Category Archives for Step-by-step

One Barrel System Final Setup

Here are the steps to set up the one barrel system, before planting your plants:

  1. Prove water flow and no leaks
    1. Make sure plugs in barrel are screwed in tight, so no leaks.
    2. Set barrel on level surface in a full to partial sunny area, near a power plug.
    3. Fill barrel with water to about 3” below the opening of the fish tank
    4. Setup the timer so it will turn on the pump periodically. Ex: 0:15 every 2 hours, more often in warmer weather
    5. Run the system for a while and make sure there are no leaks
    6. Determine drain protector cover, media,  and water height.
      1. drain protector cover: Measure the height from the top of the edge of the grow bed.
        Ex: top of drain protector 1” shorter that edge of growbed
      2. Media: fill the growbed with media (i.e. washed clay beads) to about 1”, or more below the height of the drain protector cover. This way water won’t wash beads over drain protector and into drain.
        Ex: 2” or less below height of edge of grow bed.
      3. Measure the height of the water in growbed when it is at its highest. Ex: 2” below the top edge of the growbed. You want the maximum height of the water to be about 2-3 inches below the surface of the media.

Ex: top of drain protector to top edge of grow bed = 1”

Top of media to top edge of grow bed = 2” minimum

Top of water to top edge of grow bed = 4”; you want water 2”-3” below surface of media

  1. Confirm height of drain protector cover, media,  and top of water
    1. Ex: top of drain protector to top edge of grow bed = 1”
    2. Top of media to top edge of grow bed = 2” minimum
    3. Top of water to top edge of grow bed = 4”; you want water 2”-3” below surface of media
    4. Plant plants so their stems are above the media, their “butt” is below the top of the media, and their roots are below their “butt”. Roots will grow into the water and live there. Transplant when roots are long enough to touch the top of the water, ex: about 2” long.
    5. Adjust the water height
      1. If your water height is too high it will flood the plants and often float some of the clay beads, at least until they gradually fill with water.
      2. The ½” drain pipe should be setup to adjust the water height. You can remove it and change it to properly set the water height.
      3. Remove drain pipe and drill holes at the maximum height you want the water to be, EX; 4” or 5” below the top edge of the grow bed. You can always rebuild the drain pipe with another piece of PVC pipe if you mess up.

Water Level

Reference: see section “water” http://aquaponicfun.com/general/one-barrel-aquaponics-system-construction/

You will want the water level flooded to a specific height in the growbed. After I took this picture I drilled two larger holes (not shown)  in the drain / overflow pipe to set the level I wanted for the maximum water in the growbed. I choose for the water to be 1″ to 1 & 1/2″ below the top of the clay beads at it’s highest level. The holes need to be large enough that they drain the water faster than the pump can deliver the water, else your plants will flood and your clay beads will try to float.

I have installed a 2″ PVC pipe to act as a strainer so that the media (beads) don’t get into the drain / overflow pipe when I need to remove it for cleaning or inspection.

Reference:

One Barrel System Questions and Answers

One Barrel Aquaponics System Details

One Barrel Aquaponics System Construction

One Barrel Aquaponics System

One Barrel System Final Setup (This post)

 

Greenhouse Frame

Greenhouse Frame May 2013

The Greenhouse project is coming along nicely. Sore muscles, old age, bad weather have all slowed me down for a while. Here is what I’ve accomplished do far.

Go here to read past posts:
Reasons to Have an Aquaponics Greenhouse

Greenhouse Planning

Bolt Together Greenhouse

The greenhouse inside dimensions are 12′ Wide x 11’6″ Deep x 7′ High and 12′ high to peak.

The completed foundation consists of 4″x4″x12′ treated lumber, leveled in the ground and strapped together with metal angle brackets and carriage bolts.n Notice one of the 3 walls in the background leaning against the fence. The walls will all be 7′ high to save materials and help meet code height restrictions.

Greenhouse Foundation

The 4by4s are bolted together so they will act as one piece and not have one end sink into the ground or move around.

Greenhouse Foundation CornerWe staked the 4by4s to the ground at an angle using  24″ long 1/2″ rebar so they won’t move around.

Greenhouse Foundation Rebar

The two sections of roof gables were assembled in the air, on top of the walls and then bolted together. All lumber was precut and stained to make it easier when assembling / building the Greenhouse.

GH Ladder Gable

Two people could unbolt the entire frame, section by section, and put it on a trailer for relocation, should that be necessary. No nails were used, just 3″ long phillip’s head deck screws and a few bolts. Three walls are identically built and the fourth is the same with the exception of a door added. These are all screwed to the foundation and then bolted together.

All lumber is 2″x4″ sealed with Behr clear 10 year deck preservative #500

Behr GH Stain 500

I’ll share more as I make progress.

Bolt Together Greenhouse

To upgrade my Aquaponics interest to commercial I needed a greenhouse. Go here to read my planning and reasoning.
Reasons to Have an Aquaponics Greenhouse
Greenhouse Planning

Greenhouse Design Requirements:

Large enough to grow quantity of produce necessary for reasonable return, i.e. 1 year ROI.

Greenhouse is large enough to hold a full Friendly Micro 64 system and larger. This design will hold 2 each 4’x8’ rafts and IBC fish tank, plus a 2’x8’ raft, for 8+8+4 = 20 rafts 2’x2’ each or 80 square foot of raft area. This would be 320 to 525 plants depending on size and planting density.

