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Ongoing Aquaponics Build

Discussion in 'The Green Patch' started by Asia-Off-Grid, Jun 25, 2016.

  1. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    Greetings Fellow Primates:

    On June 3rd, in a super secret forum on this site, the name and very discreet location I must never divulge, I posted a request asking others if they thought my aquaponics system build may be of interest to other members of the forum. Everyone agreed it would, so, here I am - sharing that build with you good folks now, including material and labor costs.

    I should preface this with, I am building this system on someone else's property, where I also rent an apartment. So, I have been limited in the size of the system I am allowed to build, to 12 square meters. However, I would imagine 12 square meters, typically, would quite a suitable size for a single family system.

    Regarding this system, while I am just this month building it, I have been researching AP systems for a long time. Typically, I put a lot of time and energy into research, prior to just jumping in with both feet. Doesn't stop me from making stupid mistakes along the way. But, I can pretend like I actually know what I am doing - until I get to the mistakes.

    The original plan was to be able to cycle this system by the end of next month (July). However, if things continue to go as they have been, I will be ahead of schedule. It looks as though I will be well over on my estimate of expenditures. My original budget for this was $1,000 USD.

    If you have any questions, comments, criticism, input or advice, please do not hesitate to post your reply in this thread. After all, this is my very first attempt at building such a system. It is also the first time I have attempted to grow anything since I was a teenager. Back then, I (foolishly) attempted to compete with my dear departed pappy, by growing tomatoes in buckets, like he did. Please do let me know what you think.



    June 10: Two IBC totes were delivered to our humble abode. At the time of purchase, I planned one for a fish tank; the other for a sump, for the system.

    IMG_2306_r. IMG_2312_r.

    I live in Cambodia, but purchased the totes from Thailand. Purchase, delivery, and customs duties, I am in just under $200 USD, total.
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2016
  2. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    June 14: I was going to build a proper (welded metal) greenhouse over my system. However, in SE Asia, we have what is called the "long nose discount". Translation, if you are a foreigner, sometimes you are seen coming - and are charged accordingly. At over $700 USD, just for the greenhouse, I knew that was out of the question. I figured I would sort that later. So, on to the next step, cutting and cleaning the totes for the system.


    IMG_2340_r. IMG_2345_r. IMG_2351_r.

    A friend also offered to send me some "fingerlings". So, I purchased and set up an aquarium to house them until I could get the system started. $38.00, total purchase.
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2016
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  3. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    June 15: Fish arrived, after a four hours taxi trip from my buddy's home. His fingers are obviously much larger than mine. I received 11 fish, all in good health, from fingerling size, to large juvenile size. I immediately asked the "Boss" to return the pump to the shop and purchase one three times the size, to help keep the water clean.
    2016-06-15 13.35.18_r.

    2016-06-15 14.08.06_r.
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  4. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    June 16: Purchased the first 208 Liters (55 gallons) blue barrels for the system, as well as a hole saw kit to start drilling some holes in the drums. 2 - 208 liters drums, $43.00. 3 - 20 liters buckets, $5.00.

    June 17: Time to start boring some holes to begin sorting out my filters for this system.
    During my research, I went ahead and purchased some parts and materials ahead of time. Part of this purchase was Uniseals from a supplier in Australia. Uniseals: $187.62 USD
    IMG_2366_r. IMG_2372_r. IMG_2380_r.
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2016
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  5. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    June 20: I knew, very early on, that I could secure parts, mainly the water and air pumps necessary for the system, in Phnom Penh. However, that is 7 hours away. So, we went around and found a local shop to do business with.

    Water pump: 2,300 liters / hour - $33.00
    Air pump: 75 liters / minute - $45.00
    Total cost at his shop was: $115.00

    Definitely higher than Phnom Penh. Future purchases will be sorted in advance, with the dealer in Phnom Penh.
    At this point, the total build for the project is $599.12 USD
    Total labor at this point: $22.00
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2016
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  6. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    June 22: At this point, I was noticing the fact that the ammonia levels in the aquarium were off the charts. NOT a good thing. However, the fish had not shown ANY signs of ammonia poisoning, even though they should be - well, dead.

    Ammonia in this test should be no higher than .25ppm. I think we can all agree it's a tad higher than that.

    So, I knew I had to step up the game a bit, even if it meant just starting this system as an aquaculture set up, rather than a fully involved aquaponics system. That's what we did.

    In the mean time, we are also doing major water changes, filter changes, and put the fish on a diet.


    Today, I also enlisted the "Boss" to see if she could buy a list of PVC pipes and fittings for the system. She spent a total of $38.00 at the plumbing supply shop, on pipe and fittings. On tools, tape, and glue, the additional cost was $15.50. Total: $53.50
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2016
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  7. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    June 23: Time to work on the leanto. Sent our worker, along with the boss, to buy initial materials needed for the leanto. $32.00 spent.

    IMG_2406_r. IMG_2408_r. IMG_2410_r.
  8. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Monkey+++

    Absolutely amazing. I love this project and you have done an amazing job.

    Why do you think there would be an ammonia issue?

    ** is that barb wire on the top of your fence in post #2?
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  9. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    June 24: I tell ya, I don't believe I have ever met a guy with a better work ethic, and one who is as devoted to detail in what he is doing, than this fellow - Tha. Certainly not in SE Asia. He wants to make sure things are done right the first time.

