Author Topic: Aquaponics Indoors (pic heavy)  (Read 14319 times)

Offline BigKid

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Aquaponics Indoors (pic heavy)
« on: September 23, 2010, 05:00:01 PM »
So I've been staring at my aquarium wondering "should I just get rid of my fish and tear it down?  I've been cleaning, filling, feeding, etc for years and Im bored with it."  Then I heard Jack's show about aquaponics and it has rejuvinated my interest in my aquarium.  Please keep in mind that I only have pet fish, no food.  I don't like the taste of fish so I doubt I'll ever take this to the next level of breeding and growing fish as protein source.  However, I do love gardening so I thought I'd give this a go and see if I can figure it out.  So here is my progress:

I knew I'd need a shelf above my 35 gallon fish tank to hold up the growbed of my set up.  I've been considering getting a new stand for my aquarium in general since it sits the aquarium so high that little ones who come to my house can't see the fish very well.  So I decided I'd build a new stand for my tank and growbed.  I started out with 4x4s for the legs and main supports, 2x4s for the frame, and MDF to wrap it all for strength and to look nice.



Not being an engineer, I tend to OVER engineer things to make sure they are strong enough.  that is most likely the case here, but the tank and growbed are heavy!

So the stand is done and as you can see, I chose to use a cheap planter from Lowes as my first growbed.  I wanted to go small until I figured out how to really do this thing so that if I screwed up I am not out TOO much money and I don't make TOO big of a mess.

I drilled a 1" hole in the bottom of the growbed for my bell siphon drain and ran the pvc pipe so that it would be directly over where I wanted it to go into the tank.  I then ran a 1/2" tube down to the tank.



I went to Harbor Freight for my pump.  $9.99 was too hard to pass up.  Its a 145 gph pump, pretty much the smallest I could find.  The box said that it was a 1/2" output, but it turns out that its actually a 5/16 output.  Another trip to the hardware store was in order.  I ran my tube from my tank up to a hydroport used for micro-drip irrigation.  This splits the flow off into 4 tubes and also gives me the ability to control the flow a little more than the pump allows.



You see the top of my bell siphon and my strainer in that last pic.  To see how I made that, I just followed a youtube video to the T (except my airtube came out the side instead of the top cause i thought it would look better.  If you search for Bell Siphon, its the video of the guy (about 20 something) sitting in front of my camera.  There are 2 parts, each about 10 minutes long.  

I did a few trial runs, and in that last pic you can see it is filling up.  It ran great so I went and got some hydroton and added that to the growbed.



Once I added the hydroton to the growbed, I realized that it was not strong enough to support the water and the hydroton.  It started bowing really bad and has now started leaking.  So I have decided to scrap the cheap planter for my growbed andand I am going to make my own out of MDF waterproofed with Fiberglass resin.  I'm going to do that this weekend.  I'll update the pics as I am working on it.  One of my big reasons for the leak was that I used DAP instead of silicone.  That's what I get for trying to use what I had laying around iinstead of not being lazy and getting the real stuff while I was at my many trips to the hardware store.  

All in all, this has been a really fun project.  I can't wait to get it fully operational and try a few methods out.  I know the growbed is super small for the size of tank I ahve, even after I build the one out of MDF, it'll be too small.  So I kept a filter in the tank.  I'll monitor the ammonia levels and nitrate levels.  As they rise i'll just turn on the filter to knock them back down.  

It's been really cool finding a purpose for my hobby fish tank.  I started some seeds last night so hopefully in a few weeks I can transplant them in my aquaponics growbed.  I hope to grow some serrano peppers, some habenero peppers, and perhaps some spinach and some lettuce in this first round.  

Thanks for the inspiration Jack.



Offline BigKid

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Re: Aquaponics Indoors (pic heavy)
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2010, 02:00:54 PM »
I scrapped the plastic planter in the first post.  It was just too flimsy and kept causing links when the pipe would shift and the silicone didn't want to.  So i decided to build my own growbed.  I started with the extra 5/8" MDF from when I built the stand.  Its just a basic box that I drilled 2 1" holes in the bottom.  1 hole for the bell siphon and 1 for a rapid drain with a valve so that I can drain the box if I feel the need.  I then put the PVC in the holes for my drains and coated the box with fiberglass resin to waterproof it.  I painted it  black just cause the resin isnt very visually appealing on MDF. 



