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 Post subject: PA Basement System 2.0
PostPosted: Jul 2nd, '14, 19:30 
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Well here I go again. I recently purchased a new home and have began not only relocating my life but also my favorite hobby. My first year of aquaponics did not go how I thought it would but the experience was well worth it. Instead of moving my old system, which had its flaws (environment mostly), I decided I'm going to start over from scratch. As I did with my last system, I'm going to document it's progress through this topic thread. If you have any suggestions or comments please feel free to say something. I will not be offended.

My new system will be a CHIFT PIST design with a 50 gallon fish tank, 30 gallon sump tank and 2 grow beds made from one 55 gallon blue barrel. This will be my first attempt at using bell siphons as the grow bed draining mechanism. I prefabricated everything a few months ago so all I had to do was lug everything inside the house and put it together. The new layout has a much smaller foot print than my first system. The old system had issues draining the grow beds with roots gunking up the siphon that ran along the bottom horizontally. It also required a flood tank which took up even more space being a CHOP 2 hybrid design. I was following Travis Hughey's blue barrel-ponics approach as inspiration. So now I'm going with the KISS method for this new system.

Here is the build so far.

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Fish tank stand will get the tank up off the ground and provide better maintenance of the tank. Also it will be nice to view the fish without hunching over. Plus the look should be more appealing to my boss.

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I drilled bulkheads into both sides of the tank that will each have a SLO that drains into the grow beds.

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The grow beds will fit side by side and are the width of the fish tank stand. Again more aesthetically pleasing. I had comments from my other thread about the grow beds not being built sturdy enough with just screws in the rim. I anchored two steel cables underneath the beds to support the weight of the grow media.

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PostPosted: Jul 2nd, '14, 19:45 
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Here is an up close view of the steel cable anchors that will support the grow beds weight. Any advice on this would be much appreciated.

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Well that was all I could accomplish so far. The basic framing of the system is together. I caulked the drain pipes in the grow beds and drilled some over flows openings in the grow bed and fish stand frames. I will get a picture of that later but the overflow will go directly into the sump tank beneath the fish tank through the frame.

Next I'll get to the plumbing and hopefully maybe a water test to figure out the bell siphons. It is a .5" stand pipe with a 1.5" bell. The SLO pipe from the fish tank is 1". Initial tests a few months ago were a success so not too worried.

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PostPosted: Jul 2nd, '14, 20:04 
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That looks like a great start jeezy! I would like to do an indoor system as well, especially over the winter.

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PostPosted: Jul 2nd, '14, 20:26 
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Thanks Kainat! I would love to do an outdoor system next but living in PA I don't think it could run all year long. That's why I'm starting indoors so I can have it running all the time to learn the basics etc. However I would lying if I don't have something thought up in my head for outside (Geodesic dome with rocket stove and some solar panels to run the pumps).

The issues with inside is the cost of electricity for the lighting. I bought two LED lights that run around 100 watts each. All together it will be like 75 bucks a year to run compared to the 40 without the lights. That's only running the LED's at 8 hours a day. I won't even go into heating the water as that really costs a fortune which I learned the hard way. My new house has a better basement that is insulated and heated. So I hope to avoid paying to heat the water directly through aquarium heaters as before.

I hope your future indoor system is as kick ass as your outdoor system.

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Last edited by jeezy on Jul 2nd, '14, 20:41, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Jul 2nd, '14, 20:28 
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:wave1: Jeezy!

Welcome back. How did you drill that hole in the aquarium?

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PostPosted: Jul 2nd, '14, 20:37 
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Very carefully :shock: LOL

I used a "45mm Dia Silver Tone Glass Hole Saw Drilling Tool" and took it real slow. I made a wooden template that I duct taped to the glass that had a hole in it where I wanted the bulkhead to be. This kept the drill from dancing across the glass. I also had a helper hold a hose over the drill to cool the bit. Honestly it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. I read a ton of articles on the matter and watched a few youtube videos. It helps to start drilling at an angle at first but not applying to much pressure. Let the drill do all the work, it will take a long time it seems but the result is worth it.

