Aquaponic Gardening

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I have the following IBC Tote setup (covered in another thread here) and I need to add another sump tank for additional water capacity and I've burned out 2 pumps now as I just quite dont have enough total sump capacity.

I started to dig another hole next to my existing sump to connect them via the 2" ball valve on the bottom.  I hit my septic tanks drain field and had to stop. Now Im stuck and need some help!

Is there a way to connect a new IBC tote to a sunken IBC tote and have them work together as 1 large sump? I am completely puzzled and stuck on this, I cant think of how it would work without having to add another pump to the system or re-plumb nearly everything.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!!



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Hi Blake, first off go to Lowes, etc. and get a damn float switch that will shut off your pump if water drops to whatever you like. They last forever. If you know a plumber you can probably get a used one for pennies on the dollar since they almost always replace both when a pump fails for other than water level reasons, and they do.

2nd, how large is your total system volume? Mine is about 24-2500 gal and my one buried 275g sump is more than adequate.

Tell us more.

Here is a cut away of my system

And the layout

Blake in looking at your system pics I can't see the one thing that could cause your sump to go dry and that is your exit line. There should be a T just inside your fish tank so it can never drop below that point via siphoning out. Here is an old blog I did for the group in 2012 that addresses the SLO.

Here is the float switch I am referring to

There are many kinds that will do you.


Thanks for the responses and all your help getting my system up the first time around :) 

In my fish tank I do have a gravity train with the T describe - the fish tank will never run out of water, just as you described.

I do need to get a float switch for the main pump, my problem is water gets to low and causes the pump to be exposed and burn up.  From what I can tell this occurs when all 3 grow beds are lets say 95% full - there is not enough excess water in the system to support getting the last 5% across the beds and the pump runs dry.  I've tried toying with the timing on the draining but there is basically always going to be a time, over time, when all 3 beds line up like that and I have my problem - unless you know a way around the timing issue.

All beds drain back via bell siphons as well.

Total volume is 

Fish tank - 275gal
3x grow bed - roughly 150gal/ea - but filled will lava rock - not sure how to calculate displacement.

Sump Tank - 2/3 of an 275gal IBC, so roughly 200ish gallons.

Hope this helps

Any chance you could replace the existing sump with a full size IBC? Of course the more growbeds you have the LESS likely they will all dump at once. My sump never varies more than about 10" with my five 12" deep media IBCs and 12" bell siphons. (unless a clog backs up water and overflows a FT or something and that is where the float sw comes into play) Not sure why you are having trouble.

Now by my calcs my GBs are about 15CF each and that equals about 60g each at about 50% granite gravel so you should be about the same but ya that comes to 180g so you are cutting it close if all fill at once. Add 2 more GBs LOL. Kidding but not. Like I said the more the better in some ways. BUT I would try to replace that sump with a full size even a 330 for safety sake. I know that's a lot of work but it would fix the problem for sure and allow for more GBs down the line.

Also, leave the lid on the IBC and just cut an access hole.

Hrm, I had not though about just directly replacing the sump - that will be a bit tricky with the grow bed over top of it which is to heavy to move and positioned dangerously on some cinderblocks - if the tote wasnt below it the weight could cuase the blocks to slide in and collapse. I'd also have to add some plumbing but not a big deal.

I was thinking I could add a second tank next to my fish tank, connect the 2" valves - that would give me some extra water in the system overall, and I could put a small pump in there with a reverse float hooked up such that when the water dropped it turned on and trained from the fish tank and when it reached a certain level filling up it would shut off.  That requires a second pump which isnt my favorite idea - but Im a bit outta options.  I see how adding more grow beds would help - cant do that just yet though.

If you can put in the second sump just do like Jim said and put in a larger tank and just use the one sump and one pump. You don't have to bury it all the way, just below the grow bed level. The original sump can be used for make up water. 

Hi Blake

Not sure how much space you've got available to sink your extra sump - but you can use a water bridge to connect the two sumps. Just an inverted U with a U bend at each end to keep water in the bridge in the event the sump runs dry. 

If there is enough head from your GB to run into an above ground sump before your pump sump- you can use a water flow valve (as used in WC) to regulate the water running from your extra sump into your pump sump



Pieter - I am not familiar with the water bridge, but perhaps the water flow valve is what I need.... I assume you mean an automatic/powered one - and I could hook it to some sort of a float switch so when water gets low it opens and closes when water reaches another level?

Any extra information you could share about one of these would be most helpful :) Thanks!

The water bridge is operated as a water level equalizer. Once it's primed (by filling it with water) it operates by gravity and keeps the level in the 2 tanks at the same level. If either end of it goes above water level it looses it's ability to function (loose it's siphoning ability). It would work with both tanks at the same height.


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