Without being able to see nitrifying bacteria grow, you must have some way of telling where you are in the aquaponics cycling process – typically a four to six-week endeavor. Specifically, you must monitor ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels as well as pH so that you know that all these elements are within a target range. If they are not, you may need to take corrective action. This is also the only way that you will know when you are fully cycled and ready to add your fish. Plus, watching the daily progress of the cycling process is fascinating and something you can only see through the lens of a test kit. By the way, once you reach the point that your system is fully cycled, you will need to do much less monitoring than during the cycling process. So get through the cycling process and look forward to reaping the fruits (or should we say the “fish”) of your labor.
To do the testing, most aquaponic gardeners use a product by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Inc. called the API Freshwater Master Test Kit. This kit is easy to use, is inexpensive, and is designed for monitoring the cycling process in fish systems. That’s why we sell this kit in our shop!
You will also need a submersible thermometer to measure your water temperature. Temperature affects both the cycling rate and the health of your fish and plants once you are up and running.