Hey everyone, just got back home from college and it's time that I build my own system. I'm going to use the barrelponics design for now and tweak things along the way. I just have a couple of questions right now before I start building that I'm sure you guys could help me out with. I live in Massachusetts and I was wondering if I needed to shade the plants/fish from the sun if I build it on the south side of my house. It was pretty damn hot today and even my cacti and succulents suffered a little from the heat (given they are just getting a taste for the outdoors again)... and it's only the end of May.
Also, I don't know if any of you guys are familiar with the barrelponics design... but it doesn't seem like there is a solids filter before the raft system above the flood tank. I figured it's such a small raft system that it shouldn't be a problem, but just wondering.
My last question is pertaining to the water pump. I'm having a hard time figuring out what exact pump I need. I know he said at least 100g/hr at 5' but there are a ton of different types of water pumps with an incredible price range. I know I don't want a submersible pump. Your help would be appreciated...
Actually, a submersible pump can work just fine too. The important things to keep in mind when choosing a pump are.
1- make sure it is fish safe (no oil lubricant in it) and avoid metal other than stainless steel in contact with fish water.
2-look at the pump curves to make sure you will have the amount of flow you need at the required height. You want to pump at minimum the volume of your fish tank each hour of course if you get a pump that will move more than that you can divert some of the excess back into the fish tank for extra aeration.
3-look at power consumption, keep in mind a really cheap pump might seem like a good deal but if it uses three times the amount of power compared to another pump that could do the job then the electrical costs can add up. (Perhaps more of an issue as you get into bigger systems of course.)
I personally like the quiet One 4000 pumps but that might be a bit of overkill for barrelponics so a Quiet One 3000 might be a good option. These pumps can be installed as submersibles or as inline pumps.
With a barrel ponics system you may well need a bit of shade cloth over the system in the afternoon and definitely protect the fish tank from complete full sun since you will have algae problems if you don't. Barrel ponics is a small system so temperature swings can get pretty extreme.
He is building one of Travis Hughey's barrelponics systems. The basic system is a barrel on it's side as fish tank, two half barrel grow beds, a flush tank and on top a little bed that is usually done as a little raft bed.
As long as the fish load is kept really low, the top raft will probably do ok without solids filtration before it. I actually turned my top bed into a little gravel bed though when I still had my barrel ponics up and running. Now days I would probably only partially fill it with gravel and run a constant flood bed up there to grow water chestnuts in summer and watercress in the cool season (but I'm in FL and a totally different climate than Mass.)
As to pump sizing, if you were to get really hooked on this, you might want to add more to the system and expand, well if that is likely to be the case you might want to go a bit bigger than needed on the pump for the initial system.
Thanks for all the quick responses! I will have to construct some type of shaded roof, maybe with 75% shadecloth or something. As far as a pump goes, that Quite One 3000 looks pretty good and it's not too expensive. I have opaque barrels, so maybe I'll paint the fish tank white to make sure no sun is getting through.
I have one more question. How do you get all the sediments out from the bottom of the fish tank without a drain in the center? Does it need to be siphoned periodically?
Thanks for the help so far.
Glad to hear you are building one of my systems. You are in a large group of people who have built these and are using them in various forms to grow food for themselves. As far as pumps go, I really like the WP33 available at Aquatic Ecosystems. They are around 30 dollars and have worked for years on my systems here. When I wrote the manual I had not run on to them and a such they are not mentioned. As far as biosolids go, there are many opinions on the subject but I personally want to keep them in the system. That's right, they are part of the nutrient source for the system and removal of them requires addition of nutrients o make up for the loss. The top tank is a catchment area of sorts as well as the Flood Tank (not called a flush tank as some have said). Personally I grow water spinach and water hyacinth in my top tanks for fish feed and, in the case of water spinach, salad greens. If you want to keep the fish tank cool grow a vining plant (like pole beans or sweet potato) and train it over the fish tank. The shade and transpiration will keep the temp cool and help with algae buildup (if you are not using tilapia). As far as sediment, I am not sure what you are talking about. Never had that problem on a Barrel-Ponics system. Using a barrel on it's side channels any solid waste to the pump and things stay clean. You will also find it takes very few fish to grow a lot of plants. The system on the cover of the manual only has 4 tilapia the size of my hand in it for the growth you see there. I would also note the parts of the Barrel-Ponics system can be used to construct a larger system (10 barrel half growbeds) later on if you wish. Photo's of how to do this are in the photo's section of the barrelponics yahoo group should you wish to join.
Travis W. Hughey