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one pump system w/ open (non recirculating) vertigros and closed (recirculating) raft tanks

After much deliberation decided not to recirculate the Vertigros.

Lots of pros and cons to this, but it will be much simplier to set up the 60 or more stacks. I kept thinking of the extra work,expense w/ plumbing, uniseals etc needed and then someone mentioned might be extra alage growth at all the rt angles I was going to have on the system... main reason is to keep it as simple as possible.

A huge pro is that I can now use one pump, which will also save electricity.

One big con- no extra oxygenation from flowing thru verticals and probably little more water loss.

I'll have a float valve set up,was thinking in raft tank, but Cosmo suggested in the fish tank, makes sense, to automatically fill water back to level.

I'm hoping I will really only lose 3qts per stack of water most of the time and when really hot out 4 qts day per stack. Two local friends that use verticals hydroponically on a large scale(700 stacks and the other has 180) quoted this same amount of water loss.

The raft tanks will be on a recirculating system w/ the lowest fish tank draining into the outer two raft tanks, possibly at multiply entry points and maybe flowing over oyester shells, like I've seen in some pics of systems online.

I'm hoping to start a bit of plumbing the tanks together tomorrow, we are leaving this week for vacation, so not sure what I can get done, lots going on.

I checked out some pumps at Home Depot tonight. I'm still not sure which pump is best for my system.

Any ideas?

I think Chris in Hawaii suggested 3 gal per min.(thanks). I saw a "Beckett"med size pond pump that is around 210 gph. Wasn't sure if this was way too small, but seems to fit that reccomendation. It's a pond pump so OK, for continuos flow. I want to make sure I don't have a huge amount of water flow out of tops into the verticals, but also need a little pressure to keep the 1/8" tubes coming off the overhead 1/2" poly tube from clogging.. The pump states it can go to 12', but not sure how accurate that is.

Thanks, Michelle

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Comment by Michelle Silva on August 7, 2010 at 8:17pm
Thanks for the tips on the pumps. I went with an energy efficient 900 gph (93 watts!) made by Danner. Cost was $100. It's good to be back so can get back to working on the system.
Comment by TCLynx on July 14, 2010 at 3:06am
Oh and amount of water top up is added by a float valve in my sump and I've not been measuring it. If I hear water running through the valve very often, I know to check of a leak or problem though. With all the rain we have been having for the past few weeks, top ups have been happening naturally and the valve hasn't added any well water in quite a while.
Comment by TCLynx on July 14, 2010 at 3:04am
Sorry, I've not kept separate track of exactly how much the Aquaponics is costing on my electric bills. I actually have over 5 systems now running 3 air pumps and seven pumps at the moment. Some of this is because I'm testing out products and pumps and also the way my systems are sprawled across the property. At some point I'll get a watt meter to plug each pump into to see what it actually uses as it cycles but at the moment, I would simply be doing the math from the ratings. I only had a month in this house before I was setting up hydroponics so it isn't as if I have a year of electric usage to compare then and now.
Comment by Michelle Silva on July 13, 2010 at 10:55pm
Do you know approx how much water you need to add to your system daily/weekly?
Comment by Michelle Silva on July 13, 2010 at 10:49pm
My Vertigros support bars will be in the ground, designed to be with a tee at the top that the polytubing runs thru, so will be easy for me. It would be considerable more work for me to run hard pvc, and tee off on each stack, then to simply punch hole with the little tool, place smaller tube in and zip tie in place. I don't think there will be clogging issues with this size, considering it is bigger then the micro tubes I 've seen that usually vertical growers use, but will need to have enough pressure,not sure what that is, to keep it clear. I would rather try what is easier first, and use what I already have been given. It would be ideal to get pump local, may try one of the ones at Home Depot, so I can exchange easily if doesn't work for the system.

I'm not sure why someone would recommend just for raft tanks when the fish and everything is flowing and cirlulating thru, so I hope that the fish were considered in that recommendation from Chris too.
I didn't get the impression that they weren't not sure,maybe that is what he meant.. Chris, please clarify if you read this.

OK, thanks... I'm going with a low density fish stocking rate and will foliar feed until system is mature enough to handle blooming plants without it. Yes, may not have enough oxygen, I think would have had lots more if recirculating vertigro, may need to add one of those large air disks Cosmo has on his...will see.

