So, my name's Craig, and I live in Provo Utah, and have studied up a ton and am very excited about the idea of aquaponics!
I live in a town home and have an HOA, so a greenhouse is, at the moment, out of the question for me. I've therefore decided to start with a small garden in my basement. The temperature town there should stay fairly consistent around 50-60 degrees, so I'm planning on keeping trout, which I understand is fairly easy to acquire here in Utah. It's going to be a fairly small setup, but I'm hoping that it will give me the experience and confidence to expand to a greenhouse some day.
This might not be the place, but I actually have a design for how I think I'm going to set the system up, and I'd love feedback if anyone has any suggestions! (If I should post this part somewhere else, feel free to let me know :) ) I've already started buying some of the materials and hope to have it set up and cycling in a couple of weeks.
It would be a CHOP raft system, with the pump in the bottom of the IBC, which will hopefully do a fair job of cycling the fish solids. The IBC would pump into a raised 55 gallon drum that would serve to filter the solids (possibly set it up as a swirl filter, but not necessarily), and since I'm not planning on using any media anywhere, I'm thinking about putting some poly-flo or something as a bio filter (would that be necessary?).
The water would then flow into the first two grow beds, which connect with each other using a bridge siphon, which I hope will keep the water flow consistent across the beds. I've modified the design of the bridge siphon slightly from what I've seen others do, to include a clear vinyl hose at the top, which should collect air while maintaining the siphon, and allow me to see when I need to put more in. I've already tested the design, and it seems to work well, at least functionally.
Each of the beds would then flow into a gutter that's angled back down into the fish tank.
Not pictured in the diagram would be things like air stones (I've heard that they help both in the fish tanks as well as in the raft systems). The things that I like most about this design are that it is extendable (just add a siphon and a grow bed, extend the gutter, and I'm done!), and that it only requires one pump whose failure would not cause fish death due to running out of water (which could happen when pumping the water back into the tank from a sump).
Like I said, I totally welcome any feedback, and I'm totally excited to be part of the community! I've wished to be able to do aquaponics for too long, and won't let the lack of greenhouse options hold me back any longer :)
Awesome George, thanks for the input!
So far, I've got the system partially set-up. The IBC tote I grabbed ended up being 330 gallons, which meant that it was a bit taller than I had planned on. I have all of the containers, and have built a large table that the grow beds are sitting on.
Taking your advice, I've ordered some matala media that I'll be putting into the 55 gallon drum that will hopefully act as a bio and mechanical filter. I also plan on throwing some redworms in there to help break down the solids. I'm also planning on having the drum act as a bell siphon so that I can keep worms in the media without them drowning.
I changed my mind on the bridge siphon design (it was too complex), and am just going to run clear vinyl tubes from bed to bed for bridge siphons.
Good choice to change the bridge siphon. If I'm not mistaken that type of siphon can't have any air in it. One negative to not using a sump is that with the pump in the fish tank if something goes wrong and you develop a sizable leak you'll pump all the water out of your fish tank. That's happened to me a few times but I was using a sump so the fish tank stayed full. You could raise the pump off the bottom of the tank so you'd never empty the tank but then you wouldn't pick up the solids. Depending on how many fish you have you may need more bio filtration. I have a 330 IBC, 2 IBC grow beds with hydroton and worms, an IBC raft bed, and a 50 gallon swirl filter and it takes it all to filter the waste but I have a LOT of fish.
Based on how I perceive your system your grow beds are going to be pretty high off the floor to facilitate drainage back to the FT. If you use a sump you can lower the beds to any level you want above the sump. You could probably get by with a 50-100 gallon sump.
I have a outdoor system, I agree with Jeff S about the sump tank. I have had my sump tank drain twice and over flow once, due to heavy rains. But no matter what my fish tank has a constant height in water level. I have large fish that need the extra space and water.
Hope this helps,