Even though we
started with a kit,
no aquaponics system is truly plug and play. Instead, you have to build
up handy bacteria to change fish waste (ammonia) into the form of
nitrogen plants can use (nitrate). While you can do this by putting some fish
in your Tank and hoping the bacteria will grow faster than their poop
will build up, most folks cycle the tank using chemistry instead.
Cycling is pretty
simple. Basically, you set up both your tank and grow bed (with pump
running), then you add a source of ammonia to bring the content of the
water up to 4 to 6 ppm. After that, it's just a waiting game while the
bacteria accumulate and do their job.
So where do you get ammonia? Supposedly, you can buy it in the cleaning section of some stores...but it's hard to find straight stuff without dyes, perfumes, and soaps. I went for the cheaper approach --- Aged Pee.
(This picture actually
portrays a pH test. But let's pretend, shall we?)
Half a cup of aged pee in a ten-gallon aquarium actually overshot the mark a bit, hitting 8 ppm. I could have changed out a bit of the water to bring the aquarium back into balance, but I also had another ace up my sleeve --- a quart of wild pond water added to the mix.
I figure seeding some beneficial microorganisms might let me get away with higher ammonia levels than are really recommended. Hopefully the pond water will also lower the usual cycling time of three to six weeks too. The sooner I can add fish, the better!