Totally lost on how to fix


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My fiance and I bought our first home, and the previous owner was an aquaponics guy who had a pond on the side of the house with a small system hooked up to it. For those who don't know, aquaponics is when you grow plants in a similar way to hydroponics. In aquaponics, the plants feed on nitrite produced by bacteria that processes ammonia and nitrate into nitrite. In turn, they create a self sustaining ecosystem which requires little more than regular monitoring and harvesting. We moved in in early winter, and now it's spring and we're trying to get the pond started, and raise our fish. After filling the pond (which had snow melt into it and partially fill it) we noticed that the water had a brown color. We suspected it was tannis. After filtration was up and running for a few days, it seemed to get better. Reading that tannis isn't particularly harmful to fish, we decided to begin acclimating the fish by adding pond water to the tank. The plan was to do this a little at a time, over a week. The pond tested good for ph, kh, gh, 0 ammonia, 0 nitrate, and 0 nitrite. When I tested I added beneficial bacteria tablets for prep to add the fish and get to work dissolving the organic matter in the water. The first pond water add was a disaster. The water bloomed a brown like the pond. I removed the koi, cleaned the tank with sodium hypochloride, set up fresh tap water, and it came back. I decided to drain the pond and do the same thing. It began to rain and instantly, brown puddles in the bottom after cleaning the liner. 80% of the fish died within 48 hours from whatever caused this, and the rest I'm trying to treat, broad spectrum antibacterial and fungal treatment (which seems to be working), and get this pond clean. Does anyone know what could cause this, and how to remedy it?

Photo was taken after cleaning, and rain starting to fall the following day.
 

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Welcome to the GPF! We may ask a lot of questions, but bear with us as it's the best way to get you an answer that will really be helpful.

So here I go! How many gallons is the pond? How many fish are you planning to have in here? What is growing in your aquaponics system or what do you plan to grow? What kind of filtration are you using?

My first thought in looking at your pond is that it appears you have run-off coming into the pond. Would you concur with that assessment? It can be hard to tell from a photo.

Tannins in the water produce a color that many compare to tea - either strong or weak, depending on the amount. Your brown water looks more like clay to me - is there clay in your soil that could be running into the pond?

Did you ever see this system up and running previous to buying the house?

Like I said - lots of questions but hopefully we can hit on the answer!
 
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The pond is estimated at 350 gallons by itself,about 400 total with system in operation (filtration and grow tubes)

We're hoping to have about 10 to 12 koi, if filtration and grow systems can keep up, possibly more if system flourishes and overpopulation isn't an issue. We're still learning aquaponics, and wanted to start with 5 in the pond, mature them, and monitor it while growing simple herbs and greens (parsley, basil, catnip, coriander, etc). Fruiting plants like tomatoes require higher nutrient consistency (more fish).

The filtration system is a homemade design. I'll post photos below. It consists of a chamber to remove sediment. Which overflow-pipes into a simple media filter to remove large particles (Top container) . After that, drips down into a lower container, through holes, onto a carbon filter. Water runs through the carbon filter via gravity through a chamber of bio-balls and finally out to a chamber made from a 5 gallon bucket, to circulate both to the aquaponics, and back to the pond. The aquaponics outlet is lower, and when that is running the circulation back to the pond is more of an overflow for excess. I'm planning on using a zeolite mix with the carbon when aquaponics isn't in use to remove ammonia, nitrates, and so forth. We haven't had the chance to start plants yet due to this problem. I wanted to start fish and plants immediately after.

There's no runoff to the pond due to its being a foot above grade from surrounding land. The liner stops above grade with a bed of lillies going around the edge in sections. It does look a thick brown, and that's what's so disturbing. It not only killed the fish, but that color spawned from clean rainwater that fell directly into the pond this afternoon. It was dry before raining.

We purchased in November, and the previous owner did have fish in the pond with filtration running when we came to look at the house in October. He had goldfish, and some were pretty large. We had a chance to learn a bit about how the system works from him before we moved in.

Questions are quite alright :) I'm hoping to narrow it down quickly so that her and I can develop our knowledge of operating the system, and enjoy a beautiful spot to relax with each other's company.

P.S. The filter photos were taken just now, after realizing I didn't have any photos of it yet.
 

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Wild guess, your water supply is loaded with chloramine?
Water supply is an artesian well with water softener. We're not on any sort of city water. We live in the woods lol. I could see that being an issue if we had public water, but tap water tests super clean. It was one of the points on deciding to buy the house.

Also, water conditioner was used with water being added to fish tank. So, any form of chlorine would've been neutralized.
 
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Water softener? Like salt water?

450 gallons isn't big enough for one koi, let alone 10 or 12. Goldfish are definitely the way to go in a pond this size.

Are you saying the pond is a foot above grade? It looks below grade from the photo you posted. But maybe that's just the angle.
 

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Hello and welcome. I agree with Lisak that the pond is too small for even 1 koi. They grow fast and need lots of room. Water softeners use salt or chemicals and that water should not be used for ponds. The brown color looks more like rust than tannins. Is there any metal in the plumbing anywhere?
 
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Water softener? Like salt water?

