Aquaponic Gardening

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So this is our first attempt at aquaponics.  Originally we were not planning on doing aquaponics, but somehow we decided to try it.  So when we bought our table we did not know what we would ultimately end up doing, so it is a shallow table, about 4" deep with 3 floodable inches.  Today we purchased materials to extend the height of one of our tables to about 11" but it will have the ability to be 16" deep.

This is mainly a DIY project, we started out with just the table and added the poles on the side, which will eventually hang the light and will support our reflective material, which is mylar at the moment.  The reservoir was purchased apart from the table and we have built a lid, as the one at the hydro store was too expensive.  We have purchased tilapia from a local fish store and are attempting to cycle the tank.

Right now we don't have many plants, but the ones we do have are doing pretty decently. If any of you could give your input on what you think would be some good suggestions to improve this system.  In particular:

Is having a shallow grow bed and a deeper one going at the same time a good ides?

Is it possible to make cycling a lot easier on the fish?  I am hoping they will survive...

What plants would be recommended to grow that are not very obvious plants?

Is 40 gallons a big enough reservoir for the fish? We have 4...

And any other things...

Sorry if this post is kind of scatter brained :D, as I myself and kind of scatter brained.

Thanks for any input you can spare!!!

 

Will

 

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Well update...

We got our light and ballast!  And it is so bright.  We are planning on moving soon so we are holding off planting anything until we move to our new place.  But we are continuing to refine the systems plumbing and such.

The cycling with the fish didn't go to well for the fish :(   but one out of four is still alive, heh.  We are planning to fishlessly cycle it once we move into our new place, with the fish sold on this website! 

 

So after reaching the conclusion that we need a bigger tank and more water to flood our tables and allow our fish to prosper,  we have decided to purchase a 75 gallon stock tank in addition to our 40 gallon tank we have now. 

The 40 gallon tank that we have now will become the sump tank, we are hoping this will keep the water cleaner by acting as a very basic mechanical filter and adding more overall water to the system as well as allowing us to have a few more fish.

 

Since our stock tank is a monster 25" tall, we had to build a stage for our table to stand on so that gravity was working in our favor.  So that brings the total height of our table to 3' off the ground up from 2', so pretty big jump...  It all is rather hard to explain without pictures, and this project has become way more than I had anticipated.  Not that I haven't enjoyed all of it. 

 I'll post pictures later.  This all seems very hard for me to explain without them.

 

Can you estimate the cost of this project?

Well this is my second attempt writing this reply.. the first did not post correctly and it was all lost! 

 

This is my first time writing about our project, my name is Jeff and I am wills roommate.  As for the cost of this project we will make an itemized post later on outlines the whole cost of this project but its about $1650 dollars with a ton of labor not factored into it.  I would like to outline the details of the new tank design which we will be incorporating into this system after we move (about march 1st).  As it will all have to be reassembles and the space we have is going to change I would like to explain the design so it maybe commented on and modified as is necessary.

 

The tank system is two tanks joined together which act and operate as one.  The 40 gallon tank is a botanicare reservoir, and a 70 gallon Rubbermaid stock tank.   We just finished building the wooden frame which will raise the entire system 14 inches and allow for easy addition of the sump.  It is comprised of 2 pumps, a large volume pump which will fill both the grow beds and a small pump which will continuously cycle water over a crude porous mechanical filter.  The purpose of this additional filter is to add constant aeration, allow for cleaner water with higher stocking of fish, prevent any part of both tanks from becoming stagnant, and allow for heavier planting and more abundant flower production. 

The two tanks will be tied together with a level pipe sitting at about 20 inches.  This tube will act as an additional overflow line to ensure neither tank can overflow.  The resting waterline for the tanks will sit about a half inch from this pipe.  When the main pump is turned on to flood the tables It will start a small vortex in the base of the 70 gallon stock tub.  Once both the beds have been filled to capacity the sumps water will start to refill the main tank via the bulkhead in the bottom of the stock tank.  The additional water pressure and draining water will add to the vortex which has started to occur in the base of the stock tank.  This will be accelerated by using a 45 degree PVC fitting and positing the main pump adjacent from it.  Creating a current in the base of the stock tank which should be powerful enough to raise any particles and waste which has gathered at the base of the tank since the last fill. Found most of my inspiration from http://www.aquaponics.net.au/forum/showthread.php?t=1731&highli...

