Methods of Cycling
The Methods of Cycling an Aquaponics System
There are basically two classifications or methods to cycling your aquaponics system and they are fish cycling and fishless cycling.
This method uses live fish or fish feed to introduce ammonia into your aquaponics system. Note some fish may die in this process.
Live Feeder Fish or Fingerlings – The simplest method of starting an aquaponics system is to add 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.
The feeding of these 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 algae bloom, stop feeding until the algae clears. After 6 to 8 weeks 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.
Dead Prawn or Fish – If you happen to have a dead fish from another system or a dead crustacean you can introduce it as a source of ammonia for the bacteria to feed on.
Fish Food – You can start cycling a system by adding 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 grow beds it will release ammonia for the bacteria to feed on.
There are other ways to introducing ammonia into your aquaponics system, below are some of the ways fishless cyclings can jump start your system.
Ammonia – household ammonia (food-grade) can be sparingly added to your aquaponics system to get it cycled. Make sure you test the water after adding small amounts.
Aquarium – filters or gravel from an already developed aquarium can help start an aquaponics system.
Pond Water – you can accelerate the process by introducing the nitrifying bacteria yourself with river or pond water,
Urine – contains urea and urea breaks down to ammonia, once you have ammonia this can be a food for beneficial bacteria colonies. 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 necessar. If you are taking any type of medication it’s not recommended that you try this method.
Urea Fertilizers – available from agricultural suppliers, hardware stores and nurseries. This is a fairly straight-forward method of cycling a system, however you must be careful of your dosing, again, regular water testing is recommended.