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Conor Quinlan

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System Update: Niles 5/31/17

Posted by Conor Quinlan on May 31, 2017 2:10:24 PM

Niles

 

Nitrogen (mg/L)

 

 

 

Date

pH

Total Ammonia

Ammonia

Nitrite

Nitrate

Temp (Fo)

Alkalinity

mg/L

EC (mS)

05/08

7.05

0.25

n/a

2-5

10

78.4

35

0.82

05/10

7.15

0.5

n/a

2-5

15

76

-

0.80

5/12

7.00

0.25

n/a

5

20

74.5

25-30

0.80

5/15

6.4 -> 6.9

0.25

n/a

>5

20

76.1

-

0.81

5/17

6.9

0.25

n/a

>5

30-40

78

-

0.84

5/19

6.9

0.25

n/a

5

40-80

82

35

0.93

5/22

6.8

0.25

n/a

2-5

>80

75

-

0.90

5/24

6.6->7.3

0.25

n/a

2-5

115

75

-

1.00

5/26

7.0

0.25

n/a

2-3

150

76

47

1.06

05/12/17 -> 05/19/17 -> 5/26/17 : Total Hardness: 240 -> 290 -> 330 mg/L CaCO3 equ
Calcium Level: 52 -> 50 -> 53.5 mg/L Magnesium level: ~26.8 -> 40.2 -> 47.8 mg/L
P (PO4-) = 2 -> 3 mg/L

Above is an image of system #2 full of fresh seedlings. The expansion float bed on the far right will be testing the LED fixtures and will be compared directly to the other float bed which will utilize the standard 650W florescent lights. Both will grow a variety of collards and mixed lettuce varieties. The harvest quality and amount will then be compared.

 

Water Quality Overview: Since adding the water heater the nitrate levels have continued to rise but only more recently have begun to spike. Within the last 10 day the nitrate level has increased from about 20 mg/L to 150 mg/L. So overall the transformation process has very distinct peaks where rapid conversions from ammonia to nitrite and nitrite to nitrate occur within a few day period or less after an extended period of bacteria growth between each nitrification phase. The drop in ph has been far more dramatic in the last few weeks and even the addition of 200 g of MgCO3 on 5/15 only brought the pH up from 6.4 -> 6.9 and only maintained an adequate pH for 9 days. This is due to the larger water holding capacity of the system with the expansion float bed attached. A larger addition was therefore necessary on 5/24 to compensate for the extra water held by the expansion float bed (about 300 extra gallons). 100 g of K2CO3 was added with 200 grams MgCO3 to help increase the buffer/pH to higher levels while also adding the limited nutrient K for the newly seeded crops. This had a more significant impact on pH which increased from 6.6 -> 7.3.

 40 g of the new micro nutrient mix was used to added mainly Mo, Mn and Fe but adds all vital micro nutrients. Thus far no negative effects have been experienced due to the addition as expected. It is important that a micro mix like this NOT be over used as it can become toxic to plants if excessive micro nutrients are dissolved in the solution, generally a MAX of 1 mg/L of any micro nutrient, other than Fe which is required at 3-5 mg/L, is more than enough, nutrients like Cu and Mo will cause toxicity problems at levels around 0.5 mg/L or greater.

 Our Micro Mix is called: JR Peters M.O.S.T Mix, contact JR Peters Laboratory for product.

 

Fish Overview: These blue tilapias are doing far better than the locally sourced tilapia in system #1 particularly at their current size. They are consuming slightly more feed than system #1 at 233 g/day. On 5/23 the tilapia were weighed to determine the current feeding percentage which was approximately 3.3-3.6% of their body weight (avg. of 72.85 g/fish). This is the same or slightly greater than the rate approximated by our fish size to feeding relationship graph below. This is far greater than the feeding rate of the juveniles in system #1 which consistently consumed <2.5% of their body weight during a lot of that earlier growing stage. Even since the weighing the feeding rate has been increased further to 260 g/day on 5/26.

Crop Overview: During this early stage of the system cycle most of the system will be dedicated to growing mixed collards and lettuce in order to do the LED and florescent comparison described below. 