450 gallons isn't big enough for one koi, let alone 10 or 12. Goldfish are definitely the way to go in a pond this size.

Are you saying the pond is a foot above grade? It looks below grade from the photo you posted. But maybe that's just the angle.
I'm sorry I wasn't clear when I mentioned that. I only meant that the top of the liner.

also, thank you for letting me know about the koi. We do have plans to Triple the size of the pond in the future. It looks like until that time, we will have to do goldfish.

It doesn't add salt to the water, but it does use a brine well to use natural salt crystals to clean and regenerate the system
 
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Hmmm... I'm not familiar with a brine well so I can't comment on that. But now that I'm looking at that puddle in your pond - do you have high iron in your water?
 
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Yes that is not enough water for Koi. From the looks of the water, that is corrosion. Perhaps something leaching from underneath the liner.
 
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it could be that the previous owner used fertilizer and it's still in the pond. Since it's only a few hundred gallons a new liner would be cheap. I would re[place it and when you fill the pond bypass the water softener. It is putting salt into the water that is what the brine is. If you water would outside plants with it will kill them too.
 
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Hello and welcome. I agree with Lisak that the pond is too small for even 1 koi. They grow fast and need lots of room. Water softeners use salt or chemicals and that water should not be used for ponds. The brown color looks more like rust than tannins. Is there any metal in the plumbing anywhere?
Good to know. We also have a reverse osmosis system. Though slower, I'll have to go with that instead.

All plumbing is pvc
 
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it could be that the previous owner used fertilizer and it's still in the pond. Since it's only a few hundred gallons a new liner would be cheap. I would re[place it and when you fill the pond bypass the water softener. It is putting salt into the water that is what the brine is. If you water would outside plants with it will kill them too.
Thank you for the advice
 
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Hmmm... I'm not familiar with a brine well so I can't comment on that. But now that I'm looking at that puddle in your pond - do you have high iron in your water?
Bypassing the softener, yes. There is high iron.

After posting this, I did some more research on sodium hypochlorite. It turns out that it does react with iron to make that dark brown. So, I researched how to neutralize it, and added a solution of hydrogen peroxide and warm water. It turned clear, and the brown settles to the bottom. So, that solves the color issue.

I will be draining and removing the water/iron settled in the pond currently, and adding clean water later today, to see it the effect happens again.
 
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If you can, contact the previous owner and ask him about how he started the pond and treated the water each year. Draining the pond should only be done if absolutely necessary, such as remodeling, liner leaks, or toxins getting in the water. Going dry will kill all the lovely beneficial bacteria that build up over time, not to mention all the effort needed to refill and recondition water. I’m out on well water too, so I can say, get your water tested if you haven’t. Heavy metals can be present. Too much metal can harm the fish as well as your health. Not to mention all the other stuff that can be in well water, so having it tested is a good thing.
On that note, welcome to the forum! I have an interest in aquaponics as well, but I’m leaning twords just growing my goods in a bog.
 
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If you can, contact the previous owner and ask him about how he started the pond and treated the water each year. Draining the pond should only be done if absolutely necessary, such as remodeling, liner leaks, or toxins getting in the water. Going dry will kill all the lovely beneficial bacteria that build up over time, not to mention all the effort needed to refill and recondition water. I’m out on well water too, so I can say, get your water tested if you haven’t. Heavy metals can be present. Too much metal can harm the fish as well as your health. Not to mention all the other stuff that can be in well water, so having it tested is a good thing.
On that note, welcome to the forum! I have an interest in aquaponics as well, but I’m leaning twords just growing my goods in a bog.
I still have our water tests from purchasing the home, and it was actually one of the reasons why we decided to purchase. The water is super clean, aside from high iron. Activated carbon should remove iron and other heavy metals, if I'm not mistaken. Still learning, but I only drained it because I felt it was prudent. Still a newbie tho, and I understand what you're saying. Thank you :)
 
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You’ll have to research how to remove the heavy metals that you tested positive for from your drinking water as well.
 
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I still have our water tests from purchasing the home, and it was actually one of the reasons why we decided to purchase. The water is super clean, aside from high iron. Activated carbon should remove iron and other heavy metals, if I'm not mistaken. Still learning, but I only drained it because I felt it was prudent. There was algae forming, brown water, and an oily sheen on the surface. So, I felt that it would be too much to treat, andthat it likely got contaminated somehow. Still a newbie tho, and I understand what you're saying. Thank you :)

Also, aquaponics just seems so fascinating that I had to give it a go. I've always been a quick learner, and I didn't expect to run into so many issues so quickly. I'll get there though :) Eager to learn all I can, because I figure it only sets me up for having knowledge to handle future problems.

This pond is a small system. The previous owner built an 80000 gallon system in the barn, and had a local business. We're tackling the small system to learn the ins and outs before moving up to that system. It's a lot to learn, but why not? It's so fascinating.
 

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Here's hoping you get it all cleared up and working just the way you want it.
Sometimes things can really become a big learning experience.
Sounds like you are on the right track!
 
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addy1

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Welcome to our group!

Keep working on it, you will get it all figured out. We will be glad to help you.
 

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