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My aquaponics system

Discussion in 'The Green Patch' started by ditch witch, Oct 15, 2013.

  1. ditch witch

    ditch witch resident bacon hoarder Site Supporter+

    Still in its infancy but so far working great.

    And a quick video of it all running.

    Things I've learned! You might notice there's two different kinds of metal frames. Left bed has square tubing, right bed has round. The square tubing has given us fits. The two support bars under that bed have bowed and cracked under the weight. The round tubing, no issues. We wound up shoving 2x4s underneath the square frame one for support. In the future we'll do that on all the beds.

    Another thing was not to let your significant other adjust the pump at 9 PM. You'll be up all friggin night tweaking the bed faucets to get the inflow/outflow equal again. The first time he did that I didn't know and woke up to a fish tank barely 1/4 full and a flooded yard.

    Feed training predatory fish is a major headache. Catfish and bluegills readily take to pellets. Bass, not so much. It can be done though, found a college that feed trained wild sand bass in two weeks, so am still working on it.

    Hydroton is not only expensive, it's been discontinued. There are alternatives on the market, but so far more expensive. I got pea gravel for $30 a yard, vs $25 per 50 pounds of Hydroton. I like its water retention ability and may continue to mix it in future beds, but won't ever try to go full clay pellets.

    With our nighttime temps already going to the low 40s the trick now will be building a small cold frame to go around it. That's this week/weekend's project, along with adding 2, 400 watt heaters to the fish tank and 1, 400 watt heater to the sump. I also want to build a pop can solar heater to pump hot air underneath the beds during the day, boxing in the space underneath each bed with 1" styrofoam and filling it with old gallon water jugs full of water. Thinking they will heat up all day, and help cut down heat drop overnight. It's a theory anyway, we'll see what happens.

    Future additions! Before anyone says I'm defeating the purpose of the beds by throwing minnows and goldfish into the sump, that's just temporary. I'm going to be setting it up as a natural, biological filter using dwarf cattails, bog iris, etc. I'd put snails in there but they breed like mad and I'm afraid they'll get into the whole system. We also have the totes to expand this to a total of 8 beds, 4 sumps, 2 IBC tote fish tanks and another 160 gallon nursery tank, but will hold off on the expansion until spring.
    IMG_2825[1].JPG IMG_2855[2].JPG IMG_2881[1].JPG IMG_2868[1].JPG IMG_2887[1].JPG
  2. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    Good luck. Looks pretty good so far.;)
  3. ditch witch

    ditch witch resident bacon hoarder Site Supporter+

    If I had any common sense I would have built the greenhouse first and THEN installed this system, but no, had to make it more difficult on myself. :D
    Ganado and natshare like this.
  4. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    I was kinda wondering what you had in mind for light......;)
  5. ditch witch

    ditch witch resident bacon hoarder Site Supporter+

    The sun works pretty well...
  6. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    It looks like it is indoors, and your hot house will enclose it as well. i do not see a clear path to sun light......I assume, it just can't be seen in the photos.;)
  7. cdnboy66

    cdnboy66 Monkey++

    nice steup, thanks for sharing it
  8. ditch witch

    ditch witch resident bacon hoarder Site Supporter+

    It's in the back yard, by the fence. The hot house will have clear plastic, sooo yeah, plenty of sun.
    kellory likes this.
  9. AmericanRedoubt1776

    AmericanRedoubt1776 American Redoubt: Idaho-Montana-Oregon-Wyoming Site Supporter+

    Thanks for the postings. That's our next project Tilapia Catfish Aquaponics.
    Dunerunner likes this.
  10. ditch witch

    ditch witch resident bacon hoarder Site Supporter+

    We set up the 160 gallon tank in the rabbit house as a fail safe in case we can't keep the water temps up over the next few months. If it drops too much we'll be able to transfer the fish over to that tank and shut the system down for the winter. We wanted to put catfish in there since they take the cold well, but the only thing biting when we went fish shopping were sand bass. :D
    Dunerunner likes this.
  11. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    ditch witch likes this.
  12. Awesome! Good job! I'm so happy people are realizing the unlimited number of ways this type of gardening can be achieved! YES!
  13. ditch witch

    ditch witch resident bacon hoarder Site Supporter+

    I need to get some new photos but was holding off until I'd gotten some sort of hoop house over it. We've had a nice run of daytime temps in the 60-70 range and nighttimes in the high 40s and everything is coming up like mad. The lettuces and radishes absolutely love it, and the cabbage is coming on fast too. The last thing to pop was the celery. I gotta say, I'm _really_ excited about the potential for this and I don't usually get all hopped up over anything that involves work or vegetables. You should see the expansion plans I've scribbled floating all over my desk.

    We've had a few issues, primarily the pump filters getting completely clogged with crap. It isn't helping that our Mimosa tree is shedding like mad and the leaves blow into the water... a hoop house should cure that problem at least. We'll set up the 160g stock tank with a couple of 2' mixing tray grow beds in the rabbit house next week and then phase out the big setup for the winter. That way we can make a few changes to it that we should have done before it weighed a few tons (farther from fence, raise grow beds an extra 6", level it right this time, paint the plastic dark so the algae isn't so bad). Also I watched a few vids where they were using red wigglers in the system with fantastic results so will be adding those in to the indoor setup as well, see how that works out. :)
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2013
  14. I can't tell you how many times we had to redo work we had already done in getting our system setup. The trials of the trade I guess... with so many unique systems out there, it's hard to predict every little problem one may have. Our moat collapsed 3 times before we devised a way to keep the dirt and mud back. Anyways, I've seen people use red wrigglers with great results when it comes to removing organic debris and turning it all back into worm castings which are water soluable and great plant fertilizer. I would recommend adding them to most aquaponics setups as they don't do any harm to the system. I would however switch to a pump that doesn't use foam filters. You are pushing water,nutrients, and fish waste into your grow beds, what exactly are you trying to filter out? We use a light duty sump pump that can pass 1/4" solids and then we're going to let the fresh water clams and red wrigglers do the rest to breakdown solids. Good idea on darkening the beds to slow down algae growth. The more UV touches the water,the more algae grows. Good thing algae is water soluable and non fibrous otherwise this would also clog your pump. Glad to hear all is going well and progress is being made! Good luck!

