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Fish Poop

The cycle of life in the AP system starts with fish food, and then fish poop. Get these two wrong and the rest of your system suffers.

“How do you get fish poop wrong?” You ask.

If the fish don’t absorb the nutrients from the fish food, then the poop is excrement, rather than future fertilizer! So it all starts with the right fish food.

Fish Food Pellets

Fish Food Pellets

You want to be serving food with enough protein and nutrients for your fish at the stage they are in their life. Ex: 32 percent protein is what I look for in the fish food I’ll feed my 8″ Tilapia. Also, I prefer 1/8 (3 mm) pellet size floating catfish food.

The way to ID easily digestible fish food is by the poop. If it is clear, slimy, and easily disappears into the fish tank water when rubbed between your (gloved) fingers then the fish food is doing its job. IE the fishes are absorbing the nutrients.

If the fish food (typically corn and soybean) is gritty when you crush it, it will be gritty when it goes through the fish. This is because the food content was not ground finely enough for the fish to digest easily.

Fish Food Grit

Fish Food Grit

  • Big particles through fish
  • equals hard to digest
  • equals gritty fish poop
  • equals extra load on and more solids in your system
  • equals less quality results in your fish and in your plants

So that’s the poop on fish poop!

Pond Liner

Trough Overview

The grow beds are made with 1/4″ treated plywood sides, 2″x4″ top edge rails, and 1″x2″ untreated top edge covers. The 1″x2″s cover the edges of the pond line that is stapled into the top edge of the 2″x4″ rails.

Trough with Liner

Trough with Liner

Pond Liner Nicknames

The material I’ll refer to as pond liner has several different nicknames:

  • pond liner
  • water garden liner
  • greenhouse cover material
  • Hydroponics pond liner
  • Aquaponics pond liner
  • polyethylene tarp material


  • UV resistant
  • Fiber reinforced
  • 20-23 mills thick
  • One side white is best; easier to see what’s going on.
  • Food Grade
Liner Corner

Liner Corner

Material – preferred

LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene) material.

Materials – acceptable

PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride) pond liner is OK
PVC, PVC with internal reinforcement, and similar products

HDPE (High Density Polyethylene), but this is usually expensive. I also believe it is more ridged and harder to work with.

What to avoid

  • EPDM. It out gasses toxic to system bacteria and leaches unwanted chemicals into the water
  • Vinyl liner as it is too streatch
  • Any product that doesn’t specifically identify what is made of.

The pond liner recommended FAP

  • 23-mil P2000 by Inland Plastics Company
  • 20-mil DuraSkrim R20WW by Raven Industries

Sources to obtain liners

  1. Green house suppliers, like those serving farmers or commercial nurseries, etc.
  2. Some Farm Stores
  3. Other Aquaponic businesses willing to sell pieces off of their large roll
  4. Home Depot for PVC pond liner. Don’t use the EPDM liner they sell, it’s toxic!
  5. Internet suppliers that sell fish pond supplies, EX: Koi ponds.
Liner Bulkhead

Liner Bulkhead

Notice that the liner in the picture above is tight/flat above and behind the bulkhead. When water is added the wrinkled part of the liner will lay smooth. This picture was taken on long grass which pushed the new liner up a couple inches.

The bulkhead has threads to allow removing the plumbing inside the tank. This makes it easy to change filters, run a fish tape down the plumbing if it gets clogged, etc.


I used PVC pond liner from Home Depot that was 7′ x 11′ in size and about $39 each. The pond liners I found were way too large physically as they would have covered 3-4 grow beds. Also the price, even though very good quality (German made) and discounted was much more than I wanted to spend, $150.

I found a couple places on the Internet that sell pond liner custom cut. They wanted $0.62/ square foot plus shipping costs.

Ex: “Custom cut liners available in widths of 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40 ,50 feet, and in any length to the nearest 5 foot up to 100 feet. Must be in 5 foot increments”

They often sell rubber liners. I have no clue if they will work favorabley with fish and plants.


Friendly Aquaponics FAQ

37. “Where can I get some net pots in large quantities (5,000 pots), and some trough liner?”

69. “I purchased the 2010 Micro System DIY plans. I am having problems finding a 20 mil LDPE liner for the troughs. Homedepot has the liners but they are PVC. Will this work? Do you recommend any places that carry this material”?”

