I'm finally about to get started putting together my first tiny aquaponic system.  The tank will be a cylinder which is 15" high by 18" in diameter.  The grow bed will be a plastic tote which is 24" x 15" x 12".  The tote originally had 4 drain holes in the bottom.  I have plugged those with silicone.  I hope that will hold.  I bought about 2.5 cuft of river pebbles from Home Depot which I am currently testing in a glass of vinegar to see if it bubbles (checking for alkalinity in the pebbles).  Next is to plumb the system and then buy the fish.  Exciting stuff!!  I hope it works. LOL!!

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Got the grow bed ready with stand pipe, bell siphon, and media guard.  Tested it without the gravel media.  The pump was undersized, so I'll be having to replace it, but the siphon  worked on the first try.

Replaced the pump with a 130gph pump.  It has a head of 4.1 ft and is capable of lifting the water from the FT to the GB.  I think I'm going to go for the CHIFT PIST setup and cut a hole in the side of the fish tank for a solids lift overflow.  The geek side of me is getting excited. LOL!

The 130gph pump wasn't enough.  I took it back to HD and bought a bigger pump from an aquarium shop.  It's a 295gph pump with more head hight.  It's more powerful than I need, but I got a ball valve and am choking it down a bit.


Plumbing is finished.  The system (CHIFT PIST) is circulating properly, and the bell siphon is working properly.  It took quite a while to get all those river pebbles washed and remove all the small ones.  That's finally done.  I also put in a couple of caps full of ammonia that I bought from the local grocery store to get the fishless cycling started.  If I remember correctly from what I've read and seen, the cycling should take about 4-6 weeks.

Put the 8th cap full of ammonia in the system this morning right before I had to leave, so I didn't get a chance to test the ammonia level afterwards.  I watched a few videos about fishless cycling and they disagreed on how high you should pump the ammonia levels.  I'm shooting for 1 ppm. Will test when I get home.

Spreadsheet and Chart showing water quality parameters:


pH of the water is still staying around 8.2.  I put a little vinegar in the system this morning and am going to check this evening to see how much the pH has dropped.  Ammonia level is staying very low, nitrites are high, and nitrates are still fairly low.  System has only been cycling about a week.

and the culprit of the high pH value is........

Municipal tap water.  Our local tap water has a pH of 8.2, which is pretty much exactly the readings I've been getting.

Hey - I was reading an article written by Nate Storey Ph.D. He was saying that one of the major reasons it is hard to get the PH down to a lvl that is good for growing ( 6.0 - 6.4 ) is because of the carbonate lvl in the water. It was recommended to run the water through a R.O. Filter, and without it will take a very long time to get the water where you want it. 

As far as the nitrifying bacteria, if you run the water through a R.O filter, and from there slowly and by increments bring the PH down to the 6.0 - 6.4 you wont crash the system. 

There is an article called “ The Top Ten Mistakes Made By Aquaponic Growers “ you can look it up on line. This info is in it.

Don’t know if it was any help at all, but I hope all works out well.


Thanks, Jeremy!  That's helpful.  I bet R.O. filters are expensive. LOL!


I know I'm very late to the game on this, but I think you were absolutely right about the water hardness.  I think I was putting enough vinegar in the top off water to get the pH down to where I wanted it before adding, but I think after I measured, the pH drifted back up to where it was before because of the hardness of the water buffering the pH.  

Since noticing this, I've started adding muriatic acid to the top off water, letting it bubble with an air stone for a few hours, and then measuring the pH.  I'll then add more acid if needed, measure again, etc...  until the pH remains stable at the right measurement.

Love Nate's videos.  Very scientific and informative. :)

Sowed Bibb Lettuce as well as spinach seeds into the gravel.  They've started to sprout. :)


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