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Take Ride with Me? Setting Up an Aquaponics System - fishy's AP Protege - Update 5/20/13

I am finally setting up my AP system inspired by fishy and posting progress on the meet up and it dawned on me maybe some of our friends on the DP might want to come along for the ride?

I say fishy's protege (Unless fishy disowns me... LOL) because I have been a member of the AP meetup she and her husband started since the beginning and been threatening to set up my system the whole time and just now getting around to it and she is probably mumbling under her breath its about #$^@# dam time.. LOL

Anyway come along with me if you will for a ride in getting an Aquaponics system set up. Comments critiques questions etc. welcome Follow along here or on our meetup board if you like.


Time to get this show on the road wouldn't you agree? ;)

Ok then lets get things moving so thought I would Post a couple of pics on the chaos that will hopefully soon become my working AP system.

These are the grow beds I am deciding how to lay out. I am going to build a greenhouse room on the patio eventually so decided to see if I could make the AP system fit on the patio rather then on the other side of the house. I think it will work but I'll have to build a custom tank for the fish. I have a good water bed liner that may work for that but we'll see...



Working on getting the pics to show in the thread if someone knows how please tell me... To bad I don't have a video camera... ;)

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Update 5/20/13

Update 5/20/13

Got some starts and seed in the grow beds. Note to self; don't plant starts after you seeded the beds as you will dig up many of your sprouts trying to put the starts. in. Still no fish but the bacteria cycle seems to have started so real soon hopefull but still need to stabilize a bit. Also made a cover for the tank as I got tired of looking at the black plastic I had over it to prevent algae blooms etc.

Here are some pics enjoy:





Sorry the pics are not as good but its my cheap phone as my camera keeps running down batteries real quick. I need a new camera and a video camera lol.

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deacon's picture

i hope you have

a fence to put around and on top of that whole thing
animals,including birds will eat them plants down to nothing
i have a small system set up in our house,and have 2 cockatiels
these 2 ate every living thing in minutes

If we deny truth before your very eyes,then the rest of what we have to say,is of little consequence

Update: 5/5/2013 - Yeah Tank is Done and Cycling!

Update: 5/5/2013

Yeah!!! The tank is done everything is plumbed and the cycling has started!!! Just working on timing the flood and drain and doing some tweaking. I discovered one of the siphons just acted like continues flow and would not drain and then flood. Problem was I raised the end of the drain head so it was down hill a bit but this raised the pipe underneath the grow bed so it was a little uphill causing enough back pressure to keep the full siphon from starting. Solution cut the riser a little bit that the drain header connects to so the drain is down a hill still but the pipe underneath is now also down hill a little. I also put an air vent in the end cap of the drain header (drilled a small hole)

Anyways here is the finished product except I still need to make a cover for the fish tank till I get the green house room built. Right now I am just throwing a tarp over it so I don't get an algae bloom from the sun. Also going to make a box for the pump, and the wife wants an Egyptian obelisk to cover the return pipe to the tank but that in due time. Want to get it cycled and get some fish and plants in it first.







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Quick Pointers For Bell Sphon Functionality

For those building a bell siphon
A few quick points
1) make sure the inflow is at least 1% percent more water volume than the outflow of the standpipe (when the outflow is not siphoning). This ensures that the standpipe will be covered, one of the key requirements for the mechanism to work.
The goal here is to create negative pressure inside of the 'bell'. this can only happen when the standpipe is completely covered and the water vortexes downward. When the vortex is created, the water takes a gulp of air with it, which creates the negative pressure required.

2) make sure that there is an unimpeded drop with the standpipe, this will make sure the standpipe can maintain a steady outflow. ie don't have any curves or bends as the outflow can be impeded.

3) Make sure all components are completely sealed

Generally if you meet these three criteria your siphon should run continuously.

Update 4/28/13

Update 4/28/13 Ok so i finally have the system plumber tested it and there was some leaks and some problems adapting the pump hoses to 3/4 PVC pipe. Fixed the leaks (hopefully) and got all the plumbing glued together at least the stuff that is underground and about ready to start cycling. I have to drain the tank first as the water in it has been sitting for a week now to leach out any nastiness in the acrylic fortified concrete so need fresh water to start the cycle.

To adapt the pump hoses to the 3/4" PVC I tried to use some poly-pipe but it was too rigid and would not allow the pump hose seal up with hose clamps. SO I ended up getting some 1 inch automotive heater hose and it fits over 3/4" PVC pipe (barely) and then I had to cut a short piece of poly-pipe (3") long ways and actually take about a 1/4" section long way and push it in the heater hose then work the pump hose over it and clamp it down. I figure since heater hose is high heat it will be inert as far as off gassing since it can withstand high temperatures

Here's what it looks like:


Here is the plumbing all done and in the trenches:



Here is a shot of the Intex pool pump.