AP Grows Food Fast

“Fast Food”

Plants grow faster in Aquaponics systems!

I am told they grow from 2-3 times faster and at 4-5 times the density of typical “dirt” farming. That’s 1/4 the space needed and 1/2 the time to wait to get better results!

Here is a picture of my first measurable success, a seed to seedling in 4 days.


Basil - "Fast Food"

I didn’t believe it so i replanted and repeated the results. Had organic seeds and good hot sun in July 2011. The system had lots of Nitrates but was not totally through the Nitrogen cycle. I believe the lemon juice pH adjustment I used for soaking the seed helped, but was not necessary. The nutrient absorption in AP is just amazing to behold. Even an ADHD prone  guy like me doesn’t have time to get impatient “watching plants grow”.

I wonder if you could mix AP water with paint and it would dry 3-4 times faster?

Take a look at Friendly Aquaponics pictures on how their food grew fast. They show marked improvement in one day on some plants!



AP Benefits

Aquaponics is a combination of Aqua Culture and Hydroponics.

Aqua Culture raises aquatic life in a man made marine environment.

Hydroponics is the science of growing plants in a medium, other than soil.


AP Goals

These are the goals I have for my Aquaponics involvement. The first four are hobby oriented, the last four are business oriented.

  1. Decide on system to start with to learn on.
  2. Build an AP system, startup up the Nitrogen cycle, understand day-to-day operation, see plants and fish grow successfully. Document system experience, measurements, challenges, etc.
  3. ID best plants to grow based on speed of growth, ease of care.
    Ex: squash don’t like heat. Beans go nuts!, etc.
  4. Prove AP systems value to my family as food.
    Recover some of the money spent building the system by eating the produce we would otherwise have to purchase.
  5. Sell produce from AP system;  Friends and neighbors, Local Market, Farmer’s Market:
    produce, monthly, weekly, etc.
    ID opportunity and challenges of selling AP fish
  6. Commercial:
    Prove viability of a minimal sized commercial AP system
    Grow plants that grow fast, sell well, produce good ROI.
    May require a club, or team.
    ROI nice but not the object. Goal is to understand how to do all correctly to produce a good ROI.
  7. Build my first commercial AP business:
    May require a loan, or grant.
    ROI clearly in place from day 1 planning and planting.
  8. Grow my commercial AP system in size and income.

Ins and Outs

Inputs to the Aquaponics System

  1. air bubbles
  2. Sunlight (or grow lights) for photosynthesis
  3. water movement/circulation
  4. electricity for the air and water pumps
  5. fish food

AP inputs – one time or another

  1. Water to first fill up the system, and to top it off from evaporation (minor)
  2. Biology – naturally occurring in the air or add for fast start-up
  3. Starter fish
  4. Plants
  5. Water to top off the system from evaporation (minor)
  6. testing supplies for system start up and maintenance
  7. minor maintenance of system and equipment- replace bad pump, etc.

AP System Outputs

  1. Produce / Plants
  2. Fish
  3. Prawns (optional)
  4. Plant scrap, like roots, corn husks, stalks, etc.
  5. fertilizer  i.e. Fish detoxified excrement solids ( balanced system converts these solids)

Abbreviations and Terms

AES  = Aquatic Eco Systems,

AP = Aquaponics

APF = Aquaponics Fun , us or our website

Apsfun = same as APF

CHOP or CHOP2 = Murray Hallam’s ebb & flow system design using IBC Toes. Means Constant Height one pump.

Deep-water raft system = The AP growbed trough in our FAP system. Water is 8” to 9” deep with a 2” raft on the water in the 12” deep growbed. The deeper water makes the system water temp and biology balance more stable.

FAP = Friendly Aquaponics

Growbed or grow bed = the place in the FAP AP system where the plants are grown. See trough & Raft

MS 64 or MS 64 and 128 = The Micro System 64 and 128 AP system FAP sells plans to use to build and operate an AP system.

Net Pot = the flower pot shaped plastic container we use to plant plants into our AP deep-water raft system

Raft = the Styrofoam in the trough. 2” Dow blue Styrofoam insulation with painted top and holes for net pots

Trough = The box or “container” that holds our water in our grow beds, and floats our foam raft

Nitrogen Cycle Experience

See The Journal Tab for Details:

Here is a graph with the data for the first 19 days.

System Levels 27Jul11

System Levels 27Jul11

This is my experience for the first 40 days all on one graph.