The media bed has been seeded with sage and lavender as well as individual squash, tomato and pepper crops. The nutrient content of system #2 is increasing so quickly, due to the high quality of the fish, that immediate filling of the systems with heavy feeding crops is required. 

 

 

LED Testing Trial: The LEDs and Florescent lights have been put into place above the grow tanks and will be used to compare results between the two lights. The LEDs consume approximately 40% less energy per light while outputting a higher quality PAR output. Therefore, we expect these LEDs to produce larger and higher quality produce over time. A variety of collard and lettuce varieties from the same seed stock were used in each float bed for a direct comparison. Both float beds were filled with the seedling on 5/22 and will be grown in a batched fashion in order to provide more accurate visual data.  Everything for this test was seeded at the same time, in the same grow tray, with the same seedling nutrient solution.

Lighting Set-up: The LED lights have been placed 3’ above the crops to ensure proper light uniformity with their smaller footprint (size) while the fluorescents have been placed 2’ above the crops. The LEDs produce an average PAR between 300-330 umol/m2/s with the very lowest reading being 250 umols/m2/s at the farthest edge of the grow tank. The fluorescents produce an average of 280 umols/m2/s with the lowest reading being 240 umols/m2/sec at the farthest edge.

 The LED provide slightly less uniformity due to their smaller footprint but the fluorescents produce significantly more heat directed towards the crops than the LEDs. Clip fans will need to be used to help reduce the heat buildup and improve transpiration of the crops in that area.

 Mixed lettuce, which was added to one raft on 5/16 to ensure the water had enough nutrients, is already producing significantly more pigmentation and compactness compared to the lettuce grown in system #1 under the fluorescents.

 Updates on the comparison, as well as pictures, will be provided continuously over time. Below is an image of the LED light up close:

 

 

 

 

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Topics: Aquaponics, Aqueduct Development, Niles

System Update: Frasier 5/17/17

Posted by Conor Quinlan on May 17, 2017 2:30:00 PM

System #1

 

Nitrogen (mg/L)

 

 

 

Date

pH

Total Ammonia

Ammonia

Nitrite

Nitrate

Temp (Fo)

Alkalinity

mg/L

EC (mS)

05/08

6.7 -> 7.2

0.25

N/A

0

225-250

79

30

1.30

05/10

7.35

0.25

N/A

0

-

78

-

1.32

5/12

7.2

0.25

N/A

0

250

76.5

60-65

1.37

05/13/17 -> Total Hardness: 490 mg/L CaCO3 equ
Calcium Level: 82 mg/L  Magnesium level: ~69.5 mg/L
Phosphate Level: ~ 20-25 mg/L (as PO4-)

Water Quality Overview:

The 100g of K2CO3 added on 5/05 did not raise the alkalinity quite as much as expected. After some calculations I concluded that K2CO3 only adds about 60% of the carbonate that MgCO3 does for a given weight which means that K2CO3 has a less significant effect on alkalinity. This is because the K2CO3 itself contains two K atoms versus MgCO3 which only contains one Mg atom therefore MgCO3 has a greater ratio of carbonate (CO3-) to Mg.

Enough potassium has been added to the system for now with the 150g addition. On 5/08 200g of MgCO3 was added to the system. For K2CO3 to have the same impact on Alkalinity as the MgCO3 we would need to add 330g of it. The solubility of the compound would wreak havoc on the PH of the system at that quantity.  For this reason, MgCO3 remains the best carbonate compound to use for pH and alkalinity adjustment while K2CO3 is best utilized for K supplementation.

The Mg levels increased again with the addition of MgCO3, the next addition used to increase alkalinity will therefore be CaCO3 as higher levels of Ca are required for crops and Mg levels are well past the ideal level. More K2CO3 will also be added over time to increase the amount of K dissolved into the solution.

A micro-nutrient mix has been sourced to add Mn and Mo to our solution. Our system is greatly lacking because of the low feeding to high production ratio that the system is currently undergoing. The system should have a feeding rate of 300-350 grams per day, given the current crop capacity, but is only at about 190 grams per day right now. However, this supplement will ensure the crops have all the micro-nutrients they need no matter the quality of the source water or nutrient solution itself. Only a small addition of about 50 grams every 2 months  will be required. 

