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 I just stepped off the sidelines to get started. I ordered a bunch of barrels and an IBC tote.

Now, I need to get my plumbing fixtures in line. I have seen comments about smaller diameter piping clogging. I think it was Vlad who caught my attention with a comment how it would clog "faster than an artery on curly fries"

I know I am not the only one here on a budget. So what is the optimal size of pipe to use considering the economics?

I was originally considering 1/2 inch feed lines (the dirty side) and 3/4 or 1 inch drain lines for the drains. The drains were based on Affnan's syphon designs..

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You need to base your feed line plumbing on the pump as your minimum size.  Keep in mind you can get more efficiency from a pump often if you up-size the plumbing a little bit (remember the electric bill is an ongoing expense while the pumping you buy once, well unless you use too small of pipe the first time and then you might be buying the plumbing twice.)

Remember that pumped water flow can move more water through a smaller pipe under pressure but the bigger pipe will allow a smaller pump to move more water with less effort (to an extent.)

So once you figure out the size of your pump plumbing and if you will up-size a little, you need to make sure the gravity plumbing will be big enough to handle the flow with only gravity pressure without overflowing.  This usually means the drains need to be at least twice as big if not bigger than the feed plumbing.  There are some exceptions though.  A siphon is not quite the same as gravity drain since it can drain a bed a lot faster than just a gravity drain could and the siphon needs to be sized to work at the flow you send into a bed.

So that was all rather vague.  Here are some examples.

For a small (like maybe 5 gallon aquarium system) I might use 1/2" plumbing on the pump from the sump up to the aquarium and then a 1" SLO drain out of the aquarium.  I would definitely add a bypass so excess flow from the pump can be diverted back into the sump to avoid overflowing the aquarium and so I can balance the flow to the siphon in a small grow bed.  The siphon might have 1/2" pipe and the 1/2-1" funnel type adapter (affnan style) in the bed and below the bed it might be 1" down to a 1-3/4" elbow.

For a bigger system, I would probably have 1" pipe from the pump and then probably use 2" or 3" SLO drains.  Siphon sizes will depend on how many beds are being fed and any combined drains should be 2" or 3" depending on how big or fast things need to flow.  The 2" drains are likely to be on the small size for a system with an IBC size fish tank and more than just one or two beds.  3" drains are likely good for systems with multiple beds and an IBC up to 600 gallon fish tank size system.

For BIG systems (600+ gallon fish tanks) I like 4" pipe for SLO drains and combined drains.  UVI recommends 6" drain pipes for commercial scale systems.

There are calculators out there you can use to determine pipe sizes needed if you are not willing to oversize things.

Hey Pat,

First can you post a pic of your plan as I'm not sure what is what but here is what I have ended up with after months of trial and error on a 5 ft and 10 gb system:

I just gave my 2 cents on some of this on another thread so:

"When purchasing your pvc pipe get the cheaper S&D (sewer and drain) thinwall pipe as the interior volume is quite a bit larger and it costs you less. We are not dealing with 600# pressure in AP so the 200# test S&D pipe is much better bang for your buck any time you can use it even for 4" gravel guards, etc..

Try to design your system so that your pump is in a CLEAN water sump and it, the most expensive item in your system, lasts longer, much longer, than if it has to pump solids."

Also I try NOT to oversize waste pipes as that slows things down and solids drop out and start growing bacteria where you don't want it to collect. Personally I never use any sort of traps for the same reason.

Using a 1000gph pump I send it down the fish room in 1", Tee off at 3/4" and then use washer hoses with one end cut off feeding off a twin ball valve Y into the tanks. Trout get 2 hose feeds and others one. The bypass (which I send UP to a T to help increase pressure to FTs) goes out the far end of the run in 3/4" and splits off to the woodburner and the clarifier filter and back to the sump.

The waste goes out thru 1 1/4", with no place to trap anything, straight to the grow beds where I again Tee it off to 3/4" to each gb. where I use 1" 90s to control flow at each gb..(Much cheaper than valves and easier to set)

The ibc drains are 1 1/2" connected to the ibc drain ball valve with 2" Fernco rubber connectors, all in a line and out the back of the gh. Here's a quick pic of that and the infeed run seen in the distance splitting left towards the woodstove and R back toward the filter and sump:

The gb Affnan style siphons are 1" S&D (sewer and drain) stand pipes, two 90s into a 1 1/2" manifold that leaves the gb row underground and back to buried ibc clean water sump seen here with the $30.00 amazing filter above the sump:.