Here is a picture of the rapid drain.  Its just a ball valve going directly back into the tank.  It's also the location of my only leak.  In the pic you can see a drop getting ready to fall.  A little silicone will fix that right up.



Here is the bottom of my bell siphon.  This one works a lot better than my first attempt.  I think the flimsy planter had a hand in it not siphoning.  The more rigid MDF growbed worked great.



As of last night, it was cycling great.  Though it was cycling very fast.  The fellow at my local hydroponics store said I should cycle no more than 4 times a day.  Right now it is cycling every 17 minutes, which if my math is right, is 84 times a day.  So i need to shave 80 times off of my cycle speed.  Luckily my hydroport can be turned WAY down.

it also is waiting too long to siphon so I need to fine tune that by cutting down my siphon tube.  But other than that I am almost ready to throw a grow light on this thing and plant a few plants.   I started some romain lettuce, spinach, and some hot peppers in a seed starter so I have a couple weeks before they will be ready to be transplanted.

Oh, and if you are wondering why the growbed is about a half an inch shifted to the left, I measured wrong and my rapid drain wont let the growbed move inline with the stand.  So I need to remedy that.



Offline tamo42

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Re: Aquaponics Indoors (pic heavy)
« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2010, 02:26:52 PM »
Every time i see people do this kind of thing, i have to issue a warning: have a plan for humidity control!  I had a 30 gallon indoor system, and everything was fine for several months.  Then, all of a sudden, I had a mold explosion all over the place.  So please be absolutely sure you have a plan to deal with the moisture that goes into the air from your ap system.

Offline idelphic

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Re: Aquaponics Indoors (pic heavy)
« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2010, 03:05:51 PM »
Curious,.. why not start with a Raft system?  With a raft, all you would need is a sheet of 2" thick foam - you would float it in your 35gal tank.

Offline BigKid

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Re: Aquaponics Indoors (pic heavy)
« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2010, 06:28:13 PM »
Every time i see people do this kind of thing, i have to issue a warning: have a plan for humidity control!  I had a 30 gallon indoor system, and everything was fine for several months.  Then, all of a sudden, I had a mold explosion all over the place.  So please be absolutely sure you have a plan to deal with the moisture that goes into the air from your ap system.

Thank you for your warning.  What kind of humidity control system would you recommend?

Offline BigKid

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Re: Aquaponics Indoors (pic heavy)
« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2010, 06:30:05 PM »
Curious,.. why not start with a Raft system?  With a raft, all you would need is a sheet of 2" thick foam - you would float it in your 35gal tank.

No real reason.  I enjoy building things, needed a stand for my tank anyways and decided to go this route.  Eventually, once I get this growbed set up and running, I plan to expand to more growbeds.  So that, I suppose, could be a reason. 

Offline tamo42

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Re: Aquaponics Indoors (pic heavy)
« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2010, 08:07:09 PM »
Depends on how your system is situated.  If it is near a window, leaving that window open sometimes might be enough.  If it is in a closed room, a dehumidifier would probably be necessary. 

Offline idelphic

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Re: Aquaponics Indoors (pic heavy)
« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2010, 01:45:06 PM »
No real reason.  I enjoy building things, needed a stand for my tank anyways and decided to go this route.  Eventually, once I get this growbed set up and running, I plan to expand to more growbeds.  So that, I suppose, could be a reason. 

If you are adding more grow beds, will you be also expanding your tank? 

Offline BigKid

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Re: Aquaponics Indoors (pic heavy)
« Reply #8 on: September 30, 2010, 03:45:52 PM »
If you are adding more grow beds, will you be also expanding your tank? 

No, from what I am understanding, I am severely overtanked as it is.  Jack mentioned in his podcast that I should have 1 sq ft of growbed for every gallon of tank (which I think I might have misunderstood cause thats A LOT of growbed).  I've also read online from various sources that I need 1 cubic foot of growbed for every 6 gallons of tank.  Right now I am at 1.75 cubic feet of growbed.  With my 35 gallon tank, I can have up to 5.83 cubic feet of growbed.  So I should add 3 more growbeds to get the ratio right on paper.  As soon as I get plants growing I am going to remove the charcoal from the filter and see how the plants do on filtering the nitrate out of the water.  That'll give me a better idea as to how many more growbeds I need.

Offline tamo42

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Re: Aquaponics Indoors (pic heavy)
« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2010, 09:35:57 PM »
I'm not quite sure where Jack gets his numbers.  From his description of AP systems, it sounds like he's read Travis Hughley's Barrelponics book.

