Aquaponic Gardening

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As you may know, bulkhead fittings (a.k.a. tank adapters) (to put a pipe through the wall of a tank) are one aquaponics item you can’t generally get at a local hardware store or even a big-box hardware store.  I’ve found some sources, as you may have as well.  But in case it’s helpful to someone, I’ll list them here.  I’d love to know if anyone knows of other sources too:

 

You can order bulkhead fittings online from Aquatic Ecosystems in Florida (aquaticeco.com).  They have a wide selection, and some are not very expensive.  But you have to pay shipping and you have to wait a bit. 

 

The local sources for bulkhead fittings I know about so far are:

 

Irrigation Supply on Kentucky Street in Woodland:  I know they have some for 1.5” pipe, for max tank wall size less than 1.5”.  If you’re building raft tanks out of stock 2-by–X lumber, for example, that's a problem.  Not sure if they have them for other sizes of pipe.

 

The guy at Irrigation Supply says perhaps AgroFarm in Woodland might have a bigger selection; they deal with more tanks.  (Perhaps a source for aquaponics tanks as well?)

 

WaterRite on Rio Linda Blvd. in Sacramento

 

Horizon Irrigation on Broadway in Sacramento occasionally has some, but not consistently.

 

I haven’t had much luck finding them at conventional plumbing stores.  I think C&C had some 1” at one point.

 

I’ve also put together make-shift bulkhead fittings out of regular PVC fittings (threaded male adapter + threaded female adapter + rubber washers).  However, that’s dicey.  PVC fittings have tapered threads, so they get tighter the more you screw them together, and you have to screw them tight to make them water-tight.  The thickness of the wall of the tank you’re putting them on has to be just right:  If the wall is too thin, then you’ll the adapters won’t be tight against the tank even though they are screwed into each other all the way, and the fitting will leak around the hole you cut in the tank.  On the other hand, if the wall is too thin, the adapters will snug up against the tank all right but the threads won’t be screwed all the way in, so the fitting will leak through the threads.  You can remedy these situations with the right combination of rubber washers and/or sealant, but it’s a pain.

 

I’ve read in two different places that PVC fittings made for electrical conduit (as opposed to those made for carrying liquids) have regular square threads, not tapered pipe threads, and so should work for use as a makeshift bulkhead adapter.  However, the PVC conduit fittings I’ve found have had the same tapered threads.

 

Anyone know of other sources?  Do any of the local hydroponics stores sell them?  How are their prices and selection?

 

Also, for some applications, a neat little thing called a UniSeal is a great alternative.  Not sure where else you might be able to get them, but you can order them from Aquatic Eco.  They are a specialized rubber seal that fits in the hole you drill in the tank wall (or even pipe wall, if the pipe diameter is not too small).  They you just push your pipe through it.  They seem to hold water just great.  Simple and less costly than bulkhead fittings, in those cases where you can get away with them.

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Replies to This Discussion

Paul...The AquaponicsSource.com   .... sells them very reasonably!  Go here and click "store" tab.  I ordered mine 2nd day when we needed them so desperately and cost like an extra $25 or so.  They were I think like $5.95 and $11.95 for 1" and 2" bulkhead fittings.  http://theaquaponicsource.com/

I buy mine from an company that sells agricultural tanks and spray equipment ( PBM Supply & Mfg).  Look for that type of business.  I don't know if you have a Tractor Supply in Sacramento, but they carry a small selection up here in Chico.

If I have to be legit, I buy proper bulkhead fittings at Ewing, very high quality, but pricey. A 2" is around $40. Hydro stores sell a great fitting, all plastic, available with a barbed side for 1/2", 3/4", or 1" hose to slip right on for $2, I have at least a hundred of them. For bigger ones, I found just yesterday a great solution at Home Depot, 2" shower drains all plastic, with threaded nut and washer made to seal a liner or fiberglass pan for $6. Even comes with a stainless steel grate so fish don't slip through. You can get it in 2" threaded, glued slip joint, or rubber squeeze joint. I opted for the rubber squeeze, so I can simply pull them apart to remodel. If your looking for 3-4" sizes, then I'd suggest using two plastic toilet flanges, face to face, with membrane in the middle, and bolted together with stainless bolts through the holes already in place for mounting them to the subfloor. $5 each, plus some bolts, totals less than $15 for solid 3-4" fittings. Not bad.
For plumbing thicker plastics, like blue barrels, I've had good success with just drilling a hole and tapping a thread into it, and screwing PVC fittings right into it. Like Paul said, PVC uses tapered pipe threads, so they become water tight when threaded. You can't get cheaper or more local than that. A 3/4" threaded PVC fitting is $.29.

Flex PVC.com They are in Nevada and have a good selection of parts

I bought mine at C&C plumbing and they were very helpful I bought

1 1/2" for about 14 dollars.

I picked up some at Ace hardware. They are sealed tight, 3/4". Works well so far. About $12 each.

I know this is a little late to the thread but hopefully it will help someone. There is a hydroponics store at interstate 80 and Antelope road on the south west side of the freeway. Sorry dont know the name of the place but it can be seen from the freeway next to Graingers. They carry all the fittings you may need. I picked up a drain connector for a plastic tote and i paid about 1.65 

Irrigation Supply in Woodland has 1.5" bulkheads for $8.50 or so. 

Found some of those hydro store 1" bulkhead fittings Jon mentioned a while back :

$3 each at Green Thumb 1537 Fulton Ave., Sac. Also available in bags of 10, maybe better price.
These are nominally 1", referring to the barb diameter (ie 1" ID tubing fits this barb).  They also offer the same type fitting with 3/4" barb; dimensions of which appear to be identical to the 1" in all respects except barb size.
hole size to drill:  1.25"
top OD:  1-11/16"
top ID:  15/16"
bottom ID:  7/8" (less on the nominally 3/4" size)
overall length:  2.5"
max. tank wall thickness:  5/16" (7/16" if you want to risk omitting one of the washers)
Jon, at my local Home D, I still can't find this other one you mentioned:
"at Home Depot, 2" shower drains all plastic, with threaded nut and washer made to seal a liner or fiberglass pan for $6. Even comes with a stainless steel grate so fish don't slip through. You can get it in 2" threaded, glued slip joint, or rubber squeeze joint."
Everything I find there seems to cost more like $10 - $15.
Do you perhaps have a picture to help with the hunt?

I've got to make a depot run in the morning. I'll snap a pic while I'm there.

Strike that, just checked the shop and found a couple not yet in serviceThe above pic is the 2" glue fitting, actually only $3.50 including SS grill. The below pic with the label is the rubber compression type ($5.50) that can be tightened to a 2" pipe kept below the grill, or the grill can be popped off and the pipe can be extended thru both sides of the tank, used kind of like a uniseal (though a bit tricky to tighten the compression lock ring)

 

awesome Jon!  Thanks!

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