Backyard Aquaponics

AGCS Aquaponics System(s)
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Author:  janethesselberth [ Sep 22nd, '11, 05:49 ]
Post subject:  AGCS Aquaponics System(s)

After a long hiatus, I'm baaaaack! :headbang: :headbang:

Life moves on, the ecovillage is still on track, the girls and I have moved to a rental house on a farm for a while, and their new school (Avon Grove Charter School) is building a greenhouse and wants to dedicate half of it to Aquaponics. They have a strong Green Initiative, and see AP as a way to teach a variety of environmental concepts. No, I didn't sell them on this, I stumbled into it when I saw a small NFT aquarium system in Kira's classroom and knew the word "aquaponics".

I need help sifting through all the brilliance that has happened here while I have been away. I have in mind to do one large and several smaller CHIFT PIST systems (Constant Height In Fish Tank, Pump In Sump Tank) with Rubbermaid Stock Tanks, looped autosiphons, and RSG filters as needed for iron and excess nitrate. They will be the system I would have built in my old sunroom if I had the space. I'm planning on growbed volume about equal to tank volume, although I could be talked into a higher growbed volume. The fish will be a local native sunfish which is apparently hard to kill given that it has water. The school has experience raising these fish as well as trout for release, but given that this is new, and the trout like cooler water, we will do the sunfish in the AP systems.

I can use up to a 15x25 foot area (3 x 8 meters), and need to find out more about the flooring and door locations.

Given that young people will be working on the system (the school has 3rd grade through 12th), please make suggestions for improvements and or better level of detail to the above thoughts.

Thank you so much...I've missed you all!

Author:  TCLynx [ Sep 22nd, '11, 06:06 ]
Post subject:  Re: AGCS Aquaponics System(s)

Oh Janet!!!!! Welcome Back, it's good to hear from you again.

That is soo cool, Aquaponics is great for schools. I personally like the twice as much grow bed as fish tank set up but all you are probably limited by is space and the sump tank. Basically you can probably make the total grow bed volume almost twice as much as your sump tank volume.

Then again, get a look at the space available and materials and work from there, you already know all that stuff.

Welcome back.

Author:  janethesselberth [ Sep 22nd, '11, 07:34 ]
Post subject:  Re: AGCS Aquaponics System(s)

Oh, and help with sizing the pumps and selecting a brand would be appreciated. I've never been good at pumps.

Author:  Dave Donley [ Sep 22nd, '11, 08:25 ]
Post subject:  Re: AGCS Aquaponics System(s)


Nowadays folks like to do constant flood as it's simpler and seems to work just as well. No timers or siphons. Depending on the pump height I'd just get a pond pump from Lowe's that turns over the water once per hour. Chift pist for sure if possible. That would be a simple setup.

Author:  scotty435 [ Sep 22nd, '11, 13:48 ]
Post subject:  Re: AGCS Aquaponics System(s)

Welcome back Janet. Got quite a few ideas from you when I was starting AP so here's my chance to return the favor. Definitely go with Chift Pist if you can.

Other things you'll want to look into;
1. Constant Flood (as Dave mentioned) instead of Flood and Drain or do both, using bell siphons instead of loop siphons.
2. SLO (solids lifting overflow) - makes cleaning the tank easier - might want to do this, might not but worth a look.
3. These Laguna pumps work well and can handle solids.
4. Check out The IBC of Aquaponics for an interesting read, great information, lots of IBC system descriptions and pictures - it's on this thread

1. I would forget the loop siphons. As Dave mentioned, constant flood is being used a lot now. It's what I'm using at the moment. I've gone through the loop siphons and the bell siphons and both work but there is a lot of fidgiting to get it right. The setupfor CF is much easier, with just a stand pipe and guard. It's easy to convert back to flood and drain with a bell siphon (just put the bell siphon on top of the stand pipe).

If you want to make it interchangeable between CF and FD and you want a good bell siphon design, look for the afnan siphon version.

