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 Post subject: California Gold (fish)
PostPosted: Jun 15th, '17, 00:50 

Joined: Jun 14th, '17, 05:48
Posts: 21
Gender: Male
Are you human?: Yes
Location: California, USA
Hello all,
I have been lurking the forum for a long time, maybe 2 years. About a year ago I set up a small indoor system as a proof of concept. It worked pretty well. So, about 6 months ago, I set the foundation of a larger, outdoor system.

I think the general layout is related to CHIFT PIST; that is, a 100 gallon sump tank with a pump that pumps to (2) different discharge points: the fish tank and the grow bed.

The fish tank is a cast iron bathtub that I lined using 12 mil poly sheeting. It has a SLO that exits the tub through a bung fitting installed through the "drain lever" hole. The sheeting on inside of the tank is black, but the sheet that I'm using as a lid is white on top. I leave the top open on cold days to absorb solar heat into the water, and leave the top down on hot days to reflect heat instead of absorbing it. Fish tank is fed by a 1/2" diversion from the main pump outlet. Fish tank discharges into a ~20-30 gal tub with a molded overflow spillway; the direction of the discharge pipe makes the water swirl, acting as a rudimentary swirl filter. The water overflows through a net, into the sump tank. The net catches large objects (grass, food, whatever) and also holds oyster shells for getting my PH up a bit.

The other path the water can take is through the growbed. The growbed holds about 50 gallons of water, after the gravel was placed. It is made from 4"X4" and 2"X4" wood boards, with (2) coats of white paint. It is about 6ft long and about 3.5ft wide, and about 16" deep.

Before placing the gravel, I laid a rectangle of 1/2" pipe at the bottom of the growbed, so it was about 8" away from the walls of the growbed. This rectangle of pipe has a vertical riser pipe that extends above bed level. I have an electric piston air pump attached through a variety of reducers from 1/4" to 3/4" and back down to 1/2". It doesn't matter, since flow rate will be bottle-necked by the smallest point the air passes through, which is at the beginning (1/4" air pump outlet). The grow bed is about 14-16" deep, and I have seen some impressive results from aerating DWC beds, so we'll see how it turns out. I'm trying to avoid anaerobic sludge formation, especially since I didn't wash the gravel that went into the bed.

I think the gravel was "Grade 2", but that was everything that fell through the "Grade 2" screen, so I have lots of smaller rocks in there too. I didn't wash the gravel, but I did have a hose running water into the grow bed as I put gravel in, which did carry some sediments away. Grow bed was draining right onto the ground at that point. After the rest of the system was hooked up, I ran it as an empty system, and the water was running clear after a day or so. Growbed is run on constant flow, flood/drain, but I've run it as continuous flood for a few days with no problem. I think the aeration helps.

Overflow standpipe is 1-1/4", that opens up to 1-1/2" once it goes through the bottom of the grow bed. It's draining into the sump now, but I plan to pass the water through additional growbeds before returning it to the sump. Bell Siphon is 2.5" diameter, and the media guard is some 8" PVC that I liberated from a construction site trash heap.

I have glued nothing together, some of the joints leak a little bit, but I prefer the flexibility of leaving the pipes unglued. Nothing has come apart yet, and small leaks are eventually plugged with biofilm. I have a ready supply of rain-water from a roof tarp catchment and ground-based bladder water storage, so a top up once a week is ok with me.

I plugged in some plants about 3-4 weeks ago, kale, swiss chard, tomato, bell pepper, and a couple lemon cucumbers. Everything is growing well; some chards are a bit small because I think I didn't get the roots down deep enough when I planted them initially.

I have just today passed the nitrite hump, with nitrite levels falling as nitrates continue to remain constant at around 140ppm. PH dropped from 6.8 to 6.0 (lowest reading available) in the last 3 days, so I've ordered some calcium carbonate and potassium carbonate to help bring the PH up a bit. The water in the system is 100% rain water, which has been sitting inside a bladder for the better part of a year. I've had water running over some oyster shells to try to help with PH, but now it looks like I'll need a powdered concentrate to keep up with the acidification resulting from the nitrification process.

For nutrients, I've been feeding flake food to (7) goldfish. I've also been urinating in the sump tank perhaps 2-3 times a week. I know about the risk of E. Coli contamination, but they're my own germs, and I figure any foreign germs probably get out-competed by the established bio-filter colony anyway. My thinking is that the urine will help supply ammonia (after conversion from urea), as well as trace minerals/elements. Once my flake food runs out, I will get some high-quality aquaculture pellets.

The water is very clear, and very aerated. Fish seem very happy. I just installed an overflow pipe in front of the sump tank, so overflow water can be controlled instead of just spilling over the rim of the sump.

You can see an album of pictures here:

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