Think that covers it. Keep in mind that I am the original frugal Yank (read CHEAP) so check out my page for frugal ideas I built this system on a shoe string. Even those 3x4 landscaping

ties were on sale for .97 at Lowes (normally 3.97) Not sure where you would use 1/2" pvc in an IBC system. Have you joined our IBC group yet?

i posted my original intention on another thread,but it bears repeating here, especially since I have other materials in mind now.

First off, I am going to use my existing in-ground plaster swimming and pump system as the basis for the system. I have a "variflow" valve system that will allow me to completely bypass the existing sand filter but will still allow me to  either use that filter on occasion or to drain the system into the sewer, based on where I turn the valve. The only change I have to make is (after that variflow valve) a tee with a ball valve to direct water to the grow-bed system and a tee  that will direct water back to the swimming pool. One or the other of these valves must be kept in full open position to prevent putting too much back pressure on the pump. For instance if the water flow to the growbed system is too high and needs to be reduced, I can offload some of the water by opening the lower valve and let unfiltered water return to the pool.

Now for what I am calling the growbed system... Water from the pump will be directed to an elevated tank sitting on my diving board platform (about16 inches above the patio level). Think in terms of a water tower where water is actively pumped in and then gravity is the force to provide water pressure after that.  Originally I thought about using a single barrel as a  swirl tank that I could use to either remove solids, or let them continue on..  Since my supplier is bringing me a single 275 IBC, I figure to use this as my initial reservoir.

Up to this point the water is unfiltered in any way, except for the pool surface skimmer and the pre-pump screen, neither of which will stop anything smaller than 1/8 inch.

I have not seen the IBC that I have ordered, but I understand it has a 6 inch opening in the top and a ball valve in the bottom (unknown size).

I am thinking I will have to build a manifold system at this point to direct water flow to rows of growbeds and a bypass that returns some water to either an optional barrrel biofilter(s) or back to the pool (fish tank).

I am estimating that the top of the water level in the IBC will be about 5 ft high so even if the existing outlet is 16' above grade, I will still get decent water flow. After buying the IBC I would hate to not be able to use it and have to resort with using some of my barrels with outlets positioned higher up.

I figure to use split 55 gallon barrels as the actual growbeds. Some are going to be media-filled with bell syphons with the rest being DWC with rafts. All will be the same design, but the DWC's will have the bell removed so they stay filled. The main reason for this is that I have found media to be the most expensive component so far and will have to be added as I go along.

I can already intuitively see alot  of places where I will have to make major adjustments, but I want to eliminate as many problems as I can beforehand and to give me options as I go along.

For instance how much space below the growbed do I need to get the bell syphon to work properly.  i am thinking (hoping) I can use 4" sewer pipe as the drain along the series of growbeds. and that by directing the drains from the individual beds into that 4 inch drain, it will be sufficient and not overflow.

Another consideration I had was if I connected the drains from 2 or 3 growbeds together if it might cause one or 2 to prematurely drain.

Now I've been running all these thoughts without actually connecting a single pipe. So now I am looking at feedback to eliminate or at least reduce problems ahead of time...

Beware with pool filters, if you leave a sand filter sitting idle, it will go anaerobic and then if you turn it back on, the build up of nasty compounds in it will get pumped through your system.  This isn't really good.  If you are going to have a sand filter or any other type of pool filter hooked up and occasionally used, you need to keep using it.  It is not the sort of thing you simply switch to for a few days once a month or something.  If it is going to ever get used, it must be used daily or it goes septic.

If you don't want to use it normally, don't use it at all.

Back to pipe sizing.  Uh, are you talking about using a pool pump here?  Is it going to be running constantly?  That seems overkill for a few half barrel grow beds?  How many grow beds are you going to have?

I've never seen an in ground pool pump with smaller than 1 1/2" plumbing.  Can you post a pic of the valve/filter assembly you are planning to tap off of?  Does it allow you to leave a certain amount of water going through the sand filter while you allow some water to bypass out to your aquaponic portion of the set up?  With the amount of pressure you will have from a pool pump you probably could split off to 1/2" plumbing with 1/2" ball valves feeding each grow bed and all you have to do to clean them is open the valve for a minute and then re-set.

1/2 barrels cut the long way can be difficult to get siphons balanced in.  I would recommend doing barrels cut round the middle for siphon beds.  Having 4" of fall below a grow bed before going into the drain piping can help with balancing siphons greatly.  Having an air gap where the bed's drain pipe enters the combined drain can help avoid the draining of another bed suck starting the siphon in an not yet full bed problem.  However you need more height above the combined drain to be able to T up with the big pipe to allow the drains the air space instead of plumbing them together solid.  Sorry I don't currently have a diagram prepared that shows what I'm trying to explain here.

