Aquaponic Gardening

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Well this could be considered a banner day around here as the Trout will be so happy to get their meals on time. I only have around 40 Trout divided between two 330 gal ibcs so I only needed 2 feeders at the moment (the few other fish in the other tanks aren't nearly as demanding) and since they are pretty well divided up I decided to use one impulse timer to run both feeders as the quantity is not rocket science.

So here are some pics and I will do a video one of these days: The time clock is a Brinks 2 times per day from Wally World for less than 15.00 and has battery BU. The augers are just old brace and bit with the drive cut off. These are 3/4" but 1" should be fine if you use S&D pipe as it has a bit larger dia.. I used an old chem pump timer rated 220v but it runs both gear motors on 120v just fine. It actually did better (smoother) when both motors were on line than one. The gear motors can be purchased on Ebay as "Commercial washer drain motors" The impulse timers seem a bit harder to find but if you are running on a PLC or PIC that should work fine as a timer as well. I'll be changing over to my Mitsubishi controller soon myself and that should do away with the timer and clock.

Any questions just ask and I'll now upload the pics again as they just now all went away again because I made a correction in my text above. Anyone else have that happen? Not sure what causes that.

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I should have also mentioned above that you need to check the direction of rotation as you want the auger to be "unscrewing" or running backwards so it pushes the food pellets toward the 90. If it is running the wrong way it takes about 2 minutes to reverse it. Just unscrew the 2 screws holding the stator and the rear bearing on, flip the stator the other way around and remount all. That's it. It will now run the other way. Which way it runs and the voltage of the coil will depend of course on which brand washer it is for. Not to worry. Make sure it is 120v or whatever your line voltage is. This whole rig or even 2 can be built easily in an evening and wow what freedom it brings

Good Project Jim

I will caution everyone that you do want to try and nip out when the feeders are scheduled to go off (or shortly thereafter) regularly to kinda keep an eye on your feeding rate to make sure you are not over feeding and that the fish are behaving properly.  Observing feeding behavior is really key to knowing if all is well with your fish (and sometimes helpful in predicting the weather.)  Also, your feeders won't know if the temperature is out of range and that they should feed less and since the feeders don't observe the fish, they won't notice if there is too much uneaten feed left over from last feeding to know they shouldn't feed again or look to see what is wrong.

I have used automatic feeders.  I have also killed a whole tank full of fish by letting an automatic feeder feed the fish while I was out of town for a week.  The temperature dropped but the feeder kept feeding and I came home to find a tank full of dead fish with lots of uneaten feed.

Not to worry TC at least in my case. They get checked numerous times a day but I can't always be there at feeding time and being an old farmer I know how important a regular schedule is at feeding time with any livestock.  I also have skimmers to get rid of uneaten food. I can actually monitor it just as well at the GBs as that is where the uneaten food ends up pretty quick in my system and rightly so. Another good argument for skimmers in every system. The food should not lead to deaths if it doesn't sit in the FT and rot. A pretty easy fix actually for any FT. It is not over feeding them so much as the anaerobic bacteria growing in the excess food that you need to be concerned about.

Good advice though. Thanks. A whole week unattended is pushing it a bit don't you think Won't happen here ever as we have lots more livestock to keep an eye on besides the fish.



Jim Fisk said:

Wow, I see the jug is Iced Tea...
It must get very hot if they need a cold beverage 

Yes I expected it was the case for you, that you check on things often but just wanted the feeding to happen on schedule.  I was primarily adding the note about the dangers of automatic feeders for people who might not realize.

As for going away for a week.  I did have some one checking on things but no matter how many times you explain or how good a cheat sheet you have for them, other people rarely are as good about knowing or remembering to check everything on your farm as you can be.  After that incident I actually made a sensor that would shut off power to the feeder if the temperature went out side a certain range but if going away without some one who really knows your system to tend, you may be better off simply NOT feeding or feeding so minimally that even if they don't eat it won't hurt.  Fish can actually go quite a time without eating (unless they are fry.)

But I do like the auto feeder for keeping up with regular feeding times.  I just wish I could come up with a way to keep the container sealed air tight when feeding is not in progress since it is so humid and buggy here much of the year that a large feed container can go bad if you are not feeding a huge amount each day.

Jim Fisk said:

Not to worry TC at least in my case. They get checked numerous times a day but I can't always be there at feeding time and being an old farmer I know how important a regular schedule is at feeding time with any livestock.  I also have skimmers to get rid of uneaten food. I can actually monitor it just as well at the GBs as that is where the uneaten food ends up pretty quick in my system and rightly so. Another good argument for skimmers in every system. The food should not lead to deaths if it doesn't sit in the FT and rot. A pretty easy fix actually for any FT. It is not over feeding them so much as the anaerobic bacteria growing in the excess food that you need to be concerned about.

Good advice though. Thanks. A whole week unattended is pushing it a bit don't you think Won't happen here ever as we have lots more livestock to keep an eye on besides the fish.

Yup, we learned that lesson in spades many moons ago when we left a very intelligent young lady in charge (after all we were putting her up for free) while we went off to do a craft show. Well one of the hens pecked at her so that was the end of egg collecting. Came home to scrambled eggs in the nests and cannibal chickens as a result. Never again. We get paid to watch other's horses and such but don't trust anyone with ours. Our daughter will be moving down here soon so we will have reliable help then. Our son lives nearby but works long hours so we hate to ask. But once you have a farm you are pretty well committed to stay nearby anyhow. That's ok, we love it here in the Great Smoky Mtns..

I agree, if we do ever go away for a few days I will just turn down the feeders. Better off hungry for a few days. I like the temp idea. That could be easy especially using the Mitsubishi controller that I will get to soon. It could adjust the feed based upon temp. Nice.

And Lee, Trout get thirsty too ya know

Trout do like it cool, Ya

Love the homemade feeder concept!!!!! But how do you keep the bugs and ants out of the food???? Just a thought.

Hey Wes, haven't run into that season here yet but I will have to come up with a tighter lid. I may try gluing an edge on the upper cover that will make it fit tighter. Those Arizona tea jugs are very HD and clear enough to see the level. I don't cut the lid around the back and that springy hinge keeps it pretty tight.

I expect that if you only fill it with a few days of feed at a time, some ants getting in won't be that big a deal.  If you are tending to fill it with much longer supplies of feed, humidity/moisture as well as bugs could be a problem.

At least with the metal auger, it is unlikely that rodents will be able to chew their way up to the feed, just make sure that the jug is protected from critters like raccoon being able to knock the jug off the auger to get at the feed.

I had problems with rats trying to chew their way up the feed shoot with the pet feeders I was using the augers were plastic.

Hi TC, I do keep old fashioned mouse traps in the fish room and 3 so far. Being in a GH I haven't had any larger critters so far. If I do run into chewers I'll fashion the hoppers out of metal.

I doubt rodents will be able to chew on the jug very easily but a bigger critter might actually be able to push on it hard enough to break the threads on the neck out of the fitting and knock the whole jug over.  But I'm sure you have bigger problems if you have critters that large invading your greenhouse.

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