Aquaponic Gardening

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I have retrofitted my aquariums in the house to work as an aquaponics system.  I am doing this to run as a pilot to watch my nutrient levels.  I have three tanks currently set up for aquaponics, all of which are set up for Fill & Drain with a bell siphon using pea gravel.  After washing 3 cubic feet of this, I have no idea how anyone washes a whole ton?

I have my 55 gallon aquarium with a 10 gallon tote above.  I use a simple aquarium pump to transfer water from the tank above to the growbed. 



I have used discount house plants sold at the local big box.  It was hard to turn down 67 cent plants!  There are a variety of plants to compare growth rates, light needs and fertilizer needs.
 



This 55 gallon aquarium has a wide variety of fish from the Wabash River.  The stocking density is fairly high for the tank, but I it was cycled before.  I'm hoping to reduce/eliminate (for the most part) water changes.  I want to put the nitrates to use, instead of dumping the water on the garden in the winter.



I also have two 10 gallon tanks to test.  Each has a 15L tote above with pea gravel and a bell siphon.I have again used discount house plants to grow. 


These tanks are stocked at a lower density to complete the cycles.  I'll add more fish soon.  They each also have a crayfish, which are always fun to observe.  Here is a pic of my favorite crayfish.  I named her Martha Stewart, because she loves to decorate her tank.  I constantly wake up to a new configuration of the stones in her tank! 



**A note about crayfish:  most are very territorial and aggressive between species and amongst their own species.  This of course depends on species.  As a rule of thumb, I only use 1 per 10 gallon tank or about 2 square feet per crayfish. 

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Nice! Did you keep the filter system on the aquarium?
I used my old aquarium filters on the 10 gallon tanks until I removed the fine sediment from the gravel. I washed all my gravel twice, but never seem to get all of the fine particles rinsed off.

The 55 gallon tank had been running with the sump and had no filter. I had the tank empty by gravity siphon to the sump, that had some plants for N removal and two pond planters with A/C filter between for final filtration. I have been managing my tanks without filters for a while now, using a small amount of A/C filter material and aquatic plants as my only filtration sources.

Here is a video of that setup, before the GB addition:



I love aquaponics, because it is a natural extension of my ecosystem approach to aquarium maintenance!


Sylvia Bernstein said:
Nice! Did you keep the filter system on the aquarium?
That looks pretty good. I'm also happy with my aquarium system. I use to spend $5/week on replacement filters and then replaced it with the growbed/biofilter. It's cheaper to run a couple of extra lights instead of replacing the filters. The water has stayed very clean and I will wipe down the glass every couple of months when the slime start to get to thick. :D



Edit: tried to paste a link to the video but it's blanked out. You can find it on my channel at www.youtube.com/web4deb
Rob, I really like the idea for overflow into your sump for the aquarium! I used to have an overflow box for my saltwater setup. I think I'll break that old thing out of storage to limit the change in water height in my 55 gal aquarium. I had removed the sump from the equation, because I didn't want to cut into the glass.


Rob Torcellini said:
That looks pretty good. I'm also happy with my aquarium system. I use to spend $5/week on replacement filters and then replaced it with the growbed/biofilter. It's cheaper to run a couple of extra lights instead of replacing the filters. The water has stayed very clean and I will wipe down the glass every couple of months when the slime start to get to thick.



Edit: tried to paste a link to the video but it's blanked out. You can find it on my channel at www.youtube.com/web4deb
I only had one accident with the overflow failing and the tank overflowed. I had given the fish some lettuce and a piece of it got stuck in the pipe. Lesson learned!

I've seen people cut holes in their tank with a diamond bit blade....scares the daylights out of me. Even if I got a good hole, I would be afraid it would create a stress crack in the glass as some other point in time.


Robert B Winebrinner said:
Rob, I really like the idea for overflow into your sump for the aquarium! I used to have an overflow box for my saltwater setup. I think I'll break that old thing out of storage to limit the change in water height in my 55 gal aquarium. I had removed the sump from the equation, because I didn't want to cut into the glass.


Rob Torcellini said:
That looks pretty good. I'm also happy with my aquarium system. I use to spend $5/week on replacement filters and then replaced it with the growbed/biofilter. It's cheaper to run a couple of extra lights instead of replacing the filters. The water has stayed very clean and I will wipe down the glass every couple of months when the slime start to get to thick.



Edit: tried to paste a link to the video but it's blanked out. You can find it on my channel at www.youtube.com/web4deb
Rob,

Looks good. I'm running an 10 gallon indoor as well, a small experiment leading up to a 55 gallon veggie farm (indoor) this spring.

