Aquaponic Gardening

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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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But they're cool :D

I don't think my siphons cost me $50 to make....you can buy them pre-made for cheaper than that. I think I recall spending about $30-$40 to make two and having enough 4 inch pvc to make a couple more...


Rob Nash said:

not to mention the cost... if you build a siphon, you could spend over 50$ just in parts. then you have to manufacture it,, time = $ , a timer cost about $50... stand pipes are just a 10 inch piece of pvc.   

That pic is of my IBC size siphon and believe me I have the costs nailed down to the penny and the materials come to less than 10.00 as stated earlier. The barrelponics size is closer to 5.00. I sell the plain (solid cover) IBC size for 32.00 and I can make 10 in one hr because I have a 12" chop saw, 2 drill presses, a floor belt sander and a router and large shop vac as well as numerous templates, hole saws, etc. all dedicated to the production and NEVER changed for any other projects. I have plenty of other shop tools and space for that. So if you do the math I make out very well and so do my customers. Of course I am buying all the pipe and fittings at wholesale as I make a lot of siphons. That siphon takes me 6 minutes in production but I have been doing this sort of thing for over 40 years. Yeah, I'm that old. And yeah Alex if you Google bell siphon I show right up. For all I know I am the #1 seller of consumer siphons in the world. I really am guessing based upon my searches. Very unscientific of me but I don't really care all that much as long as I can help the max # of people I can. I absolutely love spreading the AP word and helping folks out and if I make enough to help pay some bills I am quite happy. But it is the highest profit item I have ever produced none the less even after Ebay's fees which are greatly reduced by offering a one day turn around and great customer feed back. Ebay rocks. They even call every month to see if they can help in any way and offer every option to reduce their fees. Nice, nice people.

OK, I'll chime in now.  I have had the same problem as James along with a host of other learning problems.  I did have to play with the design just a little and my siphon's are all working just fine.  I am not sure just what I did to make them work, but I don't really care.  As was stated earlier, most of us just want the fix, not the physics. I do think adding some length and elbows to the drain helped a lot.

Another thing I found was that the outer pipe is slightly smaller in diameter and does not fit over the bulkhead fitting completely.

I have six siphons working off one pump.  I used some old grow boxes as my bed. Yes I do loose some space but it was the least expensive way to start.

Now, if my Talapia would only get here.

Sweet. My family owns a tool and dye shop, so I've got access to band saws, drill presses, manual and cnc lathes and milling machines...I've been thinking about making various aquaponics fittings to sell as well.

Jim Fisk said:

That pic is of my IBC size siphon and believe me I have the costs nailed down to the penny and the materials come to less than 10.00 as stated earlier. The barrelponics size is closer to 5.00. I sell the plain (solid cover) IBC size for 32.00 and I can make 10 in one hr because I have a 12" chop saw, 2 drill presses, a floor belt sander and a router and large shop vac as well as numerous templates, hole saws, etc. all dedicated to the production and NEVER changed for any other projects. I have plenty of other shop tools and space for that. So if you do the math I make out very well and so do my customers. Of course I am buying all the pipe and fittings at wholesale as I make a lot of siphons. That siphon takes me 6 minutes in production but I have been doing this sort of thing for over 40 years. Yeah, I'm that old. And yeah Alex if you Google bell siphon I show right up. For all I know I am the #1 seller of consumer siphons in the world. I really am guessing based upon my searches. Very unscientific of me but I don't really care all that much as long as I can help the max # of people I can. I absolutely love spreading the AP word and helping folks out and if I make enough to help pay some bills I am quite happy. But it is the highest profit item I have ever produced none the less even after Ebay's fees which are greatly reduced by offering a one day turn around and great customer feed back. Ebay rocks. They even call every month to see if they can help in any way and offer every option to reduce their fees. Nice, nice people.

Hey Rob, First off good luck with your latest build. You run a class show.

