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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Not sure how often this comes up... did a quick search and didn't come up with anything.

I've done research in other forums and Google. The technical information is out there, but the intangible "best practices" and the specific advice (i.e. how to grow tomatoes) is not out there. Tomato is probably a bad example, b/c it's one of the vegetables (err fruits) that actually has a lot of info... but I'm looking for a site that compares different plants and growing environments so I know what might be best suited to my basement (temperatures, available lighting, and nutrient levels).

Anyway, I kind of gave up on planted tanks and that's left me with some extra equipment and fertilizers. I'm not walking away from it forever, just for a little while.

Basically, I figured people here are pretty knowledgeable about plants. So I just have a few questions...

1) Are there any good hydroponics sites for discussion about growing flowers, vegetables, or fruits? Most of what I find out there is for marijuana, which is not what I'm interested in. I haven't decided what to grow yet, but my wife wants me to grow some begonias for her to plant next summer ($3 for packet of seeds versus $3 per plant - so works for me).

2) Any thoughts about planted aquarium equipment transferring over to grow hydroponics?

3) Should I give up on the idea as it's impractical or "dumb".

4) Should I do an aquaponics (basically plants filter the main fish aquarium) setup or isolate my systems from each other and use dirty water as a supplement (this will allow me to dose my aquarium with ferts without worrying about the fish).

5) Are T5 lights appropriate. Where's a good site that breaks down this stuff on what vegetables and fruits need for artificial growing? I know for lighting requirements and ferts, there's a lot of advice for soil growth. However, I know hydroponics, you have to control lighting differently and ferts too (since there's some basic stuff in soil not found in water).

My main goal is to learn a new skill, subject, and have some fun. I figured there's a chance if I do an aquaponics setup, that I might get some filtration out of it, but that's secondary to my primary goal of just learning about plants and using excess equipment to setup a sub-hobby (one that doesn't require a huge learning curve to my current one and has a lot of transferable equipment and techniques).

I figured this might be a good place to ask since most people here are pretty good with plants. In another forum, I brought this up and I guess there was skepticism that I was actually doing this for legit reasons. So let me make it clear, I know about some of the other forums that help people grow weed, so if that's what I was growing, I wouldn't need to come here :) I have a pretty nice paying job that REQUIRES I stay clean and I get drug tested often. This isn't something I would pursue even if my employer didn't care.
 

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You could start here:
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/tank-journals-photo-album/149251-09-25-2011-pandacory-s-29-a.html

A primer:
Read the marijuana forums if you want to grow anything that fruits or flowers. They really are the best sources of info, whether or not you agree with their goal.

Generally, grow fruiting/flowering plants on different water loops. Plants require different nutrients and lights during flower. The nutrient mix and light type/shedule for flowering plants will cause leafy greens to bolt to seed and taste bitter.

Deep water culture is good for.starts/leafy greens. Simple, but noisy. You could try dwc to start everything up, then transplant flowering plants to pots with soil. The later in life you transplant, the more shock. That's what I did. Water the potted plants with runoff. Cycle = feed water water feed, and be sure to flush before harvest. If all you're using is fish waste you don't need to flush, but if you're supplementing the water column, be sure to flush or it will taste bad.

My next system will be flood and drain, you could go either way. stay away from sprayers or nft unless you have a very good filter and some experience. Fine solids will clog sprayers and cause buildup on roots in nft. I prefer to use recirculating vs. Waste water. It's more water efficient, and as long as everything keeps moving, there is less settling.

Flourescents are fine. Hid is best. Led is probably 2-3 yrs away and 5+ from being cost competitive. Your flowers won't be amazing under t5, but they're good for vegetative growth.

Google organic hydroponics. If I remember to, I'll post some links after lunch. It would take way too long from my phone.
 

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Try these:
http://www.flairform.com/hints/lighting_optimizing.htm
http://futuregarden.com/knowledge_tree/about_hydroponics_hydroponic_lighting.html
http://aquaponicsjournal.com/

Aquaponics journal has a ton of free articles.
Growingpower is also good. A lot of what you find will be repetitive. YouTube has some decent vids.