Anyways, the rule of thumb you want to go by is in volume, but it depends on fish density.  If you are at a maximum safe level (1 lb of fish per gallon) then the following applies:

Every gallon of fish water needs 1 - 2 gallons of gravel filtration.  The more densely stocked your fish tank is, the closer to the 2x side of things you should be.

Most grow beds are 1 ft deep.  So each square foot of surface area correlates to a cubic foot of gravel.  1 ft^3 = 7.5 gallons, so again depending on stocking density, you'll need 1 square foot of surface area for every 3.75 - 7.5 gallons of fish tank.  So with 35 gallons, you'll want somewhere between 4.5 - 9.5 square feet of grow bed.  That's not a huge amount.

If your grow beds are deeper or shallower, you'll need to calculate your own figures.



On the other hand, if you want to go full on geeked out, here are the specs:

F = # of fish
W = weight of adult fish at harvest (usually 1 - 1.5)
FT = fish tank volume (in gallons)
GBV = grow bed volume (in gallons)
GBd = grow bed depth (in feet)
GBA = grow bed area (in square feet)

FT >= F * W
GBV = FT
GBA = GBV / 7.5 / GBd

So let's say you are going to grow tilapia to eating size of 1.5 lbs in a 35 gallon tank.  Let's calculate constraints:

FT / W >= F
35 / 1.5 >= F
23.3 >= F
Max of 23 fish

But your planter looks much smaller.  I'm guessing 3' x 1' x 6" from the pictures.  So we're looking at a GBV of 1.5 ft^3 or 11.25 gallons

GBV = FT
FT >= F * W
GBV >= F * W
GBV / W >= F
11.25 / 1.5 >= F
7.5 >= F

So your grow bed constrains your fish population to 7 or 8 fish. 

Hope that helps.


Offline idelphic

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Re: Aquaponics Indoors (pic heavy)
« Reply #10 on: October 01, 2010, 08:05:48 AM »
I and not sure of Tamo42 calculations and formulas, but your grow bed density does correlate to your fish density.

Your grow bed is the replacement of your filter.  The plants draw out the nitrates and nitrites from the water... I believe the the rock on the grow bed is the solids filter.  If you draw to much of the nitrites and nitrates out of the water, then the ecosystem you are build will collapse. 

If you have not already found the resource - please look at http://www.aquaponics.com operated by Nelson & Pade Consulting.  They are one of the leading resources on Auqaponics and Aquaponic systems.  I have been working with them off and on for about two or three years.

Offline BigKid

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Re: Aquaponics Indoors (pic heavy)
« Reply #11 on: October 01, 2010, 01:40:27 PM »
Those are heavy formulas.  Thank you very much.

So since I am only growing hobby fish, I think I need to put quite a few more in the tank.

Offline creuzerm

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Re: Aquaponics Indoors (pic heavy)
« Reply #12 on: November 07, 2010, 04:17:54 PM »
I've been playing with Aquaponics in the house as well.

My 75 gallon aquarium with aquaponics on the top. It had just started in this photo, so you don't see all the lettuce yet.

I think this is a different 'beast' than what the big growers and outdoors setups are. For one thing, they need to LOOK much better usually. All the numbers being kicked around are for much larger systems at different stocking levels of much larger fish than what most small aquariums have. They just don't scale down to small ornamental aquariums sitting in your living room. You just won't have good plant growth if you have too much growbed for the aquarium size.

My thoughts on aquarium aquaponics systems is that as long as you run the adequate 'regular' aquarium filtering, it doesn't matter how big or small your grow bed is. The grow bed just acts like extra filtering as far as the aquarium is concerned. The big systems rely on the grow beds to be the filters.

Having an established and growing aquaponics rig will pull most of the 'stuff' out of the water that normally requires the regular water changes. So you don't need to change water as often. The growbed will also allow you to stock fish at a higher density with less maintenance, so the tanks 'look' better as there are more fish in them.

I used a shallow sterilite under-bed container for my growbed. However, I use pots to hold the media. Most of them are cut off 2 liter soda bottles. I've been eyeing my window-sill SIP planters though. Using pots allows me to re-arrange the plants as I please.

I've got some videos of my setup on youtube.
http://www.youtube.com/user/creuzerm#grid/user/07F12DC70680FBD7