I'm a sucker for fish tanks and I think they look awesome in aquaponics. I guess I favor the fish more than I do the plants. I think I have around 10 tanks now which gets me some eye rolls from my wife.

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PostPosted: Jul 8th, '14, 20:45 
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Update:

Been refinishing my hard wood floors so my system has taken a back seat for the past couple days.

I finished plumbing the system and added my hydroton to the grow beds. Everything is holding together perfectly. Did a water test and everything appears water tight. The first grow bed on the left fills faster than the right since the bulkheads are not 100% level to each other.

I was watching the sump tank to see if the water level will be okay to keep the pump submerged. It isn't so I'm going to upgrade the 30 gallon rubbermaid tote to a 50 gallon tote. That should fix that issue. I also noticed when watching the sump that the overflows were starting to pour water out. I checked the grow beds and of course one was flooding. I believe I need to throttle the pump to slow down the water inlet to the beds. That or increase the stand pipe from .5" to 3/4" to keep up with the drain. Going to try throttling the pump first because the beds are already filled with media and re-drilling that hole will be a pain to do. The bell siphon did kick in and drained the bed perfectly. I'll probably have to adjust the stand pipe after observing another water test and go from there.

Back to the floors I go but here are some updated pictures.

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PostPosted: Jul 14th, '14, 19:54 
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Update:

The system has been up and running all weekend. I moved the fish in on Saturday and got the tank situated with the substrate from the old tanks and their filters. The water readings all looked okay with the ammonia being slightly high. Will have to keep an eye on it.

I went down to check on the fish and noticed the stand was a little wet. After inspecting the tank, there are two cracks stemming from the bulkheads down to the one corner. :upset: So quickly I drilled two new bulkheads in the other 50 gallon tank I had, redid the plumbing and switched out the tanks. So far this new tank is holding together. I know I installed the bulkheads backwards like a dummy. :oops: So I'm going to attribute the cracks to that. Once I get situated in my new place, I'm going to try and repair that first tank by replacing the glass.

I was trying to adjust the bell siphons and my media screen wasn't staying flush to the bottom of the beds. So the media was pouring down in the drain when I was cutting down the pvc drain pipe. So had to remove all the media and reset the screen. Same thing keeps happening, my screen is not working. I'm using drainage pipe which is really light and any bumps against it are causing it to rise up. So I took it out and made some "wings" out of some spare drainage pipe to help anchor the screen down with the weight of the media. So far this has been working. Should have taken a picture of it to better explain. I will probably do the same thing for the other grow bed just to get it over with and take a picture then. Man is that a pain in the rear to fix.

With installing the bulkheads the correct way, the ends stick out further than I would like. My plan is to run dual systems eventually and have everything flush side by side. So fixed the inlet piping to the grow beds a little and I think it should help down the road.

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File comment: The fish are in.
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File comment: Stopping moving us all around man.
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File comment: The ends are still sticking out way to far so another system next to it probably won't mesh together as planned. Still thinking of a solution.
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So next I need to keep readjusting the siphons to get them 1" below the top of the media. I'm nearly there and I think I will get it soon. After that I will install the grow lights and get some seeds in the dirt.

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PostPosted: Jul 17th, '14, 21:35 
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Update:

Bit the bullet and re-drilled the grow bed drains from .5" to .75". I replaced the 1.5" bell with a 2". The top of stand pipe I added a threaded .75" to 1" slip adapter on it; took that from the affnan playbook. So far there has been a massive improvement with the siphon kicking on and off. Have to do the second bed tonight as I was short one 2" cap to complete the bell for that bed.

