Aquaponic Gardening

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I am Amy, a new member to the Aqua community. I am trying to set up my first Aqua system using IBC tote. According to the information in the forum, I have decided to cut the bottom of tote as grow bed and use the top part as fish tank. Currently I encounter a leak problem. I have sealed everything (the central areation hole, the space between inner white cap and outer red cap, the space between red cap and the tote) using PVC glue. With small amount of water, it looks fine. But it starts leak when more water was added. Any suggestions of how I can make it water tight will be highly appreciated. Thank you so much for your help!

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Well, I personally wouldn't use an IBC as a fish tank if my life depended on it, but they are very popular among new AP users. Why not? Because they are tough to keep clean, tough to catch fish from, degrade in UV, grow algae through the semi-transparent sides, and they're ugly, IMO.

So...that being said, the IBC's I have seen used for AP are generally used bottom down, for three reasons: they don't leak when right-side-up, they are designed and molded to carry weight in an upright position, and the factory drain valve is handy. The red lid should, however, seal simply by spinning it snug. Is the "central aeration" in the factory lid? Or is it something you installed? I haven't seen any IBC's designed this way, so snap a picture for us, please. And, IBC's are not PVC, so PVC glue will likely do more harm than good.

Now, the biggest problem with an IBC, after you get your leak fixed, is solids settling and making nasty anaerobic slime sludge in the bottom, that will release CH4, N2, CO2, and fish-deadly H2S (hydrogen sulfide, smells like rotten eggs). Better, IMO, is to use both halves of your IBC as growbeds, and get a round fish tank. Round tanks with a slight circular flow will deposit solids at the bottom center. These solids are swept up by an SLO (search SLO above), and the tanks stay spotless forever, with no maintenance.

I am in the minority for my IBC disdain, and you may find less biased advice in the IBC group. If you are set on using an IBC or any rectangular tank as FT, then you can keep solids handled by placing airstones every 2' along the perimeter of a square tank, 1/2" from the bottom, using 1/2 cfm each, and overflowing your water from the top center. In an IBC, this means using 8 stones, 1 in each corner, and 1 on each side, sucking up 4 cfm of air.

i have found an outdoor waterproof silicone on the outside with a waterproof patch from the auto parts store,, also it is good to wrap the tote with a 6 mil black plastic sheeting to prevent algae from growing,, i live in texas where its warm and sunny enough for algae to thrive. i have had my system up and running for 7 months so far and there is very minimal algae growth.,, i also applied the 6 mil plastic to the grow beds to shield the lite for the worms that are in the grow beds.. hope this helps you. my system is set up like the Maury Hallam video.

Thanks Jon! I finally get my leaky problem fixed and now I encounter all the problems you mentioned above. Although I have painted the tote in black from outside, I find algae start to grow and solid settled in bottom. I definitely need to place air stones around as you suggested. Do you have any suggestions what kind of air pump and air stone to buy? Thank you so much for all your advice, it's really helpful!

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Jon Parr said:
Well, I personally wouldn't use an IBC as a fish tank if my life depended on it, but they are very popular among new AP users. Why not? Because they are tough to keep clean, tough to catch fish from, degrade in UV, grow algae through the semi-transparent sides, and they're ugly, IMO.

So...that being said, the IBC's I have seen used for AP are generally used bottom down, for three reasons: they don't leak when right-side-up, they are designed and molded to carry weight in an upright position, and the factory drain valve is handy. The red lid should, however, seal simply by spinning it snug. Is the "central aeration" in the factory lid? Or is it something you installed? I haven't seen any IBC's designed this way, so snap a picture for us, please. And, IBC's are not PVC, so PVC glue will likely do more harm than good.

Now, the biggest problem with an IBC, after you get your leak fixed, is solids settling and making nasty anaerobic slime sludge in the bottom, that will release CH4, N2, CO2, and fish-deadly H2S (hydrogen sulfide, smells like rotten eggs). Better, IMO, is to use both halves of your IBC as growbeds, and get a round fish tank. Round tanks with a slight circular flow will deposit solids at the bottom center. These solids are swept up by an SLO (search SLO above), and the tanks stay spotless forever, with no maintenance.

I am in the minority for my IBC disdain, and you may find less biased advice in the IBC group. If you are set on using an IBC or any rectangular tank as FT, then you can keep solids handled by placing airstones every 2' along the perimeter of a square tank, 1/2" from the bottom, using 1/2 cfm each, and overflowing your water from the top center. In an IBC, this means using 8 stones, 1 in each corner, and 1 on each side, sucking up 4 cfm of air.