  • Maximum estimated production: 525 plants, 4-5 weeks to grow, so 1/5 or 105 plants mature each week.
  • 100/7 = plants a day, X 30 days = plants a month sold or 450
  • At $1a plant estimated wholesale income $450 a month
  • Higher income if I choose to invest the time and costs to do retail sale (ex: produce booth)
  • For 525 plants
    • $450 x 12 months = $5400
    • $450 x 9 months = $4050
  • For 320 plants
    • $5400 x 3/5= $3290
    • $4050 x 3/5= $2470

Designed to be

  • 12’ wide and 11’5” deep inside
  • assembled with screws for each section
  • sections bolt together to allow disassembly for relocating in the future
  • Attractive
  • Sturdy, ridged, with long life expectancy
  • Significantly less cost than kits, prebuilt, or site built
  • Able to be erected by one person
  • All parts available locally
  • Warranty available on most expensive pieces
    • Polycarbonate panels
    • Paint/stain
  • Foundation to support and protect the building from high wind, too much moisture, and dry ground.
  • Total costs to be under $2000 (Site built 12’X12’ equivalent structures can be twice that)
  • Greenhouse to have a water spigot, electricity, sockets, switches, and lighting, at extra cost.

I found a good support person at Home Depot, Shawn. He is a “Pro” and helped me come up with the parts list. The parts have been ordered and delivered

I’ve completed the foundation and I’m completing all of the framing, roof joist assembly, and staining. After that I will work on installing the siding at the base and the clear polycarbonate on the upper walls and roof.

More as I complete the next stage.

Bob

Greenhouse Planning

greenhouse wet

picture from http://www.greencs.org/greenhouse

I want a greenhouse!

You can see my thoughts about why have an Aquaponics Greenhouse in this article.

My plants did better in a “cold frame” that I built from my shade frame. I covered it with 6 mil translucent plastic from Home Depot, and clipped the end “doors” on with 1″ spring clips from Harbor Freight. When the sun made it hot inside, I just opened the ends.

Shade Frame over Trough
Shade Frame over Trough

It let me start plants earlier, when the nights were still cold, and it protected delicate seedlings from the brutal rains and winds.

I hesitate to put a lot of plants into a “hot house” in the summer, but I’m willing to, and believe I can work through those issues.

I refuse to pay to heat fish tank water to keep Tilapia alive in the winter, i.e. water temp below 54 degrees F, and I refuse to pay to air condition my plants in the summer. Use a fan, perhaps. A green house should help with these issues so again, a learning curve for me here.

Which Greenhouse to Choose?

Harbor Freight Kit

I bought a Harbor Freight 10’x12′ greenhouse kit, but returned it after looking on the web for info about assembling it. The instructions have apparently be revised but not updated, and the mods to the kit to make it rigid enough to withstand the winds and the modifications to the doors required to keep them closed, weatherproof and functional, raised the price and work above my tolerance level. Note that the instructions, for the Harbor Freight 10’x12′ greenhouse kit, are on line if you care to read them. Here’s a link to a PDF file of the manual on the Harbor Freight website.

Here is a link to a very good summary of what one family did with their Harbor Freight greenhouse kit, the problems they had, and the modifications they made. Click Here for Greenhouse Article

DIY

Instead of a pre-made greenhouse kit, I decided to so some research and design my own. Note: That I have a general distaste for reinventing the wheel, as my life experience has taught me the you always mess up a good thing, if you don’t pause to learn from others mistakes. I invested quite a bit of time researching greenhouse and the Harbor Freight kit in specific. My conclusion is that you either go with the best kit, or cheap greenhouse design (poles and polyethylene plastic sheet), or pay a lot for a greenhouse that will look good and be around for many years.

I decided that I could save 1/3 or more by building it myself. My choice of covering is rigid polycarbonate sheets for longevity and warranty. This mandated a sturdy frame. I abandoned the 1/2 cylinder, bent chain link fence top pole type construction due to the having to run the polycarbonate sheets the length of the building to bend it around the frame. This would leave ridges that hold and channel water into weak spots in the assembly. Likely this approach would produce a nice looking greenhouse but had other challenges. For example, the “closure strips” that fit the shape of the sheets is rigid plastic and would not easily conform to the shape of the poles. Also making a lot of screw connections to the poles would mean a lot of accurate pre-drilling, or the addition of wooden ribs over the pipe frame. This sorta defeated the purpose of using the poles – ease of construction and lower costs.

I also wanted to take my greenhouse with me when I move. The goal is to move to the country but timing, money, and other issues have delayed this happening soon. The solution is to build a modular, bolt together greenhouse, that could be disassembled and re-erected at my new location. This decision pushed me toward conventional 2″x4″ construction, as it was low priced, easy to work with, attractive (in a Little House on the Prairie sort of way), and easy to modularize the walls, roof sections, and joist.

So back to the calculator, spreadsheet, and Home Depot pro desk to iron out all the parts and pieces and costs.

I’ll add another post when I get construction going!

Wish me luck!

One IBC Tote Aquaponics System Construction

You might find this blog post useful as a reference.The best system I have seen to start with is a one IBC / Tote system that has a large fish tank and one grow bed on top, all made from the one IBC container.You can buy one from these people already assembled The Aquaponic Store .

One IBC Tote System at The Aquaponic Source

Jerry Jones Builds

Jerry Jones Builds

Or you can build your own One IBC tote Aquaponics System.

One IBC tote AP System

Here are some pictures intended to be in sequential order to help you if you plan on building this type system.

