Start Here With Your ECO-Cycle Aquaponics Kit
Everything you need to get growing with your ECO-Cycle
Frequently Asked Questions for ECO-Cycle Aquaponics Kit
Is there any natural fish food I can use?
Though many of the common fish foods have questionable ingredients, there are several sources for high-quality fish feeds that do not contain artificial coloring. One of the best flake foods for tropical fish is Zoo Med Spirulina 20. It contains high-quality proteins and no artificial coloring.
Can this system be used with turtles or aquatic frogs?
Yes. However, due to the salmonella risk associated with reptiles and amphibians, you would not be able to grow edible plants.
Can I use saltwater with my ECO-Cycle tank?
The ECO-Cycle is designed for use in freshwater aquariums and standard aquaponic growing using freshwater fish to grow leafy greens and herbs. That is not to say that it couldn’t be used for marine aquaria. It’s possible that caulerpa or other marine algae could be cultured in the grow tray, if the pots are removed to open up the space. A marine system of this type would serve scientific or ornamental purposes only and would not be for food production.
Setup and Maintenance
What do I need to get started?
12″ x 24″ Fish tank (generally 20 gallons), Fish, Fish Food, Seeds, and Decor (optional)
What kind of water should I use in my kit?
Rainwater and potable pH neutral well water are the best choices for filling an aquaponic system. Many of us, though, are limited to municipal tap water to charge the system. While in some regions this water may be ready to use right out of the tap, most municipal sources add chlorine and chloramine to the water for disinfectant purposes. These compounds make the water safe for us to drink, but unfortunately they are toxic to fish and to the nitrifying bacteria in the bio-filter. While there are a number of water conditioners available through aquarium shops, most of these products are not certified for use with fish and plants that are intended for human consumption, as stated on the bottle. An easy and safe alternative is a little powdered Vitamin C. 200 milligrams of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) will treat 20 gallons of water, effectively neutralizing the chlorine and chloramine.
What kind of plants can I grow?
Leafy greens grow best in the ECO-Cycle because they thrive on nitrogen rich fertilizer found in fish waste. Some specific examples of plants you can grow are: lettuce, basil, chard, kale, arugula, watercress, mint, cabbage, and a wide variety of leafy greens and herbs. The kit may also be used to start the seeds of flowering plants for the garden, native plants for landscaping, tropical house plants, and even trees.
How do I harvest my plants?
You can harvest your plants all at once or by just clipping a few leaves at a time. In either case, the plants should remain in place when harvesting rather than removing the pots first. This will keep the leaves clean from aquarium water. While your ECO-Cycle Aquaponic system will produce safe, organic produce and herbs, always wash plants with clean water prior to serving or eating.
What type of fish can I use in my kit?
Ideal fish for the ECO-Cycle Aquaponics system are smaller tropical fish and goldfish. If you elect to use tropical fish you will want to add an aquarium heater to mimic their natural environment. One inch of fish per gallon is a common aquarium stocking recommendation. This is a very loose target, however, and the actual number of fish will vary depending on the types of fish and their species-specific care requirements. For fish like guppies, platys, swordtails, small tetras, danios, rasboras, and other peaceful community fish, one inch per gallon is a good target. Goldfish produce a lot more waste and therefore fewer are needed to stock the tank.
How much maintenance is required for the ECO-Cycle?
The initial setup takes about an hour – after that, maintenance is very minimal. You need to feed the fish daily (or as much as is recommended for the breed). Also, you’ll need to add small amounts of water to make up for the water lost to evaporation and transpiration. In an established system, the replacement water usually does not require the water treatments discussed under “What kind of water should I use in my kit?” The plants, bacteria, and other micro-biota in the system will quickly neutralize and remove the harmful compounds. As far as cleaning the aquarium – using the ECO-Cycle Aquaponics kit will help ensure a balanced aquarium, in which there is little to zero excess nutrients. That means less algae growth and reduced maintenance requirements in comparison to conventional aquariums. Biofilm and some algae, however, will gradually grow on the glass and solid waste and other debris will accumulate on the gravel. These are best removed using an algae magnet or pad on a stick, and a gravel vacuum. Both of these pieces of equipment are easily maneuvered through the front door of the ECO-Cycle grow tray.
My grow lights won't turn on.
Make sure you have correctly aligned the plugs coming from the display clock to the grow lights. Beneath the prongs on the inside of the plug there is a dimple that signifies the bottom of the plug. Be sure to align this dimple with the notch in the plugs on the grow light. The correct alignment of the plugs is the most common issue with the grow lights. Check that you have set the clock (1-24) to the correct time of day. When trouble-shooting the lights the clock can become reset after plugging and unplugging the system.
The water is cloudy/brown.
There may be several contributing factors to murky water. 1.) Over feeding/Overcrowding – Too many fish in your tank can lead to excessive waste production resulting in a cloudy tank. We recommend starting out with 2-3 fish and incrementally adding them. A good rule of thumb is 1 inch of fish per gallon of water. When feeding your fish they should eat all of the food within a 2 minute time span and NO food should sink to the bottom of the tank. 2.) The WHITE filter should be rinsed at least once a week in warm water, but can be done more frequently if needed. 3.) Exposure to direct sunlight – If you have to place the ECO-Cycle in an area where it will receive sunlight we advise you to tape dark construction paper, cardboard, ect.. to the exposed side of the tank to prevent this. Sunlight can lead to algae blooms in your tank.
There is a Brown/Clear slime or gunk in my grow tray and under my pots.
This could be caused from an excess of paper towel in the planting process and shouldn’t harm your tank. Using organic or untreated paper towels will also help reduce this type of build up. First, turn off the pump so that the water flow doesn’t carry anything into the fish tank. Use a syringe if you have one to remove the build up. If not, just take a wash rag or sponge to clean it out. You will want to place a fish net or a cup underneath the drain outlet to catch any debris from falling into the tank as you’re cleaning. Rinse the clay media in hot water before replanting.
My pump has stopped working.
This is either an issue with the pump itself or there is some sort of blockage within, preventing flow. Test if the pump is working by taking it out of the tank and plugging it in, does it make any noise or vibration? Try cleaning the pump by clearing any debris that may have gotten stuck. Submerge the pump in hot water and shake vigorously, tapping against the sink or your palm. You can also use pipe cleaners to clear any debris in the hose. There is a slider on the pump that controls the speed, make sure it is at its highest setting, take the filters out, and see if it moves water.
My plant roots are clogging the drainage outlets.
You can use scissors to trim the roots back. As long as you don’t remove the roots entirely it will not affect the health of the plants.