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Grow Bed Construction Questions

Raft System and Shade Frame

Several people have discovered that finding the right materials for the Micro 64 to be a challenge. Here is some feedback that might be useful to others.

Q1: Did you use Borate (HiBor) treated wood for your system and if so, where did you find it?

Couldn’t find it, just used good quality outdoor plywood for the base sealed with good outdoor primer

Used good quality 1x2s on top of raft tanks and painted everything with 2-3 coats before assembling.

Q2: What type of paint to you recommend for the wood and did you prime it before painting?

I used Benjamin Moore paint from Ace Hardware. Great paint, but expensive. Bear brand of primer and out door paint from Home Depot works well too.

Trough-FAP

Trough-FAP

I used Blue and White paint. The white reflects the suns heat and the blue is just cool!

Q3: I noticed that people say treated wood needs to dry before painting.
Did you find this to be a problem, or did you just start painting right away?

If it is freshly made, the chemicals in it leach and the paint peals off. I did not use treated wood. Be sure to seal it well all over, especially on the bottom edge.

Q4: Did you use ACX plywood? I’m finding that it isn’t easy to come by.
Could I use another type of plywood or do you know where to find the right stuff?

Legs for raft tanks:
Also, I added two short upright 2×4”s on each corner, of the raft tanks, between the top 2×4 and the ground. They act like legs and also keep the 1/4 plywood edges together.

Trough-FAP

Trough-FAP

Leveling raft tanks:
Be SURE to level the tanks and place them on solid footings, like undisturbed ground, so they don’t settle and your water go over the side or be low. If you have soft ground, or you have to disturb the packed soil, you might use round concrete pave stones to support the four corners.

Make sure they are smooth with the surface of the ground so the liner won’t get damaged, perhaps put a couple layers of ground cloth over them for protection.

Ground Cloth:
I put ground cloth down under everything. It has helped control the weeds a lot!
If you cut it to bury the pipes around the tanks, which I would recommend, be sure to patch it well. I used “U” shaped metal (thick wire) to stick it to the ground.

Pipes:
The PVC pipes will stay connected very well, with out glue, at least most places used and most of the time. By leaving the pipes unglued at key connections, it makes it a lot easier to remove a clog and clean out the algae, etc.

I buried most of my pipes around the raft tanks. This is bad if you need to work on them and good if you want to keep from stumbling over them all the time, and keep the water in them at a more stable temperature, like winter freezing issues.

Faucet:
I find it immensely useful to include a faucet near the pump and over the edge of the raft tank. I made mine tall enough to get a 5 gallon bucket under it when setting on the edge of the tank. No plants are planted in this location, so the unused water from the tap can go thru the hole in the raft and back into the system. I use this water to wash off the top of the rafts and plants as needed, to pull water to first water my seedlings, etc. The upright pipe is supported with a “T” type fence post, cut off and driven into the ground next to the trough. The pipe is tiew rapped to it.

Faucet

Faucet

Faucet

Faucet

Filters:
The filters Friendly Aquaponics recommends work well, if you make them correctly.
See Tim instructions on his  FAP site for details. Ex: Newsletter #77  Filter Image

Filter Construction for your Fish Tank:

To build a filter use a piece of  PVC pipe(Ex: 1&1/2″) or a Union fitting for the base, depending on where you will be trying to connect your filter to your system. For the top end of the filter use a PVC cap. Cut a piece of /2″ ridged plastic screen cloth about 10″ x 14″ in size. Using the shorter dimension, rap the 1/2″ plastic screen around the PVC pipe/union and secure it with a hose clamp.The 1/2″ stiff screen makes the filter rigid and too porous.
Add an outside second layer of finer (ex: 1/8″)  mesh screen. This is cut to about the same dimensions.

Wrap the finer screen over the 1/2″ screen and secure both using the hose clamp used previously.

Now  insert the PVC cap in the other end of the screens and attache them with another hose clamp.

this completes your filter for use in your fish tank.

Here is a shot of the filter in the fish tank, made the way Tim Recommends. The T shape would not work here as well as a straight one, as the bulkhead fitting is close to the side of the tank and the filter would be short on one side of the T.

Note: Be sure to mount your filter so it does not come loose and sink to the bottom of the fish tank!. I used a small course threaded nylon screw, screwed into a hole I made with a drill bit. It stays in place until I remove it.

Trough Filters

I would recommend that you use filters for the in and out pipes in both/all of the troughs. This will keep your mosquito fish from swimming up/down your pipes as well as keeping big pieces of stuff out of your pump.

I recommend that the filters be constructed as a “T”. This is basically two filters on one PVC fitting with a PVC cap in the end of each filter.  This allows for better flow and less clogging, as well as better mechanical strength when mounted. Also, the filter is parallel to the end of the trough rather than sticking out directly under the roots of the plants on the raft.

Bulk Head Installation:
When installing the bulk head pipe fittings in the raft tanks, consider drilling the hole a little lower than recommended, which is half way between the top of the water line and the bottom of the tank. My bulk head connectors and therefore my filters are centered top to bottom. They get in the way of the rafts and roots more often than I like. Also, mounting the filters lower gives better water flow low in the raft, which I surmise mixes the oxygen and water better. The flow is not fast enough to disturb the good bacteria on the liner, etc.

Liner Bulkhead

Liner Bulkhead

Shade Frame:
Link to article

Water Levels:

Q: They say to have the fish tank above the troughs. Does this mean the bottom of the fish tank needs to be higher than the trough or will it work on the ground as long as the bulk head fitting in the tank is higher than the bulk head fitting in the tough? I’m not sure if I need to build something to put the fish tank up on.

A: The water level of the fish tank needs to be higher than the water level in the troughs for it to flow though them into the pump at the end of trough #2.

As long as this is true, the water will flow. If you want the water to flow faster, keep the outflow pipe in the fish tank short and/or larger diameter. I used 2” and ran about 25 foot to my first trough. More water flow is better as it aids moving fish solids, and getting air circulated through the system.

Drisco Pipe:

Q: In the FAP instructions under miscellaneous supplies it says you need “3/4′ drisco pipe long enough to to connect back to your water source from your hose bib at the fish tank….” I’m not understanding what this is for.

A: It’s unclear. I think they are talking about hooking up a water hose to the fish tank for filling it and if you need to later, draining it.
I installed a “water faucet” on the drain pipe coming out of the bottom of my IBC fish tank. I use it when I want to drain off some of the crud on the bottom of the fish tank or let out water due to rain overfilling the system.


Thanks to Chris Miller for some of the questions. Chris is building a Micro 64 system here is Texas.

 

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