I am anxious to get it cycling the weather just turned warm so I can start growing now but having to work a damn job to make a living takes up so much time it is maddening. Plus I got some orders for beehives so that is taking up my free time too. Hopefully the next pictures will be of the grow beds filled with media and the tank cycling. I need to get a PH kit too...

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Update 4/14/12 Ok finally

Update 4/14/12

Ok finally was able to get back on the system yesterday and today. I was out of town week before last doing some training for a new job and of course have to work during the week so am not able to get to the system till the afternoon and weekends.

Any ways I am making some headway i got the inlet installed in the tank and sealed but not able to test the seal yet as I am waiting for the sealant to cure fully and still need to put rock on the tank. So while I was waiting I decided to get the bottom supports for the grow bed cut out and d drilled and make the bell siphons and test them.

Here are some pics of the tests of the bell siphon it works this is an Affnan style bell siphon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmxsI5ZRLA4





I used 3/4' pipe and a slip fit fitting with O rings on each side of the plastic like a bulkhead fitting sort of and it works great. No leaks and the O rings I got at Harbor Freight. I have had them for a while I bought them a couple years ago a whole case of about 20 different sizes and I finally have a use for the bigger ones... LOL.


The clear plastic flare you see at the top of the stand pipe is cut from a 2 leader pop bottle. and I heated the end of the stand pipe with a 3 dollar old hair dryer I got from the thrift store and flared it out by pushing it over a wine bottle end till it fit on the pop bottle end. I did not have anymore pop bottles so just flared the end of the PVC pipe. and tested them all and they work good.

Anyway I am close to plumbing it and starting cycling it and perhaps maybe a meetup soon on it.

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Even though I have no experience with this,

it looks good! ;)

Fishy/Jefferson have been posting stuff that motivates me to want to do a project like this. I just started buying pieces for my RainTower project and I think I'm also going to make that custom strawberry tower as well.


Only downside is, I live in WA where the sun only comes out for 3 months a year so we'll have to hang up some lights. We hit the lottery last year when the sun stayed around until mid October.

If you don't know your rights, you don't have any.

Good deal glad I can

Good deal glad I can contribute to the inspiration in some small way. It's addicting but very satisfying.

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Update 3/30/12 Yea the tank

Update 3/30/12

Yea the tank is technically done however I was thinking of facing it with river rock and the wife was out looking at it and said hey I think you need to face it with river rock... Guess what river rock it is LOL.

So it turned out to be a little more work then I anticipated (doesn't it always) however it saved me a lot of money I was checking around for pond paint and it was like over $100 a gallon. So I did some research and ended up buying acrylic concrete fortifier to mix with the cement. it makes the cement water proof. So I used that as a final coat on the inside of the tank.

I talked to a local pond guy here and he said it will work good but to fill the tank and let it set for a few days to leach out any nasties then drain and refill and it is ready for fish. Acrylic goes inert after it cures...

So now I need to put the ornamental rock on but that should. not take long and it will add thermal mass for helping keep the water temp stable. So I gathered up what I had laying around the yard and then combed the neighborhood empty lots and found enough (hopefully) to veneer the tank with.

I am starting a new job so I don't know how soon I'll be able to get to the plumbing but have to get the rock on first. So hopefully within the next couple weeks we will have water flowing.

On another note my Apricot tree is in beginning bloom and the bees are rocking that tree hoping for more soon. The Nectarine and Cherry are getting ready to pop also then they will bee on bee heaven ;)

Here are some pictures of the progress of the tank.

Finishing the floor. If I had it to do over I would do the floor first and let it set up for a couple of days and then do the walls.

Getting ready to do the last part of the tank which is the lip area. I had some pieces of cedar fence pickets laying around so I drilled some holes in them and wired them to the lip hanging underneath for to keep the mud from falling through:


A couple shots of the finished tank:



And here is a shot of some more work I made for myself LOL... The decorative rock that will go on the tank..


Enjoy and be glad I am doing the work and you just get to watch LOL!

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Know anything about algaculture?

As far as biofuels forums go I think this one is the best:

Pandacentricism will be our downfall.

Not much I have read a little

Not much I have read a little about but its been some time. It's one of those things that is on my extended to do list LOL.