Construction

The IBC as acquired from the company that took delivery of food grade (food safe) liquid product. Notice the pallet, drain, drain door, cage, jug / bottle / container, and lid.

IBC Tote ContainerThe IBC cage with the container removed.

IBC Metal Cage and Pallet

The IBC container.  I used this picture to show you the paint. I painted my container, which is difficult, but keeps the Algae to a minimum. Use plastic furniture primer and paint. The spray cans are WAY too expensive, so source a good plastic paint and primer in gallon size. I used 3 coats of paint and 2 of primer. Rough up the container with a rotary sander with a fine sanding pad, so the paint will adhere to the Polypropylene .

IBC 25May11 081

The fish tank frame is made from the top 1/3rd or so of the IBC cage. You can make it different sizes based on your cut. For a shallow growbed, cut the frame off just below the 2nd horizontal rail. This makes it about 10 inches of so.

I 043

Notice that the top of the cage has the tops of the vertical bars flattened and not sharp. You will want this side up.I 047

 

The bottom of  the growbed frame will have sharp edges. I recommend you sand these smooth with a grinder with a fine grit. If the are round pipes, you might elect to press fit a plastic plug into them to protect yourself from scratches. I used the thin white plastic caps designed for the end of metal chair legs. Not necessary just an idea for you.

I 046

IBC Cage with top 1/3 cut off. Notice the metal base / pallet on the bottom. I 056

IBC 2/3rds cage with bottom  2/3rds of  container cut and replaced into the cage, on the base. I 057

Custom grow bed support frame. It is designed to set on the 2/3rds cage and support the grow bed. It has 1″x4″s on the ends of the 2″x4″s so it will stay in place left to right on the cage top bar. The small 2″x4″s are placed to give the grow bed support where it is shallower. Because it was originally the top of the IBC jug, it is shaped to help when pouring and is not flat. This support is important else the growbed bottom and sides will deform when full of water.I 060

Frame in place on top of the 2/3rds of the cage and container. You don’t need much room to get to the fish. The water is not clear, the fish stay away from large shadows over the water (you) and they think you are going to eat them! Smart fish! I have seen fish jump our of fish tanks, FYI.

I 050

This is a picture of the grow bed in its metal frame and setting on the wooden support frame which is resting on top of the fish tank. The grow bed can slide forward and backwards a small amount, but should be positioned and left so that you don’t accidentally push it off the back of the fish tank.

I 065

 

 Simple Trickle Drain with Overflow

This works well if you don’t like to use Bell Siphons, which can be temperamental from time to time. The pump is connected in series with a simple mechanical timer that cycles the water on and off. The drain drains the Grow bed after the pump turns off. It also has large holes at the desired maximum water level, and acts as an overflow if the pump overfills the growbed. This only happens if the trickle drain gets clogged or your pump is too powerful.

Barrel1 018

Pieces of the bulkhead adapter substitute. I like to use electrical PVC fittings (on the right and gray) as they have a square vs. tapered seat that will seal a washer water tight. I like to use thin flat neoprene washers. PVC pipe is on the left, notice that it has a tapered edge between the threads and the slip fitting. It has 2 O-rings which don’t seal well and also let the stand pipe move around too much. O-rings are okay in a pinch when used with the electrical square edged fitting.

Bulkhead Adapters

Closeup of O-ring on left (on 3/4″ pipe) and Neoprene washer on the right (on a 1/2″ PVC pipe), used with electrical PVC fittings to act as a bulkhead fitting.

Barrel1 012

I use this arrangement in my one barrel system for drain / standpipe on left and water inlet on the right. It works well in an IBC if you use larger diameter pipe.

Barrel1 008

Here is the trickle drain arrangement with a pipe with holes around the drain to act as a filter to let the water through and keep the media (clay pebbles) away when I want to remove / replace the drain / overflow tube.

Barrel1 007

The drain tube is connected to the bottom of the Trickle drain overflow stand pipe, under the growbed. Basically, it drains the water into the Fish Tank. Use what ever configuration you like. I’d recommend a 3/4″ pipe or larger for the drain as it clogs less. Use a cap on the end with a small hole if you wish to regulate flow. This is Dave Pennington’s design he is my local UVI trained Aquaponic’s Guru. Everybody should have a friend like Dave!

I 014

Bell Siphon

If you like bell siphons you can use this instead of the trickle / overflow drain arrangement. I have had good luck with Bell Siphons, some of my friends consider them a curse word:-)

Bell Siphon Affnan Ex

Annon’s Bell Siphon drawing.

Afnan 7 Filter

Here is the stand pipe (inside the) Bell Siphon I use. It is a design copied from Murray Hallum’s DVD.

IBC 25May11 154

Here are the pieces before assembling into the grow bed. Notice the expensive black bulkhead fitting. There are cheaper options.

 

IBC 25May11 124

Here are the pieces laid out to be assembled all 1″ PVC. The top fitting is 1&1/2″ slip to 1″ threaded used as a Bernoulli accelerator.

IBC 25May11 133

Bell

I did not capture a picture of the bell. It is a 2″ PVC pipe with a cap on top and holes drilled around the base to let the water into the siphon. It is about 2″ taller than the top of the Bell Siphon stand pipe when assembled.

 

This is the cover to cover the Bell and keep the rock/ media away. That way I can unscrew the lid and pull out the bell and inspect the standpipe, or unscrew it, and the media stays out of my way.

IBC 25May11 135

IBC 25May11 138

Air

Splashing water will put micro bubbles into your fish tank water, but likely will not be enough oxygen for them in hot weather. I use a nice air pump with a air stone and O-rings to protect it and surfaces it touches. It is abrasive and vibrates as it flows air.

