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PostPosted: Jan 16th, '18, 12:37 
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Hi all,

I've been looking into possibly setting up an aquaponics system and need a little help.

I want to run a system off a small garden pond (around 2000 liters) and had something like the setup below in mind. Because the pond is going to be at the lowest point, a sump seems to be out of the question so to avoid too much variation in pond depth, I thought instead of cascading the flow through a series of beds. What I had thought (possibly very stupidly!) is that water could be pumped into the first and highest set of beds which would flood and drain using a standard siphon. Water from this would exit by gravity to the second set of beds, which would fill rapidly and then drain slowly using a timed flood and drain (as I understand it, this just relies on having an undersized drainage pipe to reduce the speed at which water exits). From the second set of media beds, water would enter a raft/DWC bed and from there, drain by gravity back to the pond.

Is this absurdly stupid? I realise that there will be a fair amount of fiddling around to get the flood and drain cycles of the two media beds in sync but other than that, is there anything obviously terrible about this idea? I've hunted around and read a few posts on similar ideas. One thing which was suggested was using constant flood beds (no worrying about syncing cycles) but I read through the thread with the side-by-side comparison and am a bit less keen on that. I should add that I live in Thailand and where I am, average peak daytime temperatures are in the low to mid-30s and summer daytime temperatures peak in the low- to mid-40s so I'm not sure what the levels of dissolved oxygen are going to be like. That also means that fancy plumbing fittings are not really an option.

Any advice would be gratefully received.

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PostPosted: Jan 16th, '18, 15:20 
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Or.... you could just pump up into a balanced T , fill both top beds and use a tuned stand pipe in those four beds followed by overflow stand pipes in the DWCs, run the pump on a timer 15 min on 45 off.

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PostPosted: Jan 17th, '18, 00:31 
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First, if you want to "sync" the two flood and drain beds then use a single external bell siphon. Tie the two beds together so they fill as one, and have a 5 gallon bucket or similar external drum with the bell siphon.

Second, I would not recommend the system you describe. You will forever be adjusting to manage flows. It may be right for a while, but then pipes will slime inside, or a leaf will block a drain, a valve will clog, etc. and you will be in a very high maintenance situation.

Do not discount flood and drain. It works very well, is widely used, and will greatly simplify your intent. Also, it will allow the water depth in the pond to remain consistent. Flood and drain without a sump can be managed, but it is stressful for the fish when their water is going up and down all the time.

Lastly, with the pond as both the sump and the fish tank, you are pumping solids which makes them harder to separate.

I run a similar system to your sketch above. My 3000l pond in lowest, I pump to a 250l RFF (slightly pressurized) and then flow to 10 growbeds, 4 that drain to DWC rafts, then back to the FT. I have a secondary polishing filter that feeds some grow tubes similar to NFT tubes.

I manage the water level in the pond by only filling one section at a time (3 sections). Otherwise I lose 50% of the pond if the beds are all full at the same time. Also be mindful that when all the beds drain at the same time, or the power goes out, all the water needs to fit in the pond (unless you run constant flood).

I also have another system where I run constant flood beds, as well as occasionally switching some flood and drain beds to constant flood sometimes. They both work very well. I just like to drain the constant flood beds once in a while to do a complete water exchange and help oxygenate the bed, maybe once a month or so.

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PostPosted: Jan 17th, '18, 04:54 
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Hi Lampang, some good ideas from Dst and Pete ....... I run my system with a pond but have the pump in a separate tank that the pond overflows into. That way the pond level doesn't fluctuate and it can never get pumped dry if there is a blockage in any part of the return system.

If you go ahead might I suggest an overflow pipe on the beds which leads back to the pond/sump so if you do get a blockage the water simply returns under gravity. Good luck

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PostPosted: Jan 17th, '18, 07:07 
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dstjohn99 wrote:
Second, I would not recommend the system you describe. You will forever be adjusting to manage flows. It may be right for a while, but then pipes will slime inside, or a leaf will block a drain, a valve will clog, etc. and you will be in a very high maintenance situation.

Yes, thanks for pointing that out. I can see how relying on everything achieving a state of perfect balance and then remaining like that for ever is a tiny bit optimistic!

dstjohn99 wrote:
Do not discount flood and drain. It works very well, is widely used, and will greatly simplify your intent. Also, it will allow the water depth in the pond to remain consistent. Flood and drain without a sump can be managed, but it is stressful for the fish when their water is going up and down all the time.

