I just got my first system built and up and running over the last several weeks. I've got a 10-gallon white rubbermaid "garbage" can on the floor for my goldfish. A mini-jet 404 pumps water up into 4 bus tubs (bought these and the can from a restaurant supply store) that are connected by 1/2 inch pvc pipe. I have an adjustable stand-pipe in the fourth one that drains back into the fish barrel.
I bought lids for the bus tubs rather than construct rafts, and I'm glad I did. It was super easy to drill 2 and 3 inch holes in the lids for my net pots. I used half coir and half vermiculite for my medium. The water in the tubs is about half an inch from the top, which allows the water to wick up into the pots nicely.
I had set up air stones in each of the four tubs, but quickly discovered that the net pots that were directly over the bubbles were empty! The bubbles had washed the media and seeds away! So, I shut off the bubbles to the tubs for now. I might turn them back on once the plants are larger. There is some air space between the water and the lid, so I don't think the plants will suffer from lack of oxygen for the roots.
Anyway... So that's my system so far. Currently I have several kinds of lettuce, braccias, and tomatoes started. Most of them I will plant outside in my raised beds in a few weeks. (Tomatoes must wait much longer here in PA.)
I can happily report now that my system is fully cycled. I was worried for a while though, because the Nitrite was WAY high. But my little buddies persevered, and we now have nothing but Nitrate.
Now I need to build a rack to hang a light on, and to tie up my vines when they start getting taller.
I found this design, which I will tweak a bit to fit my table. http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/factsheets/growlite/construc.html
Good work! Did you eventually turn on the aerator? While additional aeration is not necessary in AP with rule of thumb ratios, it can still be beneficial for increase plant growth and water quality. There are many options you can use to include aeration, using fine pore air stones, use a smaller output air pump, attach a sump to the FT and aerate that. We can never have too much aeration in AP.
My air pump has two outlets. One goes to a large air stone in the tank, which has been on continually. The other went into a four valve thingy, to split the air to the four stones in the tubs.
I changed my media, and now have all four stones aerating the tubs.
I'm using small landcaping stone (chipped marble) now. For starting new seeds, I fill my netpots 2/3 with stones, then put wet vermiculite (fine) on top. This allows the seeds to germinate nicely. The vermiculite wicks enough moisture that it stays nicely damp.
I transplanted a lot of my seedlings that were in the coir / vermiculite media into just stones now, and they are doing fine. Even more have been transplanted into potting soil (NOT in the AP system - in ordinary seedling flats), and will go into the raised beds or into the ground in the back yard later this month.
My plan is to keep plants for salad fixings in the system year-round, while still keeping some free space for starting seeds for the outdoor garden. I'm thinking I want to eventually have 1 cherry tomato, 1 slicer tomato, 1 cucumber vine, 2 to 4 kinds of lettuce / greens going in the system year-round.
Sounds like you have a good handle on your AP. One concern in water media in AP is that it's not best suited for plants with roots being kept for long periods(Perinials), although i know some people are attempting this. That's why most AP'ers look to raft for fast crop like lettuce.