Long story short is that the biggest challenge with aquaponics is water temperature. Most fish live at temps not suitable for hydroponics plants. Above 72f you start to run risks of mold and fungus. Hardy plants survive, flood and drian reduces the constant exposure to the warm water but big swings = shock. It's always going to be a balancing act.

After a little experience, and hopefully this saves you some time I've settled on a few things. Start by researching the water parameter needs of the plants, Google hydroponics water parameters. Ignore the dissolved solids portion, since the fish provide a continuous supply of fresh dissolved solids. Not the same thing as priming a chemical based system. I use Ro water because I do not know of a way to reliably rid tap of chlorine without chemicals. Reconstituted as necessary. Any nitrogen and water loving plant will do well. Most leafy herbs and greens. Remember, fish poo is 5-2-2, qnd defficient in iron and magnesium. Your reconstitution should aim to replenish iron and mg, phosphorus is gianed in liberal feeding. Potassium can be had in many natural forms, including seaweed extract, but the stuff is dirty, and may not be fish safe if it was chemically extracted.

Once you know the parameter targets, choose fish that do well. I ended up with rainbows and panda corys. Cooler water fish, instead of true tropicals. For a basement, try mountain minnows or goldfish/koi depending on how big of a tank you're going for. Don't overplant the tank. There will be too much competition for nutrients and it will be an algae nightmare. That said, do put some plants in. Aquatic plants provide an ammonia buffer. Ammonia can damage the terrestrials. Flowering plants are much more demanding than leafy greens and starts. They need more nutrients, more light, and are more sensitive.

Other than that, Google is your friend.

I will be starting on a new system soon, but am waiting for my work/living situation to work itself out. I will be experimenting with organic supplementation, and I am choosing water parameters to mimic successful tilapia culture so I can scale up later. Full journal will be included, promise.

Good luck! If you have specific questions, feel free to pm me. Be sure to do a journal!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks! I'll definitely check those sites out. May have more questions. I've found a lot of sites with Google, but my main problem is finding specific information about the various plants. Although, the more I read, I do realize that some of the plants just aren't popular enough for the local hobbyist (hence no blogs or journals).

Read the marijuana forums if you want to grow anything that fruits or flowers. They really are the best sources of info, whether or not you agree with their goal.
Yeah, main reason I avoid them was I didn't know they had relevant information AND I can't (or think it's better that I didn't) browse those sites at work. I like reading this stuff when I'm between doing things or during lunch.


If all you're using is fish waste you don't need to flush, but if you're supplementing the water column, be sure to flush or it will taste bad./QUOTE]

Sorry, I think I understand but just want to be be sure... do you mean by "flushing" that I should let it run without fish water before harvesting? Does the fish water make the vegetables taste bad? I was kind of leaning towards fruit for this reason because I imagined it being similar to those old elementary experiments where a stalk of celery absorbs the water with food coloring (in fish water case, it would be like drinking water from my tank).

Flourescents are fine. Hid is best. Led is probably 2-3 yrs away and 5+ from being cost competitive. Your flowers won't be amazing under t5, but they're good for vegetative growth.
I'm aiming to stick with equipment I have unused. If this becomes "fun" or at least cost-effective (save some money on veggies or flowers) then I might consider building some better lighting...

Long story short is that the biggest challenge with aquaponics is water temperature. Most fish live at temps not suitable for hydroponics plants. Above 72f you start to run risks of mold and fungus. Hardy plants survive, flood and drian reduces the constant exposure to the warm water but big swings = shock. It's always going to be a balancing act.
Wow, that's exactly the kind of advice I wanted. Not what I wanted to hear, but definitely what I needed to know! I have discus and I keep my water at about 83F. So this might mean I need to isolate my system. I'm thinking of a pleco only tank for breeding... so maybe I'll run the system off that...

I use Ro water because I do not know of a way to reliably rid tap of chlorine without chemicals.
What is wrong with using dechlorinator for hydroponics? I do plan to age tap water (my local water supply is chlorine and not chloramine) and I also will be running a RO mix b/c of the discus).