Is that a typo? Do you mean 'do not discount constant flood'? That would certainly make things an awful lot easier. I think perhaps I should reconsider that.

Know expert wrote:
I run my system with a pond but have the pump in a separate tank that the pond overflows into. That way the pond level doesn't fluctuate and it can never get pumped dry if there is a blockage in any part of the return system.

Thanks. I like the idea of having an overflow to the pond and then pumping from that. That seems like a very good idea. Are there any secrets/obvious dangers which I should know?

Thanks again for your suggestions everyone. Very helpful.


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PostPosted: Jan 17th, '18, 23:20 
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Yes definitely a typo. I meant constant flood. I'll see if I can go back and edit that.

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PostPosted: Jan 22nd, '18, 14:12 
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So after reconsidering my first terrible idea (above), I thought instead it might be better to try a CHOP2 system. There’s nothing particularly interesting about what I had in mind, other than that the fish tank will be an as yet undug fish pond but I thought that since I have no idea what I’m doing, beginning with something that is relatively tried-and-tested might be a good idea.

This is the plan, in outline. As I said, it seems to be pretty much by the numbers.

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And this is the space where it’s going to be installed.

Image

The useable space is roughly 4 metres by 9 and is orientated east-west. In the second picture above west is on the right but that end is shaded to the south by the house, and to the north and west by several trees so except for the first part of the morning, it’s mostly in shadow. As you move across (right to left in the picture above), exposure to the sun increases. Here’s a view looking east.

Image

As can be seen from the pictures, I’ve been having fun digging. My wife and I moved into the house a bit under a year ago and the previous owners had used this space for car parking so they had filled in the ground somewhat (to raise it to house level) and then covered it with gravel. Unfortunately, there was nothing under the gravel so the stones have been driven downwards by the rain and cars, making the whole thing a bit of an ugly mess that wasn’t really suitable for anything. Initially, I had thought to clear out the top level and put in raised beds (the original soil underneath is very clayey) and hence the digging but unfortunately access is a bit problematic and moving tons of soil and gravel in and out was going to be a monumental PITA so I decided instead to go down the aquaponics route.

My plan is to dig a 3000 litre pond at the western end of the space, add a 1500 liter sump and then initially use concrete tubs (as per the picture below) filled with gravel as flood-and-drain grow beds. I realise that I’ll have to seal the concrete but these are substantially cheaper than the alternatives. To begin, I plan on having roughly 2m^3 of grow beds (4 x 150 cm tubs) and stocking with tilapia at the appropriate 1:1 ratio and if things work out, next year I’ll extend, perhaps with rafts. The sump is sized for 3m^3 of space so hopefully I won’t outgrow that. I’ll have the whole area under cover, probably using corrugated Perspex roofing.

Image

Having read dasboot’s epic thread, I’ve started to wonder about some of this, though. In particular, I hadn’t appreciated just how debilitating the heat is to plant growth. I’m hoping that having the water in a pond in a relatively shaded space may overcome some of that. On the other hand, in the summer, where I am is if anything even hotter than Chiang Rai. My feeling now is that if necessary, I can grow a single heat-tolerant crop to keep the system ticking over during the worst month or two of the summer; ‘plachon’ said that water spinach does OK in the heat so if the worst comes to the worst, I just grow that. Despite dasboot’s successes with his new insulated raft system, there’s no way I want to start with that and rather than run what would surely be a very-high risk of failure, it’s perhaps better to accept (at least to begin with) a seasonal reduction in crops in return for a much better chance of overall success.

A couple of questions:

1. I’m not sure there’s an answer to this one, but should I put in some kind of filter? If so, would a swirl tank suffice? Or should I look at something more ambitious?

2. Pumps are a slight problem here as the brands which seem to get recommended for aquaponics aren’t usually available. Resun and Jecod come up in searches of Thai suppliers. Any good? Total rubbish?

3. Given the high temperatures (average highs in low- to mid-30s most of the year and peaks in low-40s in summer...and next El Nino, that will be higher), should I be taking additional measures to oxygenate the water?

