Aquaponic Gardening

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Hi guys,


Long time luker, first time posting.  I made a small 50 gallon system out of two large tupperware containers that worked great for about a year.  I've sinced moved homes and my system broke in the move.  I took this as a sign it was time to upgrade!  I've purchased 3 275Gal IBC totes to use in making a system.  I was looking to get two to follow this design:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vW-v25G-LOA

But when I went to buy they offered me a great deal if I took a 3rd tote and I figured bigger is always better :) In looking around youtube I am having a harder time finding a 3 tote design.  Here are two that sparked my interest:

https://storage.ning.com/topology/rest/1.0/file/get/2656380185?prof...

As well as https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtP68IhLTOA

Does anyone have any experience with a 3+ tote system that could advise me as to the best layout?  I am stuck between the idea of 1 tote being fully for a fishtank (where you just cut a hole in the top to acces the fish, so you do not create a growbed from this tote) the 2nd tote you would cut a grow bed out of and the other side would be my sump tank.  And I am torn on what to do with the 3rd tank.  Do I make another fish tank? Another grow+fish? or cut it into two grow beds? 

Lastly - what size pipe should I expect to use with the IBCs to move enough water to the grow bed from the sumps? I see most people doing 1" to push water around and 2" for returns.  Any suggestions around pump size would be greatly appreciated as well.


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You have the right idea. One fish tank , 1 sump, but I'd do 3 grow beds. That's actually my system. The extra GBs will add filtration to your system and you will need it if you want to grow a lot of fish. You can use the top and bottom of the tanks for GBs, just silicone the large cap to insure no leaks. I would also make the GBs 12"-16" deep for  deeper medium. To cut cost and weight you can use lava rock in the bottom half of the GB and something like Hydroton on the top for planting. I went through the lava rock and took out the larger pieces the help promote more bacteria grow surface. 1" water lines in and out of the tanks and beds will work. You can make the return to the sump 2" if you want to, I didn't. This is my second IBC system and I'm still making upgrades as I have ideas. I attached a diagram of my system. Was going to go double but opted to take baby steps with a single system. I'd be happy to give you all the details if you like.

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@Jeff - The most widely used and referenced video for IBC conversions seems to be this guy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYFM7J_TpTU. I see your suggesting that I silicone over the cap rather than use it for my bell siphon - something you learned from experience? Or have others here complained about that?

The lava rock tip is really good one - I do have all my Hydroton from my last build but at $40/bag it was super expensive compared with alternatives. As far as pump size what did you go with to run your 3 tank setup?

I was referring to siliconing the outer ring of the cap. By all means use the center for your bell siphon. The system in that video is a 1 tank system...that was my first system setup. I found that the deeper GB was the way to go. My GBs are 16" deep now but there was a method to the madness. The tanks were 48" tall and the horizontal bars of the cages from the bottoms were at 16" so that's where I cut them. One whole tank for fish, 1 32" bottom for the sump, the 16" top for 1 GB, the 3rd tank I used the top and bottom for GBs. I had a problem filtering the water with 1 GB in the first system so I wanted to add at least one more for extra filtering. The 3rd GB is a raft but set up so I can easily add a bell and gravel guard and make it a media bed too if needed. As for the pump I used an EcoPlus 396 pump in my first system and it worked fine and still does in another system. The only drawback to it would be the height it will pump. If you're not using a sunken sump tank it will work fine. It will only pump about 6' high.

Have some pics of my beds. One of the beds covered with foam is a media bed, the other is the raft. 

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And you find a single 32" sump is enough capacity to support the 3 beds?  Is your fish tank elevated from the sump/ground level? Do you have your sump feeding both the GB and FT at the same time? Or do you pump to fish tank and let that feed down to the beds? 

I only have 2 media beds that drain and they only have about 40 gallons of water each and even if I activate the 3rd bed as a media bed there will still be plenty of room in the sump. I only have it about 1/3 full now. The sump is in ground under the raft bed and only pumps to the FT.

thanks for all the help :) I think I have a plan to get started! :)

My biggest problem when I first got into aquaponics ws I wanted to do everything I saw on YouTube and you just can't. Take your plan and stick with it.

This is the rough idea I am thinking of.  The one thing I'd like to able to figure out is how to only pump up to the fish tank, but make gravity work in my favor from the fish tank to the grown beds to flower water directly from the fish tank into the grow beds, rather than back to the sump.  This would put alot less effort on the pump overall.  Any thoughts on how to do/calculate the height drop I'd need to have to be able to run water to the furthest bed just from the drain on the fish tank?

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This drawing shows the plumbing for my system except for the line from the sump to the FT. That one runs up and overhead to the FT. The water level is determined by the height of the standpipe in the FT or filter depending on where you want it. You want to plumb the FT so the water is drawn from the bottom of the tank to remove the poop. My tank drains from the valve on the bottom and runs into the bottom of my filter.

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Blake, one inch is fine for your pump feeds but use the thinwall S&D pipe as it has more volume. For the drains keep in mind that sweep 90's and T's start in 1 1/4" and up and you want sweeps not sharp 90's for flow. I use 1 1/2" (again S&D) for the common run back to the sump from the GBs (underground) and 1 1/4" for the flow to the GBs but I reduce it along the run. I fill the GBs at one corner and my bell siphons are in the far adjacent corner. That way there is no difference between using tops and bottoms of the ibc's. Distributing the inflow around the edges can lead to too many clogs so I wanted the flow to pass all the way thru the bed from one corner to the far corner. Also I use 90's that I can rotate rather than ball valves at each GB. Again no solids clogs.

As to FT and sump you have the right idea but keep in mind that the greater the difference in height between the FTs and the sump the greater the rate of flow and you want all the flow you can get to avoid settling out of solids in the gravity flow pipes. Therefore I sank the sump 275g tank completely into the ground and I set the FTs up on a cribwork so I have great flow throughout the system. I have 5 full size ibc FTs and a DWC 12x3  and 5 Ibc GBs cut at about 14" but the cages I cut right at the rail for a nice finished look but the top comes out a bit different from the bottom as you'll notice. Still looks awesome and they are set on a 20ft platform at waist height as that is where most of the work is done and you want to be comfortable.

Ck out my pics for more ideas: HERE

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