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Update 3/24/12 Ok moving

Update 3/24/12

Ok moving along here the tank is coming along slowly I have about half of the first coat of cement on. Doing it in a hole like this is not the easiest way to do it but the only way for the space I have. It would be better to if you dig down completely and then back fill the dirt to the level you wanted it. or just dig the entire tank into the ground. The wire moves a lot wen sticking up over the edges so you have to mix the cement just right so its wet enough to flow but dry enough to stick to the wire.

But it working as we get read for the meetup tomorrow. Also a sprayer would be better and easier then troweling it on. However its not to bad :

Here's some pics of the tank partially coated:



Being partially in the ground should help keep the water temperature more stable. I will also build up some rock around the part sticking up out of the ground which will also help insulate the tank.

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On the above grade portion you will be much better off to wrap it in foam or glass insulation then hide it with the rock. The R-value of stone, brick, or common cement is horrible, it's something along the lines of R-0.40 so it's very bad. Looks like your moving along good though.

The bold effort the present bank had made to control the government ... are but premonitions of the fate that await the American people should they be deluded into a perpetuation of this institution or the establishment of another like it-Andrew Jackson

Thanks. Yeah i understand

Thanks. Yeah i understand however its not just about R value rocks and cement will provide thermal mass that will absorb heat from the sun that will radiate it into the tank even after the sun has gone down...

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thermal mass

I've done a bit of testing with the thermal mass and in winter if you live in a cold climate the mass it takes to generate and hold enough heat in the day to make much of a difference overnight is pretty massive. It would need to be about 18-24 inches thick and a dark pigment, it also has to be located with an unobstructed view to the south from dawn to dusk and taking into consideration the low angle of the sun during winter months. I found that wintering fish outdoors here in Kansas is much easier with a heater and a well insulated covered tank and using a dark color to take advantage of the sun.

The bold effort the present bank had made to control the government ... are but premonitions of the fate that await the American people should they be deluded into a perpetuation of this institution or the establishment of another like it-Andrew Jackson

I have it facing southerly it

I have it facing southerly it's also next to the house and the rocks will have my clay soil as as mortar and I will have a green house over it in winter. The water in the tank also acts as heat sink. My goal is to not have to use a heater.. But yeah you are right if you are using a tank heater outdoors in winter insulation on the outside of the thermal mass would be best.

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Greenhouse covering

That will help a lot having it in your greenhouse. Before, when I lived in Kansas City I built a tank similar to yours dug into the ground. The sides I used cement blocks two thick all filled with cement and painted black. Also had a black pond liner in the tank. I had around 14 inches all the way around in solid mass and it did help a lot until probably around December. Once the nights got so much longer and colder it just didn't take in enough heat during the short days (often cloud covered) to overcome the cold mass that set in the night before. Mine was outside with just a piece of black plastic that I pulled over it. It worked to a degree but in late winter I was using 1500 watts to keep it around 55 - 65 degrees. I think you will fair better being cover by the greenhouse as wind chill pulls heat away pretty fast.

The bold effort the present bank had made to control the government ... are but premonitions of the fate that await the American people should they be deluded into a perpetuation of this institution or the establishment of another like it-Andrew Jackson


Why are you not using rain towers? They are BAD ARSE you MUST check them out if you haven't already - it's not to late! You haven't quite gotten started yet...

I will have some towers in

I will have some towers in the system. However just using rain towers alone you have add nutrients regularly and change the water periodically. With Fish they provide the nutrients and the plants clean the water for the fish.

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Just wanted to add a few

Just wanted to add a few photos of the new tank plan:

It is coming along nothing like making work for yourself. Here is a couple more photos of digging the tank/pond:


Here is the finished hole... And now of course it is raining a bit today lets hope it does't rain to much...



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Lol at your signature ad

it's a SCAM! We all know how you lost the weight ;-)

Just kidding! That looks awesome man wtg... check my comment above.

Update 3/18/12

Update 3/18/12

OK things are moving forward slowly. I had to put up a rain gutter where the fish tank is going to be so the rain would not run into the tank and over flow it and mess with the PH etc.

Here is the gutter all installed. Luckily I had this laying around it was missing 2 out of 8 brackets and of course the big box store did not have that type of bracket so I used a couple of long lag bolts to replace those two and it worked good. I of course had to paint it and luckily still had some house paint from when we bought the house 9 years ago and it was amazingly still good.


I then focused my attention on getting the tank ready. I painted the outside with a good acrylic latext paint to water proof it which I also had lying around too can you tell I am a miser LOL! So I went to work to get the tank finished so I can get it in place to start plumbing.



