Water Testing

Basic water test instructions Video of water tests

10 comments to Water Testing

  • Gilles Pitre

    Newbie here
    trying to find out what to do in the event
    of problems with water.
    What if PH is to low or to hight?
    Same for Nitrate or amonia
    Where can I get this information before I start my system?
    thanks

    • TCLynx

      Before you start cycling (adding fish or ammonia) your system, you should get the test kit and learn what your base water parameters are.
      Test
      pH (keep in mind you should let the water circulate or air out or bubble for a while before this test will be accurate)
      Ammonia
      Nitrite
      Nitrate

      There are other water tests that might be of interest but are not necessarily mandatory like water hardness or alkalinity.

      If you have really super hard water you might want to collect rain water or use an RO (reverse Osmosis) filter to reduce the amount of carbonates going into your system to keep the pH too high.

      Desired range for starting up a new system. pH between 6.5-7.6 but it could be as wide as 6.0-8.0. If the initial pH is at 6 you might want to add a little caclium carbonate or potassium bicarbonate to bring the pH up over 6.5. If your pH is up around 8 or above, you might want to bring it down. I don’t recommend using acid on a regular basis to deal with hard well water but for a one time initial start up, I’ve been known to use some muratic acid (hydrochloric acid) to adjust the pH down to below 7.6 but only do this in a system without any fish or plants yet. Once you have living things in your system, do all acid dosing in a separate tank and let the pH settle before using that water in the system. Again, I don’t recommend using acids in living systems, you would be better served to find some other way to deal with your source water.

      If the pH in your system is falling, that is natural, you will use small amounts of some buffer to keep it from falling too far. Be careful not to add too much and cause the pH to change rapidly. If you pH is rising, you may have an issues with anaerobic areas, algae, or be topping up with too much hard water. Shade out the algae, clean out anaerobic areas or fix your leak.

      If ammonia is too high, you stop feeding, if you are worried about the fish, do a partial water change. During cycle up with fish, you are going to see an ammonia spike, it is important not to have too many fish in a new system since there will be an ammonia spike and that is the only way to get the system to cycle up.

      If a system is cycled up and running smooth and you later have an ammonia spike, it means you need to figure out why. Do water tests, make sure pumps are working properly, and make sure you don’t have too many fish for your filtration. In general if there is an issue, STOP FEEDING. that should always be the first reaction to a problem.

      If Nitrite is high, you can salt the system to 1 ppt to help mitigate nitrite toxicity to the fish but that will only help to a point. Nitrite is bad for fish and the spike in nitrite comes after the spike in ammonia. If you have fish that you need to keep alive, you might want to do some partial water changes but that will likely slow the cycle up process since again, you need the nitrite in there for the bacteria to colonize and start converting it to nitrate.

      High nitrates mean you need more plants or less fish. Nitrates are not immediately dangerous to fish and they can get quite high without immediate danger. I like to keep my nitrates in the orange just because that is the range my eyes can figure out in the API test kit without me having to do more complex dilution tests.

      If your nitrates are really high and you can’t get more plants going to use them up, you need to feed the fish less or you need to do water changes to remove some of the nitrates. This is wasteful of water but your potted plants or plants where ever you dump the removed water will appreciate it.

  • Brian

    I have a 2 tote system with tubes and a raft bed circulating through a swirl filter – good oxygen pumping away . Fish are happy and everything seems good – PH 7 Nitrate 0 Nitrite 0 but the vegetables arent growing!
    sooooo frustrating – the system is one year old Any suggestions?

    • TCLynx

      your nitrate is 0, are the plants showing signs of nitrogen deficiency?
      What does your ammonia test say? If it is also 0, then you need to feed your fish more and/or higher quality feed.

  • nick

    hello I have a quackaponics system with some gold fish in the pond(ducks swim in the 140gal pond). I have my pump ran into a swirl filter then into a gravel/sand filter. I was wondering where I could have my water tested before I put my plants into there grow beds. I have been watering the plants with the water coming from the bio filter and they seem to be doing fine( bright green and healthy0. any info or advice would be great. can post pic if need be.

    • TCLynx

      What is it you want to have your water tested for?
      The water testing the video shows is just basic aquarium test kit which you can purchase for yourself and run the test to test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH. But to simply grow plants, those tests are not required.

      However, a duck system my be contaminated with e. coli and/or salmonella since ducks are warm blooded creatures so I can’t recommend watering your salad greens or anything you might eat raw with duck system water. (With holding time from using warm blooded animal waste on a garden/crop till when you are supposed to be able to harvest for human consumption in organic growing is 120 days or about 4 months.)
      To test for those sort of things you would probably need to get an expensive test kit or contact a company that tests well water for contamination.
      Again, I don’t recommend using duck water to grow crops that physically touch the media or water or that are not going to be cooked completely.
      In other words, don’t water your salad with bird poop.

      I have grown banana plants and Lufa plants with my duck system water. We don’t eat those bananas or Lufa.

  • nick

    i have a tomato and the rest is pepper plants i have red online with many people doing this so not 100% sure on everything just getting started. on the water testing i just was hoping not to kill my plants by the water not having what the plants need.

    • nick

      36W UV Sterilizer Light Clarifier Aquarium Pond Koi Tank Lamp Ultraviolet Filter would it help if I ran this before the growbeds

      • TCLynx

        Maybe but not guaranteed. Some of those lights are not really sterilizers but just clarifiers and they won’t actually kill enough bacteria at high flow rates. Also they require quite a bit of maintenance and lamp replacements after a certain amount of use in order to be effective.

        Using warm blooded animals in a ponics system is definitely at your own risk, I don’t like to let birds poop in my salad even if it is hit by a UV light. In my book the warm blooded creatures must all have their poop properly composted before I use it in the garden.

    • TCLynx

      Backyard Aquaponics where people use a good commercial fish feed and use the basic aquarium water test kit, there are usually only minor nutrient deficiencies which can be corrected using things like chelated iron, seaweed extract and potassium/calcium containing buffers depending on the source water. Generally if you test with one of those kits you are not likely to kill plants by putting them in the system. Granted, tomato and pepper are rather difficult plants for the first season with an aquaponic system.

      However, you are not really talking about Aquaponics but duck-a-ponics so the general rules of thumb may not apply so much.

      If you want testing that can guarantee you have perfect nutrient levels for everything the plants could want, you will have to find a lab that tests irrigation water and you will probably also need to get a degree in horticulture to know what the desired levels are in a hydroponic system.

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