Paul Nickerson

Posts Tagged ‘Iron’

Iron Chlorosis and OTC Vitamins

In Aquaponics on November 18, 2010 at 11:05 am

A few weeks after having introduced the plants to my system, I noticed that the leaves of some of my plants, especially lettuce plants began to yellow, the key symptom of Iron Chlorosis. Iron Chlorosis results from the inability of a plant to extract sufficient iron from its environment.

Due to the fact that fish do not emit sufficient levels of Iron into the system, aquaponic farmers will typically introduce supplemental Iron in the form of Iron Chelate, a water-soluble form of Iron. As in humans, the Iron supplement needs to be water-soluble in order for the plants to effectively take it up. Some aquaponic farmers have designed a number of questionable means by which to compensate for this lack of Iron, such as burying old nails, or pieces of iron scrap in their grow beds, believing that the rust will result in an increase of iron. While it is has not yet been debunk, the question not only of volume, but also solubility is brought up. In the same way, some growers will introduce ash into their grow beds. Both of these methods would not seem to introduce a sufficient concentration of water-soluble Iron.

After discussing the problem of Iron Chlorosis with my adviser, it was determined that an inexpensive, yet effective means by which to supplement the needed iron was through OTC  Vitamins. While I originally felt that I was cheating, due to the fact that these vitamins contained other nutrients as well, I justified my action in that, the purpose of this system was to find an inexpensive, indorm alternative to horticulture. Paying $7 for enough vitamins to last years, seems to fit within that goal.

Unfortunately, as I learned the hard way, pioneering an idea has its consequences. I ground up two pills, and sprinkled them into the grow bed. While it initially darkened that fish tank, it did not have any negative effects on the fish. Moreover, my lettuce plants quickly regained their color. Unfortunately, after a couple days, the bases of the lettuce plants darkened, and rotted. As this was the area of the plant that came into direct contact with the supplement, I am afraid that the lettuce plants suffered a pH burn.

However, on a happier note, the rest of my plants responded very well to the treatment. The leaves darkened, and the plants have grown very large. I recently moved the system into a make-shift light box that I built into my book-shelf to help provide the needed light for the growing plants. All in all, I found that supplementing vitamins is an effective means of introducing nutrients into an aquaponics system. I will be working on an experiment to determine which vitamins, and at what doses seems to most promote the growth of such plants in a water-based growing system.

%d bloggers like this: