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Vertical Planter FAQs
Why do we suggest putting gravel in the bottom planter?
The gravel in the bottom planter will help wick the water in the saucer. It also provides aeration to stop the soil from going anaerobic.
What soil should I use?
We recommend an organic potting soil mixed with worm castings.
What can I grow in my Vertical Planter?
You can grow most vegetables or flowers you would plant in a garden. Since the planters are 8” deep some root crops like potatoes may not have enough space to grow.
Irrigation system FAQS
How much water do the drippers allow?
Flow (GPH) per emitter is 0.42.
Why is my system not watering?
Check to make sure your pump is working. If it is not working remove the impellor cover and check for debris. If the pump is working tap the irrigation line at each emitter to clear any blockage. Do not insert anything into the emitter holes.
Why a heat gun?
We use the heat gun to make the poly tubing more plyable. This aids in slipping the tubing over the fittings. Make sure you do not over heat the tubing or you will ruin it. We only hold it over the heat gun a few seconds.
DO I need to purchase a irrigation system for each Vertical planter?
No, you only need to purchase the irrigation system for the first vertical planter. Each additional Vertical planter will need an irrigation-add-on (up to 8 per Irrigation system).
Why should I use for a water source?
We suggest our 100 gallon Aqua Planter. This is our Aquaponic planting system.
Does water quality matter?
Water quality is critical to a successful tank and system. If you use city water, check with your city website to find out what they use to treat your water. If chlorine or chloramines are used, you will need to remove them before you add fish or plants to your system. Chlorine can be removed by allowing the water to sit out for at least 24 hours or using a removal product. Chloramines require a Chlorine/Chloramine removal product or a special filter.
How often should I test the water?
Every day until your system is fully cycled (6-8 weeks). After it is cycled, you will need to test your water about once a week until pH and ammonia levels stabilize. Then you will need to test about once a month as long as there are no big swings in your test results. pH must be above a 6.0 in order for the bacteria to grow. Most plants grow best in pH between 6.8 and 7.2.
Will I lose fish?
During the cycling process, as ammonia levels rise and the pH fluctuates, you will lose fish. You can do a partial water change if ammonia levels get too high (above 4 ppm). You will need to test daily until your system is fully cycled (6-8 weeks). Large swings in your test results can harm some fish, so be sure to check the best way to care for your fish.
How much time will it take to cycle my tank?
It will take about 6 to 8 weeks to fully cycle your system. Your system is fully cycled when Nitrite levels are at zero and you have at least 5 ppm of Nitrates. Ammonia can be at .25 ppm. Nitrites should only be present when your system is cycling. Most bacteria grow best between 75 and 80 degrees, but be sure to check what temp your fish need.
How much time will I spend maintaining the Aquaponics system?
While you are cycling your system it will take 10 - 15 minutes a day. Once your system is cycled it only takes 15 - 20 minutes a week to maintain your system. This may entail testing, adding minerals, water top off and feeding your fish.
When can I plant?
You can plant any time as long as there are no chlorine/chloramines present. Please note that plants may show deficiencies until your system is fully cycled. Looking at your plants will tell you what minerals they may need. For a detailed look at mineral deficiency, go to http://friendlyaquaponics.com/docs/Diseases%20in%20lettuce.pdf
What fish is the best fish?
After your system is fully cycled you can stock your tank with 1lb of fish for every 5-10 gallons of water. Be sure system is fully cycled before adding any edible fish. We use Koi and Goldfish because they are a hardy fish and easy to keep. Whatever fish you keep be sure to check to see how to care for them. Look for things like temperature, if you need a net over your tank and what food they need. Use high quality food. Feed them only as much as they can consume in 5 minutes. Various fish that have proven successful in aquaponics systems are; tilapia, bluegill/brim, sunfish, crappie, pacu, various ornamental fish such as , koi, fancy goldfish, angelfish, guppies, tetras, swordfish and mollies.
Can I harvest my fish?
Yes you can, but it depends on the fish you choose to raise. As you remove and add fish, be careful to monitor your pH, ammonia and nitrate levels so as to maintain a functioning system.
What are the best ways to start seeds?
We had success in two ways. One was the traditional method of starting the seeds in soil. At the transplanting stage, we would carefully rinse most of the soil off of the roots prior to placement in the aquaponics system. You can also wrap the seed in a small piece of biodegradable paper towel and place among your growing media. As it gets watered, the seed will sprout and begin to grow, and the paper towel will degrade.
Does it matter what growing media I use?
Growing media needs to be pH neutral. Be sure to rinse your media before you add it to the planters. We use Clay Beads in our systems.
Clay Beads - Clay beads are relatively smooth, making them easy on hands and sensitive roots. It is pH neutral, meaning that it will not affect the water chemistry. It will also drain freely, aiding in the oxygenation of roots. You must wash the beads before putting them into the planters.
Expanded Shale - Expanded Shale is a silicon-based material that is pH neutral. The shale is mined, crushed and fired under high temperatures in a rotary kiln, producing a clean, inert, porous, and light material. You will need to wash it before you put it in your system.
Gravel - Gravel is generally cheap and readily available. Gravel does not hold water well and is very heavy. Gravel should be tested before you put it into your aquaponics system to make sure that is does not contain things like lime. You can take several random samples (different types of stones) and add vinegar to see if it reacts with the stone (It must not).
Lava Rock - Lava rock is a lightweight, porous material. It is not real easy to work with as it is usually irregular in shape, may be sharp and you also have to be careful to ensure that there are no impurities or chemicals present.
How do I add water to my system?
When your system gets low on water you will need to “top it off”. Be sure to add chloramine/chlorine free water so the chlorine does not kill off your bacteria. R/O (reverse osmosis) can be used as well. However, be cautious with R/O water as it has no minerals, which can cause mineral deficiencies.
What minerals will I need?
Depending on what minerals your water already has, you may need to add some minerals. Most common minerals are iron, magnesium, phosphate, and potassium.
Where do I want to place my system?
Once you add water and media your system will be very heavy (over 700 lbs), thus making it difficult to move. Make sure your system will have adequate lighting and that the surface is level. You will need power near your system. If you put the Aqua Planter system outside, make sure you have you have the proper equipment for keeping your systems tank at the temperature your fish need, and shade if needed.
What types of cycling are there?
You can cycle your system using fish or with ammonia. After you fill your system with chlorine free water add either fish or ammonia.
If you use fish, place 10-15 feeder goldfish in the tank. You will lose some fish using this method. Ammonia levels will rise and be toxic to fish until your system is cycled. Be sure to keep ammonia levels between 1 ppm and 2 ppm. If they rise above 4 ppm, you should do a partial water change. pH levels will fluctuate during the cycling process. This can be harmful to fish.
If you use ammonia, make sure it is food grade with no perfumes or dyes. You will need to add small amounts daily.
Either way it is important to test your system daily until it is cycled. You will need to test P.H, Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate. API Master Test kit has all 4 tests you will need. Test results will fluctuate during the cycling process. The system is fully cycled when ammonia levels drop to below .25ppm, your Nitrite is back to 0, and you have nitrates (about 6-8 weeks). Do not add edible or expensive fish until system is fully cycled.
What do I do if I begin to get an odor after my tank has cycled?
A strong odor from your tank can be telling you something is amiss. Check for proper aeration and even increase if possible. Look for excessive algae (remember, there will be algae in your tank). Search to be certain that there are no dead fish that need to be removed.