Once you know the parameter targets, choose fish that do well. I ended up with rainbows and panda corys. Cooler water fish, instead of true tropicals.
I'm actually targeting plants that work for my fish type... Fish is my primary objective. The hydroponics was just kind of a "what..if" and "might be neat" extension of the hobby.

Other than that, Google is your friend.
Yeah, I think my problem is just over-thinking it.. although, the advice you mentioned isn't the type that's usually brought up for sites that I've been reading.

Thanks again for the advice.. I might have to think this through a little more. I might just "do it". I figured there's a lot to be said about learning by mistakes.
 

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Lots of good thoughts already.

If your goal is just jump starting your garden, you don't need NASA level tech.

A few 4' shop lights 6500K tubes, a few flats, potting soil and your good. If you still have fish in your aquarium use the old water from a change. Or use Fish Emulsion (I use in on my Aquarium plants)
 

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Flushing is the process of running water w/o ferts prior to harvest. Chemical based systems can have a synthetic taste if not flushed. This is up to debate and palate. I would run reconstituted Ro, no ferts to flush. Fish waste is organic and in pretty low concentrations that you shouldn't need to flush. Flushing is most important for chemical ferts, so if you are using aquarium ferts in a recirculating system you probably want to flush.

I really want discus, and have attempted to design systems that get around the temperature requirements with no cost effective results. For discus you have two options:
1. Use wc water on soil or soiless plants...easiest...you may still need to flush, though soil is a good filter. I would go with a good potting mix for consistent nutrients and use aq water in a feed water water feed cycle.
2. Use wc water as a nutrient base for your hydroponics solution. This will be more water efficient, and expands your options. You won't need to be mindful of the fish when choosing nutrients, but you will still be limited on system type due to dissolved solids in aq water. This is a better primer on recirculating hydroponics, gives you a better engineering project, etc.
 

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For dechlor, give it a sniff...do you want to eat that? Probably ok since fish can live in it, but i wouldn't feed it to my kids. I would check for fda approved chemicals that are meant for traditional hydroponics, might kill the fish, but probably won't give you cancer...

Matching plants to fish? Aquatic or emmersed growth plants are the answer then. Your goals are different than mine, thats ok, but that also means the design of an appropriate system will be different.

From what you've said so far, I would rec a soil based system under your spare lights. It will be the most forgiving, and help jump start your wife's garden. It is also cheap to set up, and gives you a use for your aq water. For a versitile solution, look into growing trays. You can find them on Craigslist from people who failed at growing pot, this is also a good source for hid lights. With a grow tray, you can set it up to grow your herbs and lettuce, and later repurpose to recirculating aquaponics when you set up a cooler water tank. I like the botanicare line. Get the deeper ones so you can use pots or use it like a raised bed. An alternative would be to build a bed with pond liner.

Pot forums are good for nutrient brand reviews, lighting comparisons, some care techniques, and how to set up enclosed spaces (necessary for flower) you just have to get past the boneheads and losers that talk about their pot like its a girlfriend.

I can't think of any terrestrial plant that wouldn't suffer at discus 84-86f temps. Is soil that warm? Closest I could think is chili peppers, but even then you are going to underperform compared to soil in same light. The point of hydro is to vastly outperform soil, so, its up to you...spend more to get less, or spend less and get more.

BTW I ran mine at 80f. Every plant had mold/fungus on the roots as a result and some died, all underperformed on transplant. 72-77 is the warmest range that's rec. 68-72 is better. It sucks, but sometimes you have to make mistakes to know what questions to ask...

Good luck! Have fun! Be sure to share!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
For dechlor, give it a sniff...do you want to eat that? Probably ok since fish can live in it, but i wouldn't feed it to my kids. I would check for fda approved chemicals that are meant for traditional hydroponics, might kill the fish, but probably won't give you cancer...!
Oh, most dechlor is extremely safe. A lot of the stuff they use in beer brewing and water treatment plants. I figured you were talking about the increase sodium levels (which should be nominal). Typically this stuff converts your chlorine/chloramine into the equivalent of table salt, releasing some sulfur, and in the case of sodium thiosulfate --- some people use this stuff as a "health tonic" (whether it's useful or not, I have no idea).

