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Nutrients and Critters

nutrient deficiency

I’m visual and remembering physical conditions of plants is easier if you can see examples of it. Here are some good pictures for identifying nutrient deficiencies and critter attacks on plants.

plant critters

Click on images for to view them enlarged.

Photo credit: Aquaponics Survival Communities


Bee Sting Remedy

Best Bee Sting Remedies

Spring brings out the bees and wasps, and other stinging insects. Most of us call any insects that fly and sting, a”bee”.

The insects that sting most often are not bees. It turns out that bees don’t sting unless they fell threatened, as they die in the process.

In case you get a bee sting here is a link to a good article about bee sting remedies. The author actually paid a bee keeper to be stung several times so he could test the remedies.

What’s the best remedy for a bee sting?

15 Bee Sting Home Remedies & Tips

  1. Make a paste of meat tenderizer and water or baking soda and water–apply to bite.
  2. Sprinkle generously with baking soda then drizzle some drops of vinegar over the baking soda to make it fizz. Leave on skin until pain is gone.
  3. Cover with a dot of mustard.
  4. Slather on a thick paste made of meat tenderizer and vinegar.
  5. Cover with honey and reapply as needed for pain.
  6. Dab with a generous amount of toothpaste and leave on the wound.
  7. Use ice or an ice pack.
  8. Soak in Epsom salt and water or make paste with it.
  9. Slather on Aloe Vera.
  10. Chew a plantain leaf then apply the macerated leaf.
  11. Crush fresh parsley and apply.
  12. Crush fresh basil leaves and apply.
  13. Drizzle apple cider vinegar over it.
  14. Cover with a slice of fresh papaya.
  15. Dab on a bit of deodorant.

The easiest and best remedy is

  • ice
  • toothpaste, Crest Advanced Cleaning

If you want to buy or create a remedy

  • best from the pharmacy is Caladryl lotin
  • meat tenderizer used in a vinegar and baking soda paste costs less and works as well


What Material Do I Use to Make My Raft


For a good introduction to Rafts reference see Rafts Troughs Liner and Rocks

For information on constructing rafts see Raft Building and Liner Installation

EPS rigid-insulation-boardPhoto credit

XPS – Extruded Polystyrene

The best material to use to make rafts for you Aquaponics system is Extruded Polystyrene (XPS). Extruded polystyrene (XPS) comes in pink or blue, is closed cell, square edge, has a smooth plastic surface, and panels typically aren’t faced with other material, like foil or brown paper like some other foams are.

The R-value is about R5 per inch of thickness. This type of rigid foam won’t absorb water like polyiso and is stronger and more durable than expanded polystyrene (EPS). XPS won’t water log and is resistant to damage from destructive marine growth.

The Dow STYROFOAM blueboard comes scored or not scored.

STYROFOAM Square Edge is an extruded polystyrene foam insulation board with square edges on four sides. Offers superior water resistance, long-term thermal performance and high compressive strength.

“Scoreboard” is scored longitudinally on 16″ and 24″ centers, making it easy to snap into convenient widths for construction.

You want to use the versions that are not scored (for easily breaking), and have no chemical additives like mold preventative, etc. The easier to use and better insulator for the water in your raft way is the 2″ thick version of the XPS foam.

Square Edge Blue BoardXPS: Square Edge Blue Board

Here is and example of the cost for STYROFOAM 2″ Square Edge – 4′ x 8′ $37.76

EPS – Expanded Polystyrene

Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is the least-expensive type of rigid foam and has the lowest R-value (around R-3.8 per in.). It’s also more easily damaged than the other types of rigid foam. A brand name for EPS is Styrofoam .

Polyiso – Polyurethane (PUR) or Polyisocyanurate (PIR or ISO)

Also referred to as PIR, polyiso, or ISO, Polyisocyanurate foam has the highest R-value per inch (R-6.5 to R-6.8) and often comes with a reflective foil facing on both sides, so it can also serve as a radiant barrier in some applications. Polyiso board is more expensive than other types of rigid foam.

PolyisocyanurateIt is made with Methylene diphenyl diisocyanate which is an allergen and sensitize. Polyiso is believed to be toxic, even after the manufacturing process, with reports of fish mortality when used as rafts in Aquaponic systems.

Fully reacted polyurethane, itself, is chemically inert. The problem is that the stuff you can buy at the hardware store is typically “improved” to increase the insulation properties (R value). This “improvement” is achieved by adding isocyanurates, which are hazardous chemicals. The list of potential human hazards from exposure to isocyanurates is long and scary – and I wouldn’t want my fish exposed to this stuff (or have the roots of my plants bathing in a weak isocyanurate solution). Folks on the web will often equate pink foam with polyisocyanurate, but that is not necessarily the case. Check the chemical composition of the foam you intend to buy and just make sure you’re getting XPS and not PIR or ISO (Credit for Paragraph)

Watch for “additives” to the foam sheets. It is rumored that some manufactures add chemicals to discourage bugs or flame retardants to the foam sheet or to its paper or foil covering. Avoid these products.