I'm sorry I wasn't clear, I meant how much does it cost you to run the three pumps that you have.
Thanks, I know how to calculate costs of electricity to run a pump. I've been watching out for low energy pumps and or considered solar. I don't know if it's listed somewhere already, but the info you provided is useful to have up on the board.
Regarding air pumping & filtration, when I was planning on having vertigro as recircualting I was figuring there would be plenty of oxygen, but now may need to add water flowing in at additional places on raft tanks and flowing over some type of filtering media at the place it enters in the rafts..or consider something in addition.
The two large scale growers I know using the verticals are losing such a tiny amount of water on the bottom that it's part of what made me rethink trying to reciruclate them. Some vertical growers use the bottom pot to grow, which I plan to do as well(out of the two local friends, one does and the other doesn't ). OK, well it's getting late. Thanks for you help.
Comment by TCLynx on July 13, 2010 at 9:29am
Sorry, I had assumed the Poly tubing was the black irrigation pipe and yes, when I mention spaghetti tubing, I'm talking about the 1/8" or 1/4" tubing like for drip irrigation and stuff. I've not found running Hard PVC to be all that labor intensive and the flow rates through the hard PVC are likely to be better. I figured the hard PVC would need less support structure to hold it up while poly tubing will need a frame to attach it to overhead but you probably need some of that to hold up the vertigrows so probably a non issue.

I had the impression that Chris's recommendation was for minimum flows to support the raft tanks but you still need some filtration and flow to support the fish. If you stock the fish tanks heavily enough to support your raft tanks, you will need at least a certain amount of flow and filtration through them each hour. The water flowing from one tank to the next might provide a little bit of aeration but since for most of the tanks, it would be coming from the previous tank without any filtration I doubt it will be as effective as you are hoping.

Are you planning any sort of filtration or air pumping? It seems you have reduced the system down to 4 fish tanks flowing through each other and then into the raft tanks and then pumping back. And then you will pull some water out of the system to water the vertigrows each day and then top up the system to replace that water. You can try a 500 gallon per hour pump but I fear you will find it is not enough and I doubt it could even get the solenoid valve to open to the vertigrow towers and I'm certain it won't keep the aeration up enough for the fish tanks if you have enough fish to provide nutrients to the whole thing.

As to pumping efficiency, all things have inefficiencies and a big part of figuring efficiencies is understanding what is being spoken of. There is noting electrical that is 100% efficient. The biggest trick is finding the most efficient pump appropriate to your purpose and scale. (some insist that propeller pumps are the most efficient but there are none of those pumps appropriate for small flows or high heads.) And I know that the pumps I'm using are rated as "50 watts" but since I haven't actually plugged them through a watt meter while I'm using it, I don't actually know for certain how many watts it is actually using but I find it useful as a guideline.

How much does it cost to run a pump. Well it will depend on your electric rates. You just need to do the math, how many watts used by how many hours the pump runs per month to figure how many watt hours or KWH the pump uses per month and then look at your electric bill to see how much you pay per KWH for electric as well as for fuel and do the math to see how much you are paying for the amount of electricity and fuel used by the pump per month. Since I don't know your electric rates I can't tell you how much it will cost you.

