Saturday, December 15, 2012

Don’s aquaponics system

Pictures below Left click on any picture to bring up the album or right click and select "open in a new tab" on your browser for easy viewing. The pictures are numbered in red characters on the bottom left hand corner. The pictures are expandable.

The object of aquaponics is to raise fish in conjunction with hydroponically grown plants. When properly balanced It is a symbiotic relationship wherein the plants clean the water for the fish and the fish fertilize the plants. Once the system is mature, that is the proper mix of fish and bacteria growing in the medium and the plant material enough to take up the nutrients, it is amazing how well things grow. It took mine over a year to reach that point. You can see that my winter tomatoes have just about taken over the green house. Honestly I spend less than an hour a week in the thing to keep it going and those tomatoes were actually leftovers from the fall of 2010. I was too busy to really do much at all this whole past year (2011). In another month I will be running over with water spinach and other weed the fish like to eat. I am planting a garden all around the fish house this weekend with my grandson. So the hydroponics this year will be to grow treats and supplemental feed for the fish and my other hobby/emergency food supply.............chickens. And no, I do not use chicken poop to grow green slime for my Tilapia to eat.

Picture 4)
My system is a total of about 600 gallons recirculating every hour. This is the fish tank and solids collector tank. The fish tank is a 360 gallon caged plastic tank previously used for vinegar. I have it lined inside and out with a plastic tarp to prevent UV light from the sun degrading the plastic. I will eventually wrap a wood case around the outside to make it match my grow beds that you can see in picture 6.

The water is pumped from a 120 gallon Rubbermaid stock tank sunk in the ground (picture 1) into the fish tank. by way of a 6" PVC pipe that reaches all the way to the bottom of the fish tank. This forces clean water to the bottom. Dirty water exits through a drain close to the surface and drains by gravity into the solids collection tank (small white trash can). I have put a baffle of corrugated plastic roofing inside the solids collector to allow the solids to have settling time before the water exits the solids collector. The two Lowes buckets are growing Duck Weed. I scoop out most of the Duck Weed for fish food every three days and it grows back that quick. I have wet-lands on my small plot here so I am able to collect the Duck Weed during the summer months and freeze quite a bit of it as supplemental feed as well. The fish's (Tilapia) main diet is regular pond food for Trout and Catfish.

In pictures 5 and 7 above
From the solids collector tank the water flows by gravity to the grow beds. There are two grow beds that I fashioned (cut) from two sides of another tank like the fish tank. They are also lined with plastic to keep the sun from degrading the tanks. Instead of filling my grow beds with a growing medium, I filled individual three gallon flower pots with growing medium and filled the grow beds with the filled flower pots . That so it would be easy to remove individual plants or containers to clean the grow beds if and when that becomes needed. I should not need to do too much actual cleaning. Actually, I want the bacteria and slime to stay undisturbed as much as possible to help clean the water. But I do have occasion to remove individual plants and the filled flower pots makes it a lot easier to do that. I cheated on the growing medium. Because I started this several years ago on a shoe string budget (actually it was my $120/month quit smoking money. See page 2 for a brief history my aquaponics adventure) I started with lava rock as my growing medium. I am still not smoking so I will probably start replacing the lava rock sometime this year a little at a time with Hydroton. It is an expanded clay product sold for hydroponic growing.

(Picture 1 above)
This is a 120-gallon Rubbermaid stock tank sunk into the ground. This is where the pump is located (white PVC at bottom of picture) and where the cleaned water from the grow beds end up. The water in the grow beds fill to about one foot depth. I have made auto siphons in each grow bed to automatically siphon the water back to the sump tank once the water reaches that level. At which time the grow bed is completely emptied of water with a rush back to the sump tank which helps to oxygenate it as well. ( Black corrugated sewer pipe in the upper right corner). Water empties onto a basket of lava rock which in turn lets the water pass through with much agitation through the rocks and then dumps with more agitation as it enters the sump tank. There are two separate grow beds that are manually timed to alternate filling and emptying so the sump tank is not pumped too far down at one time.

Picture 3 above)
This is a close up of where the water is being pumped back into the fish tank. I restrict the flow with a valve so that the water is coming out with enough force to cause more oxygenation as it enters the tank.

Below are just some extra pictures that give a few different views inside the fish house. Page 2 on this blog has no pictures but describes my journey into the world of aquaponics.

More pictures above . The bottom picture shows my screen on the top of the tank. Tilapia are very fine jumpers and will jump to their death.