Aquaponic Gardening

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Hey all, im in the process of building my system which consists of, 200 gal of fish tank, 120 gal sump tank, 4x8' growbed, 88 ft of 5" nft channels folowing that, 1 drip bucket for tomatoes or green tea tree, and a 4 tier e+f seedling system.  Im about 3 days out from completing as im waiting for some supplies to come in to from local hydro store.  Ill share the pics that i have so far and will keep everyone updated as the system progresses. Im planning on growing tilapia in this system. There is one window in the room for supplemental light; for the rest of the plant lighting, i will have 1 1000W dimmable HID on a light mover, 1 400W dimmable HID on a light mover, and some T5 single strip lights for more supplemental lighting. The last picture shows that all the sides r zippered and velcro-ed for roll up walls (needed in order to plant and harvest nft channels.  Thanks for checking my future system; ill update when i put in the nft channels going vert.up the walls.  :)   Also any suggestions are always gr8!


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AJ says: "Each person has their own goals/desires for their AP system."

Harold says: And that's exactly how you'll teach me or anyone else about what you've discovered from your experience.That's the fun about AP, it's always exciting and there is no one way to do it! You think straight up Aquaculture is boring? Well, if all of us were to build the same duplicate AP system from some standard AP manual I think I would have been snoring by now and the discussions would have been limited enough. Are you going to post some update pics?

Right on Harold.  I think plain aquaculture is dull in comparison to AP, mainly because of the variability and diversity of life forms in AP.

Yeah, ill post some pictures soon.  I didnt have time to take the photos before i harvested the basil, but it has almost grown back already and its only been 3 days lol!  The basil's growth is not very dense (long internodal spacing), but it is really fast. 

I have filled about 3/4 of the NFT channels with plants, and i started about 50 more seeds. My plant list is starting to get fairly diverse.  It includes: many strains of lettuce, many strains of basil, many strains of bok choi, many strains of mustard greens, swiss chard, mizuna, claytonia, h20cress, radicchio, chives, Bulls Blood beets (yummy dark maroon edible leaves), Chinese cabbage, tatsoi, sorrel, and turnips.  I just started some: Parsley, rosemary, thyme, more bok choi, more h20cress, and some more swiss chard.


On the aquatic life, i should be getting the tilapia i ordered in 4-6 weeks.  All the suppliers seem backed up due to spring fever :)  I order 35 Red Claw Crawfish today, and they will be here next Wednesday.  Im really excited about the Red Claws, they are super fun looking, and they provide bio-available phosphorus, calcium, and over 15 other trace minerals to the H20 in the AP system.  I haven't ate one before, but i dont think they are called the freshwater lobster for nothing :)

Burton, all i have to say is damn.  Thanks for drawing a diagram for me, i really appreciate the time and effort you took to make my system better.  This is why i love a forum like this, i would have never though of it like that. I think you just gave me another project to work on! (if i dont have enough already hah)  I think what you drew is gr8, and i will have to add something like that to my system.  It may take me a few weeks before i get to it, but i have the time since my fish arent gona be here for a little bit. 

A few questions about that design,

  1. Should i have one of those filter setups for each of my FT's or could i run both into one filter?
  2. Are all those PVC parts available at the local hardware store (lowes, HD, etc)?  I am assuming so.
  3. Would there be any benefit to have 2 if the 4" PVC filters instead of one for each filtration setup?  If i could fit it, i was thinking about this because 1 could be a swirl filter/clarifier and the other could be a mineralization tank (filled with orchard netting like the UVI model).
  4. Is the reason to draw water from the bottom of the FT to get some of the solid matter? If so, does it work/make a difference in comparison to gravity overflow from the surface of the FT h20?

Thank you so much again Burton! You the man!

1. you could run both to one filter as long as the outflow goes to both your out takes of course  (assuming your keeping two out takes on bed)

2. Yeah I wouldn't put anything in there you couldn't get at the local hardware store :)


3. see now your thinking ! you could use another 4" pipe with a "moving bed" filter there was someone in the AP community using a version of this with "straws" as the media here ... many variations on this and it will fill with biomass :)

So you could put a moving bed filter under the "optional" filter on my diagram and put a bubbler on the bottom ... so many options lol


If you have the room you could place several levels of filters like big koi ponds use (at least 3 where the first removes solids) and the second two have media like the moving bed filter with a bubbler in each.


4. I assumed you were pulling the solids from the bottom already with the overflow based on the images above, but I don't know how well it would actually do this.