Other benefits would include: they're cheap, you feel good inside because you're "recycling", and they're ugly, which gives an aquaponic system that quirky, hippie kind of feel :) Personally I went with the tote because it's big and tall. I was planning on building a CHOP 1 system and I needed my fish tank to be higher than the growbeds without sacrificing volume and lateral space.

Jon Parr said:

Well, I personally wouldn't use an IBC as a fish tank if my life depended on it, but they are very popular among new AP users. Why not? Because they are tough to keep clean, tough to catch fish from, degrade in UV, grow algae through the semi-transparent sides, and they're ugly, IMO.

So...that being said, the IBC's I have seen used for AP are generally used bottom down, for three reasons: they don't leak when right-side-up, they are designed and molded to carry weight in an upright position, and the factory drain valve is handy. The red lid should, however, seal simply by spinning it snug. Is the "central aeration" in the factory lid? Or is it something you installed? I haven't seen any IBC's designed this way, so snap a picture for us, please. And, IBC's are not PVC, so PVC glue will likely do more harm than good.

Now, the biggest problem with an IBC, after you get your leak fixed, is solids settling and making nasty anaerobic slime sludge in the bottom, that will release CH4, N2, CO2, and fish-deadly H2S (hydrogen sulfide, smells like rotten eggs). Better, IMO, is to use both halves of your IBC as growbeds, and get a round fish tank. Round tanks with a slight circular flow will deposit solids at the bottom center. These solids are swept up by an SLO (search SLO above), and the tanks stay spotless forever, with no maintenance.

I am in the minority for my IBC disdain, and you may find less biased advice in the IBC group. If you are set on using an IBC or any rectangular tank as FT, then you can keep solids handled by placing airstones every 2' along the perimeter of a square tank, 1/2" from the bottom, using 1/2 cfm each, and overflowing your water from the top center. In an IBC, this means using 8 stones, 1 in each corner, and 1 on each side, sucking up 4 cfm of air.

I hear you, Alex, and I agree. You have to use what you have available.

I get perfect, new, clean IBC's for free, used to transport glucose syrup, and it pains me to not put them into use. However, once you compare the performance and maintenance of an IBC to a similarly sized round tank (of which I have half a dozen 4' round tanks by 4' tall, all scrounged for free), then you will not ever use another IBC. If you haven't used a round tank with a circular flow and an SLO, you don't know what you are missing. I have tanks used to hold high densities of fish, overfed, for years, and they are spotlessly clean without ever cleaning them. No bottom sludge, no industrial waste appearance (which I consider more oil tycoon than hippie), and no UV degradation. Just sayin'...

Amy, you will need about the biggest air pump your local pond store will have, and I'll warn you, it will cost more than the round fish-tank you would have bought. A decent pump will cost several hundred dollars, and last for many years. A cheap pump will still cost over $100, and last several months. Less than sufficient air pumps will result in sludge accumulating, and some cleaning required. I, personally, don't mind some sludge in other areas of AP, like the bottom of media beds, but I prefer to keep my fish-tank spotless. Sludge puts off dissolved gases and products that damage and stress fish, but that plants are less sensitive to, or even need. Hope that helps. 

Are your round tanks plastic?

Plastic, fiberglass, stainless, and concrete. Yes.

Brad L Daley said:

Are your round tanks plastic?

Jon,

Any tricks to finding the round tanks?  I would love to have a few, but struggle with the price and have not been able to locate.

Aquatic Ecosystems has some, and local irrigation supply stores. Many of mine are water storage tanks with the top cut off. I just picked up 10 fiberglass, 6' diameter cone-bottom tanks for $500 each, from a local aquaculturist over-order.

I'll probably be making a bunch from wood soon, lined with epoxy or paint-on liner, and will document the process.

If you live in dairy country, many small ranchers are selling their stainless milk tanks for a song. Also, many silos and cheap water tanks are built from sections of corrugated steel. These can be lined with cheap molded liners. My new greenhouse comes with 5 tanks 12-20' diameter, 12-15' tall, and they are not needed for their former purpose. These will be reassembled in 3-4' high rings and lined with new membranes. Concrete block can be stacked in any size circle, and plastered like a swimming pool. Speaking of swimming pool, anyone with some ambition can dig a round hole, and plaster it for only a few bucks. Hog wire panels can be bent in a circle, lined with used carpet, and fitted with a liner. K-mart has 22' diameter (52" high, 10,000 gallon) swimming pools for $579, and 10' diameter pools for $79. Sections of steel or concrete culverts can be used, and sealed accordingly. I have a buddy who made a swimming pool by lining his hole (free) with pieces of used carpet (free) dipped in a slurry of used latex paint (free) mixed with cement (cheap), kind of like paper mâché, and then plastered it (cheap).

