Aquaponic Gardening

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Well, I was asked by my kid's 4H club to help them do an exhibit on aquaponics.    So I am drafting some new plans for a small demo system, and I'll have the kids make posters with information about aquaponics.    A friend of mine (Allison) shared with me a picture of a small start up system, and I'm thinking of doing something on this order.

   I like that it is see-thru, and people can see the fish, the grow media, etc. and it's not too big of a system, for the purpose of being a demo.   I think I'm gonna try it with some goldfish, and grow some lettuce, and maybe beans for the demo.   Already ordered a small pump,  a freshwater tester kit, and a timer.   I can use some of the grow media that I was planning to use with my bigger system (perilite).   Then what I need to do is build the plumbing and a bell siphon.     So I'm getting jazzed.   But a little nervous too, as I haven't actually started up my bigger system (55 gallons).   Mostly nervous about the bell siphon and getting it to work.   

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Comment by John Cubit on February 1, 2013 at 5:16pm

Nasus I have used a Steralite and Rubbermaid totes and the work great, and they are food safe. The one below is a 10 gallon that I have hooked to a 20 gallon aquarium.  It is made by Steralite.  Just make sure the walls are pretty thick to accommodate the media and the water.  Some are so thin they will rupture.  Basically if you can drop it with out cracking it, it should work fine.

Comment by Nasus Marsh on February 1, 2013 at 2:54pm

I just started an aquaponics project for our 4H club.  I have 8 members 7-14 years old.  I will be building a small system with them and then helping them design their own, for those who want to.  
We are starting with a 25 gallon aquarium that I have but have not come up with a grow bed.  Looking for something made of food grade plastic.

If you have any good sources of info that younger people can understand I would love to know about it.

Comment by Bob Campbell on January 18, 2013 at 7:29pm

@Karen Matus  - The longer the lift tube the better.  The air stone is 4 or 5 inches so it would sit pretty high in the tube.  But also because I needed to go from 1/2" to 1" and the Tee was handy.

I'd do it this way again because it also make a stable lift tube.  With the Tee it does not move around or tilt.

Comment by John Cubit on January 18, 2013 at 5:45pm

Karen, yes beets are growing.  I am using Hydrocorn, similar to hydroton but irregular in shape and size (and cheaper)

They do shape different then in the ground, and they by far have been the easiest to grow, next to radishes and snow peas.  Not to freakish and they grow rather quickly.  Next batch I will get some photos.

Comment by Karen Matus on January 18, 2013 at 2:11pm

John, you got beets to grow in an Aquaponics system?   What type of media are you using and are your beets shaped differently than they would be if grown in dirt?    

As for plumbing, I still am planning a bell system with a 90 degree bend in the drain coming from the media tote.. I've heard that the 90 degree bend helps it as it siphons out.     But I can use a straight up stand pipe too, if the bell siphon doesn't work out as well.     

Bob, I am curious... what is the purpose of the right side of the uptake on your picture?   Why couldn't you just put an air lift in a straight tube, like you would a fish tank?

Comment by Bob Campbell on January 18, 2013 at 7:56am

@Karen - You have built a beautiful demo system,  but it needs media in order to filter the water and keep the roots clean.

Comment by John Cubit on January 18, 2013 at 5:21am

No problem Coty...not messing with all that stuff again for that bed.  Just that every short bell I have made has had some flow issue. I have never had one not work above 6 inches..

Allison and Karen, maybe you should check on using uniseals instaed of bulkhead adapters when you decide to go forward.  They lend the most adjustments and fine tuning without always needing to cut new pipe.

Comment by Allison Waters on January 17, 2013 at 9:27pm

I share your nervousness about a bell syphon. I plan on figuring them out eventually. :D 

Comment by Bob Campbell on January 17, 2013 at 1:16pm

I would use a stand pipe without a bell siphon.  Then I would use a small air pump to draw water up through a 1/2" PVC pipe.(Air lift pump).   The water will constantly flood the grow bed 24/7.  The aeration from the airlift pump will keep sufficient oxygen in the water for both plants and fish. 

It's not necessary to use an air stone but it helps to keep the water flow even rather than spurting.  In this photo I've placed a larger 1" pipe at the bottom of the 1/2" lift pipe so that the air stone would fit.  You can see the air line going inside through the elbow on the left.   This sits in the fish tank.  If your stand pipe is large enough you could run the airlift up though it with a couple more  elbows to direct the water down into the grow media.

Comment by coty on January 17, 2013 at 11:45am
Ok. Just trying to help. There are tons of different ways to build a bell syphon but if my advise is wrong im sorry for postin bad info.

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