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 Post subject: Micro-system design
PostPosted: Oct 22nd, '16, 01:46 
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I am a newbie, but I've been researching aquaponics for the last year (and have spent a lot of time lurking on this blog!). I've finally been given the go ahead to put a "small trial system" in the house. I know about aquarium keeping and I know about gardening, but this will be the first time doing them together!

I have been thinking through design, but have some questions. It is difficult to find information about micro-systems. Certainly there are the commercial products, the fish tanks with growbeds on top of them, so I'd like to think it can work if done properly.

The plan includes a 5 gallon fish tank and a 5 gallon grow bed with a sump tank arranged in a CHOP system. Fish species planned is a Betta splendens (breaks my heart every time I see one in a cup in a pet store), possibly a giant betta. Plant species planned are herbs, nothing that requires a ton of nutrients to grow.

The growbed will be shallow. 6 inch depth is planned instead of the usual 12. My understanding is that the need for increased depth is to achieve a layer of constant flooding and a layer that is always dry, to prevent algae growth on the surface. The bottom layer is for solids composting. I hope that is right.

To compensate, I think I can achieve solids removal via a cheese cloth strain at the end of the pipe from the tank itno the grow bed. Otherwise, a small sediment tank could be put into the growbed (before the growbed), but I'm not sure how effective it would be. I am not sure if I will lose significant minerals over time in the system and if I should be doing something to hang onto and compost the solids if I strain them all out.

To prevent algae growth, I've had two ideas. One is simply to use a finer gravel, meaning a shallower dry layer would be necessary to block out light and prevent growth. The other is to use landscaping fabric.

I would also like to use flood and drain in the grow bed. I was considering a loop siphon primarily because I think it will be much easier to set up on a small scale, and also because I can attach it to the side of the growbed instead of underneath, making the display much easier to integrate into our home. Any thoughts on using an itty-bitty loop siphon?

Does anyone have any thoughts or experience setting up such a tiny system? I'm particularly curious about solids management and also about shallow grow bed design (recognizing that I'm ignoring a lot of the conventions!)

Thanks all for you input, and for having such a great forum!


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 Post subject: Re: Micro-system design
PostPosted: Oct 22nd, '16, 09:29 
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I have seen some very silly in house or flat systems. Transferring a large system design to micro imho does not work very well.
Split your mechanical/biological filtration from your GB's and go NFT (personal favourite for this situation) or continuous flow.
Basically you need a canister filter to handle the waste/bio filtration and pumping (it also acts as a sump albeit sealed).
The upside for NFT is its light provides very good aeration and does not require large volumes of water, there should also be no problems with algae. Its downside is there is limited plant sustainability in case of a power out unless you hybridise it slightly and it dosen't handle plants with an aggressive root system very well.
Your main problem growing indoors is providing adequate light for the plants.
Anyway just my opinion. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Micro-system design
PostPosted: Oct 22nd, '16, 12:42 
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:wave: Welcome to the forum!

My one concern would be wondering if a single betta would provide enough nitrates to grow more than a couple of plants? They're awesome fish (a friend and I used to breed them) but they're pretty low on the scale of "how much does this fish eat and poo". :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Micro-system design
PostPosted: Oct 23rd, '16, 03:52 
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The smaller the system, the harder to control. I would agree with Mel on that one betta will not be enough for nutrients. I would double your grow bed size and then you will have plenty of surface area and won't need the cheese cloth (depth is fine for leafy greens). Constant flood is probably better for a small system like this unless you have a decent sized sump. I don't see a problem with using a loop siphon - just may take a bit of tuning. There are plenty of other external siphon designs to choose from as well.

Good luck and let us know about your final decisions!

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 Post subject: Re: Micro-system design
PostPosted: Oct 23rd, '16, 09:06 
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I disagree, its going in a house. Continuous flood is heavy (and imho not as good as NFT or continuous flow), to use a loop syphon you are going to have to drill the tank and unless you plan this very carefully its a disaster waiting to happen.
As I said large system design to micro is not just a matter of making everything smaller. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Micro-system design
PostPosted: Oct 24th, '16, 01:09 
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Thanks everyone for the input!

You've hit on my other concern for the project which is fish size / amount of waste in the system. There is a breeder near me who does giants and giant crosses which should provide substantially more nitrogen to work with. I'm not set on fish species yet, but am obviously limited by the tank size.

Thank you, Sleepe, for suggesting NFT. I had originally dismissed it since I really liked the idea of having the biological filter in with the grow bed (otherwise the nitrates have to cycle back through the FT before being used, maybe not a big deal, but I'd like to eliminate as much as possible). It is certainly food for thought as I am a bit concerned about weight and it also eliminates the need for a siphon. But ultimately this is a trial design for a larger (but still indoor) system, so I was hoping to try some design elements.

I will let the ideas ruminate and let you know what I ultimately decide. Thank you, again!

-C


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 Post subject: Re: Micro-system design
PostPosted: Oct 24th, '16, 08:39 
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This is one I did a few years ago to test the idea of a micro system. Obviously its a prototype and could be far better designed but it gives you an idea of what I am talking about. :) viewtopic.php?f=18&t=4670&p=170001&hilit=micro+system#p170001


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 Post subject: Re: Micro-system design
PostPosted: Oct 24th, '16, 09:03 
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Sleepe wrote:
This is one I did a few years ago to test the idea of a micro system. Obviously its a prototype and could be far better designed but it gives you an idea of what I am talking about. :) viewtopic.php?f=18&t=4670&p=170001&hilit=micro+system#p170001


Is that the same tank you are going to be using now?

If so, what are the inside measurements of top?

If your not using it, what is the top inside measurement of the top of the new one?

You may be able to grow more than 1 fish?


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