Aquaponic Gardening

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Hello everybody, my name is Steve and I live in England.

I'm really pleased that I've found an aquaponics forum, as it feels like I want to try something that nobody over here has heard of!! I've been watching aquaponics on YouTube for months now, and some time ago I decided it was something I would like to give a go. I've been buying things off ebay, to try and make starting up more affordable. I will just be trying a 'backyard' system first, and anybody who's been to the UK will know that means small! I've not really set a plan in motion, but here's a list of my equipment so far:

Main tank, around 6 feet diameter and 4 feet tall

4 IBC's

2 external sequential? pumps

2 internal pumps (both around 6000LPH)

Around 30 trays 3' x 2' x 8" deep

An evacuated tube solar panel, for daytime heating

An electric heater for overnight heating

A polytunnel for everything to go in, around 24' x 18'

A small tank around 4' diameter x 2.5' deep

A small tank around 5.5' long x 3.5' wide x 2.5' deep

A vortex filter about 2.5' diameter

I would like to grow tilapia, which is why I have bought heaters, but of course there will be costs to do that.

I am completely open to ANY advice, suggestions, or experiences to get me under way, and particularly to anybody who lives in a cooler climate and heats their system. Does anybody else out there use solar heating on their system?

I'm hoping to get a plan in place soon, and get going as soon as possible.

Looking forward to corresponding to you soon,


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Wow Steve what a comprehensive list.

Suggestion other than flying me over there to help is line the insides with barrels of water as heat sinks as to give off heat in the evening.

Diagram it out and share it with us.

Most of all welcome.


Hi Jay, and thanks for your reply. I guess I was hoping somebody might suggest a particular type of set-up or style of system might suit my location and equipment. I think that it's going to have to be a trial and error system!

As I have not read any books, and only watched YouTube clips, I'm fairly uneducated in the whole subject. I understand the basic principle, but have no idea of the details - which may prove to be problematic, or maybe fun !!

The basics of the system I will try, are - 

Up to 5 fish growing tanks, which will NOT be highly stocked.

An in-line pump connecting to all tanks, with the output going into a vortex (swirl) filter to remove the large solids.

The vortex filter will be positioned quite high, maybe 7 feet, to allow good gravitational flow to 2 similarly sized filters with filter media, brushes etc.

Gravitational flow from these filters to the grow beds.

Small, individual grow beds (3 feet by 2 feet)  located on multiple shelves on racking above the fish tanks, hopefully about 30 in total. Some grow beds as raft, some with growing media and syphons.

Several vertical grow tubes, up to 9 feet tall, to utilise full height of polytunnel.

All grow bed/tube output flowing into 1 of 2 sump tanks (connected together), with a pump feeding back into the main tanks, via an in-line heater (overnight only).

An independent, closed-loop system, running during daylight from the 2x evacuated tube solar heating panels, passing through the water in one of the sump tanks, using a copper coil to transfer the heat.

That is the plan for my system so far.

You might be wondering why several main tanks on a small system? The only reason for this, is to hold a much larger volume of water, to try and cut down on high fluctuations of temperature, ammonia levels etc.

I realise that commercial applications aim to stock fish growing tanks to maximum density, but in the 'backyard' situation I believe that fish will be happier and grow quicker if allowed much more volume of water per fish.

If any of you see a fatal flaw in my plan, please let me know. I'm eager to learn from you experienced guys out there. More than that, please wish me luck as I dip my toes into this captivating subject.

I thought copper was a no-no, due to its toxicity to microbes (and fish). ?

Thanks Jeffrey - I'm learning already!!

Jeffrey Ihara said:

I thought copper was a no-no, due to its toxicity to microbes (and fish). ?

Jonathan Paul Grenard said:

The heat Loop.  

I used a Stainless Steel coil from a beer brewing company.  Its actual use is for cooling beer.  The coil came standard with hose bib fittings.  I have it hooked up to my boiler.  The Coil is 50' of 1/2" Stainless Steel it was rated at 22,000 BTW and my boiler is 88,000 BTUs.  I was worried that the boiler would overheat but the small coil takes all the heat from the boiler and the boiler does not over heat.  So far i have not noticed any correction Stainless Steel heating Coil.   

Copper is safe for Domestic water but the high amounts of oxygen in a AP system will likely oxidize the copper.  I'm not sure of how safe Stainless Steel is but it is my opinion that it is much safer than copper.  I was originally going to use pex but the heat transfer of pex sucks.

