Aquaponic Gardening

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Hi all! I'm from Portugal (not intending to going anywhere :P )

I'm starting out with "sorry!" big post... and it will grow as long as I have time and questions...

I live in the country side, I have some land to plant and grow all kind of vegetables, cereals, fruits,etc
but I came across a back problem on my payed job and I struggle to use the soil (and a good one it is...)

most of the vegetables that I want to grow (and eat) are hard to maintain since the weeds are strong here... I don't like to use any herbicides of pesticides but weeds are a pain to control...
my payed job does not leave much time to take care of the land everyday so I'm turning to aquaponics as a backup. I will still use the soil for bigger things but I won't need to care as much for the weeds on those crops.

I'm in the way of starting a small/medium aquaponics system (hopefully a modular one).

I need some information from more experienced aquaponists from around the world in order to reduce the problems, fish kills and so on.

I'm yet to add the sizes and pipes but I have a layout ready:


the growbeds are cut in half blue barrels (100Lt each 16 on a first phase - not all of them planted as the system needs to grow the bacteria and so on)

for a sump its a 1000Lt IBC
as for fish tanks I have more than one since adding them later would make have to change to many things around, so I'm starting with more fish tanks than I need (later on I will need only another sump to add more growbeds)

I'm going to make a radial flow filter with a 160Lt barrel

then a bio-filter with a 200LT barrel (since I'm not able to find a commercial bio-filter media locally. I'm going to fill it with leca (same as the grow beds)

since the leca won't swirl around much in the filter, I may have to add a couple of aquarium wave makers in order to force the leca around (plus some air stones in the filter)

for pumps: I want a 2 pump system (if one fails... the system goes on until replacement) and the DC backup water and air pumps (for the fish to survive :D)

at this stage I'm calculating a minimal 3300Lt/h pump about 4600Lt/h ideal (with extra oomph for system evolution)

the pumps would be in the sump tank (lower one on the system) as the example:

the fish tanks will drain to the radial filter then bio-filter then sump (all from gravity I hope)


I'm planning to have a bell siphon (with breather tube) for each growbed (I know it will be a pain to have them all working right but... its truly simpler on the build)

the outlets from the growbeds will be 1" draining into a half-cut pipe and then either directly to the sump or to the fish-tanks (actually, its a ready made rainfall collector for catching rainwater from the roofs) 

- could anyone tell me, is it better to drain into the fish tanks or to the sump? on the build side is just about the same maybe some differences but noting much)

the fish tanks drain/radial flow/bio-filter are 1-1/2" pipe (50mm) is is to little? 2" seems a bit to much and the uniseals I could get were 1-1/2" ones.

I'm hoping I can avoid 90º curves on all the pipes (except the siphons) in order to reduce the friction and optimize the flow.

for the output from the pumps I'm planning to use 1" poly tubing for the fish tanks and the main line of the grow beds (with all the valves needed)
then for the growbeds I will take taps for every growbed with a valve on each to control the flow on every growbed.

the media for the growbeds would be Leca also...
and I have the Sera aqua test kit on the way to me.

for fish I will be starting out with goldfish right after my system cycles and stabilizes but I would like to have some tilapia, wide mouth sea bass. maybe trout (depending on the temperature I get in the water since tilapia and trout are just about in the opposite temperature ranges...)

the space I have for the the system is not a greenhouse. its cosy and comfortable but it lacks some shelter (being planned at the same time as the system since the wood comes from the same place)
I still need to clean it out since its been storage for roof tiles and some bricks, etc.

I need opinions on what I'm planning wrong in order to correct it before its to late.

I have a "stupid" budget since I want this made and I like doing it. tools are not a problem (some parts are) money could be a issue... I'm about to loose my job since my back does not let me work like my boss wants (and I can't do more than I'm doing now, and even sometimes I get worse because I did something I should not have done at work...)

I'm tired of heavily poisoned (pesticides) vegetables from the supermarket and I'm hopping to be able to have some fresh vegetables all year long (maybe some artificial lighting later on)...

for now this is just about what I have. I'm trying to plan all parts of the system in a way that I could share and re-use on other systems later so as I go along I'll try to post the most information I could to help others (I don't care if the information is not perfect. that is a problem we all have to figure out by ourselves and adapt to our circumstances.)

