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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Oh my gosh - you (and your family) are ambitious!  How wise to document all of this. At least everyone will enjoy the fruits of your labor down the road.

Btw, I love organic honey. I get some clover honey shipped from Tennessee every few months or so, as I like to bake with it, besides using it for iced/tea.

Anyway - Good luck with your plans!...

Hi!

I have little news and no photos but! I've glued down all the roof sheets to the wood to prevent noise made by the wind... the tile/sheets were bumping and vibrating with the wind so, glue!

I'm either installing the lights to work/maintain/harvest the system at night time...

noting very serious, just the small details we can't catch on a photo...

sleep time. I have lots of work, I'm already doing over-time... tired!

Reg. R. said:

Oh my gosh - you (and your family) are ambitious!  How wise to document all of this. At least everyone will enjoy the fruits of your labor down the road.

Btw, I love organic honey. I get some clover honey shipped from Tennessee every few months or so, as I like to bake with it, besides using it for iced/tea.

Anyway - Good luck with your plans!...

Night time gardening, ey? That's a creative idea. Good luck with the lights....

Hi,

its more a condition than an idea... I tend to get caught up in work and, some days, I get home at night time... so I will need some lighting to keep the system even on those days...

its actually a simple job (I'm an electrician :P) some fluorescent lights here and there will do the trick :D

I'm going the sheep way :D I've installed the minimal usable lighting to keep the wattage low.

3x 18W between the growbeds (one for each row) so I can pick up tomatoes even at night :D

2x 18W on the fish tanks side (separate circuit) cos' I need to feed the fish (sometimes at night...)

I've cheated on the installation. I can turn on/off the GB lights from the kitchen & from a switch on the "last" pole near my bedroom window. I only have to stretch my arm from my window to turn them on/off :D

the fish tank side has the same possibility, but not from the kitchen. only from the same pole and another one right by the side of the tanks.

right now I use the lights to work on the system when I come from work... today I'll just rest! I'm way to tired and need some sleep

tomorrow I'll actually install the switches and cables (& last 2 fluorescent lights on the tanks side)

and... start on the sump lid : safety issues at the very least! I have a crazy (almost) 3 years old nephew that loves water, sea, swimming pool, so the sump would at least be tempting for him...

fish tanks stands (height & leveling correction) and some measurements to order some wall-mate styrofoam for the tanks.

it will block most of the light & help out on keeping the temperature from extremes.

further down the road I will probably add a passive black tube solar collector to keep the water warmer during the winter (but that I will measure first... a simple max/min thermometer will do the trick :D

more tomorrow! I must sleep now :)


Reg. R. said:

Night time gardening, ey? That's a creative idea. Good luck with the lights....

Hi,

little done by this weekend... I went out with my cousins and this Sunday, I had a bad hangover... "I'll never drink again!" yeah right...

anyway, I have the lights installed (and antenna distribution to the hole house, LAN for the TV, all wires are fixed and tidy under this roof. so those tasks are done and away, I still have to clean, fix and paint some walls around the house but I'll manage to squeeze that in my time.

the fish tanks cages are set and leveled once I cut & clean the IBC plastic, cut the top side for the lid and clean it up again I can get them installed  and recheck for the level, make some adjustments and wait for the rest of the work around the system goes.

the round tank stand is on place, being leveled to place the round tank and make any levels adjustments as well.

I hope this week is less stressful & time taking like the last one... I need to work on the system everyday to get this done quick...

and a photo:

my father is also doing some more work around the system. it will enlarge the area a little bit in the front and will have the place for the agriculture drip irrigation tank. that and some more work around the house.

I do use the system as an excuse to get done some of the pending thins on the to-do list that and I use it to fix areas around the house. I push on my father to get working and that is good for him, and us :D next year, we should get him plowing some terrain for us to plant more vegetables, potatoes, corn, list goes on.

it take time... but I like the results!

one of the things I'm going to add on this system is a 200mm tube in the very front of the roof, for some pumpkin, water melon and some other plants that crawl on vast lands :P like so, I'll just have to "drive" the shoots to the front of the terrain and some time later, harvest some fruits :D

I don't know when, but I will add that :D

sleep time!

Hi all!

I've been "just" doing some planning and shopping. I'm getting near the end on the pluming parts.

I'm yet to pass the plans to the computer... I've done them by hand on paper whenever I find the time.

I'm work-stressed and I need some vacation... I was 1 week away and it seems that no one has done anything and left it for me...

now I'm re-investigating about the filters and I have a few doubts (but I can't ask yet since I'm "too" confused.)

I plan to have a radial flow filter (125Lt barrel to keep up with the flow) a bio-filter and a sand-filter

I don't really know "were" to put the bio VS the sand filter... which should go first in order to work better?

part from that. its going :D

I need to sleep and relax... I keep on forgetting things and details...

sleep time!

Sounds like you deserve a much-needed break!  :)  I know the feeling; I'm past due for a vacation! 

Good luck with the filter and all....

Regina

I do need a break... I have one more week to work and then 2 weeks vacation! :D

I'm going for a radial flow filter > sand filter > moving bed bio filter, feed by gravity.

I'm having trouble finding a sand filter design suitable for gravity feed from the radial flow filter... (into the bio-filter)

I found a sand filter design that should be feed by the pump, and draining to the GB's/FT's... this design does not work for me right now.

