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 Post subject: Glen's backyard system.
PostPosted: May 7th, '13, 12:02 
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Hello folks,

I only discovered the term "aquaponics" about a month ago, so I'm still very much in the high enthusiasm / low experience phase :D


Anyway, my first system is in the design and material assembly stage and I'd appreciate comments and suggestions on my plans before I foul things up too monumentally.

I have a 1000 litre fish tank that in a past life carried agricultural fertiliser. It was "triple washed" before I got it with more to follow, but I figure that I'll cycle the system without fish for a little while so the pants can soak it all up first. I plan to have the fish tank buried about 80% underground. Our Winters in the Adelaide Hills are too cold for tropical species - so I'm thinking rainbow trout . However, I'm also told our summers may be a little hot for them as well, so I'm hoping undergrounding the tank will buffer the temperature enough for them. (It would also help with gravity feed of the return water from the grow beds! )

I've ordered a polycarbonate greenhouse to house my grow beds. The beds themselves will be made from a series of rectangular 78 litre poly drums (14 in all) with a side wall cut out from each. These will be arranged on modular steel shelving with identical bell siphone drains on each which will line up with a drainage channel fixed to the greenhouse to return water to the fish tank. This makes the grow beds modular to some extent, and it will be easy to remove a single bed for replanting, or to move them around to share out the light etc.

I have a slightly second hand pressure pump I was thinking of using, with electronic pressure regulator. As I didn't necessarily want to do all the water fixtures inside the greenhouse to handle mains pressure, I was wondering about using the pump to fill a smallish header tank, maybe 200 litres or so which could in turn gravity feed the grow beds. Would need a float valve or something similar to control water level in the header tank. Worth the effort?

Am also in 2 minds about aeration of the fish tank. I've seen opinion that the return water falling into the tank should be enough. Obviously I'll be getting some water quality metering gear (any recommendations?) but should I build in an aeration system to start with?

Finally, not sure about the best way to tackle an automatic fish feeder. I've only seen commercial ones in two sizes (too big, and too small). While I could easily build something (I'm an electrical technician by trade), I do prefer not to reinvent the wheel without good cause. Any suggestions for a system this size?

Thanks in anticipation for your pearls of wisdom.

Glen


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PostPosted: May 11th, '13, 09:57 
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Hi Glen and welcome to the forum. :) Love your first line
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I only discovered the term "aquaponics" about a month ago, so I'm still very much in the high enthusiasm / low experience phase :D


Trout do sound like a good option for your location and much like us here in Perth where our summers are too hot to keep them. We harvest and they are more than happy in the freezer :D

Just make sure that if you are planning on one drain line coming back from all the growbeds that it is large enough to take all the water. Water must be allowed to drain freely and not bank up, causing growbeds to overflow.

There can be so many variations but it is a good idea to keep it simple. Have you got time to read? If so take a look here and you may see something that suits you that has already been done before
http://ibcofaquaponics.com/

Happy reading!

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PostPosted: May 11th, '13, 21:45 
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faye wrote:
Just make sure that if you are planning on one drain line coming back from all the growbeds that it is large enough to take all the water. Water must be allowed to drain freely and not bank up, causing growbeds to overflow.


Hi faye, thanks for your reply.

As each of my grow beds is quite small (I'm guessing about 40 litres of water after allowing for media etc), and that they will be divided into two "runs" of 7 beds (1 down each side of the greenhouse), that something like a 90mm stormwater pipe would suffice. The drain from each bed is intended to be a 20mm or 25mm PU pipe only about 400mm long to where it pokes through a hole in the top of the stormwater drain. I'll also attempt to synchronise the beds - siphoning in turn like cylinders in a well oiled engine [yes you can laugh - I may still be naive, but I'm aiming high ok!]

Also, it has been suggested to me that having my grow beds inside a greenhouse will result in increased water temperature in the fish tank (thanks again Gran). Does anyone have any measurements or experience of what degree of change this is likely to cause? Working on the assumption that fish would need a couple of years to grow to a good size, I was hoping to find a single species that survives all my climatic variations. Trout in Winter and Barra or Perch in Summer sounds wonderful, but I wasn't planning on restocking quite that often, and was aiming at larger fish... Don't want to boil my trout in summer (fried is tastier!). Any clues?

Thanks in anticipation.


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PostPosted: May 11th, '13, 21:58 
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What area are you in Glen? Silver perch are certainly a year round option here but will depend on your temps.

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PostPosted: May 12th, '13, 11:59 
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faye wrote:
What area are you in Glen? Silver perch are certainly a year round option here but will depend on your temps.


I'm Near Mount Barker in The Adelaide Hills. Peaks around the low to mid 40's in summer, sometimes for up to 8 or 10 days in a row, and winter maximums get into the single digit range, with night time frosts quite common. Even have snow once or twice a decade.

The Greenhouse I've ordered comes with automatically operated roof ventilation and a metalised 50% shade cover. I've no idea how much heat it will contribute to water temperature though...

I have even been contemplating basing the system on yabbies rather than fish (their less frequent feeding regime being attractive). I like yabbies, but I like fish too . Oh decisions decisions!!


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PostPosted: May 12th, '13, 12:26 
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Yabbies do not provide any where near the same amount of nutrient as fish.

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PostPosted: May 13th, '13, 08:12 
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OK. As my greenhouse kit is still a while away from delivery, I'm building a small barrel system while I'm waiting.

I'm using a 200 litre pickle drum and a 90 litre storage tub, and a submersible fountain pump. Perhaps I will try putting some yabbies in the drum, leaving the main systems fish tank free for trout or perch... Does 8 or 10 yabbies in what would end up as about 150 litres of water sound reasonable? I'll build them a network of hides of course.

Also wanted to experiment with a solar pond fountain for the pump. They are really low power of course so the fill would be quite slow. I'm also guessing it would have to be flood and drain as there wouldn't be enough flow to kick in any sort of siphone. Would using the sun as a 10 hours on / 14 hours off cycle timer work as far as the plants are concerned? Or would they dry out too much in the night time?


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PostPosted: Jun 3rd, '13, 12:13 
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Ok. My barrel system is running. It hasn't cycled yet of course - I'm seeding it with liquid ammonia every few days until it does, then I'll likely just put a couple of goldfish into it. We have a pot that had parsley seeded in it which needed thinning out, so I have some of those seedlings in the barrel system. I figure when they start doing better than their cousins in the pot I can assume the system has cycled.

One issue seems to be the weight of the bed (20mm blue metal media), which is folding over the cut edge of the drum it is sitting on. May have to make a spreader bar from some aluminium I have in the shed to stop it folding in on itself completely over time.

Timer is set to cycle on 15 mins, off 30 mins at the moment, but I'm hoping to be able to increase the off time once I can see how the pants are coping once it has cycled.

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