Air Pump for Fish

Air stone and O-rings

Bubbler

Pump

This is a fountain pump from Harbor Freight for $10-$15 or so. It is the smallest pump they sell but works well enough. If you have a few more dollars in your budget, get the next larger size. I 067 Pumps are measured in gallon per hour (GPH) which is important but only applies if they can lift the water zero (0) inches. If you want the water higher look at the table to see the GPH they can deliver at your desired height. Picture of table on back of a pump box. Some pump boxes don’t provide this info. Bogus move, but common.I 071

Here is a close up of the table from a larger pump box I had that I could use for an example. Notice at 0″ it pumps 360 GPH. At 7″ it pumps zero GPH!I 072

Here is a cleaver trick to fit a 1/2″ PVC pipe to a common fountain pump connector the manufacture provides. Use a piece of vinyl tubing that will press fit over the 1/2″ PVC pipe and cut a smaller piece into a C shape to insert into the other end of the tubing to press fit adapt it to the pump fitting. Not high quality, but the price is right and it works pretty well.

I 017Adapter assembled.

I 018

Here is another way to connect the 1/2′ PVC to the pump. Notice that the 1/2″ clear tubing will press fit into the end of a 1/2″ PVC pipe. For more info on this Flow reducer click here.

flow limiter

 Timer

The timer is from Harbor Freight (low cost and unpredictable life span)

Timer 001

Set the timer. I used 15 minutes on and 45 minutes off, until hot weather, then I use 15 on and 30 minutes off.

Timer b 004

The timer has a switch on the side. When moved toward the socket, the power is constantly applied, I assume for testing. Other position is the normal operational position. If you leave it towards the socket, your pump will run constantly! Ask me how I know.Timer a 005

Media

Clay Pebbles. This is Plant !t clay pebbles in my one barrel Aquaponics system. Works very well but is expensive.

Barrel1 023

River rocks work well after you get them washed and sorted. Make sure you have no limestone in them as it will effect the pH.

Zucchini

Growbed startingExpanded Shale works good, is light but is small sized and hard to find, especially if you are looking for small quantities.

Fish

These little guys are the fuel for my Aquaponics system. I feed them and they feed the microbes (bacteria) who feed the plants.

AP3 003

Gold fish or feeder fish work well and are hardy and inexpensive. I had one live 18 months until I traded him off because he got too big. Tilapia work well and grow fast but swim upside down when the water reaches 54 degrees. Bummer!

My Fish 2

 Training

Here is my friend Dave Pennington teaching Aquaponics in Colleyville, Texas last year. He is an inventor and top notch Aquaponics consultant. Contact him at AquaponicDave on Facebook

b 068

There is a lot of interest in our area for good information and training.

b 069

Best book on Aquaponics for the beginner and a good reference for the rest of us.

You can order it by clicking on the link on the right top side of the page.

Aquaponic Gardening Book

Aquaponic Gardening Book

Parts List for The One IBC Aquaponics System Construction

For more tricks for constructing your system you might enjoy this link.

I hope you found this article helpful.

Raft Building and Liner Installation

Rafts in Deep Water Raft “Box”

Raft with Holes

This article was written in response to several peoples questions to me (Neal Thomas was the most recent). Both had purchased the Friendly Aquaponic’s Micro System 64 plans and needed help with details. Apparently there is still not a Step-by-step how to build the rafts good enough for the non technical user to confidently build the rafts. I also assume the current version of the plans does not include links to Tim’s fine videos. What follows is some info I thought would be helpful.

Reference the Micro System 64 Instructions, you purchased, for dimensions and main details.

Liner Info

It is 20-mil thick Dura Skrim R20WW, made from Low Density Poly Ethylene (LDPE) available from Raven Industries, Sales Rep Courtney Mendelson, National Market Account Specialist, Raven Industries – Engineered Films Division,Phone: 800-635-3456. It comes in 6-foot and 11-foot 6-inch wide rolls. Aloha, Tim

Reference this Article.

Mission

Introduction to Friendly Aquaponics mission, video

Friendly Intro Video

Q&A

Q1: How do you build the troughs? I need Step-by-step Instructions.

Too much detail needed to answer it all here but perhaps this overview will help:

This info will extend the info in the Friendly Aquaponics Micro 64 System instructions.

Pieces

Raft “boxes” for the Micro 64 system are made from non treated 1/4″ plywood. This takes 4 pieces per 4×8 raft. Paint all sides with 2 coats and all edges with 3 coats.

Next cut and paint all sides of the 4 each top edge 2″x4″s. These are nailed on the top edge of the plywood and from a thicker width for the raft “box” on the top. Nailing is after all lumber is painted and well dried.

Cut the 4 top edge trim pieces from 1″x2″ lumber. I recommend high quality white wood or smooth sanded cedar.

This design does not use any physical (wood) bottom, just the liner. Make sure the surface you use it on does not have any bumps or sharp edges or thick weeds that might poke through your liner. I raked the grass, removed the sprinkler head, and lay a thin coat of sand to fill the ground lever. My raft beds sank into the ground on one corner because I added soft dirt and did not tamp it firmly.

