Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

Hi all -

New to the community here and wanted to run my system plan by you experts for feedback before I jump into the world of aquaponics. I've just finished reading Sylvia's book which I thought did an excellent job of distilling the vast amount information about aquaponics onto the printed page. However, I'd like to avoid as many rookie mistakes as I can - so I'll appreciate any feedback on my plan that you can give me.

 

I already have access to an IBC tote and a number of 55 gallon drums. I also already have a 10'x12' greenhouse to install my system into. The greenhouse is not heated, and only has a single sheet of plastic covering, so I'm still evaluating my options for upgrading my greenhouse into something I can heat, or shutting the aquaponic system down for the few cold months here. (I'm in Memphis, TN so Dec 1 - March is likely too cold to grow most plants inside my current greenhouse).

 

My planned system is to use the IBC tote as my fish tank with the top 12 inches cut off for a media based grow bed. I plan to use the CHOP system with a 55 gal drum as a sump tank, and another 55 gal drum cut lengthways for two additional media grow beds.

 

My concern here is that I have not calculated yet whether one 55 gal drum is a large enough sump tank, or if I need to use two drums piped together to hold the volume of water required for my growbeds. I'd like to use autosyphons on each grow bed in order to leave the pump running continously. I thought to reduce the max water burden on the sump tank I could have the IBC tote grow bed overflow to the two 55 gal drum grow beds so the 3 beds are never all empty at the exact same time. Would this create issues for the 2 growbeds filling up too quickly? Perhaps I'll end up creating more issues than I'm solving by trying to simplify the sump tank into 1 drum?

 

I'm also planning on burying the sump tank (the 55 gal drum on its side), and partially burying the IBC tote (fish tank) in order to help keep constant temp year round. Not sure yet how far I can bury the fish tank, since I'll need gravity to feed the grow beds below the top of the tank.

 

I'm not a very good sketch artist or I'd upload a picture of my planned system. Let me know if you need any clarifications before offering advice, otherwise I'll appreciate any pointers!!

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Just a beware, in ground sump tanks, if they can drain down really low and there is a heavy rain event, there is some danger of the sump tank floating up and causing damage to plumbing.

I can confirm what TC said about the siphon kicking in and the flow of water increasing radically !  TC gave me the same heads up a week ago, and while testing my bell siphons this weekend for the first time- before the siphon was going full blast...there was a flow of water equal to the amount of water coming into the grow bed.  But once the siphon kicked in full speed...it looked like the volume of water at least doubled (probably even tripled the amount of water coming into the grow bed).  It was amazing to watch.

Update here, since I finished plumbing my system today! Next week I'll pick up some 1/2" Clay Aggregate from Big River Industries (http://www.bigriverindustries.com/ ) - they have a bunch of aggregate at a shipping terminal here in Memphis, so I hope to get a pick-up truck load. I'll also get my greenhouse setup to cover the system - once these tasks are done, I'll be able to start cycling! I'm excited :-)

 

Also, thanks TC for the heads up about the possiblity of the sump tank floating up. I dug a little deeper than I needed and put some gravel down to assist in drainage - I will also have a greenhouse covering everything soon; between these two aspects, I hope to avoid the sump tank hole filling with water.

Here's a picture to show the current status. Once I start cycling, I'll try to post a more descriptive post in the "system introductions" area.

Looks good Daniel, very similar to what I just finished plumbing.

I used a tote in the ground...about 180 gals worth.  It came in handy as I had to empty grow beds all back into the sump to work on them, I also had to empty fish tank to work on it so I drained 3/4 of the fish tank to the sump while I worked on it.  The larger sump lets you not waste water when you need to fix your newbie errors like I did !   :-)

I'm having trouble with 1 out of 4 bell siphons...am going to try to figure out why again today. I have 1" pipe draining to 3" but I just can't get it to start the siphon.  This AP stuff is not for the undetermined person! 

