Sunday, July 25, 2010

Aquaponics progress

The new system is nearly entirely built. I have learned a lot of lessons, on how to build and plumb more efficiently (for way less money!) for next time around. So many parts that I imagined would be easy to find were not, and some didn't even exist. I've kept all my receipts and will update with the way-over-budget total when I'm done and have returned all of the incorrect parts that I bought. :) I will also add a more reasonable hindsight budget for next time!

The system is a roughly 100 gallon grow bed and roughly 100 gallon fish tank. Both are built with 3/4" plywood and reinforced in the corners (top and bottom) and lined with EPDM pond liner. I will probably also add some reinforcement going over the top of the grow bed to keep it from bowing over time. It's all on an old shelving unit my carpenter neighbor built and gave to me when he moved. Very sturdy but added more casters in the middle (you can't see them in this picture) and some extra 2 by 4 bracing just to be extra sure. The system can obviously not be moved around when full, but the idea is to empty the tank (even temporarily) between seasons so it can be in afternoon shade in summer and full sun in winter. When it's in place I have cinder blocks underneath it for extra insurance.

The most simple explanation is that a pump pumps about 40% of the water out of the fish tank to fill the grow bed, when the water reaches a certain level a siphon kicks in and floods the water back into the fish tank. I went with an Affnan siphon for those of you that are interested in those sorts of details. I'll do a more complete post about siphoning in the future.

Looking down into the growbed-- need a little more substrate to fill it up.

The rocks on a plate are a temporary weight to hold down that pipe. The pipe has lots of holes drilled in it to act as a strainer to keep the rocks from entering the siphon, which is inside that pipe. The pipe to the left of that is an overflow pipe (I need to make it shorter). It's simply a back-up in case the siphon ever fails, it will keep the grow bed from overflowing. The other pipe is hooked up to a 35 watt(!) Laguna Max Flo 600gph pump, and carries the water from the tank to the grow bed. I will put some aquarium filter underneath where it comes out to keep too many solids from entering the grow bed. It might be hard to see but the water pipe is zip tied in place in three different spots to be sure it stays in place.

Still a little more fine tuning, but as it is now, everything works how it should. I plan on beginning to cycle the tank tomorrow, it should be ready for the tilapia in about 3 weeks.


Sweet Life Garden said...

Wow,you have been hard at work! Thanks for keeping us up to date on all of this. This looks amazing.

Vynnie the Gardener said...

I am SO envious of your fortitude and industry! I barely get up the gumption these days to go out harvesting. Kudos Rachel - I hope it's all as fun to do as it is to see. -

Mike said...

Isn't a Laguna Max Flo 600 pump overkill for a system that runs on a 100 gallon fish tank?

rachelbess said...

@ Mike- Yes and no. This was just a test system and there's a 5' lift so that really drops the performance of the pump. Also, since it's not running constantly, this allows me to fill up the grow bed in 10 minutes so I can do 10 on/20 off.

Mike said...

@ rachelbess
Ahh, I see. That's quite effective in maintaining the quality of the pump. Since most of pump malfunctions are due to clogging/overheating. Was it hard to install the timer for the 10on/20off?

rachelbess said...

@Mike The pump cycling is more for the aeration of the plant roots, but if it helps with longevity, great! The timer is very simple. You just push in/pull out little tabs based on when you want the timer on and plug it into the socket, and plug your pump into the timer. I got mine at a hydroponics shop.

Mike said...

@ rachelbess
Wow, thank you so much for the info. Lastly, can you please tell me about your Affnan's siphon? Just the basic details on shroud/bell/stand pipe/reducer size and if you use an extender on the reducer or not. I'm trying to make one myself without having to buy more PVC over and over due to learning... (mistakes is such a harsh word) Basically when it comes to the hobby hydroponics, you can throw the word budgeting out of your English vocabulary. (I'm pretty sure you've experienced the same) However, the benefits are infinitely greater in the long run. I'm very glad to see aquaculture, aquaponics to be specific, spreading around our country. Australians realized this since they always had a shortage of water. When will the Greater (larger population) America realize this!