There are 13 mineral nutrient elements vital to healthy plant growth, split into three groups known as ‘primary’, ‘secondary’ and ‘trace’ elements. Of these, all are readily available from water or fish waste in the required amounts, with the exception of Iron, and possibly Calcium in very soft water.
The primary or macro-nutrients are Nitrogen (available as Nitrates), Potassium and Phosphorous (available as Phosphates). The FishPlant Plant Care Water Quality Test Kit contains a Nitrate test and a Phosphate test, we should be looking to see the presence of these (but not necessarily in large quantities) in the FishTank water.
For healthy abundant plant growth it will be necessary to add Iron in a soluble form. FishPlant Iron is a safe source of this iron for fish. Always dilute additives in a bucket of topping up water and pour through the PlantBed. For the first few weeks and for a week or so each time you add new fish, test the Ammonia and Nitrite levels every day.
Feed the fish. Ideally you will do this three times a day or more. Auto-feeders can be used when on short breaks, but few will do it for a 2 week holiday, and it is better to arrange for someone to come and at least look at the fish every couple of days. Watch the fish when you feed them and do not leave uneaten food in the FishTank. The fish not eating is a good early indicator that something is wrong.
Check the system is functioning correctly. Check the AutoSiphon is cycling correctly, the pump is working and water is circulating from the Flow Fitting. Also check any additional equipment like heaters and air pumps. Once you know the system this will become second nature and you will tell at a glance if there are any problems.
Check and adjust the pH. Again once you know your system, you may find this does not need doing every day, or possibly that you need to do it as often as you feed (it is better to make several small adjustments than one big one). Always add FishPlant ‘pH Up’ in a bucket of water, poured through the PlantBed.
Water quality testing and recording. The more things you test for and record, the better you will come to understand the system, and the easier it will be to get advice if there are problems.
Pest monitoring. The key to successful pest control in plants is early identification, so research common pests of the plants you grow as well. Tidy up. Remove any dead leaves or sick plants and keep things clean and tidy around the system. The water movement should prevent any settlement of solid fish waste, but if there are a couple of still points where settlement occurs, remove solid waste with a net. This will help prevent any disease problems for both plants and fish.
Harvest and replant the PlantBed. Herbs and salad leaves will benefit from regular picking and produce more in the long run. Even single harvest plants like ‘head’ lettuce will be better picked as soon as ready. Remember to keep the FishTank running well, you should keep the PlantBed planted accordingly.
Top up the FishTank. It should be kept as close to full (10cm from the top) as possible, remembering to check the level when the AutoSiphon has just stopped draining the PlantBed.
ALWAYS top up through the PlantBed to help prevent temperature shock. Do partial water changes only when they are deemed necessary. ALL WATER ADDED TO YOUR FishPlant Family Unit SHOULD BE LEFT TO STAND FOR AT LEAST 24 HOURS, OR DECHLORINATED. Water loss from the system, by transpiration and evaporation, will be about 10-30 litres per week, dependant on environmental conditions.
Clean the pump. When the AutoSiphon has just finished draining the PlantBed, switch off the pump disconnect from the mains and then the Flow Fitting, take it out and remove the inlet cover, and take out the impeller (taking care not to drop any seals) and wipe everything down, before putting back. This will help your pump lasts a long time.
Examine fish. This will mean catching a random sample (one at a time), and checking them over for obvious problems and signs of disease, once you are at a stage where you are harvesting fish, you will inevitably catch a few smaller ones in the process – take the opportunity to do this then.