Pee Ponics

Originally posted by TCLynx on AGC, June 6, 2010

Alright, I’ve broached the subject of Pee Ponics in my Fishless Cycling Post.
Did you know that you can run a system indefinitely without fish?
I ran a Pee Ponics system for quite a while. It was my original Barrel Ponics system I built and cycled up fishlessly. Then I continued to run it fishless. I found that the pee ponics system needed about the same supplements as a system with fish.

Ok, I know many people get all grossed out by this, let me go into a little of the research I’ve done as to the safety of using urine as fertilizer. I learned that you can bottle and age the urine for a period of time until the pH goes up to 9 and the urea content has turned into ammonia. This has the effect of killing off many pathogens. I ran tests on e. coli which is on and in all of us and will get into urine from our skin even on a healthy person. So I tested fresh urine and fresh urine deliberately contaminated by fecal material. Both came up positive for fecal coliforms. Then I took samples of fresh urine and sealed it up and aged it till the pH got to 9 as well as taking a sample of fresh urine and again deliberately contaminating it then sealing it up till the pH got to 9. When both samples had the high pH I again tested them. Both came back negative for the fecal coliforms even though both samples when fresh tested positive. So this convinced me that my own urine when aged is not going to make me sick if I use it as fertilizer for a pee ponic system. I would suggest that one would not want to use the urine of some one who is sick nor would I suggest collecting the urine of non family members to use in your garden. When taking antibiotics, I would probably not save my urine for use in an aquaponics system and I don’t think I would want to use the urine of anyone on especially toxic medications like chemotherapy. Otherwise, I don’t really think saving urine to use as fertilizer is dangerous or even all that gross. I mean, do you know what happens to your urine when you flush it down a toilet? It is essentially getting sent back into the water supplies one way or another. Septic systems with leach fields simply leach the water back down into the ground water and hope that dilution will take care of the problems and sewage treatment facilities simply try and separate the solids from the liquids and add some chlorine before sending the water back to nature. If the flows are too high, they simply dump the excess that can’t handle. There is no guarantee that sewage treatment will remove pathogens from the water.

Anyway, Pee Ponics does work for those who might need to keep a system running fishless for a long period of time and no, it doesn’t require much pee unless you are talking a very large system. I’m fairly certain that most medium backyard scale systems could run on about one big pee a day.

There are still those who will be grossed out by this. To each their own. If one doesn’t want to pee ponics, I certainly wouldn’t force them just as I wouldn’t insist on some one else doing Humanure Composting. I also wouldn’t want to use all the pee for aquaponics since good hot humanure compost requires a fair bit of pee to keep in going really good.

I do highly recommend the Humanure Handbook even to people who wouldn’t compost humanure, It taught me how to compost without having problems with stinking compost.


12 comments to Pee Ponics

  • Jose Mendez

    Hi there. This post highly motivated me toward peeponics to start my aquaponics system started. Could you please help me clarify if the urine must be kept sealed, or if it is better off opened and ventilated?

    I am storing small 250ml bottles with caps. Should I seal with the caps or not?

    Thank you in advance.

    • TCLynx

      Seal em Up.
      Urine kept sealed up for a period of time will allow the enzymes in the urine to convert the urea into ammonia which will then be measurable when used to dose the system.
      If you use fresh urine, you will have no immediate way of knowing how strong the dose was because it won’t read on the ammonia test. (Then several weeks later the ammonia will likely rise and rise until it is too high for proper cycling.)

  • Jomon

    If we use pee for long time what aboot saltinity of the system.I hope the salt is go very high and destroy the plants. Can anyone gime me the replay

    • TCLynx

      I ran a pee ponics system for a few years. It doesn’t take that much pee (just as in aquaponics it doesn’t take that much fish) to grow quite a lot of veggies. Provided you are not trying to grow super salt sensitive plants (like strawberries) I don’t expect you will have a big problem unless your diet is incredibly salty. You can get salt level test kits for ponds that might test the salt level in a low enough range for your to monitor if you have concerns or problems. If it does start to become a problem you can do a water change with fresh water.

      That said, in my location, the well water is very fresh so salt build up has not been a problem. In a location that has salt intrusion into the drinking water, the systems may tend on the salty side already and the use of anything that might add salt can be a problem.

  • Edgar Estrada


    In your experience, how long do you usually store the urine so it can get to 9 pH?

    • TCLynx

      It can vary considerably but 3 weeks always seemed to do for me.

      • Edgar Estrada

        So — I would need to have 3 weeks (at least 21 bottles) of pee for a daily dosage for the aquaponic system to work? It´s not a big system, 2 IBCs for fish + growbeds (around 6,000 water liters).

        Are these figures accurate?

        • TCLynx

          I suppose it depends on how big the bottles are and what exactly you are trying to do with it. How much pee it takes to dose a system to between 1-2 ppm of ammonia is going to vary depending on how dilute the urine was. For just cycling up a system using pee ponics, you wouldn’t necessarily need to be dosing every day. And for simply keeping the biofilter alive you don’t necessarily have to dose to 1-2 ppm, you might find that a small dose will keep a system going until you are ready to add fish. But if you are going to be collecting pee every day, you probably would want 21 bottles to be able to store it for three weeks before use. It is hard to know if you would actually need that much pee since the exact content will vary greatly depending on the hydration and diet of the donor (which can change over time and by time of day as well.) Best bet is to test and see how much it takes to get the system to between 1-2 ppm of ammonia and use that as a guideline for a “dose”.
          I found for my barrel ponics system that 200 ml was a big dose.

  • Zoltan

    Please could you describe your peeponics system? I am interested in the numbers: how much water you have in the system, how much pee you add to it and when, plants, growing bed surface size? Any difference in dosage between summer and winter?
    Thank you very much!

    • TCLynx

      I have not actually run a pee ponics system for almost 10 years at this point.
      While I was running it I was still just learning about aquaponics so I don’t have any super precise recommendations on dosage.
      I cycled up a barrel ponics size system using less than 50 ml of aged humonia per day (could probably have used a lot less than that! In fact it probably would have worked with only a half dozen doses of that size spaced out.)

      Use your water tests to help indicate how much you need to be dosing. Once cycled up a Nitrate reading between 10 and 40 is generally plenty depending on your plants. You will still need to dose with Potassium and Iron at the very least and depending on your source water and what plants you are growing and your diet, you may need to buffer the pH of the water up, supplement with calcium, magnesium, possibly phosphorus and other trace elements. It will all depend on what you are trying to do, the scale you are doing it at, and how well it works at the minimum dosing.

      I think pee ponics is a great idea (it is a shame to waste the resource only to allow it to pollute the water supplies) but since I’m growing produce for sale to others, I don’t do it on my farm for “food safety” reasons.

  • Deza

    So for food safety reasons it’s not ok ?? I have been doing it for a while. My dose is one or two good pee every weekend while I’m in my garden. May be a mid week pee as well. Plants are great

    • TCLynx

      For your own personal garden, I don’t see it as a big deal. If you are selling your produce, all warm blooded animal waste should be properly composted or treated before use to kill any possible food/water born pathogens.

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