TC, I understand where you are coming from. i have a way to open the sand filter to drain it an avoid the anaerobic condition.

After that IBC tank, I was thinking of eventually having up to 60 growbeds. I have enough barrels for that and almost enough space if I place them right.

The existing plumbing ion the pool is 2". I figure to continue the 2 inch plumbing to the pool and also to the IBC reservoir. One will be full open at any time with the other partially closed depending on water flow needs.

The variflow valve either directs all the water from the pump to go through the sand filter or none of it.

right now I have pretty good pressure into 4  jets entering the pool a foot or so below the surface. they are directed to circulate the water in a counter-clockwise direction and sort of towards the surface.. I figured this would add to the oxygenation of the pool water regardless of it being filtered.

I am glad to hear that 4 inches of fal below the grow bed might work because  much more than that requires extra support to raise the growbeds.

Now while the current situation has alot of pressure I could use to clear the lines, I was wondering how the gravity fed pressure might work.

I already thought that having an air  gap where the individual growbeds drain into the  final drains would make sure negative pressure is not created. Now the overall height of my growbeds will determine how well the drain pipe, however large drains back into the pool.

Yikes, not sure where to start.

Thought you said you were on a shoe string budget. Good luck with that when you get your electric bill for running that say 1 1/2 hp pool pump 24/7 year round. OMG

Then you are going to need an aeration pump on top of that. More $

Draining the sand filter will not prevent it from going septic unless you do what I did and install a say 12" air stone in the media. I run my air stone 24/7 so I can shut down the fiber fill (not heavy dense sand) polishing filter to send more water say thru the fts or the woodstove water heater. If it ever goes septic and you turn it on again you will probably kill every fish in the pool.

One more thought and I'm outa here: why in the world on a pool size system would you want to fool around with barrels?? At times I think ibc gbs are small. Barrels would drive me crazy and I can get all I want. Only barrel in my system is the filter. Making a little siphon for all those barrels seems like an insane endeavor. Just a quick guess I would say that one IBC gb = about 8 barrel gbs in actual media volume (which is where all your life giving bacteria live) and they don't require all the support structure that the barrels require and you get 2 gbs per ibc. as well. I just set them on cheap flat decking and screw down the cages install a 1" siphon on the NICE FLAT BOTTOM:-). Done! I originally designed for some barrels but quickly came to my senses and I hope you will too when you finish your semi final design. So I'm guessing here but my 10 ibc gbs probably equal 60 - 80 barrel gbs in media volume at a tiny fraction the labor and plumbing costs.

One more thought: you don't need air gaps at each drain, just manifold vents. Plumbing 101 just like plumbing the drains in your house. (those are the vents that go out thru your roof if you are not familiar with house plumbing) I have one at the far end from the sump and one in the middle, They only need to go up a foot or so. Just higher than your gbs. Try and avoid open water anywhere you can as that is where the white flies will breed and overwhelm your GH. I am on the winning side of that battle as we speak. An open air gap at each of those barrels is asking for big trouble.

Here is an old pic showing the middle vent (right under the "e" in vent) which comes off the top of a tee in the 1 1/2" drain manifold that runs under the gbs. I have since added another at the far end (top of pic) that also receives the heated water from the woodstove. Sucking problem solved: (BTW directional tees start in 1 1/2" and up and help keep everything flowing in the right direction. Can't find them even in 1 1/4" pvc around here at least, just plain old tees)

Anyhow, have fun Pat and Happy New Year

Jim, You convinced me to go the IBC route. I is raining  here so the guy selling the totes has not loaded yet. He is going to bring me 8 totes instead.

One of the reasons I was looking at the barrels was their size making arrangement a little more versatile. but for the largest part of my patio, totes will fit just as well, and like you said plumbing would be greatly reduced.

When i mentioned leaving air gaps for venting, it was because I had originally intended to Tee the drains into a a slightly larger pipe effectively sealing them. Then i considered just using the 4 inch sewer pipe with one inch holes cut into the top with the drain just angled down into it. I had seen a pic of somebody who had connected the drains of 4 barrels  together and I could not figure how it would not at times interfere with siphoning action.

As far as running that big ass pump 24/7, welcome to my world. They are more economical than you would think, but maintaining a swimming pool is an expensive situation. Especially when you consider the cost of chemicals and the constant labor to barely keep up. A swimming pool looses its charm real quick. I'm sure you heard about a boat being a hole in the water where you pour your money..  Well a pool is a hole in the ground where you drown your money.

