Aquaponic Gardening

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I am working on planning my first system.  I live in a 700 square foot apartment, so it's going to have be pretty compact and tidy (it's going in my living room).  Still, it's important to me to grow food fish (tilapia).  I have my eye on a galvanized steel 175 gallon stock tank (6x2x2), and I have a 4x2x1 fiberglass sink I'd like to convert to a grow bed.  It sits on a steel stand, which I hope to modify to sit over the fish tank. For lighting, I was thinking 4 x t8, but am still exploring. The grow bed will sit directly in front of a large window that gets direct morning sun, so that will help quite a bit.

 

I want to do drain/fill, but don't know how to set it up yet.  There's so much marketing and crap to wade through doing searches... can anyone direct me to some good reading to further my project design? Also, any feedback on my ideas so far would be more than welcome.

 

Thanks!

Ellen

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You can go to the forum, groups and blogs sections here and do key-word searches on topics that you may be interested in.  There has been discussions on galv steel recently, and drainage you want to look for flood and drain, continuous flow, loop siphon, bell siphon, timed flood and drain etc.  For scaling issues you may want to look at Dr. Lennard's calculator, while lighting issues are addressed in the group on artificial lighting.  I think the past discussions may answer some of your questions or at least clarify the questions that you may have to the point that you feel more comfortable with the design.  There is a mass of info here but few people know where or how to look for it since the search function became a bit more cryptic.

 

If you are done looking and still have issues, this place is full of people that will help you without the marketing crap feel.  Best of luck.

Hi Ellen and Welcome.

 

Beware the galvanized tank would need to be coated or lined to keep it from leaching zinc into the water if the pH drops too low.

 

Sounds as though your primary goal is fish, is that correct?

 

Normally for an aquaponics system to balance out well, you want at least equal volume of grow bed as fish tank.  With such a small grow bed compared to your fish tank, you may find you need additional filtration and perhaps solids removal to keep from getting too much nitrates in your water and/or having clogging issues in your grow bed.

 

There is an artificial lighting group on here that can probably help you figure out how much light you need.  Plants will grow under almost any light, however how well they grow/produce is going to be very linked to the quality/amount of light you give them.

 

Also plan on adding an occilating fan to you plans since air movement is very important to keeping plants healthy and pest/disease free indoors.

 

Other options that might be worth looking into for fish tanks and grow beds are the rubbermaid stock tanks which would not need lining or coating.  I currently have a set up where one 100 gallon stock tank is a fish tank and next to it is another 100 gallon tank with media in it that runs constant flood/flow and hanging over the fish tank are 4 towers with plants as well.  That little system is currently running with a 50 watt pump plus some air and I have over 200 tiny bluegill fingerlings currently in quarantine in there.  To grow out say tilapia or blue gill in such a set up I would probably reduce down to 10-12 fish but that is just me not liking to crowd the fish for grow out having most of my experience with big catfish.

 

good Luck in your searching.

Thank you Kobus for the search terms!  I am excited to start digging around the site.

 

TCLynx - thanks for the tips, especially on the steel stock tanks!  I know a set-up for optimum efficiency should have more grow beds, but I don't have the room right now.  I'm coming into this project from the aquarium hobby - I really enjoy breeding fish.  There's an asian grocery in town here that has tilapia live in a tank for sale. I bought one (to eat) and it was female, so I'm thinking of just buying a few adult fish (4?) from there and trying to breed them.  I wanted the big tank because I'm not inclined to put such a big fish in a box smaller than that.  I am not expecting to eat a lot of fish from this set up.

 

Maybe I could make some kind of pre-filter to help with solid waste build-up.  I don't mind doing water changes to lower nitrate levels if the plants can't keep up.  I was thinking of putting pool filter sand in the bottom of the fish tank to provide additional medium for nitrifying bacteria in the system, and to make a more natural environment for the fish.  I hear they like to dig.