On a side note I have been thinking of a way to keep the bottom of a tank clearer. It might involve another small pump however, as using the overflow from the main pump would just create a cycle. But you could place a pipe around the edge of a tank (or on one side at the bottom of the tank) with holes in it to direct the water from said pump into said pipe forcing the solids at the FT bed level toward a desired location (like the inlet of a pump :) )



Hi AJ,

From the crop you're growing you can get away with loads of filtration as long as you maintain your nitrates.Personally I like large filtration units because they require less cleaning and allows waste to stay in the AP longer, helps the AP from going anaerobic longer and allow more nutrient to stay in the system. I think the more we can squeeze nutrient from fish waste rather than throwing it away the better.

Thanks for the input guys.  I will draw up some plans sometime this week for my "Macgyvered" filtration system.

Here are some pictures i just took.

^Early Palla Rosa Radicchio^

^Australian Yellow Leaf Lettuce^

Affnan has a nice prefilter but he is using smaller pipe and I think his is fed via a pump ... I am going to work out some more designs for you I have been thinking of :) to give you more options for when you design your filter


Might try to make a version of this as well :)

How much room do you have under you tanks? Oooo just had an awesome idea going into illustrator :)

ok here is how this will work.

This is placed between your two FT's at an angle to maximize space and make the ball valve easier to get to.


1. Ok water comes in through both tanks via a 2" T fitting upper left via overflow

2. This travels through a 2" pipe to the 4" pipe via a 2" x 4" x 4" fitting (might want to flip the fitting on the drawing)

3. Sediment will then settle in the first 4" tube while water climbs toward the top of the tube while it tries to equalize to the fill line in the tanks (note the fill line)

4. Water then travels out of the first 4" pipe into a 2" pipe (to save space) however you like, I would suggest a uniseal.

5. Water then enters near the bottom of the second 4" pipe via uniseal (or other) from the 2" pipe at this point most all solids should be removed. notice the 2" pipe, when entering the 4" pipe at the bottom, almost or DOES touch the side of the pipe, this is to prevent bio media entering this pipe.

6. The PINK area is your bio filter material, typically this stuff does not float well BUT don't fill so much that you have to worry about them coming out of the out-take at the top OR add a screen. 

7. After coming into the second pipe the water will meet your bio filter and an airstone placed after the 2" input pipe to prevent back-flow.

8. The bio filter does its dance (since air is traveling through it and no it doesn't need light) and water travels up the pipe to the out-take to find its way to the grow bed.


Now I dont care how you connect the first pipe to the second just make sure to connect top to bottom and leave extra room in both pipes.


Also you dont have to have an airstone in the pipe, but it would make more bubbles, either way however you will need air pumped into the media to turn it into a bio filter.


Depending how you rig this up you could have several of these bio filters in series, just remember to keep the tops open enough for air to escape (yeah you can cap them if you want but don't glue them on)



While this may not be the final system you come up with, and most likely it wont, it will get you thinking about options you might not have before :)

Thanks again burton, ideas are flowing through my head!   Ill have to draw something up soon for the design phase.  This will be interesting.

I was hoping you would wake up late so I could update the design above which would be cheaper :)


Let me draw it out to replace the first 4" tube in this system. Also you can do this all in ONE tube if you screen off part of the tube, i will draw that out too hehehe

If using small container at bottom instead of pipe it should be air tight


"screen" material should be something allowing high flow but not allowing the media from above to come down into the sediment area. I like this design too because even if sediment got up into the bio filter it can fall back down into the lower area.

The sediment area should probably be bigger than the pipe section with the bio media to ensure it settles OR increase the size bellow where the pipe enters from FT1/2 to give it more room to settle.

Nice designs burton.  They are all good options.  Space is my main concern, obviously space efficiency, but also just being able to fit into my unique scenario.  I took some measurements and my space is really limited, but i think i can fit something in there.  Im liking that last one you drew the best so far.  With one of those for each of my FT (2 total).   I was thinking instead of doing a moving bed biofilter in there i was thinking of putting in orchard netting (like UVI) because daily or every other day cleaning/maintenance is not a problem for me.  I was also thinking this because i can add a moving bed biofilter directly to my FT as shown in the link you sent me earlier, so i could have both.  One question about the moving bed biofilter is, dooes the media in it need to be cleaned or washed? If so, how often? 


I appreciate the time again, its really cool of you.

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