Aquaponic Gardening

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>>  I planned and executed the plan to bury my totes about 3 feet deep. I was thinking I would have coolish tanks in the Summer and non-freezing tanks in the winter. I was right, but TOO right. Can't seem to get the tanks over about 62 degrees F this August. AND, I've been discussing about how to heat them this winter to get the fish and the roots to about 70 degrees F or so.  OOPS! the massive heat sink on 5 sides of the tank constantly in the 50-56 degree clay-sand does not make for a very feasible warming situation. I will need to insulate them, but they are already in the ground with growbeds built over them.

>>  It occurred to me that I could slightly wash out one side at a time with directed water flow, and back fill with insulating foam. But I have never done this, and do not have the equipment to pump foam part-A to mix with foam part-B so that the foam fills from the bottom and rises to the level of the floor. The IBC totes were let down in their cages and are currently full of water, so I think it could be done. I don't see the foam collapsing the tanks when they are full of water and there is an easy expansion route straight up.

>>   I did find: FOAM IT 102 Polyurethane Spray Foam Kit that claims to be 100% Free of CFC's, VOC's, Penta-BDE's, Urea Formaldehyde. It is complete with presurized tanks, hose and nossles and tips. As well as "clear directions for the do-it-your-selfer."  This generates a "green closed cell foam" that is "fast-rise."

>>  There is also a FOAM IT 402 Polyurethane Spray Foam that generates "green open cell foam" with much the same information as to free of nasty chemical effects as noted above. This is "slow-rise."  Both require a fit tested vapor-roof respirator (appears to be EPA regulation when using spray foams - green or not).

>>  Any suggestions on the plan of injecting foam into an open space between the walls of the tote and the ground?

>>  Any suggestions on the type of foam to use Open Cell Vs Closed Cell? R-values are about the same, r-4 per inch.

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That's perfect for trout. What are you complaining about?

But can the plants produce well at that temp?

I like the trout idea; would prefer tilapia tho. I know Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife has a list of fish dealers, maybe Washington does too?

Yeah, spring crops and tomatoes in summer.

It really depends of the person feeding them and specific environmental conditions. His water is in the best range for them, as far as I've seen. I've honestly never heard those numbers, and they seem suspect. The one thing Tilapia has over trout is being less demanding of dissolved O2. I say one, because filtration is not really a problem. I mean, you get to have more produce, by default, with trout. Although, things can go wrong quicker with trout, an observant gardener should not have a problem (from what I've heard). Also, using advanced fingerlings speeds up the process quite a bit.

>>  Temps are real, actually have been monitoring the temps as the plumbing is now working. Trout do not like square tanks, as they want to swim mostly straight ahead [I am told they bump into the walls at the corners]. Also trout like a raceway {? water running like a stream?}, but I am not set up for that.

>>  If you do research for average ground temp, you'll find it is in the 50's lower in winter, warmer in late summer. It stabilizes at about 54 degrees, I think, below a certain depth, which is why caves are generally cool.

>>  Issue is really insulating the tanks to keep heat in them so that I can get growth in the vegetables and bring the water up to a point that the catfish will feed healthily. Right now I am heading for sleep, in the AM I will call the foam people and see if they have any input about this. Who knows, they might have a solution we haven't thought of. --Good night--

Trout are fine in any tank. They just PREFER a raceway. Barney Spoonenberg of Cabbage Hill Farm Foundation hates using the raceways. So, I still think you should do trout. I think you could design your system to accommodate warmer plants. Tomatoes will grow, however. 

>>  Phil, I really appreciate your ideas.

>>  I'm thinking that if I can insulate 4 of the 5 surfaces, I'll have 80% of the problem licked.  There will be some heat loss throughout the whole system, but with only one surface leaking, it will not be such a fruitless effort to heat the tanks. 

>>  The greenhouse is designed with the tanks directly below the growbeds. To remove the tanks, I would have to empty the growbeds, disassemble the growbeds and lift them off their posts and move them out of the greenhouse, then remove the growbed supports. After all is out of the GH, I can full access to the tanks. They were installed before the walls went up in my GH, right after the foundation was poured.

>>  I'm pretty sure that some solution is possible without going to the extreme of taking the whole system out of the GH. 

>>  I'm having my internet and phone lines integrated with issues still. Service of everything is problematic just now. 

>>  Here is another picture of the growbeds over the tanks.

As you can see, taking out the tanks needs to be done as a last resort.

>>  As for spraying your tanks, I think you would rather have a professional do that, so that you could be sure that the work was done properly. There is a company with offices in Seattle and Tacoma that specializes in spraying foam for insulation. I found them via Google. They were not interested in coming out several times, and the estimate for them to do so was too expensive. That's what lead me to the kit online.

