Aquaponic Gardening

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I'm working on setting up a small system - my first system - in my English basement. So far all I have is a 55 gallon aquarium. I'm getting excited about getting it up and running so I'm making it a goal to have all the supplies and get it set up within a month. However, before I make any of my next purchases, I have some questions. First I'll give you some specs:

I'm setting it up in a little nook 56" wide; ceilings are 81" high

aquarium size: 48.5" x 13" x 21"h

The aquarium will sit on a desk: 46" x 20" x 30"h

 

My initial plan was to set the grow bed directly on the aquarium or make a stand for it so that it would hover directly above it. Now for my questions:

1) Grow bed size: Does 8 or 9 cubic ft make sense?

2) Grow bed container: there are luckily a couple hydroponic stores near me here in DC, but the grow beds they sell seem pretty expensive for what they are - $50-$80 for 2x2 to 2x4 sizes. Are there cheaper options? I checked Home Depot today and I wasn't able to find any containers that looked like they could be transformed into grow beds.

3) Since I'm making this in my living room, I'm trying to make it somewhat pretty, so I thought about making a custom grow bed out of plexiglass and nontoxic sealant. Has anyone tried this? Is it feasible or ridiculous? I'm tempted to just scrap the idea because I really don't want to have to deal with the mess that would result from a construction that couldn't take the pressure.

4) Plumbing: I was originally planning on making a bell siphon, mostly because that was the only method I knew about, but I've since learned about others: looped auto-siphon, flush, and a combo of a timing and draining straight out of the bottom. The looped siphon seems the most appealing now. Any reason to use one method over another? I happened to see Sylvia's article in Urban Garden today (http://urbangardenmagazine.com/2010/11/aquaponics-explained-%E2%80%...) and was wondering if there was a reason she didn't mention the looped siphon.

5) Pump: what size do I need? The smallest one I saw at the hydroponic store here is 40 gal/hr (http://www.capcityhydro.com/product_info.php?cPath=1&products_i...), but I'm curious if this could handle the effluent from the aquarium or if it's strictly for hydo use.

 

All input and criticism welcomed and appreciated! Thanks!

Cooper

 

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I've used regular hole saw bits on plastic.  Just gotta be gentle as the center bit goes through so you don't suddenly hit the plastic unevenly with the outer hole saw and twist your wrist and mangle the plastic.

Hi All,

Sorry about that TC,Cooper, hahahah!. Here at home we call mortar tubs the one's made from concrete.

Here are my "mortar tubs" around here they are what are used to mix the mortar not made out of mortar.

They are great for mixing other things too, like planting mix or feed.

Thanks you both for the input! I'll post an update in a couple weeks once I'm back in town and had a chance to get it up and running.

Hi TC,

NICE!!!!!!!!(mortar tubs)

Now those do bow out when full of gravel and water and they are only about 7" deep but they seem to work well for growing water chestnuts.
I had a cherry tomato plant in my 8" indoor beds. It lived for 14 months and produced lots of tomatoes.  I think the deeper beds will process more solids, but if you aren't stocked to the max the shallower ones work well.

Hi Richard,

Does this mean that the roots are more spread out(horizontally) in the shorter beds and require more distance between plants than is the case with the 1 ft beds?

Richard Wyman said:

I had a cherry tomato plant in my 8" indoor beds. It lived for 14 months and produced lots of tomatoes.  I think the deeper beds will process more solids, but if you aren't stocked to the max the shallower ones work well.

This is what I have so far. I'm planning on getting this pump from the 55 gal tank and putting a T fitting up top to split the flow into the two beds. Does it matter where the siphon is relative to where the water is flowing in from the tank? I've seen nice systems that distribute the fish tank water pretty evenly, but I was planning on holding off on that for awhile and just having one inflow point.

 

I'm interested in this, too. I was planning on starting out with lettuce, but thought about trying a tomato plant in there to see how it survived.

Harold Sukhbir said:

Hi Richard,

Does this mean that the roots are more spread out(horizontally) in the shorter beds and require more distance between plants than is the case with the 1 ft beds?

Richard Wyman said:

I had a cherry tomato plant in my 8" indoor beds. It lived for 14 months and produced lots of tomatoes.  I think the deeper beds will process more solids, but if you aren't stocked to the max the shallower ones work well.

Hi Richard,

We usually plant light plants like the lettuce you were considering in new systems. After the system builds sufficient nutrient usually around six months we can go ahead with fruiting plants.Its not that they won't grow but they grow better in a more mature system.

Usually we place the inflow and drain at opposing ends to ensure nutrients flow the entire bed before returning to the FT.

Yea, I usually try to have the water flow into the beds as far away from the drain as is reasonable.

 

As to that pump.  I expect it will do the job but only just once you figure in the lift.  How high above the water level in the tank is are the tops of the grow beds?

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