2. Look at Arbe's system for a good example of SLO and layout. I have one of these and it works pretty well, although, I do have to sweep the bottom of the tank occasionally (much easier than without the SLO but the SLO uses big pipe and fittings so it adds to the cost).

3. Your pump should turn over the volume in the FT at least once per hour but make certain you take the head height into account when you figure this out(you know this I'm sure). I would go for a pump that can do more than the volume of the FT (you can always run it less if needed).

Dave and I might disagree about the pump, some of the local stuff isn't the most efficient. I would look at high efficiency pumps like the Laguna pumps because they will pay for themselves in savings on the electric bill compared to many pumps. You can check the Watts of the pump and just calculate the cost to operate the pump based on cost per KWH from your electric bill.

Hope this information helps and you find something you didn't already know.

I was lurking here for a few years before I joined, which was shortly after you left. I always wondered what happened to you after you left. Glad to hear your doing OK.

Author:  RupertofOZ [ Sep 22nd, '11, 18:00 ]
Post subject:  Re: AGCS Aquaponics System(s)

Janet has a lot of experience with loop siphons... and for small containers.. they're the simplest, and most reliable system of flooding and draining.... and they do it so rapidly.... that they're almost a continuous flood style anyway....

I wouldn't bother with a bell siphon in a container less than 3-400L.... other than an external siphon... as it just takes up too much room in a small container...

Author:  janethesselberth [ Sep 23rd, '11, 00:23 ]
Post subject:  Re: AGCS Aquaponics System(s)

OK, this is coming together...a CF SLO CHIFT PIST system, with water flow from sump to fish to growbed. I've scouted the site for the local farm supply store, and can get a 50gal/190l Rubbermaid growbed, a 37gal/140l Tuff Stuff fish tank, and a 17.5gal/66l Tuff Stuff sump, and have space to configure 4 systems like this, plus space for a larger system. It seems that running CF will mean that even the sump tank runs a pretty consistent level, so it doesn't need to be that big. Just enough to contain the pump and hold the water that drains from the piping in a power outage. Volume-wise, I'm right at 1:1, and might be able to add another GB to get to 2:1, but I will have to lay out the space to know if I can fit it all.

1. With solids going directly to CF growbeds, do folks use compost worms to break up the solids, or does this resolve? I used worms in my old autosiphon FD system, and while they were not entirely happy, they did seem to help.

2. Do folks use float switches on a system like this? Seems like we have eliminated a lot of the reasons to keep a mop nearby by a) separating the fish from the pump so they cannot bump it, and b) eliminating autosiphons which can decide not to kick off.

3. Should the intake for the SLO be at the center of the FT, or is the edge fine?

Author:  scotty435 [ Sep 23rd, '11, 00:59 ]
Post subject:  Re: AGCS Aquaponics System(s)

I wouldn't bother with a bell siphon in a container less than 3-400L.... other than an external siphon... as it just takes up too much room in a small container...

Interesting, while loop siphons are nice this way I have used bell siphons in 50 gallon (approx 200L) stock tanks. I really didn't miss the space (except for the media filtration) since the plants grow right over the top. Putting the standpipe and siphon outside the growbed would be easier in some ways but might not be the best in a high traffic area.

1. Yes use composting worms.
2. Pump float switch or one to top up the tank? You shouldn't need a pump float switch. I suppose if the pump can pump the sump dry before the overflow comes back to the sump then you've got a problem anyway (to much pipe volume to fill). You'll want to top up the fish tank and growbeds before starting up the system.
3. I've seen it done both ways. I'm thinking the center is probably better but I don't know if anyone's tested this.

Author:  janethesselberth [ Sep 23rd, '11, 03:20 ]
Post subject:  Re: AGCS Aquaponics System(s)

I was thinking of a float switch on the pump in the sump so that the pump doesn't pump itself dry. The FT and GBs would be protected from draining anyway.