I car get water hyacinths, 'salvinia' and duckweed.

I want to grow the fish food since the commercial ones have fish flour, chicken and some other stuff that I don't want to remotely be near... I might have "some" commercial feeding around for the start and the panic times but... not the main diet.

btw, if anyone feels that can help. hop on! you can reply to "just one" of my questions. all information is a must at any time :D


until my next 200 page post, see you around :D

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Module 1: Fish tanks

I'm looking at having 3 fish tanks:

          - 2x 1000Lt IBC with a lid cut-open

          - 1x 700Lt round tank (looking more like a pond :D )

 

on the fish tanks I'm considering a 50mm (1-1/2") SLO pipe draining by gravity to the solids axial filter and then bio-filter (then sump) more on that later.

 

 all tanks will have: auxiliary air supply, backup-pumps and some other details that I might add later (not really important for now).

 

all tanks should have some foam insulation on the sides and top but I'm not covering that on the system details. its to simple to bother you with that :D

 

Module 2: growbeds

 

For the growbeds I'm thinking of using 200Lt blue barrels cut in half. rigged up in modules of 2/3 or 4 halves.

I got some ideas from a few youtube videos and forums so I can either use the barrel as a siphon based system, timed system, DWC system just by closing 1 or 2 valves (16mm irrigation system valves).

 

the water feed and drains will not be covered on this topic (just a glance at it) they will be pictured in detail on module 3 and 5.

 

Bell Siphon:

1" (32mm) diameter stand pipe installed on the bottom of the barrel with a uniseal, small hole on the bottom to drain if the siphon fails to work. gravel-guard on the siphon made from drain-pipe (I'm trying to find pre-drilled ones for drainage but a circular saw and a PVC pipe should work like a charm).

 

the siphon should be a 2" diameter PVC pipe with a cap on top. probably will add a breather/snorkel tube to help out on cutting the siphon and if I don't like it yet, I'll add a small cap on the breather tube to even help out more.

example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aPVwPtBK4E

 

later on I might install a 1" overflow on the max level of the barrel (if I find the connectors at fair prices...).

water feed for this growbed will be permanent.

 

Timed pump growbed:

this growbed is the same as the previous one, with the siphon taken out and with an 16mm nipple added to the side of the tank. after that nipple, a valve (16mm irrigation valve - cheap to! :) ) so I can adjust the flow out of the growbed on the drain cycle. the 1" stand pipe will act as an overflow since the 15 minutes fill time should allow the growbed to overflow before the pump turns off.

(1" side overflow not needed on this one but it won't hurt to be there).

obviously, the water feed on this growbed will be timed.

 

DWC:

same growbed as both before, siphon out. drain-vale closed, small hole plugged (rubber grommet). overflow both from the 1"(32mm) stand-pipe and the side overflow (if the level get there of course).

water feed for this growbed will be permanent.

 

air supply to the GB is an ongoing idea. here it might be a venturi and a tap from the fish air pumps.

 

Hi

Looks like this is going to be a great system - much larger than mine.

I am also a learner, but when I started I made a big mistake. I also started with cut half blue barrel for the growbed. I placed these on top of blocks so that it would drain into my fishtank, which I had built directly in the ground (with a plastic pool liner. This worked OK for about a day, when the blue barrel bowed in the middle and looked like it would collapse. I was really worried that it would completely collapse, and drain onto the ground. The pump would then continue to drain the water out of the pond, into the growbed and then lose it on the ground resulting in dead fish. 

My problem is that I kept seeing all these systems with half blue barrels, and thought I had securely placed them on blocks. What I failed to notice is that the sides of the blue barrel are very flexible when cut in half. All the systems that you see support the long sides of the barrel - either by putting them in a row and supporting those on the end, or by putting them in a cradle. So they should be OK but make sure its supported in a way that the sides don't morph.

I had to start again with new growbeds. I thought I would let you know so that you don't repeat my mistake.

I am in Australia, with an outside system. Unfortunately its in the shade, as I have lots of trees in my backyard. I cant keep Tilapia (illegal in Australia so that they don't get into our waterways and destroy our native fish) so I started with silver perch. But I found that the pool stays pretty cool, despite our hot summers (being in the ground and in the shade) so I have just added 10 trout to see how they will go.

