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Hello all. I recently started my first aquaponics system and im having a problem with my bell siphon. It will seem to be working perfectly buy after filling the grow bed up the siphon wont start. It will just drain down the inside pipe until i move the outside of the bell a little maybe turning it a quarter inch then the siphon will start. it will then ususlly work for a few cycles untill stoping at the same part again. i know you all have lots of experience with aquaponics so any help would be appreciated. thanks.

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Hey there, James. Can't really give any definite answers without info. about your autosiphon & drain piping, pump, and grow bed size. A picture would surely help. If your piping is too short (e.g., a straight drop from your stand pipe down) there is less back pressure on the water filling your grow bed. Adding fittings or added length to your pipe will cause the water to essentially work harder which will help to kick your autosiphon on.

 

This is known as head loss, and there are calculations you can make to calculate the exact head loss (in feet) of any piping system. The piping and fittings in your drain all cause laminar flow which essentially slows the water and starts your siphon more efficiently. Alternatively, you could increase the rate in which your grow bed fills, and perhaps that would help start your siphon faster.

 

Hope that helps.

 

-Benjamin Wasserstein

Hi James.. this is why bell siphons are on their way out.. go with the old hydroponic standard, and use a timer and perforated standpipe. it works every time.
I could offer plans and how-to's for siphons for any size bed and pump combo.. but once your plants get well rooted, worm poops build up, and pipes get a plaque lining in them, the water flow changes and your left with a siphon that wont work. IMO - these are for folks that don't have access to a good timer..
toss the bell, drill four 1/4" holes in the very bottom of your stand pipe, set your timer... be done, have fun.

Cheers,
Rob
So Rob, do you use a lawn sprinkler type valve on the timer or what do you suggest?
I'm trying to figure a way to drop my drain pipe down to clear a pathway between the media beds and the DWC, but the water has to come back up 14" to clear the tub wall. I'm not sure that the bell siphon would work (as it sounds like a pain long term anyway) but your idea sounds interesting and you sound experienced at it.

i use timers just for the pumps.  i have four units and i just put a bell siphon on my last unit just to try it out.  it has been NOTHING but trouble.. i am going back to good old flood and drain on mechanical timers.  i use one timer for multiple beds.  just plug the power strip into the timer and mutliple outlets on same timer.  good for multiple lights too

siphon won't start means you don't have enough flow into the growbed..

my affnan siphons have been running fine for 2+ years, i can use a low wattage pump and have it run continuously..

i've read a bit about cycling the power on pumps affecting the "life of the pump" but haven't really seen any issues from those that use timers.. but you do draw more amps when turning the pump on, you'll also need a bigger pump to turn over the volume of your ft in the number of cycles you use....

This bashing of bell siphons is nonsense. I have had mine working flawlessly for nearly 2 years now and I have sold just about 300 siphons on Ebay and elsewhere in 3 different sizes now and have not had one single complaint. 100% positive feedback and lots of new friends. It is in the design period. Designed properly they are bullet proof. Copy mine at my page or friend me and I will help or send you to my page on Ebay. You don't need no stink'n timers and valves that merely complicate what is a basic and simple process. One water pump and perhaps an air pump for trout is all your system ever needs. If you have a large commercial system you might want to consider the timers, etc. but even then I will stick to good old reliable bell siphons.

Testify!!! I've had the same experience (haven't sold any, but you get the idea) I've NEVER had my siphon fail on me and it's been running for about 2 years. Even some commercial farms use bell siphons (i.e. JD Sawyer and I think Gina Cavaliero.


I'm beginning to wonder if people just don't build their siphons correctly. I think your problem James is your flow rate isn't fast enough...when you're moving the bell, you're probably agitating your water, causing a greater amount to spill down the standpipe and trigger the siphon.

Jim Fisk said:

This bashing of bell siphons is nonsense. I have had mine working flawlessly for nearly 2 years now and I have sold just about 300 siphons on Ebay and elsewhere in 3 different sizes now and have not had one single complaint. 100% positive feedback and lots of new friends. It is in the design period. Designed properly they are bullet proof. Copy mine at my page or friend me and I will help or send you to my page on Ebay. You don't need no stink'n timers and valves that merely complicate what is a basic and simple process. One water pump and perhaps an air pump for trout is all your system ever needs. If you have a large commercial system you might want to consider the timers, etc. but even then I will stick to good old reliable bell siphons.

