Aquaponic Gardening

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DIY Heater, build your own 2000 watt heater for $20 ***DONT USE COPPER OR NICKEL ELEMENTS!

submersible virsion... ...this how-to has the link for the stainless elements.

After many variations, this is the simplest heater I've been able to build. I had to come up with this last year while waiting for my $600 heater to be built and delivered. when it finally arrived, I just left it in the box and continued to use the home built unit.

DO NOT USE THE COPPER ELEMENT FROM HOME DEPOT!  YOU MUST ORDER A STAINLESS STEEEL ELEMENT.   ....This is a 2000 watt element from Home Depot, a 1-1/2" to 1" reducer, a 1-1/2" uniseal, and a fitting with net pots to keep the fish off the element. I found that a heavy duty timer works for a thermostat. I run it for 15 mins on the hour to keep my 150 gallon tank toasty. this would be adjusted according to your needs. i have used this on as much as 600 gallons, but would recommend going to the 240 volt, 4000 watt for anything over 400 gallon. Note - the 2" net pots slip right onto a male threaded 1-1/2" nipple.

The top pipe is optional, i like to keep it as tall as the water level will allow. This will create a convective flow of water across the element. Works great!

here is the newer version...

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There should be about 10 to 20 ohms across the terminals.  A direct short would trip the circuit breaker as well as the GFI.  Since Brad has not said the circuit breaker is tripping it must be a current leak. 

Brad if you do not own a continuity tester I believe you could place the element in a bucket of water with no possible connection to ground,  If the GFI does not trip then it would be a current leak.  

Glenn said:

 Are you using a thermostat in series?

Do you have a volt/ohm meter?

If so you could check continuity across the element terminals. While disconnected. you should read some ohms of resistance. if not there is a direct short in the element. An infinity or very high resistance would indicate a defective element. 

If you don't have a vom, you could try using a high wattage load like a toaster/iron plugged into your gfi while the heater is unplugged. This might indicate if you have a defective gfi receptacle or upstream wiring issue.


I hope this helps.


Brad Moreau said:

I do read around 500 ohms across terminals & the same from terminal to heater element 

There's the problem.  Your element is burned out and leaking current through the water in the tank.  Thank goodness you have a GFI. 

I had a household hot water heater, propane version laying around. Put an inline pump with pex tubing in closed loop with the hot water heater. Much cheaper than electricity, but would depend on finding a propane heater cheap. And I've got over 3,500 gallons at 68 degrees, but I'm in Texas so not that cold

Great job and thanks for sharing.

Does anyone know how hot it gets inside the PVC pipe? I would be concerned about the PVC breaking down and leaching chemicals into the water. PVC only needs to reach around 140 degrees to cause deodorization. 

I didn't know that about pvc. My system is closed loop so the inside wouldn't matter. The pipe coming out of the heater is gently warm to touch.

DaveTPilot said:

Does anyone know how hot it gets inside the PVC pipe? I would be concerned about the PVC breaking down and leaching chemicals into the water. PVC only needs to reach around 140 degrees to cause deodorization. 

That is supposed to be deterioration not deodorization. LOL

Ha. Autocorrect can be funny

About COPPER in Aquaponics....Deadly poison, true. But its heat or cold transmission characteristics are so good that I had a coil CHROME PLATED to submerge it in the SUMP. No fish kill (this time).

We have a 15 gallon freshwater aquarium at home and I got so tired of hearing about copper that I cleaned off 5 or 6 pennies with vinegar until they shined beautifully; then dropped them into the fish tank about 8 weeks ago.

We haven't lost any fish, but the unwanted snails seem to die off pretty quickly.

I imagine there are fish that are hyper-sensitive to copper, but I think the "danger" is drastically exaggerated; there are some interesting stories here: Copper in aquaculture

 Hi David  Copper in aquaculture seems to me that's nettings for cages, hence in open water...good for antifauling same as ships. Besides

Chemical Upper Limits   for Continuous Exposure and/or Tolerance Ranges
Ammonia   (NH3) 0.0125 ppm   (un-ionized form)
Cadmiuma 0.004   ppm (soft water < 100 ppm alkalinity)
Cadmiumb 0.003   ppm (hard water > 100 ppm alkalinity)
Calcium 4.0   to 160 ppm (10.0-160.00 ppm d )
Carbon dioxide 0.0   to 10 ppm (0.0-15.0 ppm d)
Cholorine 0.03   ppm
Copperc 0.006   in soft water
Hydrogen sulfide 0.002   ppm (Larsen - 0.0 ppm)
Iron (total) 0.0   to 0.15 ppm (0.0-0.5 ppm d)
Ferrous ion 0.00   ppm
Ferric ion 0.5   ppm (0.0-0.5 ppm d)
Lead 0.03   ppm
Magnesium (Needed   for buffer system)
Manganese 0.0   to 0.01 ppm
Mercury (organic of inorganic) 0.002   ppm maximum, 0.00005 ppm average
Nitrate (NO-3) 0.0   to 3.0 ppm
Nitrite (NO-2) 0.1   ppm in soft water, 0.2 ppm in hard water
  0.03   and 0.06 ppm nitrite-nitrogen
Nitrogen Maximum   total gas pressure 110% of saturation
Oxygen 5.0   ppm to saturation; 7.0 to saturation for eggs or broodstock
Ozone 0.005   ppm
pH 6.5   to 8.0 (6.6-9.0d)
Phosphorus 0.01   to 3.0 ppm
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) 0.002
Total suspended and settleable solids 80.0   ppm or less
Total Alkalinity (as CaCO3) 10.0   to 400 ppm (50.0-4.00.0 ppmd)
% as phenolphthalein 0.0   to 25 ppm (0.40 ppmd)
% as methyl orange 75   to 100 ppm (60.0-100.0 ppmd)
% as ppm hydroxide 0.0   ppm
% as ppm carbonate 0.0   to 25 ppm (0.0-40.0 ppmd)
% as ppm bicarbonate 75   to 100 ppm
Total Hardness (as CaCO3) 10   to 400 ppm (50.0-400.0 ppmd)
Zinc 0.03-0.05   ppm
a To protect   salmonid eggs and fry. For non-salmonids 0.004 ppm is acceptable
b To protect   salmonid eggs and fry. For non-salmonids 0.03 ppm is acceptable

c Copper at 0.005   ppm may suppress gill adensione triphosphatase

and compromise smoltification  in anadromous salmonids. 

d Warm water   situations

My point was really that those copper nets have an incredible amount of copper surface area and the fish are completely surrounded... and happy.

But, a piece of copper pipe or a penny in your fish tank isn't "free" or "unbound" copper.

I think that even in a relatively low pH aquaponic system, the plants will probably take up any excess copper that would be released by a small number of fittings, fixtures, or heating elements.

Squid, clams, oysters & lobster are naturally high in copper... potatoes, mushrooms, avocados, and grapes are, too; it isn't like adding cyanide or arsenic to your fish tank.  Copper is an essential nutrient - but too much of almost anything is bad.

Anyway, a small amount of metallic copper hasn't killed our fish.

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