Before you send water to your NFT pipes

Originally posted by TCLynx on AGC, June 12, 2010


Yes that was me shouting.

What’s NFT, that would be nutrient film technique or when you put the plant cups in holes in a pipe or trough and trickle a film of water along the bottom of it.

An aquaponics system is more than just fish and plants, if you try to do aquaponics with only those two things, you are sitting on a two legged stool and something is bound to collapse. The most important part of aquaponics is the filtration.

So, before you send water into your NFT pipes, you must filter it.
Now that doesn’t have to mean anything fancy really, but you will discover quite quickly that if you send dirty fish poo water straight to your NFT pipes, they will get really gunky and the roots get covered by globs of fish poo and it can even get nasty and stinky enough to make a person gag if the system is heavily stocked and the fish are being fed well.

My initial attempt at NFT with aquaponics just took a feed of water from the pump that was drawing from a fish tank. Started out OK for the first few days but within a week, it was not so nice anymore. It seems that catfish and tilapia poo along with the remains of floating fish feed creates quite a light slimy glop that will coagulate together and stick to roots and wicks until disturbed. GAG
So scratch that first attempt.

My current system has a clean water sump tank, that is the water that makes it to the sump tank has all gone through some sort of filter before it falls back into the sump tank. The filters are mostly my flood and drain gravel beds. Since there are no fish in the sump tank to poop or be fed and all the water from the fish tanks goes through gravel beds before getting back to the sump tank, it is a clean water sump and that filtered water is fairly good for use in NFT pipes provided algae is kept at bay and the feed lines to the NFT pipes are big enough not to get clogged by simple bio-slime.

I’ve seen several instances where people wanted to make a system where they simply pump from a fish tank through several pipes growing plants and several more times where that is what they had set up. The questions range from “why are my fish dieing?” to “why are my plants not growing?” to “aquaponics stinks, this is crap why do you people keep saying it’s great?” All that because they skipped the filtration.

Think of aquaponics like a triangle
Fish, plants, filtration (the bacteria of the bio-filter and the mechanical solids filtering)

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