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Thread: Frustrating

  1. #1
    Members Roger L.'s Avatar
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    Frustrating

    I knew going in to this project not to expect bumper crops with a new system but this has got me confused. I have planted lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, peas, cucumber, summer squash, and kidney beans. I expected the lettuce, cauliflower and the broccoli to do the best and the others to struggle. It has been just the opposite. The lettuce get 1 1/2" and stops, the broccoli has only gotten 3" and stopped, the cauliflower is 1/2" and pathetic looking. The celery has never come up. The kidney beans, summer squash and cucumber plants are up and growing but no sign of producing anything. The peas are the only thing producing and if I get a serving full I will be surprised. My system has yet to cycle either. Nitrates came up (barely) about 2 weeks ago and then back to 0. A few days ago they came up to 5 for about 3 days and once again back to 0 now. PH is at 7.4, ammonia at .25, nitrites are at .25 now (had been above 5). PH had dropped off some but I adjusted that back up, ammonia and nitrites got high but I got that adjusted back down. I started this project on 5/25/13. The fish are doing fine and are growing so I seem to have that part right. I've added more light so that is not an issue. I can't even seem to get duckweed to grow either inside or outside. Do I just have a black thumb?
    At what point did our government cease to be of the people, by the people, and for the people?

  2. #2
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    Re: Frustrating

    couple of things..
    plant things that are in season for your zone.. many varieties of lettuce are spring plants.. broccoli and cauliflower are fall crops..i had trouble with cuke's my first year, second year it got so crazy i had to pull the cucumber plants out of the bed (they grew up into the ceiling and started wrapping around wires and stuff) - and i did not have time to hand pollinate them
    have you tried planting by "moon phase"? some people swear by it.. i think i've had some coincidental luck regarding the moon..
    it's going to take a few months for your plants to reflect the conditions of the growbeds, don't get discouraged..

  3. #3
    Members Roger L.'s Avatar
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    Re: Frustrating

    Kieth, do seasons really matter when growing indoors? I forgot to mention my system is in my basement. Fairly constant mid 70's year round.
    At what point did our government cease to be of the people, by the people, and for the people?

  4. #4
    Aquaponics 101 Oliver's Avatar
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    Re: Frustrating

    You don't have enough Nitrates to support any plants, let alone the ones you have planted. Plant only leafy greens once you get to 40 ppm nitrates and flowering plants only after you are above 80 ppm and on your way to 100 ppm nitrates.

    Also, tell us about your lighting, as in what type and how many watts per square foot.

    Oliver
    To measure is to know

  5. #5
    Members Roger L.'s Avatar
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    Re: Frustrating

    My first post were lost in one of the site crashes but I am fairly certain I was told to plant as soon as the system would support fish, the sooner the better. Can't prove that but by memory that's what I remember. As far as lights I have 3, 2 bulb, 48" fluorescent fixtures with 6500 lumen (daylight) bulbs at 40 watts per. I figure 240 watts over 12 square feet of grow bed. I tried some blue/red LED's but they didn't seem to do much of anything.
    At what point did our government cease to be of the people, by the people, and for the people?

  6. #6
    Aquaponics 101 Oliver's Avatar
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    Re: Frustrating

    It calculates that you have about 20 Watts per square foot. Not nearly enough. I assume these are T-8s, which put out about 80 lumens per Watt. You need about 50 Watts per square foot for leafy greens to do well.

    The 6500 lumens and 40 Watts X 2 bulbs looks like what you have, although most 48" T-8s are 35 Watts. They are good for leafy greens and should be only a few inches above the plants; but as with all fluorescents, they do not concentrate their light so it can be directed over a distance, which is required in order to grow taller plants, such as those that flower. Go with the highest temperature of bulb you can get, not the highest lumen rating. Lumens are measured at 550 nm, which is green. Not a very usable color to grow plants. Higher temperature bulbs will have more blue, which is what you need for leafy greens.

    As to the LED grow lights, most are designed for the cannabis business, which is flowering plant and in need of lots of red light. Not very good for leafy greens; but if you have enough wattage and the proper lenses on the bulbs, they will work well for your flowering plants, once your system is mature enough to grow them.

    In order to get enough DLI (Daily Light Integral, the total light needed in a 24 hour period) for leafy greens, you will need about 50 Watts per square foot for at least 8 hours per day. If your light is less than this, then you will see the plants growing long legs trying to reach for the light that isn't there. Much less than this and they may not do well at all.

    With your Nitrates where they are, if you have properly sized your grow beds to your fish tank and your fish are small, it is best not to plant very much in your grow bed until your fish grow out some. Your Nitrate levels will tell you if you have the right amount of veggies in the system. Think of the fish as being full grown and grow bed(s) full of veggies and now scale back those plants to amount of fish size you currently have in your tank.

    Oliver
    To measure is to know

  7. #7
    Members Roger L.'s Avatar
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    Re: Frustrating

    Is it possible that the water level in my grow bed is to low for the system to cycle? I have thought I was getting there a couple of times but then everything falls off again. I check the water everyday and make any adjustments necessary. I started this project in mid-May.
    At what point did our government cease to be of the people, by the people, and for the people?

  8. #8
    Members David - WI's Avatar
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    Re: Frustrating

    I think that, like Oliver said, you're probably short of light.

    From everything I've been able to read and/or test even the "leafy greens" like lettuce need a bare minimum of 25w per square-foot for 16 hours a day (or 50w per square-foot for 8 hours a day would be the same amount of light-hours).

    With 20w or less per square foot you need 20+ hours of light per day; but then some plants want a "dark" period which could only be 3 - 4 hours in that case.

    Just for an inexpensive "test" you could try pointing a halogen flood light at your grow bed for a week... the PAR meter (the "good" light wavelengths) goes through the roof - even a couple feet below the 110w GE halogen floods we have in the building. It's like 10x the PAR reading of the T-5's but from much further away.

    It's all about the fish, dude.

  9. #9
    Members Roger L.'s Avatar
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    Re: Frustrating

    I have agreed with Oliver about the light and will ad more. My first concern now is getting the cycle to finish/begin. I have never had a major spike in nitrates, a couple of minor blips but never a major spike. My ph dropped, my ammonia dropped and nitrites and nitrates went to 0. Fish seem to be happy and no signs of stress.
    At what point did our government cease to be of the people, by the people, and for the people?

  10. #10
    Members Roger L.'s Avatar
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    Re: Frustrating

    Well here is what has happened. After feeling sorry for myself for a while I got up off my butt and decided to rework the system from all the things I've learned here on DIY. I tore out all the plants and took out most of the expanded clay. The plants didn't grow good on top of the system but they sure had roots. I have replumbed to include a bell siphon to help get some air into the grow bed. I have a couple more modifications to make to make up for shoddy workmanship and then will get the expanded clay back in. I will not grow anything until the nitrates get to 40ppm, and then only leafy greens. When I get to 80ppm I will then open up to a wider variety of veggies. While I am waiting for the system to cycle I will be buying my T-8 fixtures for the lighting and add in a few floods that can concentrate on plants that need more light. I sure wish I had been a part of this group before I built, but I got enough general information before I built it to make me think it was easy and I would be eating veggies and fish in no time.

    Thanks for all the tips, advice and encouragement.
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