Optional: I installed 2 each 2″x4″s on each end to hold the bottom of the 1/4″ plywood together. If you add this, measure, cut, and paint these. (Later screw the long sides together to from a right angle. Then screw through the 1/4″ plywood edges, at the corner of the raft, into the 2″x4″s to hold the plywood corner / edges together.) This addition also acts as legs to provide more support to the raft “boxes”

Paint

Use an good quality outdoor paint that has UV protection but no additives. Some paints have anti-mildew and anti insecticides in them!

Paint all edges and sides of all lumber. Make sure it dries well between coats.  Using a thinner coat, brushing paint so it is an even thickness, helps it all dry at the same consistency. Use a good brush. Store in a large seal top plastic bag when not in use. I put in the refrigerator. Paint on 2 coats to everything and 3 coats on all edges of the plywood.

Assembly

Screw the plywood to the 2″x4″, from the inside, as per the instructions. I think I used 1″ sheet rock self tapping screws but you should use galvanized or stainless steel (expensive). Be sure you use the flat head so the head of the screw will not catch or damage the liner.

Assemble the raft “box” by connecting the ends of the 2″x4″s, as per the instructions. I pre-drilled 3 holes near the ends of the side 2″x4″, and drilled a chamfer so each screw head would be flush when installed.  These 3 screws go through the long side 2″x4″s and into the end of the shorter (end) 2″x4″s.

Liner

Purchase and cut as per the FA instructions. Install the liner as per the videos.

Click the here for access to the Liner installation videos #1 – #6by Tim Mann.

Trough Liner Install

Trough Liner 2

End first, side next, corner forms a triangle that you overlap over the end. You can also put the triangle on the side, or fold it under either, to leave a nice straight line up the corner. Easier to do the last step if you fold and crease it as and outside fold and then refold into the inside position.

Note: I used pond liner because I couldn’t find the DuraSkrim easily. It has worked for 22 months and it is OK to start with but it will need to be replaced after 2-3 years, or if I have an accident. Don’t walk on the pond liner (when it is wet or dry) as that will be inviting a hole.

16Jun11 006

Make sure you get your staples straight and pretty like I did (not!).

16Jun11 035

Rent or buy a hammer stapler as it makes the job MUCH easier than a hand stapler. Ask your friends. Likely you know a friend that knows a friend with one to loan. I saw them from $20 to $40 dollars at Home Depot. You could try Harbor Freight for lower cost that could still do the small job well enough.

hammer stapler

Trim

Install the 1″x2″ trim on the top edge of the raft box. This will cover the edge of the 2″x4″ and the edge of the 1/4″ plywood. Note that this surface now has the liner stapled to it. I used flat head screws spaces about a foot apart. My holes were pre-drilled through the 1″x2″ and chamfered, so the screw heads would not poke me when I sit on the edges. 🙁

Notice the 1″x2″ trim installed on the top edge, in the picture.

Air Lines

Optional:

As you can tell from the pictures, I also added 2 short 2″x4″s to each corner so I could keep the edges of the 1/4″ plywood together. If you add these, screw the long sides together to from a right angle. Then screw through the 1/4″ plywood near the ends, at the corner of the raft “box”, into the 2″x4″s to hold the plywood corner / edges together. This addition also acts as legs to provide more support to the raft “boxes”

16Jun11 027

16Jun11 026

Custom corner “legs”.

16Jun11 011

Bulkhead connector through liner, 1/4″ plywood end, with silicon applied to both sides before installing. Reference the Micro 64 instructions for details.16Jun11 003

16Jun11 005

16Jun11 004

16Jun11 002

Picture of the freshly assembled raft “box”. It is a good idea to lay your liner out in the sun for a few hours so the creases will go away. Just make sure it is not hot when you install it as you don’t want it to stretch. I should have done that. See the creases, they make it more challenging to install.

16Jun11 001

Other

From here on I have a general sequence of info. Reference the instructions you purchases and perhaps these pictures will help clarify some of it.

Raft material,  Corning Blue board insulation; painted.

16Jun11 020

This is how I laid out my raft holes. I used 1/4″ plywood to make a spacer / drill template with 1/4″ holes in it spaced 6″ apart.Use a dry erase marker to make the holes on your foam and also mark where you want to cut the foam into smaller rafts, like 2’x4′ or 2’x2′. Make sure you are happy with this arrangement. I cut all my hole spacings the same on both 4’x8′ rafts.

You could build the raft with holes 5″ apart if you like. Here is a sample of that hole lay out. This works well if you plan on growing small to medium size greens. Bigger plants get a little crowded but still do well. You might try pieces of  the raft with both 5″ and 6″ spacing.

Raft 2ftx2ft 5in 25 places

 I used 2″ net pots and 2″ holes. Make sure you buy the net pots with the lip on the top else they will fall through the 2′ hole.

Net Pot

Net Pots

I cut my raft into 2’x4′ pieces after I drilled the holes, using a skill saw.

The drill hole saw cup is not deep enough to go all the way through the 2″ ridged insulation so I drilled holes 1/2 way through the foam board.16Jun11 012

Then I turned the foam over and located the 1/4″ hole the center drill bit of the hole saw made, and drilled from the back side to complete drilling all the way through the insulation. Your hole “plugs” should pop out like this.

16Jun11 019

Save the plugs to keep sunlight out of the water so Algae does not grow, if you don’t have the holes filled with plants.

Plugs

Deep water raft “box” with rafts:

FAP 030Air pump mount on end of Raft “Box”, my design to keep it off of the ground. It has a wooden lid I set over it to keep the rain off.

Air Pump

Alternative mount for Air Pump. I use this near my fish tank for my other system. It is a fill-and-drain system.

