrdoponics system

Peat moss will act as a PH buffer and reducer. If the PH gets too low, the nitrification process will stop and the bioavailibility of certain nutrients are affected. As Aquaponics systems mature, the nitfiying process naturally lowers the PH over time. Using Peat moss on a new system to adjust initial PH may cause the system to end up with a PH that is too low after a year or so.

Impact on the Aquaculture system

Fish thrive better on consistent water parameters more than specific water parameters. Peat Moss will reduce the PH, but takes time to do so, so you will get fluctuating PH when you top off the system with hard water.