Hey Alex, my bet is it is not an Affnan design. That 2 to 1 ratio of the funnel top is crucial and most siphons I see, even if they claim to be a Bernoulli style, don't meet Affnan's criteria which is paramount. Unfortunately Affnan gets so deep in the weeds with formulas, graphs and history that people's eyes roll back in their heads and they give up. They just want the facts on how to build one. Very common in AP and so many other fields. Just give me the friggin details has been my AP mantra and complaint since day one and you might just have heard me bitch about that on former occasions. Then you need to have the tools to build it.

Mine are based on his (Affnan) criteria but are of my own compact design and I have shipped them all over the world now. Been a great deal of fun and I love helping folks get up and running. I remember well how hard it was to get a handle on this siphon thing 2 years ago but fortunately it was Winter and I had plenty of time to read every post and watch every vid and by the time I built my first one I had it nailed. Since then it has gotten various face lifts including one model with a clear top which is great for schools or anyone curious to see what is going on in there. I have also found faster, cheaper ways like a complete assembly line and I pass that along to my customers. Been a great trip and pushed me into "Power Seller" and "Top Rated Seller" on Ebay which was a great bonus as I sell lots of other stuff on Ebay. I have also noticed that a large percentage of buyers have a "0" feedback meaning they just signed up on Ebay to purchase my siphons. Quite an honor. I should try another venue as well. Been trying to figure that one out as Ebay makes it all so easy and fool proof that I am totally spoiled. They (Ebay) have come a long way and done a fantastic job but I am well aware that not every one is comfortable with going on and signing up on Ebay. Amazon is an obvious next step but I don't want to step on Sylvia's toes as that is where she has set up shop. They also will cost me more in fees as far as I can tell.

Anyhow if anyone needs help with their siphon design they should contact me or you as well.

For a begginer into aquaponics, you CANNOT beat flood and drain on a timer!? You have a bottom drain hole, and and over flow/stand pipe and a $7 timer and have a system that turns ANY container into a grow bed for about $15... no flow rate issues, no stuck on or won't start issues, no head pressure or back pressure issues, no stand pipe, bell housing height issues and they don't cost $30-45 + shipping + time to buy or all the parts to make one yourself. PERIOD. She is asking as a begginer? So please help her instead of telling her how awesome you are at making and selling something she is having a problem with. Do some people have great luck them? Sure. Are they neat? Yup. Are they simple and amazing by nature? U bet... BUT she is having an issue and those issues can really take the fun out this great hobby. Autosiphons CAN be fininky and a real pain if not made and set up perfectly. Which seems to be the actual issue here. Flood and drain on a timer is cheap and works 100% every time, all the time. Having a working system that produces with the least amount of trouble is the main goal, right?! I just want her to be able to enjoy her functional system however she gets there! :)
James!! I apologize! For some reason I thought it said a woman's name!! So very sorry! Meant no offense, just trying to help!!
to Jim.. I want to add that my opinion of bell siphons is based mostly on large grow beds. 4ft x 8ft and up... siphons do a great job on small beds.. FTR- I have 3 that have been running for 3-4 years without fail.. all of them are on small growbeds.. 4x4 or less.

so I ask... what size beds are you using them on?

Like I said earlier, I don't think it's a matter of construction in James' case. It's likely just a matter of flow rate.


Chris Griggs said:

For a begginer into aquaponics, you CANNOT beat flood and drain on a timer!? You have a bottom drain hole, and and over flow/stand pipe and a $7 timer and have a system that turns ANY container into a grow bed for about $15... no flow rate issues, no stuck on or won't start issues, no head pressure or back pressure issues, no stand pipe, bell housing height issues and they don't cost $30-45 + shipping + time to buy or all the parts to make one yourself. PERIOD. She is asking as a begginer? So please help her instead of telling her how awesome you are at making and selling something she is having a problem with. Do some people have great luck them? Sure. Are they neat? Yup. Are they simple and amazing by nature? U bet... BUT she is having an issue and those issues can really take the fun out this great hobby. Autosiphons CAN be fininky and a real pain if not made and set up perfectly. Which seems to be the actual issue here. Flood and drain on a timer is cheap and works 100% every time, all the time. Having a working system that produces with the least amount of trouble is the main goal, right?! I just want her to be able to enjoy her functional system however she gets there! :)

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