Startup graph 40 days

Startup graph 40 days

(Click on the picture to see it enlarged)

I started out by adding Ammonia and the Nitrifying Bacteria day 1. By day 11 the Nitrites peaked and about day 19 the Nitrates peaked. The Nitrite, Nitrate, hardness, and alkalinity all “balanced out” at about day 30.

It looks like I didn’t go through such a “fast stat up Nitrogen cycle” after all, and I’m guessing the heat directly effected the cycle time.

Note: At day 22 I started taking samples every 2-3 days to save on time and test strips.

August 17, 2011: Too much Algae in the system presently. No way to keep the sunlight out without a major shade creation effort. I’m thinking AP growing in TX in the summer is best done in deep shade! At least the Taro loves the sun. Wonder if I could setup a top layer of the Taro plants and use their huge leaves to shade the other plants? hum…


Fast Fish Less Startup

This list of steps below is a compilation of what I have researched on the web.
I am following it to take my new system through the Nitrogen Cycle.


You must monitor and record levels during Start up

  • Ammonia
  • Nitrite
  • nitrate
  • pH
  • measure your water temperature

Fast Fish-Less Cycling Steps

These are the steps I am following to build the Nitrogen Cycle in my system.
Fast Start-up is said to take 3-4 weeks which is 21-28 days.
Theory says it can be done in 16 days. I’ll report my findings back here.

My list is compiled from my web research. Credits are at the end of this post.

  1. OPTION: Transplant your 2” to 3” seedlings that you have in net pots into the rafts and grow them while you startup your system. This will allow them time to develop their roots to help with the biology going on during startup.
  2. Others recommend starting the plants when you start the startup process, so that plants are well rooted when the “nutrients” arrive.
  3. Day 1:
    Add Ammonia: See Note on Ammonia Below
    Add the ammonia to the tank a little at a time until you obtain a reading from your ammonia kit of ~5 ppm.
    Record the amount of ammonia that this took, and
    then add that amount daily until the nitrite appears (0.5 ppm)
    Clint says use pure ammonia from Ace Hardware (no surfactants or other additives)
  4. Put in Proline Nitrifying bacteria concentrate, one-quart, catalog # 239210 Aquatic Eco Systems.
  5. Keep water and air pumps on 24/7, bacteria needs lots of oxygen
  6. Test once a day for about a week
  7. Day 2-3:
    Nitrites show up 2-3 days at about 2-3 ppm
    Day 2: add “recorded amount” daily
    Day 3: add “recorded amount” daily
  8. Day 4-5:
    Day 4: Nitrite Spike: Nitrites go up to 5 to 10 PPM
    Once nitrites appear, cut back the daily dose of ammonia to half the original volume, i.e. ½ my “recorded volume”.
    Day 5: Nitrite Spike: Nitrites go up to 5 to 10 PPM
    Once nitrites appear, cut back the daily dose of ammonia to half the original volume, i.e. ½ my “recorded volume”.
  9. Day 6-…:
    Day 6: Nitrite Spike: Nitrites go up to 5 to 10 PPM
    Once nitrites appear, cut back the daily dose of ammonia to half the original volume, i.e. ½ my “recorded volume”.
  10. Day 6-13:
    Nitrites should come down to about 5 and stay for less than 10 days
    add daily dose of ammonia at half the original volume, i.e. ½ my “recorded volume”.
  11. Day 13-16:
    When Nitrites go down to 2-3 ppm
  12. Add your fish
  13. If you don’t have plants in the system, plant sprouts you started 2-3 weeks ago, into your rafts.

End Fast Fish-less startup


Ammonia used should be free of surfactants, perfumes, and colorants.
Shake the bottle if you’re not sure about it; ammonia with surfactants will foam, while good ammonia will not.


Resources & Credits:

Friendly Aquaponics newsletters, etc.


Sunlight (or grow lights) for photosynthesis

Water to top off the system from evaporation (minor)


Hello new friends!

We are a family new to Aquaponics who whats to share our experiences from zero until today. When we started in June of 2011, it was challenging to find others experiences, except scattered around the web. It seemed that once we figured something out, we found a good explanation of it on the web. So we created this site with details of our experiences in hope that we could help other beginners find the info they needed more easily.

Check our our pictures, articles,  step by step experience, tips, and resources.

We tired to logically group the info you might be looking for.

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