Aquaponic Gardening

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Hello and thanks for your help.

Background:

I'm working with a local high school gardening program.  Last year my coworkers and I built an aquaponic system.  This year we help the students maintain.

Water is stored in two large 100 gal reservoirs we ordered from Growers Supply: http://www.growerssupply.com/farm/supplies/prod1;gs_hydroponics-gs_... .  The tanks are connected by 1" PVC pipe to help keep the water level equal between tanks.

Problem:

Today I have begun to suspect we've sprung a leak from the bottom of one of these tanks.  I've checked the caulk around the connector pipe and all of the other plumbing, and nothing appears to be leaking.  I believe that the leak may have gone unnoticed for a few to several weeks.  We typically lose about 20 gal / week to evapotranspiration.  This week we lost ~ 25-30 gal.

Questions:

Before I leap into repairs, I wanted to ask for your advice:

  • What do you think is the best way to patch up a leak like this?  Caulk?  Something else?
  • Of course, we'll have to drain the tank to make repairs.  Because the reservoirs are connected, what would be the best way to plug up that PVC pipe?  I'd hate to have to drain both reservoirs and displace all of the fish if I don't have to.
  • Should I look into ordering a whole new tank?  It would appear that Growers Supply has discontinued or is out of stock of this specific type of reservoir.  We're also low on funds, and if there's a way to avoid this $300 purchase I'd like to explore that.
  • How long do you think this can go before we need to repair?  I'd like to get on this ASAP, but the school is about to let out for the holidays and we won't have access to the system over the break.

Thanks for your help!

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Great!  Thanks for your help.  I'll make the necessary purchases tomorrow and start on repairs Monday.  I'll keep you posted!

Just to make sure I understood everyone correctly, we'll need:

  • Male and female threaded electrical adapters for 1" PVC pipe
  • O rings
  • Marine grade silicone

Only one TA needs to be from the electrical dept. but that doesn't matter all that much except to us ocd freaknoids (of which I am one:-). The grey plastic has fire retardants so I like to expose the water to them as little as possible. Thus female electric and male from plumbing dept. You'll notice that the exposure on the female is far smaller (tiny really) but really no big deal. Electrical fittings have no taper allowing you to tighten them all the way to the tank plastic resulting in a tight seal. One of a thousand things I have learned while building and fine tuning our system over the past year come January.

To answer your question: Yes. The "O" rings come in a package of 5 I believe and are in the plumbing dept. Their biggest fits nice and tight on the 1". Have fun.

Hi Amanda,

I am hoping the hole in the tanks are neatly done. With the small shoulder of the fitting, if the holes you bored are not completely round, meaning that they were done that way initially, you may have problems with sealing. Bulkhead fittings have a wider gasket so its not a problem with irregular sized holes.You may also give thought to the purchase of a PVC union for maintenance purposes as well.



Amanda Plante said:

Great!  Thanks for your help.  I'll make the necessary purchases tomorrow and start on repairs Monday.  I'll keep you posted!

Just to make sure I understood everyone correctly, we'll need:

  • Male and female threaded electrical adapters for 1" PVC pipe
  • O rings
  • Marine grade silicone

I'll be sure to pick up bulkhead fittings from Home Depot as well.  They seem pretty easy to understand, which is good because I'm a little dense when it comes to plumbing.  I'll examine both ways and go with the one I figure out how to do first.  

Thanks for your help.  We'll get an early start on this Monday, and I hope that things will be back to normal by Wednesday.  I'll keep everyone posted!

I'm pleased to inform you that the leak has apparently been repaired.  Unfortunately, we were unable to identify exactly where the water was leaking out of the tank.  We think it may have been a crack caused by a student actually getting into the tank, or dropping their pruners in the tank, or something along those lines.  I never actually caught a student doing this, but there has been a time or two when the class has accused a student of being unprofessional around the aquaponic unit.  Based on where the moisture had peeled the floor paint under the tank, we were able to pinpoint a couple broad areas, which we covered in marine grade silicone.  It's been 3 days, and the floor's still dry!  Thanks for your help!

While we were working on repairing the leak, we updated the adapters between the connector pipe and the tanks.  Although Home Depot's website listed bulkhead fittings, the employees at our local stores (we have a few) had never heard of them.  The same went for Lowes.

So we went with the electrical adapters.  We had to pick up O rings large enough to fit the 1" adapters from a car repair shop.  Even though they didn't have them on the shelfs, they did have some big enough stashed away in the back of the store.  No need for even a drop of caulk -- they're holding just fine!

Thanks again to everyone for your help.  This would have been a lot more difficult without your advice.

Well done Amanda. Now get ready for the blizzard

We're expecting 60 mph winds on our 4 mil poly GH roof. Yikes!

Thanks and good luck up there!

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