Fish Update: The feeding rate for the tilapia has remained constant since last week’s posts in order to bring down the hazy quality of the water and remains at about 190 grams/day. The feeding rate will be increased starting on 5/15. With the addition of the micro-nutrient supplement the increase in feeding rate is not as much of a priority as plenty of nitrogen is being produced for all the crops in the system.

Crop Update: The crops are producing well and the deficiencies are beginning to improve on the strawberries but are still present on the bean crops. The fruit quality remains unaffected and every bean crop is producing delicious string beans. The Mo deficiency appears to be having a more significant effect at this point as well as Mn. Luckily the micro-nutrient mix that arrived late on 5/12 will take care of these deficiencies very soon. The peas remain completely unaffected by any of the micro nutrient deficiencies and are producing tons of fruits.

In the images below you can see the massive change in size, of the pea crops in particular, that occurred over just a one-week period. The pea crops have become so large that the crops need to be placed on their sides and wrapped around the PVC poles. This is the most effective way to grow the peas with the florescent lamps used on our research aqueduct which are only about 2-2.5’ from the crop surface. In a greenhouse environment with -or- without supplemental lighting the peas can be allowed to grow vertically instead to save growing space, however larger supports will be necessary but can easily be obtained from local gardening supply stores and dug into the media bed

 

The peas were harvested for the first time and they were fantastic with a very high sugar content as well as being very firm and crisp. Beans and peas have proven to be incredibly effective fruit producers even at the lower nutrient levels!

 

A few strawberries were ripe enough to pick and eat straight from the vine and were very pleasant tasting and tender. Some of the larger fruits should be ready to harvest and eat on Monday (5/15). From this point forward we should see a fairly continuous production of strawberries over the next couple of months. The strawberry crops are becoming so large that the row filled with the poorer preforming variety, cabot, will be moved to the outside grow bed in order to make room for the better preforming varieties.

The strawberries have reached a stage of production where we can state that they can be successfully grown in the aqueduct system without the need for several other tedious techniques generally used in strawberry production such as the covering of the crops during the night to raise the humidity to near 100% and cause guttation.

All of the varieties are bearing fruit at this point and many are ripening and turning red.  Luckily the Mn deficiency is not getting any worse and is actually showing a little improvement in some cases and does not appear to be affecting fruit quality.

Several beets and radishes have been seeded and will be transplanted into the media bed to determine if these root based crops will grow effectively in the aqueduct. If they grow successfully it is probable that other root based crops such as carrots, ginger, potatoes, ect can be grown as well.

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System Update: Frasier 5/10/17

Posted by Conor Quinlan on May 10, 2017 2:30:00 PM

System #1

Frasier 

Nitrogen (mg/L)

 

 

 

Date

pH

Total Ammonia

Ammonia

Nitrite

Nitrate

Temp (Fo)

Alkalinity

mg/L

EC (mS)

04/26

7.1

0.25

N/A

0

225

79

30

1.30

04/28

7.0

0.25

N/A

0

-

78

-

1.32

5/03

6.5 to 7.1

0.25

N/A

0

-

76.5

-

1.37

5/05

6.4 to 7.3

0.25

N/A

0

225-250

76.5

35->50

1.50

04/24/17 -> Total Hardness: 420 mg/L CaCO3 equ
Calcium Level: 78 mg/L  Magnesium level: ~54.5 mg/L
Phosphate Level: ~ 20 mg/L (as PO4-)

 

Water Quality Overview:

The pH has finally reached levels low enough to add K2CO3. I have added a total of 150 grams to the system from 5/03 to 5/05 which had a significant effect on the pH but had some unexpected consequences. K levels actually decreased since our most recent lab conducted water quality test from 16.3 mg/L to 14.7 mg/L. The addition of K2CO3 will begin increasing this concentration fairly rapidly.

