Caring for Our Tilapia Pond’s Ecosystem


It’s Lindsey here at Lynette’s Urban Farm! In this video I am going to show you how we care for our tilapia pond using our natural ecosystem as well as test kits.

0:00 Lynette Zang’s Urban Farm
1:16 Ammonia Test Kit
3:24 Healthy Bacteria
5:40 Test Results
7:24 Being Prepared


If you think that the world is headed in a direction that makes you a bit concerned for the future and you’d like to be as self-sufficient and independent as possible, then you’ve come to the right place. My name is Lynette Zang. Now it’s time to go Beyond Gold and Silver.

Hi, my name’s Lindsey and I’m here on Lynette’s Urban Farm. And today I’m gonna be sharing with you something that I’ve been trying to manage and get on top of. And this is our tilapia pond. We raised tilapia in here as a food source and this is our more natural ecosystem. We also raise them in totes in an indoor setting, but this pond contains a lot of tilapia more than it should. But until we can process them, we’ve been having some trouble with ammonia spikes. And if you don’t know, ammonia is a toxic buildup and it can eventually kill your fish if it gets too too high of a level. So it’s just one of those really important things that we stay on top of that we constantly check our aquaponic systems to make sure our fish are healthy.

The way I do that is just with this simple test. This is an ammonia test kit and I took a water sample and these are really easy. If you don’t have these, I suggest getting them for any aquaponic system you have and you just add eight drops of each and this will give you a good indication of your water test.

They make them for pH, for nitrites, or nitrates, So they can give you a really in depth view of how your water is doing. And then you just shake it up and then I’m just gonna let it sit and we’ll see what color it changes and that will tell us the health of the water and how high the ammonia concentration is. But I tested it yesterday and it was about 0.25 parts per million. And ideally, we want zero. We always want zero. Even a little bit can eventually cause a larger spike and it can cause instant fish death. You could come back the next day and they could all be dead. So it’s really important that we keep it under control and we can also do this naturally.

The addition of plants like our water, lettuce and duckweed and penny wort that we have in this system, they help to accumulate some of that fish poop. Ammonia is caused by too high of concentrations of fish waste and or food that gets left over and breaks down. So it’s important that we don’t overfeed our fish, that we give them only as much as they can eat. I like just throwing a handful, let them eat it. And if they still come to the surface asking for more, I’ll give them a little bit more. But just throwing a bunch of food can actually be really dangerous for your fish. Those are ways that you can naturally help.

Another addition that you can make, and I’ve already done one treatment of this, is getting a healthy bacteria addition. So this is a bottle of basically healthy bacteria that will break down the ammonia naturally. So the problem when we have an ammonia spike is that the natural bacteria in our ponds can’t overcome it. Usually that’s why we can have a balanced system. And why ecosystems work is because there’s a healthy balance of if bad enters the system, the good can filter it out and can get it under control. But if we have something like maybe a fish die and it’s stuck under a rock or something that we can’t see as caregivers to these ecosystems, but we see ammonia spiking, this is something we can do to just give a little extra help.

And you can find these at aquarium stores or sometimes aquaponic stores, but this is something to have on hand and I suggest getting this bacteria form. You can also get ammonia locks, which will be similar. It’ll be a liquid in a bottle. Sometimes it’s called sludge remover or clarifier. And what that does is it turns the ammonia into a non-toxic form of itself. And this can be really helpful if you need to just quickly fix the problem. But be aware that when you do this, it’s not a permanent solution. You’re not creating balance in your ecosystem, you’re just forming that chemical into something else so that it’s not toxic. So that’s a great way to put pause on the system until you can do something to fix it. But what you really need to do is add those beneficial bacteria. You can do a 25% water change a few times until you see those ammonia levels even out. But just by putting that quick fix in there, if those bonds break, then you can have a huge spike in ammonia and it can be really dangerous. So that’s great as a quick fix. But something like this is better for long-term use. This is totally safe to add in when the fish are in here.

Let’s look at our water test now that it’s been a couple minutes. So you can see it is looking a little bit better. So we’re in between, I’d say this 0.25 and zero. So it’s not really showing green, but it’s not that perfect yellow color. So I’d say it’s getting better, but it still has a little bit to go, but at least this makes me feel like I’m doing the right thing and we are on the right track. We just probably need to do one more water change and then add another cycle of this. And this one bottle is enough for one treatment for this pond. If you have a smaller pond, this would probably be multiple treatments. This lasts up to, I think this does like 1400 gallons. So if you use IBC totes or something like that, a bottle like this is a great investment. It goes a long way. And this is just something that we’ll have to keep track of on the farm. I’m constantly checking, especially the ammonia levels of each of our ponds just because it is something that’s scary. It’s something that can sneak up on you really fast if you have a rainwater event. I suggest always checking if we get rain runoff into this pond. Sometimes it drags dirt in with it. So yesterday we had rain, so I’m gonna continually check this for the next couple of days and just make sure we’re on the right path. And then also just adding some plants to your system is a great way to just filter, help keep things clean, and they bring in those healthy bacteria, they do the natural version of what this does.

So these are just some of the things that I’m doing here to try to remedy the issue we were having. But I’m really pleased to say that I think it’s getting even better than it was yesterday. So we will continue on this path and I hope this helps you. If you’re having issues, definitely always have some of this and the ammonia test kits on hand, these are just tools that I couldn’t live without here on the farm, or at least I would be really nervous if I didn’t have them. So just great investments that’ll just give you a lot of peace of mind in case you do have an issue. So this is what’s going on on the farm and I hope this helps you see that even when things aren’t all positive, you can always make a change for the better.

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