These are a couple of shots of the tank as I get ready to put the other end on and I will then have to glass in the corners like you see in the rest of the tank and then put a final coat of resin on. This will hold about 800 gallons it will make a great fish tank. I was building this for rain water catchment.

I got the other end on and started working on the ground where the tank is gong to go; under the window where I put up the gutter. However I have run into a snag. This tank is just to damn big to fit there without blocking part of the walkway. The window is a pop out and I'd have to drop the tank almost two feet into the ground to fit under the pop out so I could move it back off the walk way area. That is a lot of digging by hand. It also needed to go down at least a foot to fifteen inches so the grow beds could gravity drain back to the tank. Also I did not really want to put a wood tank (the outside) in the ground as the moisture would rot the wood eventually. I was going to put some of that rubber roofing sealer on it and go for it as it is what I have and can't afford to spend a bunch of money right now.

I have been racking my brain on what to do. So I think I am going to build a custom permanent pond/tank there so it can conform to the area. Either way it looks like I am going to have to dig. So I think what I have decided is I will dig down about foot to fifteen inches and come up about 24- 27 inches with a ferro cement (like a pool) tank and may decorate with some rock etc.. After pricing pond liners and plywood to build a smaller tank that would fit the area this will be the cheapest. I already have the sand cement and wire mesh and even if I had to buy it it would still be much cheaper. Only thing I'll need to buy is some pool paint probably.

This is what happens when you have limited space. Should of just went with a barrel-ponics system LOL! I always have to do things more elaborate then most it seems... And now the wife wants another patio with a gazebo and a fire pit (which I had promised to do a year or so ago) LOL! Amazing how the size of a project just grows by leaps and bounds as it goes... So I am going to get to building the new tank tomorrow.

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Update 3/14 10:30pm

Well the grow beds are all leveled and ready for plumbing. Looks easy but the patio has a pitch to it so the water will drain and i have rock steps that I built on to it that are not perfectly flat so after fiddling around and shimming the block I finally got it level. Leveling is important so the water distributes evenly into the beds and does not flow to one side or the other.



I also tested the gravel from the local cement plant for high PH using vinegar. Just take a hand full of gravel and put it in a clear jar with vinegar and if it starts fissing or bubbling it has to much limestone in it that will keeps the PH to high for the system my gravel tested fine.


I have also been clearing out the planter area (digging up and potting some of the plants we want to save till we figure out where to put them etc.)for the fish tank and getting the outside of the tank ready for paint. I was going to use the hard rock coating but it's to expensive and I have some really good exterior paint already so I am going to use that and I have a piece of floor vinyl I will set under the tank on top of some gravel too to keep water from wicking up the wood and rotting it eventually

As usual when you start a project it just seems to expand and make more and more work. I'll need to put a gutter up on the house where the fish tank is going to sit so the rain does not drain into the tank. Luckily I have some gutter laying around but will need some paint to match the house. I am also going to have to dig the planter out a foot deep for the tank as it is too tall otherwise. I will also need to move a sprinkler and on it goes...

I will get more pictures and an update up when I have some time.

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here's a link to the liners I'm using to line my wood frame grow beds, don't know if it is a big as you need but the price is pretty good.


The bold effort the present bank had made to control the government ... are but premonitions of the fate that await the American people should they be deluded into a perpetuation of this institution or the establishment of another like it-Andrew Jackson

That's a pretty damn good

That's a pretty damn good price!

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@ Hawkiye

What type of plastic are you using with you kiddy pools?

If you are growing consumable food, you must only use polyethylene-teraphalate (PET) or (HDPET)

There is no other food save plastic that is not porous and won't break down easily, especially under direct sunlight.

PET uses estrogenic compounds as plasticizes.

These compounds ruined some rat experiments once upon a time. That is how they were discovered. The Compounds that can mimic Estrogen are not healthy.

FDA approved plastic containers suitable for edibles can be purchased from Uline or Grainger, for expample.

PET is FDA approved, but the rule of thumb is avoid clear plastic.

Milk jugs and the like are fine.

Free includes debt-free!

Thanks for the warning. I

Thanks for the warning. I seem to recall looking into it before but can't remember the outcome. All it says is its poly pool. I looked on their website and it doesn't say either. They are made in the USA by General Foam Plastics. I got them at Kmart a couple years ago. They won't really be in the sun as they will be filled with grow medium and rapped in a cedar skirt the top of rims might get a little sun till the plants cover it so I am not to worried.

Now if they were made in China I would have never got them...

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They are probably PP

They look to be poly propylene - not food safe!

Michael Nystrom's picture


Good work hawkiye. Keep us posted on your progress.

Looking forward to it.

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance. - Alan Watts