While testing all of this my media screen kept readjusting causing the hydron to spill inside. Had to AGAIN for 4th time since installation, scoop all the media out and reset. Which makes the water get dirty and the fish look at me funny. What a pain! Decided to try something different and got a larger pipe to try out and drilled some holes into it. Well what do you know, same thing keeps happening where I go to take out the stand pipe to readjust the height, I must hit the sides of the screen causing it to lift up and the media spills in. At this point getting ready to give up but I remember I had some river rock from the old house. Cleared out the bed...AGAIN..., put the screen back down, surrounded it in river rock and so far this has done the trick. If the screen gets bumped, I can push it back down easily and push the rocks back underneath it by hand. Now I have to find some more for the next bed.

Of course I was in a hurry to get things tested and since I had fish in the tank, I didn't want to stop everything. Meaning I didn't silicone the grow bed drain adapters in place. No big deal since I did that the first time and there were still leaks. Probably from when I was moving the drain pipes around causing the elbows to twist. So I PVC glued those suckers and will keep doing that till the leaks are gone. I figured at this point the drains will be permanent because I won't need to increase the bell anymore.

*sigh, almost getting there.

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PostPosted: Jul 22nd, '14, 03:30 
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Update:

Finally timed the system and not sure of the results. Takes approximately 3.5 minutes to fill the beds and 3.5 minutes to drain. So that gives me a 7 minute cycle per bed. The fish tank is 50 gallons and the grow beds are half blue barrels. I think that's around 20 gallons per bed when filled. Have to find that article for hydroton displacement somewhere.

So I'm not worried about over filtering the fish tanks as that will keep it clean but by running these cycles so quickly I'm taking that will constantly flood my plants too much. Am I right? Should I try and increase this or not bother. The bell siphons drain to 1" in the beds successfully each time.

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PostPosted: Aug 15th, '14, 20:53 
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Update:

Only 1 fish remains, the big guy. Wish I could find him a lady friend. Lost the other 3 probably due to the ammonia being to high. Not sure where the high ammonia is coming from. System has been on and running for over a month and a half. Low feed rate, none of the fish were eating like they used too. Beds are cycling every 10 minutes and I also have some fish filters installed to help seed the next system.

Finally fixed that damn leak on the one bed. Ripped everything out and resealed with silicone. So far so good. The media screen sucks so bad, hydroton still pouring in underneath. The bottom of the grow beds are curved so the PVC screen isn't flush. I should have used more river rock around the screen. Lesson learned for the next build.

I have a dozen seedlings starting to come up. So that's exciting.

Would like to get some more fish. Found a seller on ebay but don't have the capacity to handle 30 fingerlings. Had a yard sale last weekend and found my old cracked 50 gallon tank a new home with a snake owner. Been trying to find a replacement tank. Neighbors came down to the yard sale and see my cracked tank and offer to give me theirs for free! Bingo!

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PostPosted: May 25th, '15, 22:22 
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Seriously, this cant be healthy.
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bump

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PostPosted: May 28th, '15, 21:14 
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Update:

The last Tilapia I had died shortly after my last post back in August. I decided to shut down the system and take a break from aquaponics. I invested too much time and money for an indoor system (led lighting wasn't good enough) and I think I need to shift to an outdoor set up. I live in central Pennsylvania so I would need to develop something that can be set up quickly and taken apart for winter. I am really really happy with the set up of my dual bed glass fish tank CHIFT PIST system and I think it would work great outside.

Recently my wife and I are expecting our first child and this put a pause on everything aquaponics related. I've been remodeling the house and getting the nursery renovated for when he gets here. I HOPE that next spring/summer I can move my aquaponics system outside into our yard and get back into the swing of things.

Thanks for the bump @TCLynx.

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PostPosted: May 30th, '15, 07:06 
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Seriously, this cant be healthy.
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Good Luck and congrats!
My Little one is now 14 1/2 months old, I understand about not having time for the aquaponics as much as you might like.

You might look into a means to "winterize" a system so that it can remain at least partly set up outside but basically "put to bed" for the winter to make re-starting a bit easier.

Might be as simple as draining the water out and covering up with tarps and only needing to move glass in/out.

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PostPosted: May 30th, '15, 20:36 
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I'm hoping to ride out winter with only a small heater. Check out my system. Also have an infant in the house so I understand the time constraints that puts on things.

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