Air Pump for Fish

Example routing of air lines from Air Pump to the other end of the deep water raft. This is 3/4″ PVC electrical conduit that I buried. The tubing can be pushed through it (or pulled with a sting that has been blown thru it) for easy replacement or servicing.

Air Lines

Example Air Stone on end of air hose. This is in my fill-and-drain system but all are the same setup.

Bubbler

This is how I mounted my water pump. I have added a “water faucet” that I would highly recommend. It makes getting water for seedlings, etc. very easy.

The PVC pipe to the faucet located on the  side of the raft box, is in the middle of the picture. The faucet is to the left. The line to the fish tank is to the right and has a faucet on it so I can isolate the water inlet line to the fish tank. When I do this I turn off the pump or open the faucet to release pump pressure and preserve the pump.

Pump Head

 

One Barrel Aquaponics System Construction

This post gives instructions on how to build an Aquaponics system from one 35 or 55 gallon Polystyrene barrel. It may not be detailed enough for everyone, but should be enough info for the Do-It-Yourself -er. You might want to see the overview article here.

Feel free to share this link, info, or print out as long as you don’t charge for it. Also please give me credit for the info. It makes an old man feel good!

Completed system, February 10, 2013.

One Barrel AP System

The Container

These instructions are for the 55 gallon drum but will work with a 35 gallon drum as well. The main differences are:

  • 35 gallon – Cut to split the barrel and make the growbed is 8″ from bottom of the barrel
  • 35 gallon – Oval hole is 5″ down, 5″ tall, and 8″ wide
  • 35 gallon – Plastic hose is 30″ long or as you prefer
  • 55 gallon – Cut to split the barrel and make the growbed is 8″ from bottom of the barrel
  • 55 gallon – Oval hole is 6″ down, 6″ tall, and 9″ wide
  • 55 gallon – Plastic hose is 40″ long or as you prefer

They both use the same plumbing parts and pump.

Buy a 55 gallon barrel that has a sealed / solid top and has only been used to store food in it. This is called a food grade container. Use a dark color barrel so the sunlight won’t get through to the water and grow Algae. Make sure the barrel is more conical (tapered) than tubular (straight sided) as the design depends on it.

There are usually two plugs on the top of the barrel. Remove one of them and wash out the barrel.

barrel plugs

Make sure the plug has a gasket on it (comes with the barrel) and screw it in tightly.

barrel plug 2

Turn the barrel upside down. We will be using the barrel inverted from its normal orientation. From now on, when I say top I mean the old bottom that, i.e. the smooth end of the barrel.
Barrel 029

Mark and cut off  8 inches from the (now) top of the barrel.

barrel saw 2

 

Sand the edges of the barrel where you cut it so it will be smooth and attractive looking.

barrel cut chaff

It should have smooth edges and look like this.

Barrel 030

Six inches or more, down from the cut, draw an oval

Barrel oval

Then cut an it out for access to the fish tank that will be made out of the “bottom” of the barrel. I used a 4″ hole saw (cup type) to cut out the left and right sections of the oval. Then I used a fine tooth blade on a reciprocating stab saw. Next I use 120 grit sand paper on a piece of wood to shape the hole.

Barrel 035

Place the 8″ piece you cut off, into the open end of the (new) bottom (Oval cut not shown here). This 8″ piece will be our grow bed.

Barrel 6-8020

When you have the grow bed inserted so that it is just a little snug, drill four (4) each 1/4″ diameter holes near the top of the larger piece of the barrel and through both barrel pieces. These bolts will hold the grow bed in place on top of the fish tank. The holes I drilled were at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock position. You can use more bolts if you like.

Insert nylon or stainless steel bolts, nuts, washers and lock washers. Regular metal will affect the balance of the biology in the system and/ or rust.

Outside view of stainless steel acorn nut, lock washer, and washer, all 1/4″.Barrel1 014

Inside view of 1/4″ nylon bolt.

Nylon Bolt head

The Plumbing

Next you should install an overflow drain and a water inlet that will be connected to the pump we will locate in the fish tank.  I used 3/4″ for the drain and 1/2″ for the water inlet.

Locate a 3/4″ PVC pipe that you can use for a bulk head connector, to use for the drain. A bulk head connectors is what a connector is called that passes through a wall or tank. I found

Bulkhead Adapters

I have used PVC pipe intended for water or electrical conduit usage. The one with the longest threads and the squarest shoulder works the best.

Also, note that you may optionally uses a neoprene flat washer or two. Sometimes an O-ring works.

bulkhead

Here is a shot of the system with the grow bed mounted and the holes drilled for the drain (tallest) and the water inlet.

Barrel 040

This is what my 3/4″ drain and 1/2″ water inlet look like up close.

Barrel1 012

Make sure and drill a few holes in the drain / overflow pipe (on the left in the picture). This makes sure that all the water will drain out of the growbed when the pump is turned off. Also, should you pump too much water into the growbed, the same pipe acts as an overflow pipe.

Note the small holes at the base of the bulkhead fitting on the drain, and the mark at the top making it easier for me to align these holes and the ones in the pipe, when I re-insert it.

Water Level

You will want the water level flooded to a specific height in the growbed. After I took this picture I drilled two larger holes (not shown)  in the drain / overflow pipe to set the level I wanted for the maximum water in the growbed. I choose for the water to be 1″ to 1 & 1/2″ below the top of the clay beads at it’s highest level. The holes need to be large enough that they drain the water faster than the pump can deliver the water, else your plants will flood and your clay beads will try to float.