My cheapest tanks came from a commercial property manager here in town. Having put the word out to everyone I knew that I wanted tanks, he called me asking if I wanted four 1000 gallon tanks for free. The catch is that the owners had them in the basement, and had remodeled the doors in the loading dock, making them impossible to get out at ground floor. The largest ground-floor door was 4' wide, and these tanks were 53" tall by 7' diameter. The owners only solution was to take them to the top and out a bacony (fortunately they rolled right in the service elevator). The cost to remove the tanks through the 3rd floor balcony (glass panels needed to be professionally removed, and a crane hired) would have been more than the tanks cost new. I agreed to the deal. I jumped up on the dome-topped poly tanks and jumped up and down until my weight collapsed the dome into itself, whereby the tanks rolled right drought the door! Score. I had the four 1000 gal tanks loaded in 30 minutes, no cost at all.

Anyway, more than one way to skin a cat...

Good information.

Thanks,

Jon Parr said:

Aquatic Ecosystems has some, and local irrigation supply stores. Many of mine are water storage tanks with the top cut off. I just picked up 10 fiberglass, 6' diameter cone-bottom tanks for $500 each, from a local aquaculturist over-order.

I'll probably be making a bunch from wood soon, lined with epoxy or paint-on liner, and will document the process.

If you live in dairy country, many small ranchers are selling their stainless milk tanks for a song. Also, many silos and cheap water tanks are built from sections of corrugated steel. These can be lined with cheap molded liners. My new greenhouse comes with 5 tanks 12-20' diameter, 12-15' tall, and they are not needed for their former purpose. These will be reassembled in 3-4' high rings and lined with new membranes. Concrete block can be stacked in any size circle, and plastered like a swimming pool. Speaking of swimming pool, anyone with some ambition can dig a round hole, and plaster it for only a few bucks. Hog wire panels can be bent in a circle, lined with used carpet, and fitted with a liner. K-mart has 22' diameter (52" high, 10,000 gallon) swimming pools for $579, and 10' diameter pools for $79. Sections of steel or concrete culverts can be used, and sealed accordingly. I have a buddy who made a swimming pool by lining his hole (free) with pieces of used carpet (free) dipped in a slurry of used latex paint (free) mixed with cement (cheap), kind of like paper mâché, and then plastered it (cheap).

My cheapest tanks came from a commercial property manager here in town. Having put the word out to everyone I knew that I wanted tanks, he called me asking if I wanted four 1000 gallon tanks for free. The catch is that the owners had them in the basement, and had remodeled the doors in the loading dock, making them impossible to get out at ground floor. The largest ground-floor door was 4' wide, and these tanks were 53" tall by 7' diameter. The owners only solution was to take them to the top and out a bacony (fortunately they rolled right in the service elevator). The cost to remove the tanks through the 3rd floor balcony (glass panels needed to be professionally removed, and a crane hired) would have been more than the tanks cost new. I agreed to the deal. I jumped up on the dome-topped poly tanks and jumped up and down until my weight collapsed the dome into itself, whereby the tanks rolled right drought the door! Score. I had the four 1000 gal tanks loaded in 30 minutes, no cost at all.

Anyway, more than one way to skin a cat...



Jon Parr said:

I hear you, Alex, and I agree. You have to use what you have available.

I get perfect, new, clean IBC's for free, used to transport glucose syrup, and it pains me to not put them into use. However, once you compare the performance and maintenance of an IBC to a similarly sized round tank (of which I have half a dozen 4' round tanks by 4' tall, all scrounged for free), then you will not ever use another IBC. If you haven't used a round tank with a circular flow and an SLO, you don't know what you are missing. I have tanks used to hold high densities of fish, overfed, for years, and they are spotlessly clean without ever cleaning them. No bottom sludge, no industrial waste appearance (which I consider more oil tycoon than hippie), and no UV degradation. Just sayin'...

Amy, you will need about the biggest air pump your local pond store will have, and I'll warn you, it will cost more than the round fish-tank you would have bought. A decent pump will cost several hundred dollars, and last for many years. A cheap pump will still cost over $100, and last several months. Less than sufficient air pumps will result in sludge accumulating, and some cleaning required. I, personally, don't mind some sludge in other areas of AP, like the bottom of media beds, but I prefer to keep my fish-tank spotless. Sludge puts off dissolved gases and products that damage and stress fish, but that plants are less sensitive to, or even need. Hope that helps. 


Glad I read this, I was going to set up IBC system, I think I won't now. Thanks for the information.

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