Startup Cycle Data Tracking

Startup Cycle Data Tracking

Click on the picture to see it larger

This time of year there are more people starting up Aquaponic systems. During our basic Aquaponic classes the discussion often comes around to

“How do I track my system start up data?” or

“What does it look like when you start up a typical system”

Well, to that end I have uploaded my spreadsheet that I use when tracking the readings from starting up a system. You may remember it from this post for June 2011.

–> Startup Cycle Data Tracking V2 <–

Feel free to download, use, and share. Give me credit if you like it or share it. If you make it better, send me a copy so we can share the improvements!

You may find this info helpful also. Aquaponic Video Ammonia

Journal Sequential comments about what we did and learned about our new system



Reasons to Have an Aquaponics Greenhouse


Picture by  Raa_Sz 429592_37159311

Reasons to Have a Garden

  1. Grow personal fresh produce
  2. Avoid poor quality and GMO produce
  3. To eat healthier, with higher quality food, at a lower long term cost
  4. Options and access to your own food in hard times or times of disruption of food supplies
  5. Personal satisfaction and therapeutic
  6. Exposure to plenty of sunlight helps fight depression
  7. Great tasting vegetables
  8. Conveniently available produce
  9. Food grown organically
  10. Lower food costs

Reasons to Have a Greenhouse

  1. Control your growing climate better than outdoors, avoid weather damage
  2. Protect plants from extreme heat and cold
  3. Control weeds and pests
  4. Grow year round
  5. Keep animals away from your plants
  6. Provide rainforest-like conditions for your plants
  7. Have Tomatoes at Christmas
  8. Grow your own Nursery starter plants, rather than buying them, even sell them
  9. Produce double the fruits and vegetables
  10. Offset inflation somewhat
  11. Lower incidents of parasite on plants and therefore less transmitted diseases

Reasons to Have an Aquaponic Greenhouse

  1. Same as in lists above plus
  2. Grow larger volume of food is less space, up to 4 times that of dirt farming
  3. Income, produce quantities enough to sell or share
  4. Use less water
  5. Raise multiple crops, plants and fish
  6. Integrated bio-system: sustainable food production by recycling of nutrients and water filtration
  7. No expensive fertilizers or chemicals
  8. Healthier plants, you can’t grow unhealthy plants as chemicals, insecticides, and additives destroy the system
  9. Low maintenance

Aquaponic Video Ammonia

Ammonia Video Bright

Chad Stewart shared this link with me. Hope you enjoy

Ammonia & Aquaponics

Bright Agrotech teaches us about Ammonia and Ammonium relating to the Nitrogen cycle.

They have several more “technical” type videos that I find valuable.

Notes: Ammonium NH24+ has a charge, fish can use or exclude as waste, slightly harmful to fish

Ammonia NH3 and no charge, more harmful to fish, cells in fish, plant, and other life can not regulate its movement

pH values 6-8 (6.4) on an established system

Starter System

One IBC tote AP System

One IBC tote AP System- Dave Pennington’s Design

What is a good way to get started in Aquaponics?

This is the question I am asked the most when I talk with people or groups. I have several answers to that, but here is my pragmatic answer.
A: Learn from someone else that has done it successfully and copy their first system.

Q2: So who should I learn from?

A2: Copy me because it seems like I made ALL the mistakes possible my first year. 🙂 I put up a website just for this reason, to journal my mistakes to make learning easier for others. Check out

A2b: Read Sylvia Bernstein’s book. It is a very good source of info.
Aquaponic Gardening: A Step by Step Guide to Growing Fish and Vegetables Together

Q3: Who’s system should I copy to get a successful start?

A: The best system I have seen to start with is a one IBC / Tote system that has a large fish tank and one grow bed on top, all made from the one IBC container. Dave Pennington first introduced me to this system and he has a unique low priced way to build it. You might contact him as I think he stills builds these. I build them as well, from time to time, for friends.

You can buy one from these people already assembled The Aquaponic Store .

One IBC Tote System at The Aquaponic Source

A2: I ve posted the parts list so you can build this type system it yourself. Be aware that with my “DIY” approach you don’t get access to the training videos, but I have included in the estimate price, some good video training DVDs and book. (i.e. Aquaponic Gardening Education Set ).

Also you will need some media like 1/2″-3/4″ clean gravel or clean expanded shell without limestone or Plant !T (Hydroton), etc.



Siphon Clog by Roots

My Flood and drain rock based Aquaponics system has operated flawlessly for over a year.

Recently I noticed that one grow bed was full of water and another draining slow.

Growbed Flooded

Growbed Flooded


When I investigated the drains in the sump I discovered that the roots from the tomato and zucchini plants had clogged the siphon drain pipes.

Siphon Root Clog 2

Siphon Root Clog 2


I was amazed. The roots had to grow through the rock, 1/4″ holes in the siphon filter / protector 4″ PVC pipe, up over and down through the siphon and through the 18″ long 1&1/2″ drain pipes. The roots were hanging out the end of the drain pipes.

Siphon Root Clog

Siphon Root Clog


Just goes to show you what a good design this siphon is. It was still working even though it was full of roots!

Roots clogging drain

Roots clogging drain