I ordered everything I need for my system today. I should have everything on Saturday. That said I have a question about cycling the system. If I fill my system with pond water will I still need to cycle it? I would think the bacteria would already be present in the pond water. Fish have been living in it for close to 15 years now.

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You are correct, there will be bacteria present.  Your filter, though, will still be new and will not have colonized.  You may still experience New Tank Syndrome.  By having 'mature' water in the system you may cycle pretty quickly.  You could also add just a few fish to help. 

I will be adding fish slowly anyway. I plan to catch sunnys out of the pond. Catching them from the pond might take a while but I doubt it should be too long. 

That should work just fine.  Using the water from the pond with bacteria already in it gives you a base so that as you add fish and the amonia load increases the current bacteria will multiply readily to take on the load  That is when your system will truly be cycled, when it has the bacteria to carry the load of amonia produced by the fish in the system. 

To me all these systems "cycled" empty aren't really cycled, they are no different that your system being filled with pond water.  They still don't have the amount of bacteria to handle the full load of amonia placed on the system by all it's fish until those fish have been added.  By using the pond water, you're already at the point most people are working towards by cycling empty.  You should have enough bacteria in the system that they can easily multiply to meet the demand placed on them once fish are added.  It takes a few days for things to balance, but having the "empty" cycled system helps prevent amonia spiking when fish are added.

Good luck with the fishing, I hope you get enough to fill your system quickly.  I'd add them as fast as I could catch them, and get plants going  right away.

Well I hope to do some fishing this week. In my budget system, I am using a kiddie pool for a grow bed. My bell siphon wont shut off. I need to add a tube either that or slow the water entering the grow bed. Probably both.

I slightly kinked the hose and the siphon stopped correctly this morning before I left for work. Now I just need to add a few more bags of grow media... I spent several hours cleaning stones over the past couple days. I also plan to setup an NFT system with some leftover 3" PVC that I had. I have it setup to drain through the growbed into the NFT system. This will do a couple things. One, it will slow the rate at which the grow bed fills. Second the grow bed will filter out solids from entering the NFT system. Getting the PVC fittings I needed blew my mind at the price of PVC now. It is a good thing I already had 2 10' sections of 3" pipe. I probably have about $115 into this and most of the stuff I started with. When I get done I will take a picture of it. Now I just need to start my worm farm to feed the fish.

Glad you got the siphon figured out.  I was gonna suggest slowing down the fill.  My siphons use 1" stand pipes and 2" bells, I don't use any tubes and I've never had any trouble getting the siphon to break.  I use ball valves on all my beds so I have complete control over fill times and can slow or speed up the fill as needed.  I realize you're working on a budget system though, and ball valves do get expensive. 

I thought about using plastic kiddie pools for my floating rafts, but I didn't want to have to cut my foam sheets into rounds and the bottoms seemed like they'd need a lot of support.  I'm thinking about using IBC sections for floating raft beds now since supposedly I can still get some more IBC's for free (my supplier keeps telling me he'll have more for me, but it seems to be taking a long time so I'm wondering if I can count on them).  I'd cut the IBC's the same way I do for my grow beds, from the sides rather than top and bottom, that way the only openings are the ones I put in them.  I have a way to link them that would be fairly cheap.

I'd love to see some pictures of your system, I'm curious to see the NFT when you get it going.  It gets too hot here in the summer and I'm afraid an NFT would cook the plant roots here.  I'm going to stick to the floating rafts once I get them set up.

I'm looking into worm farming myself, on a small scale anyway.  I plan to do a little vermicomposting and will use the excess worms that produces to feed the fish.  I'm still looking into black soldier fly larva as well.  Too many irons in the fire right now though, gotta finish what I'm working on before I add more.  I still plan on setting up a kiddie pool to grow duckweed in as well.

Good luck with the fishing, I hope you catch enough to stock your system quickly.


The big problem for me at this point is the honey do list preventing me from fishing. I will take some pictures when it is done. I am somewhat limited in what I can plant because we are not out of the woods for frost yet. A few years ago I had great squash plants in my garden wiped out by a hard frost on memorial day.

I threw the honey do list away months ago.  I keep claiming fatigue and memory loss and so far she's buying it.

We're way out of the woods for frost down here, our average last frost is the end of March.  I've got a lot planted, but it's kind of a mix and mash for now, with a few of several varieties of veggies.  I actually planted a lot of stuff kinda late for our area.  This season is more of an experiment for me anyway, since I've never really had a dirt garden either.  I'll put some pics up in the next few days if I find time to take them, I'm rushing to finish up some stuff, get ready for the bees and the honey do list is beggining to rear it's ugly head once again as well.

Good luck with it all.  Keep us posted.

I am having a bit of a debate with my wife. She thinks that if I plant broccoli that it will be too big to plant much else in my grow bed. Because broccoli is cold hearty I figured I could plant it now. I have already planted it in my garden. How close to other plants do you plant broccoli or don't you grow broccoli? 

In the grow bed, I space broccoli about 10" apart along one edge of the bed if I'm planting it in "rows".  I also plant broccoli between other plants here and there, figuring that the broccoli will grow up to get the light it needs and a few stalks between the squash won't shade the squash out as long as I don't go overboard.  

I tend to  crow my beds a good bit.  I plant things really close together and I probably planted too much for the number of fish I have going right now.  It's still an experiment with me and I'm still learning. 

I planted radishes all over the place, in between other plants everywhere I could.  That worked out well since most of the radishes are ready for harvest, and the rest will be before the other plants shade them out. 

How big are your broccoli plants now? Erika claims we planted them 3' apart in the garden last year and they were touching at the top when we were picking it. (We didn't plant them any where near that far apart in the ground but I wasn't going to argue...) You probably could have planted broccoli in February or early March. We still had lots of snow on the ground then. 10" is about what I was thinking. I was only going to plant one broccoli plant anyway. I have 6 or 8 plants in the ground. I just want to prove that this works so that next year I can do this instead of purchasing fertilizer and lime. I plan to plant peppers, carrots, tomatoes, and cucumbers in my grow bed. Peppers have to be close together to pollinate. I only plan on growing one or two tomatoes and cucumbers will be in the back with something to climb. I should be able to put carrots in around places.

For Swiss chart, lettuce, strawberries and basil I will use the NFT system. I might grow some mint. If I could get enough mint going that I could use it to replace my grass that would make it so pleasant to cut... At lest for those of us that like the smell of it.

I love the smell of mint myself, so the only problem I see with allowing mint to take over the yard would be the neighbors complaints when it began encroaching into their yards.

It's my first time growing broccoli so I don't know what to expect later on.  Right now, my first few broccoli plants are about a month old, 18" tall and about 10" in diameter.  Spaced about 10", they are just now starting to touch each other.  Up until now they have been growing more up than out. I wanted to plant it around Mar. 1, but I was late getting things going and ended up planting it at the beginning of Apr.

As for cucumbers, I'm doing the same as I'm doing with my climbing beans and peas.  Across the backs of all my beds is where I plant climbing stuff.  Once I frame up the greenhouse I'm going to run wires for things to climb.  Tomatoes I'm going to cage or set up string supports for.  My wife doesn't like raw tomatoes (neither did I, but I started trying to eat them when I can and I'm getting used to eating them now) so I don't plan on planting a ton of them.  I'm planting a good bit of Roma tomatoes, so I can make sauces and paste from them.  I think it's funny the way the wife is about some stuff, she won't eat raw tomatoes sliced or in salads, but she loves picante sauce which is chock full of raw tomatoes.


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