Methods Of Cycling An Aquaponic System

Methods of Cycling an Aquaponic System


Yes, it is as it sounds, some people get their system started and cycled by adding urine to the system. Urine contains urea and urea breaks down to ammonia, once you have ammonia this can be a useful source of food for beneficial bacteria populations. It’s a good idea to age your urine for a few days to a week in an open well ventilated area before adding it to the system, but not totally necessary, you can just add straight from the source if you wish. If you are taking any type of medication it’s not recommended that you try this method.

Urea Fertilizers

Another method to add an ammonia source to help establish the beneficial bacteria is to use Urea fertilizer, generally available from agricultural suppliers, hardware stores and nurseries. This is a fairly straightforward method of cycling a system, however you must be careful of your dosing, regular water testing is recommended.


Household ammonia can be sourced from many different places. As with urea, care is required to ensure you don’t overdose the system. Also when sourcing your ammonia make sure that you only use food grade ammonia, there are plenty of cleaning and industrial ammonia sources but they often have perfumes and other additives.

The Dead Prawn or FishEasy DIY Aquaponics

Yep a method of cycling practiced a fair bit within some aquarium circles over the years. By placing some rotting fish or crustacean in the system you are inducing a source of ammonia for the bacteria to feed on.

Fish Feed

You can start cycling a system by introducing the fish feed you will be using to feed the fish into the system, as the feed starts to break down on the bottom of the fish tank and in the growbeds it will release ammonia for the bacteria to feed on.

Feeder Fish and/or Fingerling

Possibly the simplest method of starting a system and the method we recommend so long as you follow a few simple golden rules. Your system can be cycled by adding feeder fish, usually cheap bronze comets or goldfish to start the system before adding your final fish species. You can also stock the system with fingerling of whatever type of fish you plan on growing in the system and this is the way we start our systems and the method we recommend people start theirs. But feeding the fish must be kept to a strict minimum for the first 2 months. No more than one tablespoon of feed, per day, per 500L of media. If you get an algal bloom, stop feeding until the algae clears. After 2 months you can start increasing feed levels slowly because your bacteria would have been established. You can easily monitor this with a basic freshwater master test kit.


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Backup Your Aquaponic Home Garden With AC/DC Aerators


Having a backup system for your Aquaponic home garden is very handy, bordering on essential. If and when the power goes out, you want to be sure that your fish are not going to die. A well stocked system filled with fish will not last long as they consume the available dissolved oxygen within the water, so you need a way to get oxygen into the water that doesn’t rely on mains power. There are a few ways you can go about this, you can keep battery operated aerators or a generator handy for when the power goes out so that you can implement your contingency plan when things go wrong. But,Backup Your Aquaponic Home Garden generally as Murphy’s law would have it, if the power is going to go out, it will be when you are not home, so you will be unable to react to the power failure.

This means you will need to have your backup system already thought out before hand, and it will need to be automatic. There are a couple of simple ways you can do this. We like to use AC/DC aerators, these are air pumps with internal rechargeable batteries in them. Normally they run while plugged into the power, pumping air through air lines and air stones in the fish tank. When the power goes out they switch automatically over to their internal batteries and continue to pump air into the water keeping the fish alive for the life of the battery within the unit, often up to 10 hours. When the power comes back on, the internal battery is recharged.

Another method used by some is to make their own back up using either water pumps or air pumps, using batteries, something like a car battery, an inverter, a trickle battery charger and a power fail switch. Essentially this does the same thing as the AC/DC air pump above, but it’s larger and in an individual components form. This type of system can be chopped and changed, you can leave out the inverter and use 12/24V DC components if they are readily available.


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General Aquaponic Safety Concerns

General Aquaponic Safety Concerns

Power Supplies

Ensure that power safety is a priority at all times. Any pond pump you are using must have its power supply protected by an RCD for safety. Whenever dipping hands into the water that contains the pump, you should turn the pump off at the power supply first. Keep all leads well protected and out of the way of general access. Keep any electrical items like air pumps out of rain and away from water, never have an air pump sitting above your fish tank where it may get knocked into the water.General Aquaponic Safety Concerns

Water Risk

Be sure to have any open water protected in some way so that small children and pets can not get into the water. Generally IBC’s are easy to protect because the IBC tank is square so it can be as simple as some heavy mesh covering your fish tank.

Top Up Water Supply

It’s a great idea to have a timer on the tap where you fill your system, there have been many stories on the forum of people putting the hose in the tank and turning on the tap to top up the system, then forgetting about it. Often this can lead to fish deaths because of the extremely low oxygen levels in the water from the tap, very large amounts of chlorinated tap water can also lead to killing off the bacteria populations which have built up in your grow beds. Tap timers are cheap and readily available and they can save a lot of heart ache.

Keep Things Safe

If you have a test kit, keep it up out of the way, this also goes for any other associated things including fish feed, keep it locked up, vermin and child safe. Not just because of the safety of the children, I’ve heard of some people that have lost their fish though small children tipping all the fish feed into the system. Just helping of course, but if you don’t spot it straight away it can lead to trouble.


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