Aquaponic Gardening

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I'm currently experimenting with a little aquarium AP-system indoors, planning to build a small greenhouse system soon. But I'm beginning to get tired of the unreliable nature of bell siphons, and looking around this site, I see I'm not the only one to be having problems with them.

Since I'm a beginner - please help me find where I can read more about the alternatives, timer based systems, or other versions?

I'm also considering in my greenhouse system to include one raft part for lettuce, as well as a gravel bed for the main grow bed. Any suggestions on how to combine them?

I live in a cold climate, and will have to re-start my system every spring, as my current greenhouse will not be heated, and thus freeze.

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I recently made a post about  Timed Flood and Drain systems.

I have been using this for quite a while and love it.

People have trouble with bell siphons? I've been running my system for 7 to 8 months and I've never run into any problems or have ever needed to make any adjustments...Is this something I have to look forward to as my system gets older? Or does it have to do with the quality of the siphon?

Siphons work great while within certain parameters.  But pipes and gravel being to muck up, or you clean or replace a pump or a root  begins to slow the drainage.  Just a little change and you wake up to your siphon not working. I thought I had it beat, but after 4 months of trouble free operation my siphon stopped working.   Timed fill and drain is dependable and works just as well as a bell siphon and your pump need only run a few times per day.


Alex Veidel said:

People have trouble with bell siphons? I've been running my system for 7 to 8 months and I've never run into any problems or have ever needed to make any adjustments...Is this something I have to look forward to as my system gets older? Or does it have to do with the quality of the siphon?

Hmm, interesting. I've heard that turning your pump on and off increases the wear and tear on your pump though. Plus it would seem to me that the auto siphon is more reliable than any timer I've ever used :)

Bob - I found that post yesterday, but I'm sorry, I can't find any details on how the timed flood and drain is set up. Did I miss some link?

Bob Campbell said:

I recently made a post about  Timed Flood and Drain systems.

I have been using this for quite a while and love it.

I use timed flood and drain with six grow beds.  My original 50 amp AC pump has done about 65,000 on/off cycles thus far with no problems with the timer, indexing valve or pump.  I don't know how this compared to siphons for reliability but it has done the job for me thus far.

Alex Veidel said:

Hmm, interesting. I've heard that turning your pump on and off increases the wear and tear on your pump though. 
Hi Bob, I am Amy from CA. I am trying to set up an AP using your Timed flood and drain system. One question about aeration, since you only pump water three times a day to fill the grow bed, that means you only add oxygen three times a day to your fish tank. Is that enough or you have another pump for aeration? I saw most systems have water dripping into their fish tank all the time. Is that necessary? Please correct me if I am wrong. I am new and no experience about plumbing. Your timing system looks simpler than the Bell siphon. Many thanks!



Bob Campbell said:

It's pretty simple.  There's a stand pipe that keeps the water from exceeding a set level about 1-1/2" below the gravel, and a weep hole (about 5/16") that drains the water out.  The pump comes on just a few times per day.  While the pump is filling the grow bed the water seeps out.  But the pump fills the tank much faster than the water leaves, so it fills.  The timer need only be set on long enough for the grow bed to fill. 

In the Summer you may need to run the pump more often, but I run mine 3 times per day all year long.  The gravel stays moist and the water is aerated sufficiently for the fish.

By running the pump only a few times per day you save utility costs, and there is no siphon to fail.  I inserted a capped 1" pipe at the bottom of one of my grow beds and drilled my weep hole in it so that I could see it and this makes cleaning the hole very easy.  I can remove the cap to get inside if need be.  I've been running my timed flood and drain for several months and the hole has not clogged, but it does not hurt to inspect it once in a while.  

The timer I use is just a cheap $3.00 indoor timer with a plastic food storage container over it.  I poked a couple holes through the plastic, and plugged the timer in.  It stays nice and dry this way, and  easily accessed by removing the cover of the container.

Louise said:

Bob - I found that post yesterday, but I'm sorry, I can't find any details on how the timed flood and drain is set up. Did I miss some link?

Bob Campbell said:

I recently made a post about  Timed Flood and Drain systems.

I have been using this for quite a while and love it.

I have the same question as Amy.  If using a timed drain system which only comes on a few times a day, what is done for aeration?  Also, if the drain is slow, and only happens a few times a day, it seems like there would never be enough aeration of the water to provide enough oxygen for the fish.

Just get an air pump. It's a good idea to have more than one source of air in case one fails. Pumps can be pretty cheap and at about 25w/hr very economical to run constantly. Your fish and bacteria will thank you!

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