And if there’s anything obviously stupid about my plan, please don’t be shy about telling me.


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PostPosted: Jan 22nd, '18, 14:15 
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Note for the Mods:

I thought it would be better to keep my inane questions to a single thread so maybe it would be better to change the thread title. Perhaps 'Clueless Beginner's Backyard System in Northern Thailand' would be more accurate. And if there's a more appropriate home for the thread, feel free to move it.


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PostPosted: Jan 22nd, '18, 20:34 
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Constant flood will help in a couple of ways -- 1) it would stop the constant influx of water height in your pond. 2) in hot climates flood/drain actually INCREASES water temps from what I recall from a thread on here that I think Colum Black Byron had tested, because the media heats up more when there is no water in the bed then it heats the water up when there is water in the bed... so constant flood might keep water temp cooler which would actually help dissolved oxygen -- if it is a concern of DO just add air pumps in the fish tank and or go with a bigger pump and divert part of the flow back to the fish tank to cause splashing / increase DO.

The side by side comparison from what I recall did not show much of a benefit doing F/D over CF... they were pretty closely matched from what I recall... at least closer than expected. There are some plants that don't like CF that have been able to be grown in F/D (root crops) but everything else doesn't seem to really care from what I've tried so far.

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PostPosted: Jan 22nd, '18, 21:51 
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Hi,
This spot seems really shady.
Most plants needs plenty of direct sunlight to grow properly...

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PostPosted: Jan 22nd, '18, 23:01 
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SebZ wrote:
Hi,
This spot seems really shady.
Most plants needs plenty of direct sunlight to grow properly...


a lot of that depends on the climate... I don't know various regions of Thailand at all, but from seeing dasboot's thread his main issues seem to be too much sunlight (burns the plants, has to use shade cloth) and keeping the rain out of the system so it doesn't flood and lose all of his nutrients (thus why he grows in a greenhouse in a hot climate -- roof overhead and he can attach shade cloth to cool things down / block sunlight).

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PostPosted: Jan 23rd, '18, 09:02 
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Thanks for your comments.

Quote:
This spot seems really shady.
Most plants needs plenty of direct sunlight to grow properly...


I'm not too worried about that aspect of things. As rininger85 says, in Thailand, the problem is usually too much sun, not too little and at the more exposed end, I'll definitely have to use shade cloth. And the pictures also make it look a little murkier than it is in reality.

Quote:
Constant flood will help in a couple of ways -- 1) it would stop the constant influx of water height in your pond. 2) in hot climates flood/drain actually INCREASES water temps from what I recall from a thread on here that I think Colum Black Byron had tested, because the media heats up more when there is no water in the bed then it heats the water up when there is water in the bed... so constant flood might keep water temp cooler which would actually help dissolved oxygen -- if it is a concern of DO just add air pumps in the fish tank and or go with a bigger pump and divert part of the flow back to the fish tank to cause splashing / increase DO.


I'm using a sump so I hope that should remove problems with fluctuating water levels but I had wondered about the relative benefits of constant flood from the point of view of temperature stability. That's probably something I'm going to have to think/read about a little more.


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PostPosted: Jan 23rd, '18, 09:34 
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The comparison of F&D and CF systems is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=as9O0ulcw8E

Turns out that the F&D is 0.25-0.5 degrees cooler than CF so I think I'll stick with F&D.

dasboot also has a bakki shower in his system and this seems like something to copy - the worst of the heat coincides with lower levels of humidity so it should help to take the edge off the extremes.


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PostPosted: Jan 23rd, '18, 10:44 
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Lampang wrote:
dasboot also has a bakki shower in his system and this seems like something to copy - the worst of the heat coincides with lower levels of humidity so it should help to take the edge off the extremes.



Lampang, Based on the link below, downside of BS is the lost of Nitrate, which we need for the plants. What do you think about this?

http://koionline.forumotion.com/t2626-bakki-showers


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PostPosted: Jan 23rd, '18, 11:04 
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A new problem!

A very quick Google search reveals this thread http://aquaponicsnation.com/forums/topi ... e-removal/ I've only scanned it quickly but it seems to show that this is not really a problem. Plus, reduced temperatures and increased DO levels might be a worthwhile trade off but I'll have to have a better look later. Thanks for the link, though.


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