If you are pumping water into the vertigrow towers, some of the water is going to drip out the bottom of the towers and run to waste right? In that case I would expect the towers to use more than just what the plants would transpire anyway. I know in Hydroponic run to waste systems they usually say you have to water such that 5-10% of the water sent to the plants runs out and is lost. Now I've not researched the use of the vertigrows enough to know how people are running those so I could be wrong. However, all this will greatly depend on the media used in the stacks and if you are able to properly water them without loosing too much out the bottom or leaving large portions of some pots or stacks dry. (tube clogging will probably be your biggest headach here, even with filtered water I found that 1/4" tubing clogs almost daily in a fish system.)
Comment by Michelle Silva on July 13, 2010 at 8:22am
Good point. Thanks for your response. I'll look into the one pump you referred,thanks, but this sounds like more energy and power than what I may need. I was considering a 500gph pump I found online. What you suggest is such a huge difference from what Chris recommended. (?) Remember, I am also going to have a waterfall into each tank, adding oxygen, so would that affect how much it needs to turn over?
The 1/2" poly tube running acrsoss verticals is white, not sure why you think it would heat up more...friction? I want to make sure I don't use more power than I need.
What do you mean by spaghetti tube(referring to the other 1/8" blk tubes?) It would be much more labor intensive to run hard pvc along the tops of verticals and don't think would be worth the extra effort.
Regarding dumping new water into system daily, was thinking that ratio amount wasn't going to affect it much and also figured when it rains it will be adding to it, so may not need to add as much city water(yes, it has chlorine and chloramine). I was planning originally to put addt'l water into the raft tanks/ plants area automatically. I will eventually set up rain barrel to have it flow from there.
What does it cost to run all those pumps?
Balancing system("dumping all that water for vertigro). It was my understanding that the water needed for them are mostly for the plant uptake,which would think would maybe be just little less in the recirculating system. Could anyone tell me it this is way off. Approx how much would you say you need to add water to your system daily? I know this will differ regarding on amounts of plants and size/type of system.
How accurate are the specs on pumps? I read somewhere that the are only about 60% efficient from what specs are due to heat in running. Is this true? I would think it would make it more challenging to find right pump for system.
Comment by TCLynx on July 13, 2010 at 7:46am
Since your fish tanks are essentially constant height, a top up valve won't do you any good in there. The top up valve needs to be in whatever tank fluctuates when water is pumped out to the verticals.

I'm rounding up on your fish tank volume but you need to turn over your 800 gallons of fish tank each hour so that means you really need to be pumping about 14 gallons a minute to move 800 gallons in an hour. I'm currently running a 50 watt pump that would probably manage that flow at a low head but it uses 1" fittings (I actually think that is a great thing and I usually even upsize from there for even more efficiency.) Anyway, at the moment I'm running two of these 50 watt pumps one is running my front porch towers and the other is running the towers on my 300 gallon system. The chart looks like it would probably give 13-14 gallons per minute at 5 foot of head so it could pump from your raft tank up to the fish tank enough water to keep your fish tanks filtered and then you can split that flow to the two raft tanks giving each of them about 7 gallons a minute.

You would need a separate pump to feed the vertigrows but that would probably be far better to have a separate pump on a timer to feed them rather than having to run an over strong pump 24/7 just so you can open a solenoid a few times a day (which you would need the solenoid, and timer so I think a separate pump is the far more energy efficient as well as cost effective method.) (Though I'm not sure about balancing a system well when you are dumping water daily to water the vertigrows, I don't remember what your source water is going to be and if you are dealing with chlorine or chloramine or if it is well water that will affect the pH. If well water, you many not need the oyster shells as the well water will probably add plenty of calcium carbonate and keep the pH up quite high if you are dumping water to the vertigrows 4 times a day and topping up to replace. Doing the water changes thus might leave the nutrient levels in the raft system somewhat low.)

But back to pumps. I would avoid the spaghetti tubing all together. If you use a smaller pump and larger piping you can probably avoid the clogging in the first place and save electricity by not needing a high head pump. Instead of the poly tube (which can heat up in the sun and leach questionable chemicals into the water when hot) I would just use 1/2" pvc thin wall pipe and regular pvc fittings. Then if you need to restrict the flow further into the towers, just add a cheap pvc cap on the end which you can drill a hole in. If the hole clogs, it is easy to pull the cap off and clean it out. This is how I'm feeding Nate's towers on my systems. Anyway, I think one of those 50 watt pumps could handle feeding at least 12 of Nates towers (provided that is all the pump is feeding) so it could probably also feed at least that many vertigrow towers. I'm asking the pump to lift to about 7 feet on my 300 gallon system and at the moment I'm only feeding 8 towers so there is still a fair bit of bypass flow falling back into the fish tank.

If you really need more pressure and want the 3/4" fittings, there is a high head version of the pump I'm using that will do that but it uses 120 watts.

The pumps I'm speaking of are the Quiet One Pumps I am currently using the Quiet One 4000 (50 watt 1 inch fittings) to feed the towers on two different systems. I am using a Quiet One 5000 (110 watt 1 inch fittings) to feed an indexing valve on the 300 gallon system and I have a Quiet One 9000 (145 watt 1 1/2 inch fittings) running my Duck-A-Ponics system. All those pumps can run either submerged or inline and there are "pond" models of them with 20' power cables.

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