I need a gravity feed sand filter, can anyone point one out to me?

on the bio-filter, I'm pointing at a moving bed bio-filter. maybe down the line I could buy some kaldness K1 or some bio-media.

sleep time again! tomorrow I'll be finishing up the fish tank side (except for the water feed and drains)

see you tomorrow! :D


Reg. R. said:

Sounds like you deserve a much-needed break!  :)  I know the feeling; I'm past due for a vacation! 

Good luck with the filter and all....

Regina

Hi again!

I can't seem to find a gravity feed sand filter (except for a fluidized sand to help breakdown the solids that could pass thru the radial flow filter).

I'm going for a radial flow 120Lt filter, draining to a set of bio-filters:

One is static (trickle filter) with some bio-balls, PVC shavings, maybe some other materials to help out (bath puffs, brushes, others);
And a  moving bed bio-filter with some kaldness K1 (in 2 months I could buy some) or other neutrally buoyant bio-filter mediums.

I just don't know the order I should place the bio-filters the radial flow filter is set at first, that I'm sure :D

my best guess is the radial flow filter draining to the moving bed bio-filter and then to the trickle filter (then sump) anyone, please correct me if I'm wrong before I get working on them :D (gonna take some time but I'll get there :D)

this weekend I cutted, cleaned, placed, leveled and filled with water all the FT's then, I cleaned them again, drained the water, scrub again, hosed them down and drained them again.
its been said aquaponics use far less water than "normal" agriculture, erg...... yes, but only after cleaning :P

I rather have the trouble to clean twice and have less variables causing troubles... I used water from my well and it needs to be used to maintain the good quality and good working condition. the power is actually not very low but I can cope with that.

photos:

I've also placed the 1000Lt IBC for the agriculture and feed this system in place :D

Its raised about 90cm from ground so, with a 1" line down the terrain, it will feed the drip irrigation for some crops...

it will feed the system from an auxiliary tap maybe with a toiled flusher fill valve (sometime later :D )

I'm having trouble deciding the filters position behind the tanks. I might have them near the wall instead of the back of the fish tanks. I'm working on that and other details...

I'm way past bed-time and still to speed-ed up from work...

til' tomorrow! :D

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Looking good. Have you tried to find Hydrocorn?  It's very similar to hydroton but cheaper.Nice looking system. Good Luck and keep us posted

Hi!

hydrocorn is just ugly hydroton. Nice! I did not know this thing... I'll try to find it... nearly half the growbeds are going to be a coarse sand/pebbles that are used on water well drilling... clay aggregate are still on the list...

Jack Dunbar said:

Looking good. Have you tried to find Hydrocorn?  It's very similar to hydroton but cheaper.Nice looking system. Good Luck and keep us posted

Hi Xpim...you might want to forgo the sand. The International Organization for Standards (ISO 14688) grades sand into fine, medium, and coarse (coarse being 0.64mm to 2mm). In the US they sub-divide these 3 grades into 5 grades (the largest particle still not being over 2mm.

Sand, although having a wonderfully tremendous SSA (Specific Surface Area) which is great for providing our microbes surfaces to colonize...totally sucks in terms of percolation. Since the sand particles are small, there is very little void space between the individual particles of that media (the sand). This forces the water to 'trickle through it much slower than hydrocorn (or any other LECA [Light Expanded Clay Aggregate] materials), or common AP medias...expanded shale, quartz based rock etc...Most of the above people shoot for 12mm to 20mm particle sizes. There is much more void space in those other subrate medias. And since AP water is full of solids and fines you'll kinda appreciate (and eventually need...in a few months or so) that bigger void space/percolation.

Sand while having a great SSA, makes a very poor mechanical filter. Clogs very easily and tends to make a "mess", both physically and biologically, of things. 

Hydrocorn, while not as uniform and 'pretty' has been in my experience lighter, with more wicking capacity as hydroton'. I'mm betting it even has a slightly hihger SSA than hydroton (besides, they don't make hydroton anymore as far as I'm aware...your US alternative is 'Plant !t' brand LECA. (They also use the non-uniform spherical LECA in many lightweight concrete applications (the BMW Tower in Munich built in 1970 for example)...as well as drilling...Anyways...

You might do yourself good to stay away from sand (or any other media with a small particle size and poor percolation) as an AP media. I know 'sand culture' make have it's place and all, but if your intent on using it because it's cheap and readily available...be prepared to have extra stages of filtration and both solids and fines removal.

Also, if your sand is coral based sand, (Calcium Carbonate) and you have a water source from a limestone aquafer (also Calcium Carbonate) you may very likely (read: certainly) run into 'water quality management' issues that will not be good for the plants...nothing a pre-treating $3000Euro Reverse Osmosis filter couldn't take care of though (still they are very inefficient and not very water-wise

Again, many additional water quality management issues to deal with if you are set on using sand. 



Xpim said:

Hi!

hydrocorn is just ugly hydroton. Nice! I did not know this thing... I'll try to find it... nearly half the growbeds are going to be a coarse sand/pebbles that are used on water well drilling... clay aggregate are still on the list...

Jack Dunbar said:

Looking good. Have you tried to find Hydrocorn?  It's very similar to hydroton but cheaper.Nice looking system. Good Luck and keep us posted

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