Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

Hey Gang!  Thought I'd share my setup with you.  It's not pretty but it works.  I chose to enter aquaponics to keep my water change bill down as I was 'fish sitting' this winter.  My neighbor needed somewhere to keep his fish after he closed his pond so I agreed, seeing as I had a 30 gal tank with almost no residents.  I never saw more than 10 goldfish at a time so I figured I was good. Not so.  His water was so full of algae that I never saw all 60 at once!  That put me into emergency mode and I dragged my 55 gallon rainwater barrel into the basement and set up a filter with powerhead. 

After the two tanks cycled I realized that I'd have to do water changes very often to keep nitrates down.  Then I thought about aquaponics!  I'd seen the idea before, but never really considered it because an outdoor setup around these parts would only run for maybe 4 or 5 months out of the year before freeze up.  I did have a light stand in the basement with the barrel though.  So I chose the raft system simply because I had rafts on hand from messing around with hydroponics last year.  I grew lots of lettuce, but didn't like flushing old nutrient down the drain.  Now I don't have to worry!  I built the GB out of lumber with construction poly as a liner, ran some plumbing from the barrel to the GB, found an off season pond pump at the local home improvement box store (75% off!) and rigged it up to pump back into the FT.  Drilled lots of holes in foam to fit pudding containers I drilled more holes in and filled them with gravel, plopped them into the holes in the foam and plunked seedlings into them!  Confused yet?  I am.  Plugged in pump and watched!

Oh yeah, almost forgot.  To keep nitrates down in the 30 gal fish tank, I used some previous experience with aquatic plants to handle that.  4 weeks ago all my aquatic plants in there were just sprigs, except for the sword plant, but it's grown alot too.  I mixed up my own fert (micronutrients, P, K) so that the limiting nutrient would be nitrogen, and so far so good.  Only have hard scale algae at present, and that's very slow growing.  I'm not sure if I need the CO2 injection with so many fish.

Nitrate is almost unreadable for a few weeks now in both tanks.  It was quite scary high before the plants got going. 

Anyway, here's some pics for it all to make sense!

Here's an overview of basement system:

Lettuce view:

30 gal tank upstairs at feeding time!

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Good Job. :D It is great to hear about a set up being so quickly successful at it's intended purpose.

and you can post the photos directly in the posts using the photo icon at the top of the post box rather than uploading them as separate files that have to be clicked as a link
like this

Sweet! Thanks TCLynx. I'm still learning this format and little pointers are very helpful! Thank you for the kind words.
Just beware, this aquaponics thing can be addictive.

Paul Letby said:
Sweet! Thanks TCLynx. I'm still learning this format and little pointers are very helpful! Thank you for the kind words.
You bet it's addictive. My supervisor is parting with his jacuzzi bathtub for a smaller model. I said I'd give him $50. He's considering it! Ha! He says it's much too big, I have no idea. Now where am I going to put that??? I'm thinking nice big FT!
Paul, I've been thinking for a long time now that jacuzzi's and hot tubs might just make the perfect fish tanks, but I wasn't willing to try to talk my poor husband into THAT experiment. Seems like you have both the temperature control and oxygenation built right in (maybe not temp in a jaccuzi), And in these parts you can always find hot tubs being given away for free on Craig's lilst. Go for it! :D
Today I hope to work on my system installing scissor jacks underneath the GB. My light stand has fixed lights so I must adjust the height of the GB to accommodate for growth, which I've gotten plenty lately. Until now I've had to drain the bed and lift by hand and stuff appropriate blocks underneath (kinda dumb). So now I'll adjust the height with minimum fuss, then block securely so there's no funny business when I'm away. I'm using 3 so that I have a tripod effect and the bed won't tip while adjusting. Good timing too; I really blew my back at work yesterday. Heat pack and pharmaceuticals today...
That was easy. I didn't even drain the GB. Jacked up at three points, removed old support then jacked back down a bit. I need better jacks though, the quality of free sometimes leaves something to be desired. Each jack has a wooden block spreading the load between it and the GB. I leveled using a bubble level. No more lifting! I'll post pics later, my brain is fuzzy.
Paul Letby said: My supervisor is parting with his jacuzzi bathtub for a smaller model.

Hi Paul,

I got a Jacuzzi sans motor & pipes for $10 from a building supply second hand place. It's a great sump, holds much more than a bathtub. My grow beds are bathtubs. Since they are filled with gravel, the water they hold takes up about a third of the Jacuzzi.

Very cool! This might be an avenue I explore. I'll have to wait and see if he takes me up on the offer. I'll also check out a similar second hand building supply place we have here in town. I have a contact who can get me IBC's but I don't like the chemicals that were stored in them. This might be a safer route.
Today I did a quick upgrade to the output from my FT to the GB. Before it was just a raw end of the pipe. The pipe has a curve in it so I just curved it into the bed. That certainly wasn't ideal and the water came out too fast so I had to install a splash plate to keep the water from getting the wood wet on my light stand. I added a few elbows and a short piece of pipe in between to complete the installation. I like this alot better. Water is directed down, plus it is slowed a bit by the two elbows.



This is temporary in the sense that once my gravel flood and drain GB is installed above this I will change out the plumbing. I made this out of 1 1/4" black pipe which is actually not that easy to find fittings for around here. My Dad just happened to have a great deal of this stuff in storage at his house and I thought heck, why not use it?

I'll switch over to 1" ABS that's so popular in the stores these days. Then fittings are easy to find and I can install the layout I want.
Today as I added a new picture to the album on progressive growth for my system I noticed that the lettuce had really grown into the lights. It's funny how we don't notice things when we look at them every day. Those pictures gave me a different perspective where the problem became obvious.

So downstairs I went and after a few cranks on the screw jacks the lettuce was again properly positioned relative to the lights.

I'm thinking next year I will design a purpose built stand for my system where I can adjust the lights instead of the growbeds!
I've been anxious to get my next flood and drain GB installed with the charcoal media. Today I finally had some time (read stole time from something else) to get started. Tonight I beefed up my light stand to handle the added weight. Lots of squeezing into tight places, fiddling and farting around. That part is done now, and next will be building the GB itself. I have yet to settle on a depth for my GB because I'm not sure what to do about height to the lights. This one probably won't lend itself to being adjustable, so I'll have to settle on a fixed space between the lights and the bed. The deeper I make the bed, the less room I have between the media and the lights. I plan on only growing lettuce and herbs with this bed, so there doesn't have to be very much room between the lights and the media. Basil can be trimmed to control height, so I think I'll base it on height of lettuce. What should I be shooting for?

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