On 5/03 50 grams of K2CO3 was added to ensure the change in pH and alkalinity was not too extreme. The pH increased from 6.5 -> 7.1 because of the very high solubility of the compound. MgCO3 and CaCO3 are dependent on lower pH for greater solubility where as K2CO3 is not. Upon retesting the system on 5/05 the pH had dropped dramatically to 6.4. This is much faster than expected but 100 g more K2CO3 was added on 5/05. This increased the pH to 7.3. This should retain the pH for a longer period of time with the alkalinity at 50 mg/L. It Is possible that the feeding rate is great enough to substantially increase the effects of nitrification causing the quick drop in pH. On the other hand, this larger addition of K2CO3 will improve K levels for crops. Since there is plenty of Mg and Ca in the source water K2CO3 will be my pH adjusting compound of choice until K levels are sufficient (>150 mg/l). This will allow us to utilize more fruiting crops in our system in the near future.

The most recent laboratory based water quality test was received early this week. Low levels of Mn and Mo were reported, the kelp powder did not add significant levels of these micro nutrients. We have therefore ordered chelated Mn as that is the nutrient causing the most severe deficiency problems. Mo is only required is very small amounts to encourage optimal crop growth. The lab tests currently show none available, so we are hopeful that this will not become a problem. 

P has risen significantly since the addition of super triple phosphate, 1.26 mg/L to 5.83 mg/L, therefore 50 grams per month will continue to be added throughout the life cycle of the system to keep strawberry production and quality high.

Among the more significant problems discovered with the water quality test is the accumulation of sodium in the solution which is becoming toxic to many crops. The two sources of sodium are source water and fish feed. The most significant is the feed. We are currently looking at alternatives that are more ideally suited for aquaponics purposes. 

Fish Update: The tilapia in system #1 are finally eating the appropriate amount of feed for their size and are up to consuming 188 grams/day which is nearly 70 grams greater than the feeding rate on 4/24! This means that the fish are close to weighing about 100 grams each. I am hoping that the higher feeding rate will being adding more micronutrients to the system, particularly Mo which is a difficult micronutrient to source.

As you can see the fish tank is getting darker due to the higher feeding rate of the fish. They are difficult to see but have grown substantially. The feeding rate will be kept constant until the water clears some. The darker water is a sign that the fish are at their feeding capacity

Crop Update: The crops are still producing very well and the beans harvested last week were delicious despite a couple nutrient deficiency (mainly Mn and K). Crop quality should increase significantly now with the addition of K2CO3. A couple cups of micronutrient hydroponic blend have been added to the solution to temporarily raise the Mn and Mo levels while more viable fertilizers are found. A chelated Mn powder will be used to raise the levels of this micro nutrient. Mn is definitely causing the most significant deficiency in both bean and strawberry crops and will need to be corrected as soon as possible.

Sodium is turning out to be a significant problem and is likely the cause of previously observed plant growingproblems. The herbs oregano and thyme aren’t growing well and even other crops like swiss chard and spinach appear to be impacted. A test will need to be done to demonstrate the effects of hydroponic solution with reasonably levels of Na compared with the effects of high Na. Many crops remain unaffected by the high sodium levels including the mixed lettuce, strawberries, peas, beans, rosemary and lavender.

The peas are now producing fruits and the strawberries are developing very nicely! Beans are continuing to produce very rapidly as well!  No problems to report here despite the deficiencies observed.

In the image the peas have grown so large that they have to be placed on their sides to keep from hitting the lights. The peas will continue to be wrapped around the PVC poles as they grow.

You can see the dramatic change is strawberry crop size from 4/24 to 5/5. Most of the varieties are bearing fruits and many are already producing side shoots (runners) which produce more individuals. These should be cut in the NFT channels. You can see the Mn deficiency forming slightly on the upper most leaves with a light green color. So far the rest of the crop remains unaffected

 

 Finally, you can see the strawberry crops beginning to form and the peas are looking exceptionally great. 

