Aquaponic Gardening

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Hi all

I’m a new member, also new to aquaponics and have not yet got any experience what so ever, so feel free to call me a noob. I’ve previously done a lot of research into hydroponics but never gotten around to actually setting up a system, however I’m looking to make a few changes in my life and for a few reasons I’d very much like to grow my own food and generally live a more simple lifestyle. Anyways enough of that here is my idea





Water from the aquarium section would be pumped into the vermicompost. It would be just a light trickle drip feed into each vermicompost layer as to not upset that process and not to wash away too many larger solids. In the bottom of the vermicompost there would be a layer of bedding material so that the worms didn’t drown, it would keep larger particles from draining away and also this would allow the water to drain away more easily. There are only 4 vermicompost layers pictured but in reality it would be at least 10 probably 20-40. There would be a very low amount of water throughput through each layer.


 The water now very dirty with all the compost goodness would then drain off and head off to a separator. The lynchpin of my idea is the separator. I would have a large swirl filter to get the big bits then I plan to use a “Hydro cyclone”. I can find very little information on them and very little in the way of suppliers. Apart from very expensive industrial use ones. Needless to say I would make my own or find a much cheaper supplier for them.


From the information I can find a 1” unit should be able to filter out 5micron solids. It is basically a swirl filter but only very small in diameter. It may take a few stages to get good filtration. The solids would be returned to the vermicompost and the clean water would head off to the bio-filter and then to the grow bed. The grow bed would simply overflow to the aquarium. Since the water coming out of the separator should be almost completely clear of solids there should be no need to worry about root rot.


The vermicompost would have a few small drain holes so that excess water could drain and also so the worms could travel between layers. Some of the worms would fall through the bottom stage and into the aquarium and feed the fish. Hopefully the hole size and amount could be adjusted so that there was a balance between sustainable worm numbers and adequate fish food. Some of the solids would escape into the aquarium but hopefully this wouldn’t be a massive issue. Another separator stage could be added to return the solids to the vermicompost and the clean water to the aquarium.


Some fish food may still be required but the ultimate goal would be to completely replace fish food with the worms.


The solid separators would hopefully keep all the solids in the vermicompost and the worms would take care of them. So hopefully very little cleaning of filters and things would be required.


There maybe a small problem with vericomposting. Liquid runoff from the composting process called leachate can be bad for plants, I don’t know enough about it.


The leachate is produced by non-airbreathing bacteria in the compost. As in regular non worm based compost. These same bacteria live in the water anyway and decompose the fish waste along with the air breathing type and both live happily and the system works fine.

I would minimize the bacteria’s effect by having thin layers for more aeration. I could set up a forced air system like a "solar dehydrator" or just electric fans for more aeration.

I could ask on some vermicompost forums for there thoughts on minimizing this, I suspect there are a few things that could be done. Anyone know a lot about it?


The goal would be a complete closed cycle system where all you do is add compostable material ( the stuffs literally everywhere and is completely free ) then just harvest your food. Very little cleaning required.


The whole idea rests on the Hydro cyclone separator working so if anyone knows anything about them or where to get one nice and cheap please let me know. I can potentially make one as I have access to lathes and things at work so that’s the plan for now.


Ok think that’s about it, what do you think?


Thanks Adam

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Hi Adam. Welcome.

You might try looking into what a guy named Jim Joyner is doing. Apparently he was a long time Aquapon who is now running (or was last time I checked...last year) some large-ish experiments with vermiponics. It might be good to get the low-down on how his set-up is run...

About hydrocyclones, I can tell you (from a workplace/industrial/engineering setting) that their geometry is quite complex. The geometry as well as the fluid resistance to centripetal force ratio, design and rate of flow is dependent on the density, weight and size of what it is you are trying to separate out.

Obligate anaerobes can't live hand in hand with aerobic bacteria, but falcultive anaerobes may be able to, to an extent and in certain conditions. Here's a link to a discussion that touches upon both hydrocyclones as well as how to possibly utilize anaerobic (or rather anoxic since they probably wont be completely without O2) zones for plant usable iron (Fe3+ like rust is not plant usable until converted to Fe2+, this can potentially be done by anaerobic/anoxic bacteria...So this thread may give you some good ideas on how best to use some of the different O2 environments...Also has a link to a study/analysis of a hydrocyclone design used in RAS (recirculating aquaculture) but that particular design may not be relevant to your application since your not really dealing with fish poo...

There are pages both before and after the one that this link takes you to...

Just my thoughts, but I would think that about the absolute  worste place for leachate to go would be into the fish tank.

And yes it is bad for plants too. Now you may be able to process it somewhat by oxygenating it to negate some of the 'bad' effects and microbes, but I don't know that that would take care of everything...look into it, seems possible. 

Again, you may save yourself some headaches by not trying to "invent the wheel" so to speak, by contacting Jim, or at least reading up on how/why he's doing his deal the way he is...

Anyways, good luck... For a while I toyed with the idea of doing 1/3rd of my greenhouse vermiponics (mostly to over-winter the system). I didn't give up on it because I didn't think it would work...just that I already have way too much experimenting going on under one roof for now as it is 

Worms can't provide adaquete nutrition for fish alone or as a major source, just as butter with protien powder wouldn't be good for you.

Well Adam, I really appreciate your enthusiasm and outside of the box thinking. I think this is a worthwhile experiment if nothing more than to expand our combined knowledge base. I foresee that this will have some learning curves so please remember that we learn more from our mistakes that we do from our successes. 

With that said, I'd like to add another two cents to this topic.

This type of system would work best in a pond/ green-water setup where you fertilize the water,(the fish don't really need to be fed) and has a much more robust bio remediation and buffering ability. I'd suggest another filter or algae scrub at the input site of where your plants gets it's water. 

Please keep us updated.


  I too think the ideas would be interesting to test out, and Carey has some good suggestions that could be really useful for it.

However, I will suggest that it may be best to get a standard aquaponics system up and running to help with the learning curve so that you have some baseline experience and something to compare against when you get into the more "experimental" things.

I'm not certain that you really need to put all that much into swirl and vortex filters and that you may be able to achieve much the same thing while simplifying at the same time.

And worms are not a complete diet for most fish, they are too fatty all on their own.

Had an epiphany, completely new plan now, at the moment its super top secret but watch this space I will be posting the results of my experiments success or failure

Epiphany...Super-Top-Secret...sounds intriguing Adam...

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