I am also running an aquaponics research project to help those running the project to keep track of how they are going in an online diary (web or smartphone). You can also see what is happening in other people's systems so you can check if the numbers you are getting are a problem. This is particularly helpful when you are starting, and trying to get the system in balance. If you want to join in its on 

The site is on www.ourresearch.net. Feel free to join.

Look forward to see how you go.

Regards

Ria

Hi,

I've been having very little time to develop this system... its surely big but I'm ramping up from the start. the initial investment is almost the same even more when I'm improving some not effectively used areas around here.

the biggest investment is actual my time and forces to clean and prepare the areas for the system. money does not come easy but I rather spend it on something that WILL give me something in return :D

for support of the barrels I'm literally following the barrelponics system from F.A.S.T. ( http://www.fastonline.org/?page_id=32 )

I will probably over do most of the supports and structures so this system will take some time... 

it will be modular if I need to change it to somewhere else and/or to enlarge it. I'm also looking into starting slowly with only about 3 GB's running and few fish hoping it wont go wrong.

Radial flow and bio-filters will be running from the start. backup pumps and some other issues I'll make along the way (that is the thing I like :P )

I'm already doing my own compost for extracting tea, planting other plants and flowers (the eyes eat to!)

I have a worm bin going so good right now :D I'm hopping to have plenty of worms to put on the GB's!

worm tea, of course! and probable a digester (worm tea brewer) to digest the solids from the radial flow system, and/or adding the worm/compost teas.

I'm reading about black soldier flies and I will probably try-it out to, if I get some black soldier fly larva I could feed it to the fish or the chicken :D

also and finally, bees! a top bar hive is on the plans as well and hopefully, more than one :P either for me or some friends.

that's all for now I'l update back when possible :)

Ria Follett said:

Hi

Looks like this is going to be a great system - much larger than mine.

I am also a learner, but when I started I made a big mistake. I also started with cut half blue barrel for the growbed. I placed these on top of blocks so that it would drain into my fishtank, which I had built directly in the ground (with a plastic pool liner. This worked OK for about a day, when the blue barrel bowed in the middle and looked like it would collapse. I was really worried that it would completely collapse, and drain onto the ground. The pump would then continue to drain the water out of the pond, into the growbed and then lose it on the ground resulting in dead fish. 

My problem is that I kept seeing all these systems with half blue barrels, and thought I had securely placed them on blocks. What I failed to notice is that the sides of the blue barrel are very flexible when cut in half. All the systems that you see support the long sides of the barrel - either by putting them in a row and supporting those on the end, or by putting them in a cradle. So they should be OK but make sure its supported in a way that the sides don't morph.

I had to start again with new growbeds. I thought I would let you know so that you don't repeat my mistake.

I am in Australia, with an outside system. Unfortunately its in the shade, as I have lots of trees in my backyard. I cant keep Tilapia (illegal in Australia so that they don't get into our waterways and destroy our native fish) so I started with silver perch. But I found that the pool stays pretty cool, despite our hot summers (being in the ground and in the shade) so I have just added 10 trout to see how they will go.

I am also running an aquaponics research project to help those running the project to keep track of how they are going in an online diary (web or smartphone). You can also see what is happening in other people's systems so you can check if the numbers you are getting are a problem. This is particularly helpful when you are starting, and trying to get the system in balance. If you want to join in its on 

The site is on www.ourresearch.net. Feel free to join.

Look forward to see how you go.

Regards

Ria

Hi,

here is a quick update for my system:

I'm changing its location before even starting it.

it is still an excuse to clean and improve some part around my house, will be about the same size and number of parts, could be easily added upon. since it is in a "better" location.

due to the actual state of the other location, needing some work done on, changing it will speed things up a bit :D

I'm currently evaluating getting the clay aggregate in bulk since it will get a discount of at least 40%

I've found 2 or 3 suppliers that even have sizes and types. they have one for floral gardens (that I'm still evaluating)

I'm leaving a layout layout :)

I'm close to order the barrels

yet to have the woods planned to order (soon)

construction materials are way to quick to worry on.

all for now :D

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Looks good. One comment on the clay aggregate. I decided to add clay balls to my system, and the first batch I purchased floated. You can image the growbed with water underneath and moving floating balls on top. As a result, the plants were not properly anchored by their roots, and sprawled horizontally on the surface. The second lot I purchased (different manufacturer) was ok, and after they were soaked in water for a day stayed in place. You may want to check that the aggregate that you are buying doesn't float on the surface...