This light also arrived recently and words can not describe the intensity of this light.  Its a Hortilux 1000watt super HPS bulb.  Think it puts off 150,000 lumens so we have about 9k per sq. foot.  I think the sun is about 10k.  Most would consider this overkill unless your doing some intense flowering so we picked up the lumatek 1000watt digital dimmable ballast with super lumen.  For the most part we should be able to produce some high yield with the ballast running at 600 watts.  Also picked up a 300cfm 6 inch duct blower to keep it nice and cool!  Its all starting to come together.  

 

 

I have an additinonal grow cabinet which will be added to the system once it is established and stocked enough.  It contains two 5 gallon grow beds which are each plumbed for ebb and flow and will be used for germination and growing them out until they are large enough to throw under our HID. Its has two chambers each 24"x 24"x about 20" of growth height.  Its is has a low passive air intake and three 80mm fans as exhaust blowers.  Runs about 2 degrees higher than external temp with 300 watts of CFL lights in it.  It will add about 10 more gallons of grow bed.  I have yet to decide if this system is going to be running of a separate reservoir ( Currently setup) or if it will be tied into the larger system.   

 

Thanks,

Jeff

Hi Will;

Do you know about the Twin Cities aquaponics group?

http://groups.google.com/group/tcaquaponics

No I did not, but I will surely check it out!

Thanks Karen!
Karen Swanberg said:

Hi Will;

Do you know about the Twin Cities aquaponics group?

http://groups.google.com/group/tcaquaponics

So we just moved into our new apartment, so we have just about about finished setting up the technical aspects of our system.  So now is the fun part.

 

All  that is left is to get fish and fish food!  Then we can start growing some veggies! 

Let me know what you think, I'll probably post more soon.

Attachments:

Here are the images put right into the post with the image tag (button next to the link at the top of the post box.)

I'm a little confused about the white tank under the bed?  How is it draining back to the fish tank?  I don't think that clear tubing will be enough for a gravity flow back to the fish tank and you may be risking overflows and backups.




^^^  This is a video of our system in action.  The pictures I posted before I realized were out of date after I posted them and did not give a very clear picture of the  drains and such.

Right now we are just starting to fishlessly cycle the water, using ammonia.  If anyone has any suggestions on how to make this process go as smoothly and as quickly as possible, I am all ears.

We are now looking into fish options and what to feed them.  I am planning on purchasing the Aquamax food, but I am unsure if it is necessary to get all the stages of food (200,300, 400... etc)... I would really prefer to not have to do all that.  I am planning on using flake food until about four inches (as Chi Ma had suggested) and then switching to the Aquamax.

And thinking in advance to when we have plants, I am planning on ordering the Maxigrow with iron, and am just wondering

how long I would need to use that for and how often? 

 

let me know if you would like any pictures and detailed descriptions of specific parts in this system, because the majority of it was all thought out at one point or another and I keep finding new levels of complexities built into the system. 

Yea, some flake or other really small high protein (45-50%) for when they are really small (if you are doing tilapia that is) and then go to a 32-36% protein in a small pellet for the 4-6 inch and bigger fish.  Catfish you might do a 400 for small fry but then 4000 is fine for 6 inches on up.  I expect similar would hold true for bluegill  bu they will like the smaller food like the tilapia.

 

Aquamax 4000 will work for all of them if all else fails.  You just loose a little on speed growth for the smaller fish if you don't feed the higher protein smaller pellets.  (can be more stressful for fish but there is a flip side, when feeding higher protein feed, the bio-filter may have more of a struggle keeping up and I haven't noticed much benefit feeding the 400 to my catfish except maybe for the first month if I get really small ones.)

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