For aquaponics I generally wouldn't advise any media in the bottom of the tank unless you intend to clean it the way you would clean in an aquarium on a regular basis.  Build up of fish waste in media in the bottom of a tank can get pretty nasty unless you set it up with a good under gravel filter.  However, tilapia will re-arrange the furniture and many people have found they need a big piece of slate to keep the male tilapia from uncovering the under gravel filter.
I've heard of a 'reverse UGF' that pumps water up through the gravel, pushing solids up into the water column so they can be pumped out. I was thinking of trying it. 'Anybody done it before?

Also, I was thinking of buying an IBC tote and cutting the top foot off, 1. So it will fit in my door, and 2. so I can use the top as a grow bed! Added to the fiberglass sink, this would nearly triple my grow bed capacity. There's a nice one on CL right now for $50... can't beat it with a stick, I reckon! :P

'Started poking around plumbing little bit. I need to do a lot more reading here to figure out how things need to be laid out.

I have never seen this in any design (the upflow filter) but many AP and aquaculture designs utilize an overflow in the FT with a T-piece extending to the bottom of the FT to entrain solids from the bottom.  Essentially, do you want to create an overflow system driven by upflow from a return pump pumping water from a sump back into the FT?  I have operated a design before with an overflow, tilapia and no gravel.  It worked fine for a year and the water was very clear when I took it down.  What you suggest sounds like adding gravel and dropping the return flow pipe all the way to the bottom of the FT?

 

One thing that concerns me is that, IF the power cuts out, you may no have a siphon system sucking water from the FT back to the sump. Not sure what pump system you have planned but you will not be able to redirect any of the pump flow in an open line anywhere in the system that can turn into a siphon loop when the power goes.

Ellen Roelofs said:

I've heard of a 'reverse UGF' that pumps water up through the gravel, pushing solids up into the water column so they can be pumped out. I was thinking of trying it. 'Anybody done it before?

Also, I was thinking of buying an IBC tote and cutting the top foot off, 1. So it will fit in my door, and 2. so I can use the top as a grow bed! Added to the fiberglass sink, this would nearly triple my grow bed capacity. There's a nice one on CL right now for $50... can't beat it with a stick, I reckon!

'Started poking around plumbing little bit. I need to do a lot more reading here to figure out how things need to be laid out.

Hi Ellen!

Another thing to be conscious about is weight of the system since you live in an apartment . A gallon weighs approx 8 lbs. so plan accordingly. 

Ellen your grow bed will have about 60 gal capacity so your tank is way big. Just fill it to  60 gal it thats all you have. Use a pond liner in your tank or paint it with pool paint to protect you and the fishies from zinc. Send pics and these guys will be all over it on how to put it together.
Thanks Dave!  Is the plumbing forum the best place for such a thread?

David Waite said:
Send pics and these guys will be all over it on how to put it together.
Yes - an important consideration!  I am drawing up a footprint for the system with estimated weights to show to a buddy of mine who's a civil engineer.  Hopefully he will be able to help me figure out how to distribute weight well and how much weight I can have.

Chi Ma said:

Hi Ellen!

Another thing to be conscious about is weight of the system since you live in an apartment . A gallon weighs approx 8 lbs. so plan accordingly. 

Ellen your weight of water and gravel in the tank and the grow bed will be about 800 to 950 lbs depending on your gravel. This is not out of line with a waterbed in most apts. Double check with your architec but If you can put the tanks side by side and not on top of each other you will spread the load over more floor joists and you will be ok. IF mula is not a factor hydroton is much lighter than gravel but you still have water weight to deal with. A water bed can have 125 gal and weight over 1200 lbs so you are much less than that if you dont stack your system on a couple of floor joists. Not sure of the best forum for your plumming but I and all these guys will help you with some pics and details. Good luck.
Well you can certainly ask questions here on your own thread about plumbing but you might be able to use the search function in the plumbing forum to find some information too.

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