Author:  Delgrade [ Sep 23rd, '11, 08:05 ]
Post subject:  Re: AGCS Aquaponics System(s)

welcome Back Janet good to see you round the traps again


Author:  donone [ Sep 23rd, '11, 11:40 ]
Post subject:  Re: AGCS Aquaponics System(s)

Hi Janet. Welcome back. I have read many of your posts as I read the forum. I would like to suggest that you read EB's thread about the BYAP trials. Comparing the difference between CF and Siphon and F&D over a long period. They show that the constant flood CF is the best way to cycle a system but the F&D works better in the long run. That is comparing the plant growth in the photos.

Author:  scotty435 [ Sep 23rd, '11, 15:35 ]
Post subject:  Re: AGCS Aquaponics System(s)

janetpelletier wrote:
I was thinking of a float switch on the pump in the sump so that the pump doesn't pump itself dry. The FT and GBs would be protected from draining anyway.

Yeah the switch does make sense but some pumps have built in thermal overload protection which should accomplish the same thing (not the Laguna max flo pumps unfortunately). You could pump the sump dry enough to burn out your pump if you neglect topping it up and it didn't have the thermal overload protection. There probably is some type of cutoff switch or float switch you could use to protect the pump and it does sound like a good idea. You would need to have a backup air system to provide oxygen if the flow stopped because of the switch or pump.

Something else you might consider down the road with a bigger system - I've been thinking of overfilling my sump to use for trout since I've understocked my main tank and it has bluegill, perch and a bass (rather not add trout to this group). The sump is very well aerated so the trout should be able to do well. With CF the level will stay the same once equilibrium is reached. What overfilling will mean is that if the pump goes out or if it rains, the sump will overflow. In my case it would be nice to pump away the excess into the yard before it floods the greenhouse with 75 or 100 gallons. Probably need a second pump to take care of this.

Author:  TCLynx [ Sep 24th, '11, 03:51 ]
Post subject:  Re: AGCS Aquaponics System(s)

For really small systems (up to 300 gallon fish tanks) I've become Rather Partial to Quiet One 4000 pumps only 50 watts and I've been abusing a few of them for a couple years now (like turning them on and off 6 times an hour to operate an indexing valve) and I know some one using the Quiet One 3000 for a timed flood and drain system with a 100 gallon fish tank.

I don't think I would go with a float switch on the pump, instead I would install a plastic top up valve (like used for topping up stock tanks) above the pumps "I'm getting HOT and DRY" level but below the normal low water line in the sump. This is handy for so many reasons,
1-you don't have to remember to top up the system as long as you can have the valve hooked to source water all the time.
2-you don't have to worry about putting the hose in to top up and then wandering away and forgetting about it.
3-since it will only top up a little at a time you probably don't need to worry about the chlorine or chloramine in the source water if that is the case.

I actually have some top up valves hooked to rain water tanks, this can be a problem if the rain water tank is empty though so you might need to top it up during really dry spells.

Now for the school project, I think it would be great if you were able to have a system with three beds and a big enough sump or do a pump from fish tank where you could have all three types of beds on one system and do one Constant Flood another as siphon Flood and drain and the last one would need a separate pump/timer and be timed flood and drain and then the kids could test which plants do best in different kinds of beds. :shifty:

Author:  janethesselberth [ Sep 24th, '11, 06:26 ]
Post subject:  Re: AGCS Aquaponics System(s)

TC, you are funny. I just waded through the entire BYAP Trials thread, and I'm sure that idea was mentioned 8 or 10 times. The thread confirmed my idea that the default configuration for the kids should be CF SLO CHIFT PIST. But I know how to re-configure quickly to get some looped siphons or a near-bottom drain going, too.

Considering the need for wide aisles for accessibility for hoards of students or wheelchairs, I'm actually going to recommend 6-9 smaller systems, all based around a 37gal FT, 17.5gal sump, and 1-2 50gal growbeds. While I would like to do a larger system, I think that is less conducive to team competitions and running comparative analysis. Also, with many small systems, each class could run their own system.

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