Aquaponic Gardening

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My greatest concern is FISH TANK MATERIAL. Is there a place where I can quickly see the pros and cons of different materials?

I know that several materials can leach plastics or other undesirables into the water.  What material is the most non-reactive, durable, and affordable? I am looking to get something in the 250 gallon (925 L) ballpark. I don't want to have to go through the intensive cleaning processes that have been described concerning some of the tank options. I want a tank for the long haul with little maintenance and upkeep.

I've seen this option, which is a fiberglass tank from Australia.

Any thoughts on this design/material? Any feedback is greatly appreciated!

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HDPE plastic is the most inert and generally a good choice for aquaculture tanks if you don't have the money for a beautiful figerglass tank and don't have the skills or know how to build one yourself.

IBCs are made of HDPE but you mention not wanting to mess with cleaning them, you might be able to find one new or already clean if you are willing to pay extra.

However, if you can find a rotomolding plastics manufacturing company in your area, you might be able to buy a nice round aquaculture tank from them.  I know the place not too far from me will sell the "factory seconds" quite cheap, they are the ones that have some minor cosmetic problem but are still structurally sound.

If you go fiberglass you want to make sure it is either made with food grade resin or has a proper gel coat.

If you go with metal tanks they need to be lined to keep the galvanized coating from leaching zinc into the water which would harm fish.

If you go with plastic, polyethylene (either HDPE or LDPE) is generally the safest.

Liners are a huge subject.  There are liners out there that have food grade ratings even though they are made with plasticizers that will leach into the water (flexible PVC or vinyl.)  There are other liners out there that don't get the "food grade" rating but that have been used long term in aquaponics with no known issues (EPDM).  then there is a PE liner durascrim that gets the food grade rating and it is nice and white, however it is not very flexible for folding into anything but rather simple rectangles (don't try to make an ornamental pond with it.)

Hope this helps some.

What about the Rubbermaid and Tuff Tubs agriculture products available at Tractor Supply? Are they FDA approved or made fromHDPE? I use the rubbermaid 55gallon hard plastic as my grow beds with river rock. I love it because it doesn't bow and seems crazy sturdy for a few year's use. Am I leaching chemicals as we speak?

I don't believe the Rubbermaid or tuff tubs stock tanks have an NSF stamp for food or potable water grade.  I know the rubbermaids are HDPE structural foam but they won't claim food grade though they must be feed grade at least and many people use them for aquaculture and I've even heard of people using them as birthing tubs.  The Tuff Tubs, I think are LDPE, they use them as feed troughs and water troughs for animals but they don't claim them as food grade.  So apparently they are good enough for feeding our food with but no one will say that they are "food grade" does that make them good enough, I guess you will have to make your own call.

There are companies out there who sell stock tanks and aquaculture tanks that are made with all FDA and USDA compliant materials. 

Yes, I've seen a few and even one in FL but it seems they're at least twice the cost and I've never seen or touched one in person so I don't know how durable they are. To sell to the public as backyard aquaponics gardens, they'll need to be FDA approved I'm assuming. I was hoping to make them affordable. Plus, I like the rubbermaids as they're not square which should technically reduce anaerobic spots.

Well, I've also found that it is hard to sell rubbermaid tanks when people can get them for the same price you can from Tractor supply.  If you want to sell kits, you need to be able to bet the product for less than you intend to charge for it, in which case you need to find a manufacturer that will sell you the tanks for cheaper than the customers can get them retail.  I've found that rubbermaid isn't really interested unless you are buying whole truck loads at a time.

The really challenging thing with tanks, is they are costly to ship since they are big and yet mostly air.  It also tends to cost more to ship freight by common carrier to residential addresses.  So, if you have a big truck, find a manufacturer close to home that already makes the type container you want.

Yeah, I'll definitely get back in touch with the FL manufacturer once I get my EIN. You build your own beds, right? How do you like the tanks you sell? How long do they seem to be lasting in our FL environment? Would you use them for beds or do you think bowing will be a real issue with them?

The Poly tank I've had on the tower system seems good.  I've not gotten several more poly tanks.  The blue one seems to be holding up well.  Of course now I'm putting my fish tanks in the new Fish shed so they won't be out in full sun all the time.

I've built some beds and I've used 100 gallon Rubbermaid Stock tanks as beds and both work. 

As far as poly tanks as beds?  Are you thinking of the mortar tubs?  Those need an awful lot of support/reinforcement to keep them from bowing and cracking.

My tank is 440 gal, round fiberglass with gel coat.  Con:  expensive.  Pros:  vortex in the tank drives solids to the middle for pump pickup.  Grow Bed drains enter fish tank at the top and pickup is at the bottom - that, in conjunction with the vortex gives a good mixing so there are no anaerobic zones or low O2 zones.  I like it.  The fish seem to like it, although I wonder if I have too much current in it at the moment - they're swimming a lot.  They seem to be very healthy and feed like little Sumo Wrestlers.  I'd say the positive attributes of my tank have more to do with it being round than with the fiberglass construction.  Once you start shopping round tanks and shipping, there may not be a huge difference in price.  Fiberglass is durable and repairable.

I don't really know which tubs I have in mind for the beds because I want/need the strength to avoid bowing and have not been able to actually put my hands on anything to get a feel for it. That's I'm so partial to the rubbermaid 55 gallons for the media beds. They're 13" high with hard, rigid plastic. I had a current going in the fish tank, but it's down to a minimum until I get it on a timer and indexer. My fish, too, seemed to like a little action in the tank. I'll never get a square tank and will they not to get square beds. The rubbermaid above is oval. It ends up being just under 10' square in area.

Expense is an issue.

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