Hi Lloyd,  I think the simplest and most economical route (I didnt say easy..) would be to excavate around the tanks a bit to make it so they can be lifted, pump them out, remove the tank, excavate a bit more, then insulate with 2" or 3" rigid foam sheeting on all 5 sides, and drop them back in the hole. A little labor intensive but simple and effective.  Extend the foam up to the top edge of the tank and wrap with a wood border.

Cold water means lethargic bacteria and cold root zones.  This will retard growth of your plants if not shut them down.  You could run warming lines through the grow beds to deal with the issues for the bacteria and plants, but it will be a battle to keep the temps up if you are filling the bed with cold water. 70 degrees is your ideal temp.  A little cool for the Tilapia but mine do fine in that range.  Most fish species prefer around 70 and up for active feeding, which you need for the whole system to operate well. 

>>  Thanks to all of you for all your help and suggestions.

>>  On review of all the problems, stability, ease of access, adequate insulation, economical heating, and ability of others to do what I have done, if they want to, I will have to re-think my GH design. The growbeds are not full of rock, yet. They would be remove-able. But, once I start digging, I do not think I can reposition the tanks safely and stably upright without a major effort. More than to just put foam around the base and sides of the tanks.

>>  And, if I'm going to go to all that effort in the first place [to dig out the tanks], it is only a limited additional effort to re-do the base of the GH to allow for stable insulated tanks and stable growbeds, all heated enough to grow vegs all year round. Which is the purpose of my GH and AP, too.

>>  Some fish would grow well at the current temps, 60 degrees +/-, but the plants would not, nor would the beneficial bacteria do well. My plan was always catfish, I like them, they are pretty tolerant of temps, easy to grow. No intention of selling, just eating. And, in case of a power failure, catfish can handle a slow decrease in temps to well below 50, they just stop eating.

>>  I'm going to close out this thread, as I have to re-think the plan.

   Rick Stillwagon was kind enough to come out and look at my situation. His review was comprehensive and thorough, and his discussion with my son was enlightening. I also talked insulation with a hot tub guy who has been in the business for more than 20 years and has extensive experience with indoor and outdoor Koi ponds.

   After discussion with my son and wife, we have decided to redo the interior of the GH by using original DIY growbeds for dirt growing of root vegetables elsewhere on the property. She wants carrots, radishes, etc. and this will give her 48 sq-ft of elevated gardening to use as she wants without having to bend down to weed or harvest. [When Momma is happy . . .]

   Then we are going to dig up the tanks and insulate them with 2 inch blue or pink foam on the sides and bottom. [This thickness of insulation is calculated to allow the temp of the 300 gallons of water to drop by 400 BTUs per hour per tank, if not heated intermittently.] Then we will dig a little bit more and move them to the the south wall. Then replace the sandy clay, compact it down, and re-floor the GH with the rocks. Insulating the tops of the tanks as well, but with removable covers [have to feed the fish, later harvest them, plumbing, etc.].

   Initial heating will be with hot tub heater [have on hand]. followed by a tank sized stinger [immersion heater putting out several thousand BTUs per hour, from Amazon about $40] controlled by a thermostat from a DIY Sous Vide cooker. Hot tub heater is expected to use a couple of kW per hour, but have the tanks at 80 degrees in just a few hours. The stinger [in the sump tank] will continue to heat the water as needed [and as permitted by the thermostat in the fish tank] to keep the fish tank at 78 degrees +/- as needed. The hot tub guy thinks maybe a kWatt per day [or about 9 100ths of a US$ per day]. Rick thinks maybe more.

   We will still need to heat the GH as otherwise the water in the growbeds would be the only source of heat in the cool parts of the year [9 months running from October through June]. I plan to use the Wiseway stove to heat the GH and use heat sinks to assist in storage of the heat, so I can burn less pellets per day. The Wiseway also is a back up heat source for the tanks. Power can go out here for days at a time. We would have to assess the tank temperatures carefully during power outage. Should drop very slowly. We already have the pump and aerator on backup batteries.

   Using Ricks assessment of GH use of space, we thoroughly re-thought the plan to add significant growbed space by rearranging the growbeds to capture the most light. At this point, I was ready to buy Rubbermaid stock tanks to use as growbeds as the cost of 8 stock tanks was very close to the cost of DIY growbeds. But my son found some old diesel storage tanks, that, when cut in half [his primary occupation is scrapping tired mobile homes, trailers, 5th wheels, etc.], should make good growbeds after cleaning and lining with pond liner. This will bring us up to 400 gallons of growbeds and 300 gallons of fish [plus sump tank]. We will bring growbeds on line one at a time as the fish mature.

   As the weather here is generally mild [USDA Frost Guide 8b], we do not have much in the way of killer cold. What we do have is prolonged periods of overcast clouds [like months in a row]. Rick thinks that supplemental light will be necessary to do year round growing, and I suspect he is right. But that will be a different problem.


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