    IMG_2419_r. IMG_2420_r.

    We purchased, at $13.00 per 3.5 meters x 60 cm sheet, 8 sheets of roofing to top off the leanto. One box of lag screws with plastic washers. Total spent: $109.00

    IMG_2429_r. IMG_2431_r. IMG_2434_r. IMG_2437_r. IMG_2440_r.
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  10. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    I tested it regularly, until a couple of days ago. Every time, the levels were off the charts, as you can see in the image I posted. Unless there is something wrong with the test kit, I can only assume it is accurate. When I tested the water, prior to the fish arriving, the ammonia level was 0. I have since added sword plants. But, the crazy fish are eating them.

    Yes. Barbed wire is commonly added to the top of fences here, in many compounds. When I lived in the Philippines, broken glass would be embedded into a bit of concrete, laid across the top of a fence, as well. In SE Asia, there are no law suits. If you cross a fence into someone else's yard and get maimed or killed, you get what you deserve.
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  11. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    June 25: Plumbing day. Today, we started working on the filters, by cutting and adding the 2" PVC I will be piping most of the system with. Here are the filter shots for the Radial Flow Filter, and the Moving Media Bio-Filter.

    Radial Flow Filter
    IMG_2445_r. IMG_2446_r. IMG_2450_r.


    Moving Media Bio-Filter
    Turned vertically, to show the holes drilled in the pipe nipples and caps.
    Motomom34 likes this.
  12. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Regarding your ammonia test reagents. Watch the expiration dates and storage temp requirements carefully. I can't say for a certainty, but IIRC most colorimetric reagents have an organic component that won't last forever.
  13. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    The current test kit I have is an API Master Fresh Water Test Kit. It expires December, 2018.

    I don't really know enough about this yet, to speak with any authority. But, I was assuming the ammonia was high due to a few factors:
    1. Too many fish in the tank, for its size. (He told me fingerlings, but sent mostly larger fish. Had I known otherwise, I would have bought a larger aquarium.)
    2. The tank didn't have time to cycle before I added the fish. (I only bought it 24 hours before the fish arrived.)
    3. They don't believe in anything relating to an under gravel filter here. I recall, as a boy, my filtering systems, along with the under gravel, keeping everything in check.

    I could be wrong here, though. All of the above are merely assumptions on my part. At the moment, we just keep the water changed every day and watch the pH level. But, from what some aquaponics folks tell me, Tilapia can live in almost any type of water, as long as it's warm. Warm? We can do warm, for sure.
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  14. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    That's it, for the moment, folks. Today is the 26th, my birthday suit day. So, we will not be working on the system today.
    I hope this thread helps others here. Thanks for reading!
  15. Seacowboys

    Seacowboys Senior Member Founding Member

    I have an aquaponics system that I have been running for about four years. I made some costly mistakes that I can see catching up with me now finally.
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  16. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    Care to share any here? I'm all ears.
  17. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    Back, after a few days under the weather.

    June 29th: Doing a final cutting of PVC, to make sure everything is going to fit well together.

    IMG_2469_r. IMG_2472_r.

    Today's (June 29th) expenditures: $37.00 USD in wood, $4.00 USD delivery fee.
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  18. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    June 30: More work on getting the system set up.

    Tha, painting the first tote. This will help keep algae from forming. From what I have learned, it is important to keep algae out of your aquaponics system, as it will rob the system of needed nitrates.
    Four cans of spray paint, at the equivalent of $1.25 each, is what it took to paint one tote. Doesn't get much more reasonably priced than that.

    75mm (3 inches) to 25mm (1 inch) bell reducer. Inverted and notched, to use as an SLO (Solids Lifting Outlet) in the bottom of the Radial Flow Filter. When the lady (who speaks zero English) at the plumbing supply store showed me this, I didn't think it would work, at first. Then, I began looking at it. It finally hit me that it was perfect for the part. (I'm blonde, so, it takes us a bit longer than you other folk, sometimes.) Had to cut some off the both ends, but it fits great.

    And, finally, the first of the plastic bottle caps are in the moving media bio-filter.
    Tha ended up drilling holes all the way around the strainer here, to allow more water to pass through.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2016
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  19. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    July 1: Begin filling, dechlorination and cycling of the system. Some of this water will be lost due to not having the external pipe fittings glued together. But, I wanted to fill and run the system first, to make sure everything was going well.
    The water return into the sump tank. (Note: I was going to use a second IBC as a sump. Now, I am considering using it as a second fish tank.)

    The odor of chlorine in the water is especially strong in the moving media bio-filter. There, the air being injected into the system will help release some of the chlorine.
    The air stones are doing their job in the moving media bio-filter, as well. I currently have three running in the bio-filter.
    (Notice the additional holes now in the strainer.)

    Temporarily, I have two pumps running in this system. This is to help evacuate the chlorine faster. The PVC is from the sump pump. The pump attached to the clear hose is inside the fish tank, merely circulating water within the tank. In a few days, I will remove that pump and hose. I can then introduce my fish. They will go from their compact studio, to a penthouse unit.


    Running Totals:
    Materials To Date: $ 1010.30 USD
    Tha's salary To Date: $80.00 USD

    Next step will be to build and plumb the grow beds.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2016
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  20. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Monkey+++

    You are lucky to have Tha, he seems like a hard worker. Those bottle caps are pretty but why do you have them?
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