I'm new to aquaponics and I'm in the process of setting up my first system. I'm using a 32 gallon container for the fish tank and only one 10 gallon grow bed to start. Right now I need a pump for my small setup.
Unfortunately most of the aquatic stores, Home Depot, Lowes, and Walmart's close to me (North West Phoenix Arizona) don't carry pond pumps in small sizes. I have been looking online for something cheap, but most of the pumps I find say "fountain pump" not "pond pump". I looked a few of them up on the manufactures websites and they specifically say "not for dirty (pond) water". Does that really matter since the pump doesn't lead to a traditional filter in aquaponics and we actually want the fish waste to be pumped?
I've also noticed that many of the pumps say that they only have a head height of a couple feet, but I want more than just a couple feet so that I can use this same pump as I expand my system to include additional grow beds (maybe 3-4 of the same size - or maybe shelves - I don't know yet). Eventually I would like to get an IBC tote with several hundred gallons, or something else that size, and it would be nice to not need to buy another pump at that time. If I need to spend a few extra bucks now to be able to use the same pump I'm okay with that, but the pump needs to be able to work with the small system I have now. Is that realistic or am I chasing dreams?
How big of a pump should I use for a 32 gallon tank leading to one 10 gallon grow bed, and where can I buy it online?
How big of a pump can I get for expansion that will also accommodate my current setup?
If you could provide links to where I can purchase your recommendations online that would be awesome. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
I am using a small (80gph) fountain pump and it works fine. But you will have to go to a larger pump to get more head hgt. If you think you will want to expand, get a large enough pump for your future size and head requirements, and put a diverter online. You can divert the excess water back to the sump or tank. Use it for aeration. Then when you do expand just decrease the amount you divert back to the tank.
For the current system and probably an upgrade or two, something like the Eco Pro 264 would probably do you. Be sure to plumb a bypass so you can divert the excess flow back into the fish tank. I don't really think getting a pump big enough for an IBC system and trying to run it on a 35 gallon fish tank is terribly realistic since diverting all that excess flow will probably totally wear out your fish swimming against a torrential current. For a IBC system I would probably recommend you get something closer to a Quite One 4000.
Do a search on the internet and reputable pump manufacturers should provide pump curves that will tell you how much water the pump will move at different heights.
Awesome. Thank you both for the advice. I don't know why I didn't think of diverting some of the flow back to the tank. That solves most of my problems. Thanks again!
Try looking for aquarium overhead filter pumps that are available in your area or local pet shop. Most are rated according to aquarium size.
You need to pump at least the volume of your fish tank at the height needed to feed your beds each hour.
So how high up will your grow bed be? And will you be pumping constantly or on a timer? Will the planter be constant flood or have a siphon? Will the water level fluctuation in the fish tank be ok?
As to planting in down spouts, you need to make sure the water going to that is filtered since fish waste building up in an NFT trough will negatively impact your plant growth in there (might seem fine the first few weeks but after that the plants tend to stunt and it can even become a stinking mess.)
I would probably recommend At least an Eco 264. I've never actually found a pump curve for it but I use them to feed my single tower set ups and they provide enough flow for a tower at 6 feet of head so I expect they will do for a 55 gallon fish tank at about 2 feet of head.
Grow beds with gravel do make good filtering. However if you are doing timed pumping the NFT trough might not fair so well since they normally get a constant small flow. If you are doing siphons, then the sudden gush from the siphon might be a problem in the NFT pipe.
It might work if you are running constant flood in the gravel beds to divert some of the flow from the drains to the NFT pipes.