Socrates supposedly said, "The unexamined life is not worth living."
For some reason, that made me think about the fact that I haven't been measuring anything about my system - not temperature, not pH, not Ammonia level, not Nitrites, not Nitrates.
So I had no idea where my system was on the road to converting fish waste to fertilizer (nitrate) for plants using beneficial bacteria. It's all supposed to look like the image below:
in [ml/liter = ppm]
see Sylvia Bernstein's post on Fishless Cycling
A fish (or something else) introduces ammonia to the system.
Ammonia spikes, attracting bacteria that convert ammonia to nitrite.
Nitrite spikes, attracting bacteria that convert nitrite to nitrate.
Plants consume nitrate.
I could have just forged on ahead without knowing what my system was doing. After all, I've been doing just that for a week... For most of a year, in fact, if you consider that I've had these aquaponic windowfarms going since May and likely haven't done even a pH test since July.
Right before dinner I put 5 ml of water from the system in each glass tube. pH comes up immediately - it's at 7.8, about the pH of raw tap water in my area.
The other tests looked like the 0.0 reading on the color card, but the instructions said I needed to wait 5 minutes for the final reading. I went and had dinner with the family, somewhat depressed.
Oh what a difference 5 minutes makes:
Nitrite @ 0.0 ppm
Nitrate @ 10 ppm
Seems adding the goldfish, water, and gravel rinse from the aquaponic windowfarm has powered me through the ammonium spike and the nitrite spike.