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Topics: Aquaponics, Fish, Strawberries

System Update 4/27/16: Niles

Posted by Conor Quinlan on Apr 27, 2017 2:30:00 PM

Niles

 

Nitrogen (mg/L)

 

 

 

Date

pH

Total Ammonia

Ammonia

Nitrite

Nitrate

Temp (Fo)

Alkalinity

mg/L

EC (mS)

04/19

7.7

4

N/A

0

0

73.6

85

0.65

04/24

7.7

>8

>0.05

0

0

68.2

90

0.70

 04/24/17 -> Total Hardness: 190-210 mg/L CaCO3 equ
Calcium Level: 40 mg/L           Magnesium level: ~24.3 mg/L

Water Quality Overview:

It has been over 10 days and there is no nitrite or nitrate formation yet. This is most likely because of the low water temperature with no heater attached. The NH3 concentration are reaching toxic levels and care must be taken to ensure that ammonia does not rise further. If nitrite isn’t forming by the end of the week we will try inoculating the media bed with media from system #1, that should help grow the bacteria a little faster. 

Fish Overview:

The tilapia are doing better than the locally sourced fish in the Frasier system. It is apparent that the source of the fish greatly influences their quality and feeding rate.  Using the feeding rate of about 80 grams/day the fish are estimated to be about 20.5 grams each which is already a 4 gram increase over the last 12 days.In the images belowe you can see the change in size of the tilapia over the course of the week. So far, the fish are gowing as anticipated. 

 Crop Overview:

The mixed lettuce will be transplanted into system #2 once the fluorescent lights go up. We should have those ready to go by the end of the week. With no Nitrate being formed and the high levels of Ammonia the crop growth will not be optimal. The water temperature is having a significant effect on bacteria colonization in this system. 

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Topics: Aquaponics, Fish, Niles

System Update 4/26/17: Frasier

Posted by Conor Quinlan on Apr 26, 2017 2:30:00 PM

Frasier

 

Nitrogen (mg/L)

 

 

 

Date

pH

Total Ammonia

Ammonia

Nitrite

Nitrate

Temp (Fo)

Alkalinity

mg/L

EC (mS)

04/19

7.25

0.25

N/A

0

225

76.5

45

1.28

04/24

7.15

0.25

N/A

0

225

76.5

35

1.25

04/24/17 -> Total Hardness: 350-360 mg/L CaCO3 equ
Calcium Level: 64 mg/L  Magnesium level: ~48 mg/L
Phosphate Level: ~ 25-30 mg/L (as PO4-)

Water Quality Overview: 

Nitrate levels are remaining constant while total hardness and EC are falling slightly. This is most likely due to the large addition of 45 gallons of source water on 4/23. It is significant enough to assume the system has reached the peak production capacity for now. The level of crops that can be supported in the system is more than we expected for the current feeding rate of 120 grams per day.

The pH is finally beginning to drop significantly with alkalinity levels dropping. Even with the addition of the source water(which has a higher pH levelof 8) the pH still managed to drop significantly. It shouldn’t be much longer that K2CO3 can be added to help raise the K levels.

The addition of the 700 grams of kelp powderhas made a significant difference in the concentration of trace nutrients. We have shipped out a water sample to see the concentration of all nutrients and compare them against our previous sample from 2 months ago. 

Fish Update:

The fish are doing well but with slower growth than anticipated. It is apparent now that the source of the fish is the source of the problem. The high quality tilapia recently added to the second system are feeding and growing better, already consuming slightly over 4% body weight.

The feeding rate for the Niles system is now at 120 grams/day. This is enough to sustain the crops in the system with a couple additions to correct the trace nutrient concentrations and increase K and P levels. It is quite surprising that the crops can be sustained on such a low feed amount. Tomatoes and cucumbers are still unable to pass seedling stage, suffering severe deficiencies, It will be some time until they can be added to the system. A lack of K seems to be the main source of the deficiencies.

In the first image below you can see what the fish tank looked like on 4/17 and in the second what it looked like on 4/24. The water has cleared up considerable since adding the kelp power which quickly dissolved nutrients into the system within the matter of a couple days.

 

Crop Update:

We have seen great improvements since the addition of the kelp powder. All previous trace nutrient deficiencies on the bean crops are nearly gone and even the K deficiency has let up quite a bit. 

 

Since the addition of 50 grams of super triple phosphate the growth of the strawberry crops also appears to have improved immensely. Nearly 75% of our strawberries now have flowers and some are even beginning to form fruit already.  The lower humidity since 4/19 (<50% humidity, 35% average) is causing some cracking on the lower ends of the beans but other than that they look very healthy. The humidity doesn’t appear to be affect any other crops in the system right now. 

You can see a dramatic change is strawberry crop size from 4/17  -> 4/24 . No more crops have died since our initial planting, a very good sign. 

Below is an image of the flowers that are being seen on many of the strawberry crops. All of the varieties appear to be doing well. The Earlyglow and the Sparkle are doing much better, even better than the Cabot variety which is now showing some Ca deficiency due to transpiration problems.

The peas are also flowering heavily and should be producing fruit very soon.

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Topics: Aquaponics, Plants, Fish

Aqueduct System Update(Frasier)

Posted by Conor Quinlan on Apr 20, 2017 11:30:00 AM

The Aquaponics Team has opted to nickname our original system "Frasier" becuase Scott has a terrible sense of humor. Moving forward you can distinguish which system we are talking about by the name used in the post title. 

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Topics: Aquaponics, Plants, Fish

Meet "Niles" our second in-house aqueduct

Posted by Conor Quinlan on Apr 19, 2017 2:30:00 PM

In some of our previous posts you may have noticed that we are building a second Aqueductsystem in our warehouse. This new system features a Float Bed Expansion rather than the NFT bench on our older system.  To help our readers identify which system we are talking about, we have decided to call this new system “Niles.”

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Topics: Aquaponics, Aqueduct Development, Plants, Fish

Adding More plants to the Aquaponics System

Posted by Conor Quinlan on Apr 10, 2017 3:48:08 PM

With the water quality test data from MU we now have several questions answered. The sodium level of our source water is too high at 86 ppm for seedlings causing the first leaves to yellow. Even the chloride levels are probably contributing to this.

The new crops have finally arrived however many of the herbaceous perennials were backordered so oregano, rosemary and lavender are being used interspaced along with peas and beans. Half of the beans/peas have been seeded directly in the media bed whereas the other half are being germinated outside the system to see if there is a difference. 

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Topics: Aquaponics

Aquaponics Beans, Peas, Arugula and Strawberries!

Posted by Conor Quinlan on Apr 5, 2017 3:10:26 PM

 

 

Nitrogen (mg/L)

 

 

 

Date

pH

Total Ammonia

Ammonia

Nitrite

Nitrate

Temp (Fo)

Alkalinity

mg/L

EC (mS)

03/27/17

6.75

0.25

Neg.

0

-

76.5

-

1.12

03/29/17

6.7

0.25

Neg.

0

-

76.5

-

1.14

03/31/17

6.65 -> 7

0.25

Neg.

0

225-250

76.5

15

1.12

03/24/17 -> Total Hardness: 300 mg/L CaCO3 equ

Calcium Level: 68 mg/L  Magnesium level: ~29.2 mg/L

Phosphate Level: ~8 mg/L (as PO4-)

By: Conor Quinlan

Water Quality Overview: Nitrate levels are still accumulating (rose from about 200 -> 235 mg/L), despite lower than expected feeding rates. Therefore, a feeding rate of 65 grams/day is more than enough to meet the nitrate requirement for light feeding crops. However, EC is still remaining relatively steady signifying that the light feeding crops are consuming a greater portion of other nutrients in the solution compared with nitrate. K is the most likely culprit as it is the most limited nutrient in aquaponics.

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Topics: Aquaponics

Tell-Tale Signs of Overfeeding Fish in Aquaponics

Posted by Conor Quinlan on Mar 27, 2017 11:45:01 AM

It has become abundantly clear that it is fairly difficult to hit the maximum feeding rate of 4% body weight without overfeeding. The feeding rate has to be lowered once again from 63 grams to 50.5 grams. The Rate will be slowly increased as the water clarity increases.

This is a very significant discovery and means more care will be necessary during the fingerling stage of the fish life cycle. This is because we are trying to get as much nutrient into solution as possible during the early stages of growth and therefore it’s easy to over feed.  Although overfeeding is not a huge issue over time the accumulation of unprocessed feed will lead to much smellier and messy conditions that could grow dangerous molds/fungus that could affect the system, not to mention you’re wasting feed.

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Topics: Aquaponics