I've been running for a little over a month, and just upped my fish load. So far, things have been very succesful. Take a look at this post I put up, http://aquaponicscommunity.com/forum/topics/house-plants-for-an-aqu..., in the "Plant Topics" forum. it's just a list of what plants have been doing well & what hasn't as well as the set up of my tank.

My houseplants have kept the nitrates super low - zero according to my test strip - though I don't know if I believe it could actually be zero, LOL, but fish/shrimp/snails/pants all super happy right now.

Good luck with all your set ups!

Rick
I thought I should add an update about my indoor experiment. When I set up the GBs above each tank, my bell autosiphons worked really well. I noticed in just a few weeks that they worked sporadically at best. I had read that these siphons are finicky, but I set out to stabilize each one. I had one tank that was not level, but the other two were. I thought it may have to do with the thin walls of each tote.

Long story short, I reinforced the supports between each tank top and the GB with additional 2x4 lumber and viola! I now have very consistent fill and drain :)

Here a couple pics to show the VERY simple stands I'm using between the two. I am currently drawing up designs for cabinets for my indoor setups :)


This tote was very small and the standpipe was in the middle, so I used two cross supports to create a very level bottom. I've learned that I should have listened to Murray Hallam's advice, even with a very small GB.

Same for my 55 Gal tank and GB. This one required a few more cross supports to keep the bottom of the tote level.

Hey Robert. I am very interested in the details of your bell siphon as I'm building a GB of similar capacity, with a small pond pump supplying the water. I'm especially impressed with you re-using the yogurt cup. What else did you re-use? What size stand pipe? Liked your vids.
Paul, I built my bell siphons to the smallest I could find parts. I typically have a ton of leftover bits and pieces from all my aquarium projects, but I didn't have the PVC this time, so I had to buy it. I used 3/4" standpipes and 1 & 1/2" bells for my 10 gallon setups. I used a 1" standpipe and 2" bell for my 55 gallon setup. I basically followed the outline in

http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/BIO-10.pdf

I didn't use the rubber grommet in my totes though. I made my own bulkhead. I bought some PVC supplies that were slip fit on one end (3/4" for the 10 gals and 1" for the 55) and threaded on the other end. I got a male and female, so I could screw them together through the hole I drilled in my totes (GB). I then used some aquarium grade silicon (I have plenty laying around) to seal the hole and bulkhead. (I did have to cut off some of the threads to get them to lock down tighter, but I read somewhere that you can get the grey PVC fittings at some big box stores that will fit tighter)

I then followed the Hawaii recommendation for two 90 degree bends under the GB leading to the tank. The first bend I used 3/4" to 3/4" slip fit. The second 90 degree elbow I actually used a 3/4" to 1/2" to further restrict the flow. That has really helped me to get a good siphon going.

I used PVC on my 10 gal GB for the outer gravel guard. Then I got smart and remembered all of the yogurt containers. I used that for my 2" bell and it works perfectly. Its just large enough to provide flow but small enough that gravel doesn't get in. I used a 1/8" drill bit (pretty small) to drill holes (a lot of holes to ensure good flow) in the yogurt cup and cut off the bottom to make the bell accessible (in case I needed to remove it). I think its the standard quart yogurt container.

I have so many old aquarium pumps and aerators that I use many of them for these setups. I hope to re-use more materials for my expansion. I'm making a 2'x6' GB for my other 55 tote that has bluegill. For that I got on Freecycle and found a free waterbed liner and heater :)

I hope this helps and I'm sure I forgot some detail, but I feel like this is getting long winded.

Glad you enjoyed the vids.

P.S. I used a section of galvanized ducting to make my hood for my light and it is a very cheap (i.e. from my garage spare bits).



Paul Letby said:
Hey Robert. I am very interested in the details of your bell siphon as I'm building a GB of similar capacity, with a small pond pump supplying the water. I'm especially impressed with you re-using the yogurt cup. What else did you re-use? What size stand pipe? Liked your vids.
Awesome info Robert. Thank you very much!
Hi Robert,

I like the crayfish and the water seems clean.

Here's my 20 minute 'aquaponic system':


Just whipped this up for my poor goldfish in a poopy tank. It's a 4" flower pot stuffed with polyester pillow fiber with a pipe stuck through bottom, a peace lilly and an air stone down the pipe.


Homefire

That's a great idea!  I'm a big fan of using air lifts for water flow, but I wasn't sure how to match the flow they'd provide with the size bell siphon I needed.

Homefire said:

Hi Robert,

I like the crayfish and the water seems clean.

Here's my 20 minute 'aquaponic system':

 


Just whipped this up for my poor goldfish in a poopy tank. It's a 4" flower pot stuffed with polyester pillow fiber with a pipe stuck through bottom, a peace lilly and an air stone down the pipe.


Homefire

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