Adventures In Aquaponics - Normal Setup Growing Pains?

RacheltheLark

Member
So I recently got an AquaSprouts Aquaponic system that fits with a 10 gallon tank. Included with their setup instructions was part about the nitrogen cycle so I didn't go in completely blind. On their site they had some stocking recommendations including 6 zebra danios so that was my plan.

Included with my tank purchase was a chemical cycle kickstarter. Honestly I didn't look that closely at what it was (just dumped it in and tossed the bottle). After a few days of that with the filters running, I took the water for testing at PetSmart and got the all clear that it was good to go. So I brought home 3 zebra danios...not the ideal school size but I figured better to start with less and not overwhelm the system. That was on Tuesday.

As they settled in one was certainly the dominant one and one was a little pale and seemed to often be hiding around the bottom. I figured this would balance out once I added the other 3.

I had also ordered online a water testing system (API Freshwater Master Test Kit) which arrived Friday. So I tested out the water which all looked good so I went ahead and picked up the other 3 zebra danios.

This morning I come down to find 2 dead fish. The one was the original pale guy who was hiding even worse with the new additions yesterday (so not super surprising) and the other I think was a new one (at the very least one of the four not-the-big-one-in-charge). I pulled out the bodies and did another water test - between .25-.5 ammonia, 0 nitrite and around 10 nitrate. Looking at the scale on the test kit that seems....not awful.

I did a partial water change (maybe 10%?) and was planning on testing again later this afternoon to see how things had settled. The remaining four are zipping around in what I imagine is pretty normal fashion...I didn't feed them this morning as I determined next steps, but with how they've been chasing the occasional sediment from the plants above I imagine they would eat given the opportunity. So right now I'm looking for advice on next steps:
  • I've been treating my water as it goes into the tank. However there hasn't been any good instructions on amount to be used on the bottle (Fluval AquaPlus). Is it possible to overtreat water?
  • I've also seen the chatter around here that 6 zebra danios is pushing it for a 10 gallon tank since they are so active. With the water falling down with the plant cycles (15 minutes every hour) giving them bubbles to play with and the caves/decorations to chase each other around, they seem okay with entertainment. I could also leave it with just the four but that's on the small side for a proper school. The chasing seems to be more fun than when it was just the three, but I imagine the proper 6 would keep things more balanced.
  • Is there anything else I am missing with it being an aquaponics system?

Ultimately I'm trying to figure out if I'm making major mistakes or if this is just a normal "this is what happens when you get starter fish at PetSmart". Thanks!
 

JakeM2004

Member
In my opinion, Zebra Danios can only be kept in 20 gallons plus due to the high activity levels.
 

BottomDweller

Member
Welcome to fishlore!

Your tank is not cycled. You should always have 0 ammonia and nitrite in a cycled tank. Even a tiny amount is toxic to fish.

An aquaponics system does not create adequate filtration.

I recommend at least 50% water change, 10% is not going to do much.

Yeah zebra danios need a bigger tank. I have mine in a 48" tank and they zip along the whole length.
 
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RacheltheLark

Member
I do have an additional filter (Marina SlI'm S15) but you're probably right that I jumped the gun bringing in the fish. So between that and the tank size...I should probably just bring the remaining guys back.

I guess the good news around waiting for a proper cycle is that I can do the right research this time. I had used the AquaSprouts list as my starting place ( ) but it seems like they might not have the best recommendations since that got me the zebra danios in the first place. I will say the water cycling with the plants is loud makes some big splashes so probably would want to avoid fish who like peace and quiet. So any suggestions?
 
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RacheltheLark

Member
Wow that's a lot of options! I'll take some time to dig through them but as a first-glance question. I see a bunch of other danios listed on there which I wasn't expecting. Is there really that much variation in fish types that some will work but others are too active (or too much bio-load or other limitations)?
 

BottomDweller

Member
Yeah loads of variation. For example giant danios need a very large tank (I think 48" very minimum) but celestial pearl danios are very tiny and are fine in a 10 gallon.
 
  • Thread Starter

RacheltheLark

Member
Interesting...so I should have plenty to do in terms of research while waiting for a proper cycle. Thanks!
 

BottomDweller

Member
Yeah. For research seriously fish is a very good site and is pretty reliable.

The aquasprouts website is useless for stocking advice. I particularly like how they say "Stick to fish whose adult size is less than 3” then recommend dojo loaches which get to 10-12"
 

purslanegarden

Member
I'm not sure you were completely cycled in just a few days, but we can't choose when to believe and not believe the master test kit, so we'll have to go with your not-awful findings. It's possible you just had two sick and stressed fish, if the other four not only survived, but they seem to be acting in a healthy manner. I'd also like to add that until the plants are larger or your growing media is chock-full of BB, the idea that the aquaponics-grown plants and system, can keep your 10 gallon tank clean probably needs a little more time to establish itself.
 

Mom2some

Member
Welcome! Sounds like a fun set up! I would recommend you use your awesome API test kit to check your tap water. I would bet that your source water has nitrates which is where the 10 ppm nitrates is coming from.
 
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RacheltheLark

Member
Oooh you are totally right. Right out of the faucet looks just like my tank water with the nitrates...poor fish! Is that something I should also be treating then? Or do I just have to be suspicious of nitrate readings continuing to suggest an early completed cycle?
 

Fanatic

Member
Nitrates should be at 20 or below at all times.
 

BottomDweller

Member
RacheltheLark said:
Oooh you are totally right. Right out of the faucet looks just like my tank water with the nitrates...poor fish! Is that something I should also be treating then? Or do I just have to be suspicious of nitrate readings continuing to suggest an early completed cycle?
Nitrates are bad for fish, too high nitrates can kill fish. I have 80ppm nitrates out of my tap water. I use seachem matrix which has worked really well for me along with lots of plants (fast growing floating plants like duckweed and salvinia work best, pothos is also good).

How much do you have in the tap?
 

Fanatic

Member
BottomDweller said:
I have 80ppm nitrates out of my tap water.
Wow, that's pretty high! Our are at 20ppm from the tap.
 
  • Thread Starter

RacheltheLark

Member
BottomDweller said:
Nitrates are bad for fish, too high nitrates can kill fish. I have 80ppm nitrates out of my tap water. I use seachem matrix which has worked really well for me along with lots of plants (fast growing floating plants like duckweed and salvinia work best, pothos is also good).

How much do you have in the tap?
Looks like 10ppm....maybe a bit more but not dark enough for 20ppm.
 

BottomDweller

Member
Not too bad, adding plenty of live plants and matrix will keep it under control
 

vikingkirken

Member
BottomDweller said:
An aquaponics system does not create adequate filtration.
Where are you getting this idea from? Aquaponics systems can accomplish extremely efficient filtration.
 
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