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Sometimes it happens that you have to start a system from scratch without having fish. And before you get fish the biofilter should be already up and running. And how I goanna start my biofilter Media without having fish I show you in this video!
To start my Biofilter media without fish I use the following materials: A 200l water barrel, a heating device, a circulation pump which is in my case hooked up to a small pond filter that I want the cycle at the same time. And of course, the filter media itself. Here I use a media called Hel-X in white that floats.
Just a short side notice, better never mix up different media types because the day will come when you want to have them separate again…
Furthermore, we need some water and nutrient salts. You can call it also fertilizer.
A view words about the water I use. It´s ground water from our own well and comes from a depth of 25m. I let it sit in an IBC for around two months in our garden. During that time the water warmed up and the dissolved gases had time to balance with the surrounding atmosphere. It can happen that ground water contains high levels of carbon dioxide and iron. Furthermore, in that water tank was already quite some live going on. You could see algae and mosquito larvae in the water. In my opinion it´s better to start with such a water compared to sterile tap water. Another point is that this water is coming from an fish free environment and most likely does not carry any fish pathogens.
By the way this is the old fish tank from my aquaponic school project that I showed in one of my past videos.
Alright, now we set up our starter solution. For that I use two different types of fertilizer. Both contain a full spectrum of macro and micro nutrients. My water has a basis EC of 0,4 mmS/cm and with the first fertilizer I increase that value up to 0,7 mmS/cm. With the second fertilizer I go up to around 1 mmS/cm. The second fertilizer is much more focused on nitrogen. Here the nitrogen is one third as nitrate and two thirds as ammonium. And that’s what we need to start our nitrogen cycle on the biofilter media. Later the fish will execrate the NH4 to feed our filter bacteria.
Instead of using fertilizer you could also use Urea or Ammonium hydrogen carbonate. Some folks also just pie in their systems what for sure also work but that’s not my style. Furthermore, I think it is better to offer your bacteria a full spectrum of minerals because their bodies are also not only consisting out of nitrogen. And in the end of the day we are setting up here a feeding solution for bacteria.
On the other hand, I would not recommend to add any carbon source to your starter culture because we want an environment where chemo autotroph bacteria strive and not hetero bacteria. What that means I´ll explain in one of the next videos about the nitrogen cycle.
After the starter solution is ready, we can add the filter media, turn on the pump and start to heat up the water. I heat it up here to 25°C. For the first week we can leave like it is and afterwards we add on a daily basis a spoon from the nitrogen fertilizer. We do that until we reach an EC of 1,5 mmS. Losses from evaporation should be filled up with fresh water.
The filter media is ready when the values for ammonium and nitrite are almost gone and nitrate goes up. That can take 4-6 weeks and means also quite some measuring of your water quality. Before I use the biofilter media in my fish systems I rinse it with clean water to make sure no residues are left from the fertilizer.
In general, there are options to speed up the process. For example, you can increase temperature. Or if you already have a running system just place the new media in the water of the existing loop. Furthermore, I made the experience if I use already used material for example from a former system it´s colonized way waster compared to a brand-new media out of the bag. By the way the media I use here was already used five years ago in one of my projects.
But I reactivate it now for my new project! Later more about that.
If you have any questions or feedback about that video just post it in the comment section below. And I would be very happy if you subscribe and like my channel.