  15. ditch witch

    ditch witch resident bacon hoarder Site Supporter+

    The filters were on the pumps when I got them. I ended up removing them entirely but the vents on the housing still get clogged up, ATM with a million mimosa leaves. I can get the incoming/outgoing equalized, but a few days later one or the other pump gets something slapped up against the vents and if it happens late in the evening the levels can get off by a half a foot or more by morning. Doesn't seem like much, but an extra 8" will overflow one tank or the other. There are two fixes for this on the table for this winter when we take it back apart. One is to dig holes deep enough to drop the fish tanks into so that they're 2/3ds in the ground, then connecting them to the sumps via an overflow line. The other is to take a pile of railroad ties whose current purpose seems to be to trip me at least once a week and build a 2'w x 2'd x 24'L raceway, line it with pond liner, and use it for the fish tank. Either way we could eliminate one of the pumps because the water would return via gravity, and it wouldn't matter if it got a little bogged down from time to time. The downsides are digging two big freaking holes in caliche, or having a 718 gallon fish tank that I will inevitably want to fill to the brim with fish, when I don't even like eating fish. :D
    Dunerunner likes this.
  16. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    I am not a big fish fan either, but I love most other seafood, I wonder if this could be done with clams, shrimp, ect. ? @ditch witch , are the things plugging your vents floating, or under water?
  17. ditch witch

    ditch witch resident bacon hoarder Site Supporter+

    Kel there are a number of people who are trying to raise freshwater prawns in the systems. The problem is that they're cannibalistic and highly territorial. I talked to one guy who was doing it successfully in the IBC totes like I'm using. He essentially turned it into a parking garage for shrimp by taking these rigid mesh panels and putting them together like, well, a parking garage. I can't remember how many layers in the tank but I think there was only 4 or so inches between each. That allowed the shrimp to occupy the different layers and utilize the entire depth of the tank. Even so, he said at best he could raise up 30-40 prawns in the tote. Anything more would be killed by the other shrimp. If I wind up building the raceway style fish tank then I may try adding prawns to it. There's a hatchery just outside of Fort Worth that raises them and they're not too expensive.

    I looked into freshwater clams a bit, but what I've learned isn't real encouraging. Bivalves act as water filters, sucking up toxins in the water as well as debris. In the open ocean that's not a huge concern... or well, it didn't use to be. Probably have some glow in the dark clams near Japan now. In lakes and rivers, they lean to the toxic side thanks to all the pollutants in the water... gas and oil from watercraft, outflow from treatment plants, etc. I've known a few people who tried to cook some up and they said they tasted dreadful. In a closed aquaponic system, they wouldn't be toxic but they still wouldn't taste anything like steamer clams. I was going to add some to the sump as a biological filtration element, but I don't think I'll try them with butter and lemon juice.

    The crap that keeps plugging the vents is debris that's settled down into the water. I've got a few ideas knocking around to solve that problem but still got pen on paper seeing what might work best.
    Dunerunner likes this.
  18. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    Cheese cloth over PVC arches?
  19. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    Vertical chicken wire stack around your intake would help. Lift off for cleaning. As it plugs, the water level just rises to clear grating. If it were floating debris, hanging the intake from a float would help. Try both together. Float your intake in a vertical chicken wire or metal cloth in closure.
  20. We will be using freshwater clams as a biological filter. We too heard that they do not compare to salt water clams and that they taste terrible. haha japanese glowing clams :p good one. but seriously ocean fish should be avoided right now IMO, as they haven't stopped dumping radioactive material into the ocean, and in fact just increased their daily allowable limit. [OT] Anyways, as we're usually raw vegan in my house,we won't be eating our fish very often. Instead, we see the fish as a good sustainable form of dog food! Our dog is also on a raw diet, though now he eats raw meat and fish, we're looking forward to converting him to a mostly pescatarian diet. There are lots of things you can do instead of fish for plant nutrients. Fish is just the most common because people can add gardens to their existing ponds. However by the same token I have seen fully functioning rabbit based hydroponics. A rabbit cage without a bottom tray so they're just on the metal grid, their poop falls through into the sump I'm guessing and gets pumped up to the beds which has a bell siphon to gravity drain and create the ebb and flow. It was a while ago that I saw the rabbit system so I don't remember exactly but I'm sure it was something close to that,they definitely pooped into some sort of baby pool. I'm pretty sure almost any animal that eats a wide variety vegan diet can be used for hydroponic nutrients. I've also seen other seafood done, but you said you already had a bunny house... if you're interested I could try to find more info and perhaps the man who's system I saw 5-6 years ago. Also definitely use gravity as much as possible, that's a great idea, I think of it like a pump that will never go bad or clog, and that's also free. Also be careful with pumps that normally have foam filters as this is usually just as much to prevent debris from entering the pump impeller as it is to filter out debris from your bed. Make sure the impeller can handle not having a filter on it, or it could burn out in the night which would be bad. That's all for now. [gone]

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