The key to a thriving aquaponic system is finding and maintaining the right balance of elements in the ecosystem of the fish and the plants that you are growing. Since aquaponics requires several vital players in the system before it can optimally function, the environment you create should be suitable to all the elements involved, which includes not only the fish or other aquatic animals and the plants, but the microbiological components as well.
The management of the aquaponic system is a little tricky but once you familiarize yourself with the factors that you must carefully regulate such as temperature, pH, levels of ammonia and nitrogen, you can create a prime environment for growing your plants and for fish breeding. The different elements of the system may require different levels for each to grow properly so it is important to meet their individual living requirements.
One of the most important factors of your system is the pH. What is the right range of pH for your aquaponic system? Plants will generally require an acidic pH (less than 6 but not lower than 5). Fish, depending on their kind, will normally prefer a slightly alkaline pH (7 to 8). So your system should just be right for the living elements and must reach levels that can compromise for both their needs.
Fluctuations in either direction should be avoided because the whole process will be disturbed if one element of the system is at a disadvantage. The ideal target pH for an aquaponics system therefore is around 6.8-7.0.
What is the best way maintain the optimum pH of your system?
First is to monitor the pH level of your aquaponic system weekly since this determines the capacity of your plants to take in nutrients and the reproduction of bacteria. It also determines the well-being of the grown fish. If your pH goes above the neutral range, then this can cause plants to over-absorb nutrients, thereby resulting to a nutrient shutdown. Different kinds of plants have different pH requirements so be knowledgeable about what you grow and the optimum pH they require for their environment.
If your aquaponic system is just new and below 6 months of operation, it is best to check not just once but several times a week to keep the pH in range. In the event that it becomes too high for the living things in your ecosystem, it is necessary to make adjustments. Increasing the pH means making the solution more alkaline and decreasing it implies targeting acidity.
If you want to take your pH down to acidic levels, then certain acids are recommended which includes nitric acid, muriatic and phosphoric acid. The preferred solution is phosphoric acid because it is the safest of the three chemical and it adds phosphate, which is good for the growing plants. Avoid vinegar because it is ineffective in raising the pH and citric acid simply because of its anti-bacterial properties.
On the other end, if you pH is too low, you can increase this by using calcium carbonate and potassium carbonate or a combination of both in equal parts. These are generally preferred because carbonates offer a good buffering system to stabilize the pH of your aquaponic system.
The best way to keep you pH at optimum levels is to practice the habit of monitoring it regularly. It is also crucial for you to be keen in detecting problems that may be secondary to the fluctuating acidity or alkalinity of your ecosystem.