I'm trying to get samples before buying :D testing is for PH and flotation :D



Ria Follett said:

Looks good. One comment on the clay aggregate. I decided to add clay balls to my system, and the first batch I purchased floated. You can image the growbed with water underneath and moving floating balls on top. As a result, the plants were not properly anchored by their roots, and sprawled horizontally on the surface. The second lot I purchased (different manufacturer) was ok, and after they were soaked in water for a day stayed in place. You may want to check that the aggregate that you are buying doesn't float on the surface...

so the hole on the ground for the sumps is done! next clean up the area, start some building and a few more details.

unfortunately I have other thins to get done at the same time so it takes somehow longer...

I'll post some pictures right after the clean-up process (hopefully tomorrow - I'm very tired :( )

the rain got me in the second day of summer... no work outside today. no photos either. 

during the week I won't to any work outside since I get home to late for that.

I'll get on the plans and other stuff I have to do...

I'm evaluating if I'm going to make a sump with a liner instead of 2 IBC's. since I have to build brick walls (with external help that is :P ) I might make it a little bit better/smaller easier to maintain... and cover. smaller hole, less dangers of things that could fall in... (easier to get some crayfish in there)

more on this and other details soon :D

Hi all!

the construction of the first part has started! that is the sump... simply cos' its the hard one.

here's a photo:

and the sump construction starting:

its going to be just cinder-block and liner (blue reinforced liner, made to size)

its about the same cost in total materials ans time making it with a liner instead of 2 IBC totes. this smaller sump has enough total volume and could have a smaller cover for security.

the barrels will be ordered about next week... in order to test all the locations to plan the top cover for the system. kinda like this:

the other cover I made last year, it already took some beating and a few heavy rains, winds & storms so I'm comfortable on doing another one.

I'm yet to decide if I place fiberglass tiles on the roof, or just shading cloth (maybe both... I'm yet to decide... 1 more month on thinking and I could have the money to decide on the fiberglass tiles :P )

on the "corner" of the fish tanks it will have metal roof to shade it down a bit...

looking at this, I really need some paint on these walls... It might just happen this year... right around the time I start the system build (just barely before).

any outside ideas are welcome! I been having some really tiring weeks and I didn't even decided my vacations yet... I'm saving that time to build the system and/or the details around it...

its starting slow :)

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I've lost the weekend to "other problems" and rain... it should be summer but it rains twice a week (at least)

maybe tomorrow I'll have some news. but I'm going to work and will have little time...

Hi!

slight area correction. I took some measurements today, since I noticed one angle and viewed that the area is not quite like I drawn it...

here is a image to simplify:


so I might have to change a few things to make the space comfortable to use if I can't manage I'll leave out 6 beds until I find the right way to add them. the good part of this location is that I can expand to the terrain, I would just have to consider the rain of build a roof/greenhouse for the "other" group of growbeds :D

I am not going to start with all beds at once so 6 surely can wait :D

I've checked for the availability of the pumps today. they should be in stock and I might get them this week: models DAB Nova180 and DAB Nova200. I have one of this pumps Nova600 and I know they do preform flawlessly even with very little water to cool them out :D
they are designed to work permanently even in "warm" fluids so they do have a fair price comparing on all the other pumps I saw.

I can even get spare parts for this pump! even a screw or the complete motor so I'm going for them.
both of them are going to cost-me 300USD. pretty hard when I write it down but now I have my family putting pressure on me cos' they want to see the system working (so they help out more now!)
{breading in... breading out...} going for those pumps!
I got my mom investigating about the soil medium, I might have to go for a 33% leca to 66% rock... its hard to get the clay aggregate that is porous and eventually sinks down on the water... I can find hydroton but its expensive... I would need to breathe allot more than now, deciding on the pumps...

I'll get to a workable solution. adding rock would step up the weight and my back is going to hate me for that...

sleep time :)

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