In regards to bed size I am pretty confident that my IBC size will handle a 4' x 10' GB based on the speed of the drain but I totally get what you are saying and have pondered that very situation you describe. Perhaps a large siphon in the center and feed at both ends but hey if timers are best at that scale I am there as the geek in me would want automation anyhow. I would never bs on something I have not built and tested. If and when I go commercial size YOU are the man I will consider my guru. Rest assured. There are others but you have been so generous on here with your knowledge based upon experience that I am all ears. And I love the look of your builds. J

Rob Nash said:

real quick.. i have an hour long drive to the system im installing this week, but will try to clear up my opinion...

Jim - not attacking your efforts, but when you graduate beyond ibc sized beds, you will learn that bells dont do the job as well as a standpipe.  and like i said, i could go on and on about how to build them to work, in fact i have posted a formula that works flawlessly, and perhaps should have just directed James to that link, but dont care for siphons due to the fact that when i install a system for someone, i like the idea of not having to trouble shoot them later.... oh, and they dont work on the 5ft x 12 ft beds i build. .. they will drain half the bed then start over, with out draining the far end all the way.

Ben - your correct, using a standpipe doesn't change the rate of solid build up, it just doesnt have to become an issue when it does.   they work regardless.   as for the timer being a problem if the pump doesnt work and killing your fish over night.. you may be over thinking that one a bit... i have never had that happen, even in a 1000 gallon tank with 500lbs of fish in it. ive gone 5 days without running a pump in that tank.

this is my opinion on bell siphons.. i dont use them.   some folks like the idea of tinkering with them, this i understand, been there, done that... but dont see the point in installing them in a system for a customer, if there is an option.

ps- the argument regarding timers killing pumps is a little off... electric motors (with winding, brushes etc.) will burn out when turned on and off too often,,, mag drive pumps, are not the electric motors... i have pumps from 400gph to 3600gph that have run on timers for more 4-5 years. 

Hey Alex. KISS. All that great sounding stuff can really slow you down in my experience. Cool sh*t tho if you need it.

Alex Veidel said:

Sweet. My family owns a tool and dye shop, so I've got access to band saws, drill presses, manual and cnc lathes and milling machines...I've been thinking about making various aquaponics fittings to sell as well.

Jim Fisk said:

That pic is of my IBC size siphon and believe me I have the costs nailed down to the penny and the materials come to less than 10.00 as stated earlier. The barrelponics size is closer to 5.00. I sell the plain (solid cover) IBC size for 32.00 and I can make 10 in one hr because I have a 12" chop saw, 2 drill presses, a floor belt sander and a router and large shop vac as well as numerous templates, hole saws, etc. all dedicated to the production and NEVER changed for any other projects. I have plenty of other shop tools and space for that. So if you do the math I make out very well and so do my customers. Of course I am buying all the pipe and fittings at wholesale as I make a lot of siphons. That siphon takes me 6 minutes in production but I have been doing this sort of thing for over 40 years. Yeah, I'm that old. And yeah Alex if you Google bell siphon I show right up. For all I know I am the #1 seller of consumer siphons in the world. I really am guessing based upon my searches. Very unscientific of me but I don't really care all that much as long as I can help the max # of people I can. I absolutely love spreading the AP word and helping folks out and if I make enough to help pay some bills I am quite happy. But it is the highest profit item I have ever produced none the less even after Ebay's fees which are greatly reduced by offering a one day turn around and great customer feed back. Ebay rocks. They even call every month to see if they can help in any way and offer every option to reduce their fees. Nice, nice people.

Hey Alex, before you dive into making siphons I should mention that I am lucky to sell 10 a week on a good week. AP is still in it's infancy. Down the road who knows. I just realized I may have misled you. Another reason not to get too complicated in terms of expensive equipment. I was already on Ebay for years when I added the siphons and more competition is jumping on there all the time. Just wanted to make that clear before you put too many eggs in that basket. Now Rob has the best idea but living in Austin he also has the customer base all around him. Up here in the mountains I hardly even get any lookers.

Lol, no worries. It wasn't really a major thought, just a fleeting one. I'm not into the whole get rich quick mentality, but selling bell siphons wouldn't really be a high risk investment, since they're pretty inexpensive to make. Good potential income supplement, especially with ebay and the rising tide of aquaponics.
I just spit out ideas from time to time.