The sequencing valves.  

You wont really have to worry about this as your system description does not have these being used.  But they were in the parts list so i though i might put in my two cents worth.   

I was going to use sequencing valves on my system.  I bought one to run 4 grow beds.  After getting it i noticed that it needed 10 PSI to operate properly.  10PSI is the same as a pump that can pump water up to about 22-24 feet.  My pumps are much smaller so i did not end up using the sequencing valves.   

My grow beds are made of IBC totes.  I have found that the best way to cut them into grow beds is to cut them into a left and right side as your looking at the tank instead of the standard top and bottom.  BTW My tanks have the square bars, and i don't know the best way to cut the ones with round bars.  To fill the grow beds i ran a 1" line with a reducer at the bed.  I reduced the flow to 25 gallons an hour.  This worked poorly.   The bell system required constant adjustment.  sense then i have Bought A Neptune Apex Controller.  THe controller is AWESOME.  Now I run each flood drain bed on its own pump.  The Pump turns on to fill the bed, and runs a little longer to guarantee the the syphon is started.  The pump than turns of for a set period of time.  The bed now fills all the way and drains all the way and i don't have problems.  The neptune also soft starts the pumps to increase life expectancy.  

All About My Boiler Setup 

If you have access to natural gas i would use this any day over solar hot water.   Not to bad mouth solar hot water but a boiler will most likely be much cheaper and will always have heat when you need it.   

First my boiler came from my parents house and they almost wanted it back after there new fancy boiler has had nothing but problems.  My new used boiler will heat 250 gallons of water very very fast.  It does not have to run in the summer and barely works in winter.  It is an old 1985 standing pilot boiler.  It has very few parts.  You send power to a small transformer that opens the gas valve and 120 volt power for a water pump.  It also has a high temp cut off that kills power to gas valve when the water gets to hot.  The gas valve can only open if the pilot light is lit and the water is not to hot.  The boiler is VERY SIMPLE.  

    The boiler has a extension cord coming out of the side and when you pug in the cord it turns on.  WHen you unplug the boiler it turns off.  The cord is plugged into a digital crock pot line voltage thermostat.   The Crop pot Thermostat pugs into the wall and has a temperature prob that goes into the water.  It sends power to the boiler when needed.  

To add redundancy to the system, the crock pot Thermostat is plug into my Neptune apex controller so there are Two line voltage Thermostats that both have to call for temperature before the boil can get 120V AC power.  This redundancy makes me less scared.  I had worried of what might happen if the thermostat in the water somehow read air temp or the wire come loose.  If this were to happen the system could call for heat and not turn off resulting in cooked fish.  

Costs of putting in my boiler


Getting the gas to my boiler was about $600 witch included...

                40' of ridged gas pipe though basement   $150

                60' of underground gas line with connectors $320 

                drilling holes through foundation of house for gas line  ~$50

                Running Gas line to greenhouse $100

I used an old 88,000 BTW boiler from a house that had been replaced by a high efficiency boiler.  It would have cost $1400-$2200

 Other costs totaled about... $930

                Running Exhaust pipe for boiler $200

                 A new circulation pump for boiler $90 

                A digital T-stat with temp probe for fish tank  $100

                New Expansion tank   $40

                Water pressure reducer and backflow preventer $100

                Pipe from boiler to heat loop with fittings $150

                Heat loop  $150 

                other unaccounted costs   $100

Total cost to hook up boiler was about  ~$1,530

The boiler would have cost ....    about  ~$1,800

Total cost                                                ~$3,330

I estimate that the boiler will only be using about $12 of gas a month on the average over the year.

 Total Cost of gas over a year                 $144 

For my installation the cost of the gas was a very small part.  I believe that the cost of installing a solar heat system would be so great that it would not overcome the cost of gas.  Of course i do live in Colorado USA where natural gas is very cheep.  

i'm to tied to edit so i hope this is readable.  

Hey Steve,
Great hearing from you, I signed on a couple of days ago, I used to call Dover my home. What is going to be your fish choice for your tanks?
I'm hoping to raise tilapia, but will be dependant on heating costs. If not tilapia, then some form of cold water fish that is good to eat!!
I am very aware of the fickle British winters, are you able to get Trout?
Are you going to try and sell your produce or is it for home?
I am looking at bream and perch for summer and, depending on those results, Trout over the winter months.

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