Barrel1 008

I have installed a 2″ PVC pipe to act as a strainer so that the media (beads) don’t get into the drain / overflow pipe when I need to remove it for cleaning or inspection. Also, I have pressed an elbow (Ell) on the water inlet so the water can be directed into the growbed and not into the air 🙂

Note that I did not glue any of the pipes. I like to be able to pull them apart for cleaning.

Barrel1 007

Below the Scene

Here is what the bottom of the growbed and plumbing look like. The water from the drain / overflow is directed to drop into the fish tank water so as to provide oxygen to the fish. This may not be enough oxygen for the fish in very hot weather.

The water inlet 1/2″ pipe is connected to a clear hose that is a press fit. It also is press fit onto the pump on the other end.

The drain pipe could be just a straight drop from the “bulkhead” piece that goes through the growbed bottom. This would save you a couple dollars and still give you a good splash that creates air in the fish tank water for the fishies.

Barrel1 009

Or you can just let the drain go straight down. Be sure to put a piece of pipe on it so that it does not splash out the rear hole.

barrel plumbing

The Pump

The pump provides water flow and the water splashing into the fish tank water provides the oxygenation for the fish.

The pump is the sold by Harbor Freight and is the 158 GPM model. Make sure you get a pump that can pump water high enough / hard enough to get to the grow bed, when it has been used for a while and is less clean. Here is the info: 158 GPH Miniature Submersible Fountain Pump –  item #68396

 

 

pump 158 5

Notice the Maximum head lift is 3.6 feet. That is how high the pump can lift the water clean. As it gets older and dirtier that gets lower. Keep your pump clean.

pump 158 6

You can see the Pump, and tubing that goes to the 1/2″ PVC water inlet in the growbed, in the bottom of the fish tank. Note that the bottom of the fish tank used to be the top of the barrel, when it was one piece. The drain plug can be seen in the picture, and is screwed in snugly so it will not leak.

Barrel1 010

The pump comes with 2 plastic adapters that press fit into the outlet side of the pump. Use the one that the ½” tubing fits onto snugly. The pump comes with the small fitting installed, just pull it out.

pump 158 3

Connect the tubing to the water inlet in the growbed, by pressing the end of the ½” clear tubing into the end of a short piece of ½” PVC pipe, ex: 3” long. Then press fit that pipe into the bottom of the water inlet PVC pipe. This way allows you to remove connections for cleaning, etc.

By having the pump connected with longer flexible hose, you can pull it out of the fish tank oval hole and get to it easily. Tye wrap the pump power cord to the hose on the pump, but not too tight!. This will allow you to lift it out by the power cord and not pull the hose off of the pump.

pump 158 8

I drilled a hole in the rear of the fish tank barrel, just below the growbed, to use as an exit for the power cord.

Barrel1 013

Flood Control, the Timer

My system is set up with a timer rather than the often used Bell Siphon. My timer is set to run 0:15 minutes at the top of each hour. When summer days get here, I may need to make it run more often, to help keep the plants cool and the fish oxygenated.

This is the $10 mechanical timer I purchased from Harbor Freight for around $10.

Timer 001

It just plugs into a wall socket and you plug your pump into the side. The red slide switch allows you to manually turn the pump on or to turn it to be operated by the timer.

Timer a 005

You just press the index tabs down so that it will turn the timer on for that 0:15 minute period of the hour.

Timer b 004

Safety First

I plugged the timer into a power strip and hung it on my house under the roof overhang and high enough so that it does not get wet. The timer is not water proof so be careful. I use a GFCI outlet but you would be better served to use a GFCI outlet inside the house and run the power cord outside. Better yet use a waterproof connector box to house the timer and a GFCI outlet.

Use at your own risk. Consult a knowledgeable professional!

Barrel1 021

No Dirt

For the media I used Plant !t which is an expanded clay bead, like Hydroton. It is light, reusable, and has lots of open space inside for the bacteria to reside and thrive. You can use washed 1/2″ – 3/4″ diameter river rock, which contains no limestone or marble as this changes the pH of the water. You want the pH of your water to stay around 6.8. This is a happy compromise for the fish, the plants, and the bacteria which are the three key biological elements of the Aquaponics system.

Barrel1 018

Your system will look something like this. This is the 55 gallon barrel Aquaponics system

Barrel1 019

This is the 35 gallon barrel Aquaponics system. It is about 3/4th the size of the 55 gallon system. It is a lot easier to move (scoot) around when full of water, but has less grow bed space too.

barrel 35g

Water Volume Control

If your pump happens to be over powerful, you can rotate the screen on the end of the pump where it takes in water, to lower the water pressure delivered. You don’t want to blow your plants out of the media!

If you buy a pump that does not have this, you can drill a small hole in the hose near the pump or make a pressure relief valve. Here is a simple one I made for another project. It is just a piece of 3/4″ PVC pipe slit down one side and slid over a piece of 1/2″ PVC pipe, both drilled with a small hole, and installed in line with my pump. I just rotate the 3/4″ pipe to expose the hole in the 1/2″ piece to let water pressure out. flow limiter

Rear view showing the slit. I use the marks to keep the holes in both pipes alligned.

flow limiter 3

Now plant some seedlings or transplant some small plants. We put the system by our back door to keep the plants close to the kitchen for cooking. We planted Cilantro, Basel, Lavender, Thyme, Lettuce, and Strawberries.

Barrel1 023

Plus One Month

March 11, 2013.

