Aquaponics Water Testing
There are other features in your water that you need to monitor as well. We've already talked about temperature in the section about fish care, so that is covered. You also need to know about water hardness, which is the amount of diluted minerals (not the same as nutrients) that are in your water.
Hard water tends to leave a white residue in containers after it evaporates and you see it in homes as a crust around taps and shower heads. Picture all that crust forming in your aquaponics pipes, filters and pumps. You can see that it can be a problem. A little added mineral content is actually a help because it helps buffer the pH levels to keep the acidity down, but if your water is very hard, you may have to treat it with a water softener system. Or use rainwater to get your system established.
Oxygen content is yet another factor to consider, mainly for your fish. An aerator or bubbler will help keep the oxygen levels up, which is the usual techniques for oxygenation. The way you have your water pump and flow through your grow beds can also help add oxygen to the water. On the other hand, too much algae will rob your system of oxygen, so don't let that get out of control either. Lots of healthy green growth isn't what you want, though a little bit is fine. Most fish will eat the algae, so don't feel you need to scrub it all away.
Water that comes from a treated supply will also have chlorine and possible fluoride in it. The chlorine isn't a huge problem, though letting your water sit in an open container for a day or two before adding it to your tank will let most of the chlorine evaporate out. It's the easiest way to get rid of it though there are products you can add to immediately de-chlorinate your water if you don't like waiting around.
Water Testing Techniques
For all of these things, you can generally test your water with kits you find in large garden centers or pet store aquarium departments. They don't need to be specific to aquaponics. There are usually two types, the paper strips or the liquid type. The paper strip kits are the simplest. Find the strips you need for your specific test (pH, hardness, various nutrients), and dip it in the water. A color change on the strip is matched to the color standards on a card, and you can get your results. The liquid kits also work with a color change process, but you add a supplied powder or liquid to a small water sample and see what color you end up with in a little vial. If you are testing for nutrients, you will need a kit for each individual chemical (iron, calcium, phosphorus, etc.)
Regardless of what you are testing for, don't obsess over the numbers. If your pH is 6 but everything is doing great, don't start making changes. Let it be. It's very easy to become too concerned about the dozens of different potential chemical levels in your water, and you'll spend all your time adding and tinkering which usually does more harm than good in the long run.
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