Fin to Flower Aquarium System Basics
Fin to Flower brings the complexities of large scale aquaponics to a compact system that can fit any lifestyle. There are several key factors involved in setting up any aquaponics system, and some that are unique to the Fin to Flower system:
Your Fin to Flower system is hand build from acrylic. Acrylic is a very strong, proven aquarium material. It is slightly flexible and will absorb a very small amount of water. You may notice a slight bow in the front of your tank, this is completely normal and not a cause for concern. Never use any chemical to clean your system, including glass cleaner (the amount of ammonia in glass cleaner can easily kill an entire system). Wipe your system with clean water and a cotton, microfiber, or paper towel. Acrylic is fairly soft and can scratch. If your system develops any minor scratches, they can usually be removed with a plastic polishing compound. We recommend Novis plastic polishes and cleaners.
Your system is delivered with clean, aquarium-safe gravel. This should be rinsed thoroughly before adding to your tank to remove as much stone dust as possible. When adding any other decorations to your tank, be sure it is safe for use in aquariums. For instance, common limestone will leech into the water and raise pH. Live aquatic plants can be an excellent addition to your system. Be sure to use low-light plants, and that they don’t come out of a tank containing small common snails (common snails will reproduce by themselves very quickly, and can overrun a small system). Plants from the Anubias family are well suited to your system. When purchasing live aquatic plants, be sure the plants are clean and have well developed roots.
All plants need light, so light availability is an important consideration in locating your system. About 8 hours per day of moderate sunlight is ideal for most plants. Too much direct sunlight can lead to excessive algae growth and should be avoided. We have a LED grow light set available for all Fin to Flower systems that is specifically designed to provide light of the ideal intensity and wavelength for optimum plant growth. These grow lights can be used to supplement a system with limited sunlight light, or can provide all the required light if your system is located in an area without sunlight.
Plants can be added right away, and will help the nitrifying bacteria population grow. We highly recommend replanting young plants from soil pots to the included net pots with grow media. In addition to helping establish the nitrifying bacteria, starting with established plants will allow you to start enjoying your system right away. You can start with seeds, but your system will be more successful if mature plants are replanted into the system. Most houseplants can be replanted and will thrive in the system. Ivy plants, flowering African Violets, Herbs, and many produce greens grow very well. Small plants and live herbs can usually be purchased very economically from the floral or produce departments of most grocery stores. Plants that require full sunlight should be avoided, as this level of sun exposure can lead to excess algae growth in the tank.
During the initial startup period of the system, while the nitrifying bacteria are becoming established, the fish load must be low. This means 1 small fish for the first 4 to 5 weeks. A small goldfish or betta fish is a good choice during this time. It is also important during this time to not overfeed your fish (actually, it is always important not to overfeed). Feed just a few food flakes or pellets each day. Spend some time and be choosy when purchasing fish. Watch the fish in the tank at the store and choose fish that are active and healthy. Choose a quality fish food, and remember to not feed too much! When you nitrifying bacteria are established (after the first 4-5 weeks) and the ammonia level in your system is under control, you can introduce additional fish to your system. Keep water temperature in mind when choosing your fish. While small common snails should be avoided, larger snails (½ inch or larger shell) are good algae eaters and won’t reproduce too fast.
Feeding Your Fish
One of the biggest problems in any fish tank is overfeeding. Fish are small, and their caloric needs are low. A few flakes per fish per day is sufficient. If any food gets to the bottom of the tank before being eaten, it was too much. Excess feeding leads to dirty tanks, excess fish waste, and excess ammonia as the uneaten food breaks down.
Hearty fish like goldfish are very tolerant of a wide temperature range, and normal season changes in temperature. 68°F is a good baseline water temperature. If you would like to add other tropical fish species, they will need water temperature in the range of 75°F to 80°F.
We have a safe, automatic, non-glass heater as part of our System Accessory Kit. This 25 watt heater works very well for all of our systems and maintains a very stable temperature.
Water changes are very important in any small aquatic environment. While a river, lake, or ocean is large enough to form a long-term balance of nutrients, food, waste products, minerals, etc., your small system need some help from you to keep everything in balance. By removing and replacing some water each week, you will replenish minerals, stabilize pH, and help keep the water clean. Be sure to add a drop of D-Klor dechlorinator to the new water.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a maintenance-free or self-cleaning aquaponics system or aquarium. Some minor weekly and monthly maintenance will keep your system running and looking good. Change about 20% of the system water and wipe down the inside of the tank weekly. Additionally, remove and clean the pump and clean out the plant grow beds monthly. It is a good idea to clean the gravel periodically as well. A small siphon-type gravel cleaner works well