I'm sure the larger sump will continue to come in handy, Bradly - after digging my sump into the ground by hand I think I'm qualified to be hard headed enough to work through the newbie errors ;-) And I have respect for you using a whole tote in the ground! I hope you had some kind of equipment to help with that?

 

I planned my two half 55 gal grow beds for constant flood after worrying about getting the siphons to balance, and reading how some systems show better growth in constant flood. Hopefully with only one siphon to balance (in the main grow bed) I'll get it to balance more easily. Have any tips to give me on that? I used instructions for a bell siphon from here: http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/BIO-10.pdf but I haven't glued/siliconed anything yet, since the top and air tube seemed to fit airtight without it. Will fix this first if I have any issues with the siphon. My siphon is 1" drain tube with 2" bell. 1" drains into a 2" pipe after 1 turn - you can see it in the middle of the picture. Anyway, if you have any tips, I'll try to put them to good use ;-)

You might find you need to add a vent on the drain from the siphon bed.  Siphons have a hard time working properly if they have too long a drain line and can't suck air when they are ready to quit.

That's a 10-4 TC. 

I had a nice sweep bend on under those growbeds, on saturday I took out the nice gradual sweep and put in a hard tee and plug to make the turn.  That one seems to be working now.  I'm going to do same to 2 of the 3 other beds tonight and then see how it all works.  (I put the gradual sweeps in originally so I could clean them out with like a giant swab brush down thru the top of the growbeds....but now I'm plumbing in the tees and little clean out plugs to slow the drainage down. That's what I get for being creative.)  :-)

 

 

Daniel

I'm at exactly same stage as you... I'm having trouble getting all siphons to work correctly...am replumbing 2 of them tonight...so I don't have good tips yet-I'm still learning.  I built my siphons from the same paper you did!  1"standpipe with 2" bell pipe...and 4" gravel guard outside of that with slits cut into them.

There is a guy on line named Afnan who has some diagrams...google "afnan bell siphons" and read what he say and see if any info will help you....I'm still not sure what works yet for sure.  I do know that it takes some fiddling with to get it all adjusted right I think.

Daniel said:

I'm sure the larger sump will continue to come in handy, Bradly - after digging my sump into the ground by hand I think I'm qualified to be hard headed enough to work through the newbie errors ;-) And I have respect for you using a whole tote in the ground! I hope you had some kind of equipment to help with that?

 

I planned my two half 55 gal grow beds for constant flood after worrying about getting the siphons to balance, and reading how some systems show better growth in constant flood. Hopefully with only one siphon to balance (in the main grow bed) I'll get it to balance more easily. Have any tips to give me on that? I used instructions for a bell siphon from here: http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/BIO-10.pdf but I haven't glued/siliconed anything yet, since the top and air tube seemed to fit airtight without it. Will fix this first if I have any issues with the siphon. My siphon is 1" drain tube with 2" bell. 1" drains into a 2" pipe after 1 turn - you can see it in the middle of the picture. Anyway, if you have any tips, I'll try to put them to good use ;-)

Just wanted to give a heads up to anyone following this discussion that I have made the promised update in the system introductions area! http://community.theaquaponicsource.com/forum/topics/new-aquaponic-...

Also, Bradly - did you ever get your siphon to balance? I haven't had the time to work on mine again, so for the moment all my beds are flooded beds. Still hope to get my siphon working after I finish cycling the system.
 
Bradly said:

Daniel

I'm at exactly same stage as you... I'm having trouble getting all siphons to work correctly...am replumbing 2 of them tonight...so I don't have good tips yet-I'm still learning.  I built my siphons from the same paper you did!  1"standpipe with 2" bell pipe...and 4" gravel guard outside of that with slits cut into them.

There is a guy on line named Afnan who has some diagrams...google "afnan bell siphons" and read what he say and see if any info will help you....I'm still not sure what works yet for sure.  I do know that it takes some fiddling with to get it all adjusted right I think.

