It’s All About Balance…
Successful aquaponics farming is all about water (‘aqua’). It’s essential to ensure our water chemistry is always in balance. Therefore, we take samples of our water every week and test a wide range of parameters to give us some insight into the health of our farm. Occasionally, if our water chemistry is out of balance, we test even more frequently since an imbalance could potentially lead to the death of our fish and plants.
Does it Pass the Test?
The main source of our water comes from the city’s tap water supply, which is dechlorinated by a filter in our farm. Mississauga’s tap water contains a lot of minerals that are vital to the development of our fish and plants, but some other parameters we test for are:
- pH: This parameter indicates how acidic or alkaline our water is. Plants prefer a more acidic pH, whereas the fish don’t mind a wide range. It’s also key to keep in mind that the bacteria that drive the nitrification process prefer certain range of pH as well. To keep everyone in the system happy, we aim for a pH around 7.0.
- Ammonia: As the fish produce waste, ammonia levels in the water rise. At high levels, ammonia can be quite toxic to the fish so we try and keep it as low as possible.
- Nitrite: When the bacteria within our system breaks down ammonia, it turns into nitrite. Nitrite is slightly less toxic than ammonia, but lower levels are often preferred for aquaponics.
- Nitrate: Another type of bacteria further converts nitrite into nitrate. Since nitrate is what our plants take up through their roots as fertilizer to grow rapidly, a high level present in our aquaponics farm is a good sign.
- Dissolved Oxygen: Just like humans, fish need oxygen to survive. The only difference is that fish are able to take in dissolved oxygen through water instead of air. Water has a much lower concentration of oxygen than the air we breathe, therefore it’s important to make sure there’s enough dissolved oxygen available for our fish otherwise they can’t “breathe.”
Keeping the water clean promotes the health of our fish and ensures the fastest growth of our crops so we can distribute as much as we can to Mississauga’s hungry!