I saw comments on a thread here that said not that a sand filter is too fine to use in AP and will clog constantly. That was the main reason for changing the water flow. I have promised my wife that I will not make any irreversible changes to the pool plumbing as one of the conditions for going forward with this project.

And I AM on a shoe-string budget, but will probably have $700 in it before I get media. I may even have to give up drinking beer to pay for it!!!

SOB!! I did it again. Wrote you a long comment and changed pages before I posted it and I'm not even under any influence. I hate it when that happens. Anyway, let's see if I can remember at least part of what I said:-(

First: store bought beer will only make you fat:-) Make your own as then it is almost a health food, full of B vits and all. Natures liquid food and God's gift to man (along with several others)

Glad you made your change to ibcs and you will be too. They are great to work with and if you set them up as I have on pt decking (click my avatar and ck out my pics and vids for lots of info) you can climb all over them and never hurt a thing. I place planks on them and then ladders in order to work on the 10' gh roof for example. Never happen with barrels.

What did you pay for yours, are they cleaned? And even if they are you will want to remove the drain valves, disassemble them and clean behind the ball where chems love to hide. I had my sump all buried before I discovered that little fact. Every time a fish dies you will wonder if that caused it otherwise.

You might want to consider removing the sand and filling it with poly fill from Walmart. That is what's in my 30gal polishing filter along with a 12" air stone and it does an amazing job of filtering out algae and sediment from the media. I only send the bypass water thru it before it goes back into the sump and still it will clear it up in a day. Tell your wife that the sand should be changed anyway:-) which is true. Plumbing won't change a bit.

Still keep in mind 24/7 year round. Just say'nHappy New Year!

I paid $60 for each of the IBC's. The barrels were $15, so capacity is 5X barrel for 4X cost. Surface area is fairly close to the same although I know I will loose a little growspace with barrels because of lost area around the outside.

I think all the barrels and totes have been  only rinsed but I will re-wash them..(and yes I know to NOT use soap). I know the barrels had contained vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. Apparently they come from a chicken processing plant. I forgot what he said were in the IBC's.

I ran that pool pump for years 24/7 and only shut it off last summer. It has been on for a few weeks now. I have been netting out some nasty crap from the bottom which is going into my compost bins and my dirt garden beds. Some kind of little crustaceans have found their way in plus a bunch of swimming bugs. i suspect some of those bugs are dragon fly larvae. I'm just surprised I did not have a mosquito problem (and we live in prime West Nile territory), but I think the tadpoles etc took care of that. I had a large bullfrog living in the pool until it got cold. No idea where he is now but when I see him again, i will pop him with my pellet gun. Not going to give him a chance to eat my fish.

I doubt i will ever get this pool clear, healthy water is good enough for me.

Just looked myself up on the member map page. But it has me at my neighbor's house. Mine is the yard to the left with the oval  green pool. It must have been taken last spring because I already built my greenhouse, but did not cut down all the oak trees yet...  pretty cool...

The IBC's should serve you well.  Barrels are fine if you get them for free but if you have to pay for them it tends to add up fast with all the plumbing and building supports too.

Most of my IBC's are actually out at my Duck systems and I didn't even place them on supports.  I plumbed the drains out the sides instead of the bottom so they just sit right on the ground and I dug a little trench for the drain line.  I don't use siphons for that system, instead I have an indexing valve that feeds one bed at a time out there so doing timed flood and drain and the bottom several inches of the IBC's don't drain out which is nice for the big plants since that system the beds each only get flooded once every 6 hours.  (That system runs on just a 50 watt pump with an automated pool valve controlling the flow to the indexing valve or up to the waterfall for the duck pond.)

Pics? Worth a thousand words

TCLynx said:

The IBC's should serve you well.  Barrels are fine if you get them for free but if you have to pay for them it tends to add up fast with all the plumbing and building supports too.

Most of my IBC's are actually out at my Duck systems and I didn't even place them on supports.  I plumbed the drains out the sides instead of the bottom so they just sit right on the ground and I dug a little trench for the drain line.  I don't use siphons for that system, instead I have an indexing valve that feeds one bed at a time out there so doing timed flood and drain and the bottom several inches of the IBC's don't drain out which is nice for the big plants since that system the beds each only get flooded once every 6 hours.  (That system runs on just a 50 watt pump with an automated pool valve controlling the flow to the indexing valve or up to the waterfall for the duck pond.)


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