Pot forums are good for nutrient brand reviews, lighting comparisons, some care techniques, and how to set up enclosed spaces (necessary for flower) you just have to get past the boneheads and losers that talk about their pot like its a girlfriend.
Awww, craigslist is always interesting especially when you look for niche items.


BTW I ran mine at 80f. Every plant had mold/fungus on the roots as a result and some died, all underperformed on transplant. 72-77 is the warmest range that's rec. 68-72 is better. It sucks, but sometimes you have to make mistakes to know what questions to ask...
I might have to be the guinea pig on this one, but the theory behind the increase algae/mold growth according to some sites I found is due to lack of dissolved O2. Maybe keeping the water properly aerated might help?

Also, not sure about this idea... but do you think some plecos would help in the growing trays/bins? I have a ton of BNPs and they're quite tolerant.

Might help with the ammonia too and I know they like high flow rates.

Seeing as I haven't determined the system, I was thinking the aeroponics setup might work. Dang, overthinking again...

This hobby is getting ridiculous. I miss the days when rainbow colored gravel, cory catfish, neons, bubbling treasure chests, and plastic plants were enough to keep me happy...
 

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Aeroponics uses fine misters or foggers that will readily clog from dissolved solids. There are the DIY versions that use a hose with holes punched in it, this would probably be less prone to clogging since its basically like a spray bar, but it will also be less oxygenated than the fine mist.

I've thought about trying one of the hybrid systems, where you use sprayers and an inch or two of water beneath the air column. The more complex the plumbing is, the more maintenance. Come to think of it, this would solve the problem I've been having with sump sizing, maybe ill try on my next go.

For the mold, you are 1/2 way right. Like any pest/disease, it takes hold with a weakened immune response, so the more stress factors, the more likely the illness. Unfortunately high temps are a multi pronged attack. Higher temp water = less o2 = point of stress. Higher temp water > natural soil temp = point of stress. Higher temp water = greater metabolic rate = increased demand for nutrients, co2, light, and humidity, but supplied at a fixed quantity = point of stress. Add to that fine particles coating the roots and you are better off trying to minimize temperature since it is one of the easiest factors to control.

For fish in the grow beds, I'm not so sure. You could try, but it would only work with raft hydro, or suspended deep water culture to allow enough water depth for comfortable fish. It may become a maintenance nightmare though. Dead fish in the tray? Feeding? Illness/injury? Also, I don't know anything about plecos, but my fish steer clear of bubblers and you will need good coverage on each grow site for adequate aeration. Maybe look into a hybrid system again, since I think that many airstones might stress them out.

Commercially, fish are raised in a tank, and sometimes shrimp are added to the trays in raft culture. Shrimp stress the roots less, and actually clean them of fine solids. I built a shrimp cage with a 9" square netpot with a 2" net pot nested inside a lid of egg crate and a vynl cover to make it dark. The idea is that each could house a population of cherries, with its own air stone and a single plant growing above. Simply drop in shrimp food from lid. Never got a chance to test it though.

Just like with anything, starting simple will probably keep you from giving up. A small system with some spare airstones and lights is a good place to start, add an aquarium and a pump for recirculating deep water culture.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Yeah, I'll probably do a small system with my 20G and a storage bin to work out the basics first. Maybe grow 3-4 plants with it.

I didn't even think about shrimps... it might be something I'll look into though. I had wanted to do some shrimp before.

But you're right... I'll do a small setup with begonias or lettuce. Even if it's not what I eventually want to grow, it'll be something there's a lot of literature on and from what I've read seem like perfect beginner plants.

The lighting requirements are also fairly modest for those two plant types.

For the aquaponics, I'll set it up with plecos... it looks like low 70's is acceptable temperature for them. I have pleco only tank that's sitting at about 73F right now. Probably a little warmer, but maybe increasing the air will help and I'll see how it goes.

Since they're pretty dirty anyway, it might help with the nitrates (my discus tank and daily WC means I have very low nitrates anyway for plant growth).

I've been reading up on the raft systems... not sure what I would grow on those though. Herbs seem like a decent idea... I might build one just for fun and see how it goes.

Thanks for the help.... I'll defnitely try to document my efforts. I always mean to, but I hate keeping journals :p
 
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