Daniel said:

I'm sure the larger sump will continue to come in handy, Bradly - after digging my sump into the ground by hand I think I'm qualified to be hard headed enough to work through the newbie errors ;-) And I have respect for you using a whole tote in the ground! I hope you had some kind of equipment to help with that?

 

I planned my two half 55 gal grow beds for constant flood after worrying about getting the siphons to balance, and reading how some systems show better growth in constant flood. Hopefully with only one siphon to balance (in the main grow bed) I'll get it to balance more easily. Have any tips to give me on that? I used instructions for a bell siphon from here: http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/BIO-10.pdf but I haven't glued/siliconed anything yet, since the top and air tube seemed to fit airtight without it. Will fix this first if I have any issues with the siphon. My siphon is 1" drain tube with 2" bell. 1" drains into a 2" pipe after 1 turn - you can see it in the middle of the picture. Anyway, if you have any tips, I'll try to put them to good use ;-)

Daniel

I did get them to flow correctly.

I used 1" pvc standpipe with 2" bellpipe.  The 1" standpipe (10"long-comes down thru the uniseal at the bottom of the ibc tote.  Once underneath the tote- the 1"pipe comes down another 8"-10" and hits a hard 90 degree elbow (or a tee with a plug on the outside for "swabbing out the scum buildup junk later") before the 1" pipe takes off horizontally toward the main 3" drain line.  The horzontal pipes under the totes vary in length-anywhere from 3' long up to 6' long before the intersect the 3" main drain line. Make sure that the horizontal pipe has "fall" as it heads toward the main drain so that the water will run.

(sidenote: I also cut 3/4" long pieces of 1" coupling {basically cut them in half} and I slid those pieces on top of the standpipe. this basically makes the top of the standpipe about 1/4" wider in in diameter as the water enters.

Kind of like Afnan did with his special reducing coupling...only I didn't have to special order anything this way.

Then I turned my pump way down (volume wise)...and it all works like a clock and I get about 19 minutes between drainings in my grow beds.  My pump runs at about 500 GPH but only about 2/3 of that is flowing up into the fish tank now.  I diverted the reminder of the flow back into the sump tank before it gets to the fish tank.



Daniel said:

Just wanted to give a heads up to anyone following this discussion that I have made the promised update in the system introductions area! http://community.theaquaponicsource.com/forum/topics/new-aquaponic-...

Also, Bradly - did you ever get your siphon to balance? I haven't had the time to work on mine again, so for the moment all my beds are flooded beds. Still hope to get my siphon working after I finish cycling the system.
 
Bradly said:

Daniel

I'm at exactly same stage as you... I'm having trouble getting all siphons to work correctly...am replumbing 2 of them tonight...so I don't have good tips yet-I'm still learning.  I built my siphons from the same paper you did!  1"standpipe with 2" bell pipe...and 4" gravel guard outside of that with slits cut into them.

There is a guy on line named Afnan who has some diagrams...google "afnan bell siphons" and read what he say and see if any info will help you....I'm still not sure what works yet for sure.  I do know that it takes some fiddling with to get it all adjusted right I think.

Daniel said:

I'm sure the larger sump will continue to come in handy, Bradly - after digging my sump into the ground by hand I think I'm qualified to be hard headed enough to work through the newbie errors ;-) And I have respect for you using a whole tote in the ground! I hope you had some kind of equipment to help with that?

 

I planned my two half 55 gal grow beds for constant flood after worrying about getting the siphons to balance, and reading how some systems show better growth in constant flood. Hopefully with only one siphon to balance (in the main grow bed) I'll get it to balance more easily. Have any tips to give me on that? I used instructions for a bell siphon from here: http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/BIO-10.pdf but I haven't glued/siliconed anything yet, since the top and air tube seemed to fit airtight without it. Will fix this first if I have any issues with the siphon. My siphon is 1" drain tube with 2" bell. 1" drains into a 2" pipe after 1 turn - you can see it in the middle of the picture. Anyway, if you have any tips, I'll try to put them to good use ;-)

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