And if fancy machines didn't help production move faster, then I wouldn't really have a job running them, now would I? lol ;)
thanks Jim... I think the idea of the drain in the center and the water coming from both ends would solve the drainage issue on large beds.

I would post some pics of the new builds, but the site wont let us add pics to a reply anymore...
im on a pc and don't see any of the options above this reply box... no smiley faces, no pics, no font tweaks, etc.... ?Alex?!

Alex, it depends on the item you are making and the profit potential. Reminds me of the Paul Bunyon tale. I will go head to head with your machines against my set up any time. Would be fun. I'd be curious. And what are your set up costs for programming, etc. Get my drift? When I was in the carved sign business on Cape Cod for 10 years everyone assumed I had some big carving machine, spent big bucks buying one to compete with me and not only did their signs look machine made (read crappy) but took way longer than my grass roots hand layout (with kerning that their machines could not do) and hand held router and I outlasted and out sold them all and sold the business to boot.Just say'n.

Rob, we still can post pics. Your PC might have been having a bad day. I know mine is so I am back on my old trusty Macbook Pro. Alex Veidel above. That was for him. It all gets so confusing on here sometimes especially when you are as busy as you are

Alex Veidel said:

Lol, no worries. It wasn't really a major thought, just a fleeting one. I'm not into the whole get rich quick mentality, but selling bell siphons wouldn't really be a high risk investment, since they're pretty inexpensive to make. Good potential income supplement, especially with ebay and the rising tide of aquaponics.
I just spit out ideas from time to time.

And if fancy machines didn't help production move faster, then I wouldn't really have a job running them, now would I? lol ;)

I inboxed you a message bro'...I don't know what's up; I've still got my tabs. Are you using PC, Mac, mobile device...?

If your computer is yelling at you for not updating your plugins or offering a new version of javascript or something when you visit this website, that could be a problem too. I don't really have any background on programming or anything.

Rob Nash said:

thanks Jim... I think the idea of the drain in the center and the water coming from both ends would solve the drainage issue on large beds.

I would post some pics of the new builds, but the site wont let us add pics to a reply anymore...
im on a pc and don't see any of the options above this reply box... no smiley faces, no pics, no font tweaks, etc.... ?Alex?!

Well, we use mastercam, so programming really doesn't take much time. I don't think running them out completely on a cnc would be the best way to go, but taking 15 min. or so to sketch out a run for machining the slots in the media guards and/or the teeth on the bell siphons could get things running pretty fast and give them a nice finish. Nothing you couldn't do by hand of course, but the machines work with accuracy to .0005in. if you're good, so they could be could useful for developing other parts as well. Now if my dad's shop had a machine with a fifth-axis, then we could really be doin' some crazy stuff :)


Jim Fisk said:

Alex, it depends on the item you are making and the profit potential. Reminds me of the Paul Bunyon tale. I will go head to head with your machines against my set up any time. Would be fun. I'd be curious. And what are your set up costs for programming, etc. Get my drift? When I was in the carved sign business on Cape Cod for 10 years everyone assumed I had some big carving machine, spent big bucks buying one to compete with me and not only did their signs look machine made (read crappy) but took way longer than my grass roots hand layout (with kerning that their machines could not do) and hand held router and I outlasted and out sold them all and sold the business to boot.Just say'n.

Rob, we still can post pics. Your PC might have been having a bad day. I know mine is so I am back on my old trusty Macbook Pro. Alex Veidel above. That was for him. It all gets so confusing on here sometimes especially when you are as busy as you are

Alex Veidel said:

Lol, no worries. It wasn't really a major thought, just a fleeting one. I'm not into the whole get rich quick mentality, but selling bell siphons wouldn't really be a high risk investment, since they're pretty inexpensive to make. Good potential income supplement, especially with ebay and the rising tide of aquaponics.
I just spit out ideas from time to time.

And if fancy machines didn't help production move faster, then I wouldn't really have a job running them, now would I? lol ;)

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