Barrel AP 11Mar2013 b

One month later, with no added heat, no special treatment, and with lots of cold mornings, the system still grows plants. The Strawberries are not growing much but the other plants seem to defy the season and have grown some. I am anxious to see what the small, simple, Aquaponics, balanced Eco-System, can do when the weather is “in Season”!

“Lavender does not like wet roots” at least that is true in dirt gardening. I find a lot of the “rules” are applied differently in Aquaponics. As you can see my Lavender has lived and grown with “wet roots” for a month already!

Note: The barrel has gone out of round since I built the system. As you can see the barrel seems to have “squared” itself off around the planes of the four bolts. My approach to construction seems to have all the weight of the growbed supported largely by the four bolts, with little help from the not-tight-fit into the bottom barrel. I suspect that the design would have worked better if I had pressed the growbed piece of the barrel more tightly into the larger piece of the barrel, and used 8 rather than four bolts.

Fish

I have been asked which fish to use. I recommend gold fish as they are easy to buy and cheap, like from PetCo store for $0.15 each as feeder fish, are hearty, easy to care for, and live through the winter.

AP3 003

Best wishes with your one barrel Aquaponics System!

Here is the link to the parts list for the One IBC Aquaponics System Construction.

You need to attend one of my classes that teaches it to get the password.

Leave a message and or contact me if you have questions.

Bob Jordan

P.S. Barrels are good for other projects too! This is the dog house I made for my dogs.

Barrel Dog House

One Barrel Aquaponics System

One Barrel AP System

In my articles Best First Aquaponics System  and Starter System I stated “The best aquaponics system to start with is the fill and drain system built in an IBC container.” Well I still believe that, but not all of us have enough room or the weight capacity for a 275 gallon IBC, even if it holds only about 175 gallons at most.

For those of you that have less space, are on a tighter budget, or just want a small herb garden close to your kitchen, my one barrel Aquaponics System is for you.

Here are some of the features:

  1. Cost $70-$100 if  you pay retail for all parts
  2. weighs about 170 pounds when full of water
  3. About 3 cubic feet of grow bed area
  4. 6″ of media
  5. 4″-5″ of nutrient rich water
  6. unobtrusive fish tank in the bottom
  7. quiet to operate, all you hear is a relaxing light water fall
  8. Attractive, sturdy, water tight, mar resistant polystyrene
  9. Comfort knowing you are reusing vs purchasing another oil product
  10. Great for a herb garden!

The system holds 17-18 gallons of water and the pump cycles 5 gallons of that through the grow bed as your timer instructs. That leaves at least 12-13 gallon in the fish tank all the time.

Timer 001

I use the mechanical timer from Harbor Freight available for around $10.

I chose Plant !t for the media since it is easy to use, light, works well, reusable, and has lots of pores for the helpful bacteria to live in. I’ll add a little river rock to help buffer the pH. It provides a slow release of the calcium or calcium carbonate which acts to buffer, or cancel out, the acid the bacteria naturally make as they die.

Barrel1 018

The fish I chose are Petco feeder “goldfish”. I say “goldfish” because they call them “feeder” fish, as in feed them to your other pets, and often the fish you get are several species. When I bought I got  goldfish, a smaller dark fish?? and a mosquito fish, I think. They called them all “feeder” fish. The price is very low, the fish are very hardy, will eat lots of kinds of fish food, and poop a lot.

Remember fish poop becomes ammonia, which become Nitrite, which become Nitrate, which is plant fertilizer. Plants that have all the nutrients, water,  air, and sun they can use grow like crazy. The plants grow twice as fast as when in dirt and are happy at 4 times the density. That works out to a lot of healthy produce out of a small grow bed!

The more water you have the easier it is to get your system pH and Nitrite and Nitrate to balance and stay balanced.

So for those of you wanting a first system or just a small one you can use for your spices and keep close to the kitchen, I highly recommend this One Barrel Aquaponics System!

Stay tuned to this website! I am writing a how to book that shows a step-by-step method for building this system. It will have lots of pictures and all the details you need to build this fun little system! See this link.

Starter System

One IBC tote AP System

One IBC tote AP System- Dave Pennington’s Design

What is a good way to get started in Aquaponics?

This is the question I am asked the most when I talk with people or groups. I have several answers to that, but here is my pragmatic answer.
A: Learn from someone else that has done it successfully and copy their first system.

Q2: So who should I learn from?

A2: Copy me because it seems like I made ALL the mistakes possible my first year. 🙂 I put up a website just for this reason, to journal my mistakes to make learning easier for others. Check out http://aquaponicfun.com.

A2b: Read Sylvia Bernstein’s book. It is a very good source of info.
Aquaponic Gardening: A Step by Step Guide to Growing Fish and Vegetables Together

Q3: Who’s system should I copy to get a successful start?

A: The best system I have seen to start with is a one IBC / Tote system that has a large fish tank and one grow bed on top, all made from the one IBC container. Dave Pennington first introduced me to this system and he has a unique low priced way to build it. You might contact him as I think he stills builds these. I build them as well, from time to time, for friends.

You can buy one from these people already assembled The Aquaponic Store .

One IBC Tote System at The Aquaponic Source

A2: I ve posted the parts list so you can build this type system it yourself. Be aware that with my “DIY” approach you don’t get access to the training videos, but I have included in the estimate price, some good video training DVDs and book. (i.e. Aquaponic Gardening Education Set ).

Also you will need some media like 1/2″-3/4″ clean gravel or clean expanded shell without limestone or Plant !T (Hydroton), etc.

Bob