Aquaponic Gardening

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I have a 600 gal. talipia stock tank and plan on running 6 grow beds off of it, using the poly pools at Frys food store that are sold for $10 each. I have not stocked the tank with fish yet because I am in the filter build side now. I am trying to figure out if I need both a bio and a swirl filter or just one. I plan to fill the grow beds with crushed granite as my medium for the mineral contents and it being able to hold larger plants up right. I would love any ideas or info you folks would like to share. thanks 

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The growbeds are your bio filter. And a swirl or radial filter is just for extra solids removal. Lots of people don't add filters right a way and i think deciding whether you need the extra solids removal depends on how long you're going to keep the system running for. If it's a temporary system and you plan on dismantling it for the winter then i wouldn't bother one.

Welcome aboard Bayy Quest!

Stephanie has good advice there. 

Most of us are using cinders instead of gravel in our grow beds.  It is lighter, so it's cheaper per volume and has lots of places for bacteria to grow.  Be sure to rinse your media before putting it your grow beds to keep the sediment out.  Be sure to do the vinegar test on the gravel to check if it will throw off your pH.  If the rock foams get something else!

You will want to add composting worms to the grow beds to eat the fish solids after you get up and running.  Wait a few months so there is actually something for them to eat in the media. 

As far as the filter goes, yes, it's a good idea to have one.  At this point, I would recommend the radial filter design as it is superior to the swirl filter.  The vertical change in direction of the water flow strips the solids out very effectively.  A filter will  keep your grow beds from clogging much longer, and since they are relatively cheap to create they are worth the effort in my book.  You can get a suitable garbage can for the tank at Walmart for $9.

When I built a second system, I used a 5' kiddy pool, seems to work great and it's a deal too.  I called the company who made mine to see if they had anti foul properties.  The lady was sorry to say they did not and was surprised that was the answer I was looking for! Some pools do have anti bacterial agents, so check.  You want your bacteria to be happy, because that's really what we are growing, the fish and veggies are just by products.

With all the grow bed space you are using, you will want to have plenty of sump volume so you are not pulling down the fish tank and stressing the fish out.  I am using 3 - 32 gallon garbage cans connected together for sumps.  Since you are in the creation phase, consider adding a water top up tank to the system.  This is to gas off the chlorine out of the city water.  Mine is just another garbage can plumbed to drain into the fish tank.

Good luck with your system, we are here to help Bayy Quest.

Jim

Caution on the poly pools they may disintegrate from UV damage.

Go ahead and use gravel, as a newbie April of 2012 found that pea gravel worked great, if you already have it use it but these other folks have a point with bacteria. I have found that worms are the best filter and a great addition to any media bed or even with your compost pile. One problem I discovered from other people is that I have too many fish so watch it, your tank is much bigger than mine though. In the beginning its always better to keep it simple then upgrade later.

Welcome Bayy Quest! What part of the Valley are you in? I can't argue with any advice you've received so far. What's fun about this group is that, in addition to being very active, we all have created our systems to fit our individual needs. There is some great, creative work out there, and a lot of good minds. The variety of applications in this group demonstrates that there is no "right" way to do things. There are better ways and easier ways, but the best way for you is what works for you best.

In our system, we use expanded clay balls (Hydroton, Plant It) but that does get expensive. As far as attributes, it's easiest to work with - much lighter than gravel with all the benefits of lava rock but it doesn't hurt the hands. So your choice of media is a personal one. Each type has its benefits and its challenges. The important thing is that you understand the differences before making your final choice.

You can also choose to do a floating bed without media, but you'd need a bio filter to give the bacteria a place to live. Bio filters give bacteria a home...bacteria is as important as the fish and the plants. If you have a media bed, you don't need a bio filter, as Stephanie mentioned.

The solids filter (there are many kinds, including the swirl), pull out the fish waste so it doesn't get into the beds. We don't use one ourselves, even though we have a raft system. We pull our raft plants before they get too clogged with waste & have not had a problem with buildup...maintenance is easy enough. But, best practices would be to have a solids filter with any deep water (raft) or NFT (tubes) system.

Media beds act as solids filters if you don't have one. Again, we chose not to use one, though we did in the past. When we used solids filters we got tired of the frequent maintenance (lazy gardeners...). We know that in a number of years we'll need to clean out our beds, and plan to do them systematically. The solids filter will extend that timeline, so there is a benefit to having them, but you'll still need to clean your beds eventually because you can't stop roots and leaves from breaking down in the system, or the buildup of dirt, bacteria, and other solids. So, again, it's about choices. Pre-clean or post-clean. The nice thing is you can add or remove a solids filter at any time.

Compost worms (aka redworms, aka red wigglers) will consume those solids and reduce them by 60%, in addition to releasing fantastic nutrients into the system. They are very important regardless of what choices you make for your system!

Jim made a great point about the sump. Without one, you have to count your fish load on the lowest height of your fishtank's water level.

Most importantly, have fun & ask questions!

Hi and welcome to the joy of Aquaponics!  I used gravel in my IBC beds and I wished I had used something lighter, Hydroton is expensive but there are some lighter alternatives.  I am planning to get a yard of expanded shale from a company in Stockton.  There is a thread out there somewhere with the contact info. It is much lighter and purported to be PH neutral. With the gravel I am having to lower the PH a couple of times a year but the worst thing is if you have to empty a bed for repairs of maintenance it is difficult because of the weight.

I have some large goldfish who need a home when you are ready and I also sell Tilapia fingerlings.  Let me know if you need any of them.  

This group is great and there is tons of information available so read the older threads, I have found lots of valuable information.

Thank you for the warm welcome :-) I plan to have mine year round I live in Down Town Mesa.

I have close to 80 or a 100 blue Nile Talipia mix sex in my breeder tank, I got them from some one in Gilbert for $30 and he showed me his set up. I plan on trying to sex them as they age and set up a few more breeder tanks and nursery tanks to separate them by sex, and my 600+gal tank now will be for male only so I can raise them for meat and running 6  or more grow beds, one or two of them being raft beds and the others having grow medium. This will be a year round system, and will be adding on very soon, just bought a IBC tote I wanna raise Crawfish in that one with a 55 gal container for the baby fry craw. I was told that granite was awesome for the minerals thats in the rock for the system, and its great for growing larger plants to hold them up with out to much worry of them falling over due to weight of the plant. so maybe I will only do two beds in granite and the other two in pumas "lava rock". I would love ideas on cheap grow beds that can last awhile in the sun with out falling apart after a few summers?

@Bayy

There is a difference between Pumice and lava rock, or should I say Pumice is a kind of lava rock. The kind most of us are using is more like the lava in the hills N.E. of Flagstaff, where Pumice is more of an ash byproduct, or should I say a glassified Ash.

I am interested in finding a source of Pumice in the valley. I know there is a mining site just West of Superior but have no contacts.

The problem withj both forms of volcanic stones is the sharp edges, which is murderous on your hands.

I understand the expanded shale is a great alternative. Unfortunately it's not readily available here in AZ, and shipping is quite costly. Janet, if you can get some easily, do so and count yourself blessed! :)

The IBC will last you many years, Bayy, particularly if you paint the outside.  Or you can do as a number here have done by building a wooden growbed and lining it with pond liner.

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