Thursday, September 23, 2010

Basic Design:

I've chosen to go with a "barrel-ponics" system for the simple reason that these barrels are free. These barrels, when cut in half, are 28cm deep. This is less than the 30cm which appears to be the optimum depth for grow bed containers, but after seeing a number of barrel-ponics systems on the web that work quite well, I decided to go ahead with them.

After looking for something that could serve as a fish tank, including finding and getting quotes from a local fiberglass tank-maker, I've chosen to build a cement tank on site.

The fiberglass tank was very expensive, and the design was not optimal. A cement tank has one major disadvantage, which is it cannot be moved, but it's cheap to put up and I can design it exactly the way I like.

Above is the basic plan. The tank will easilly hold up to 1,600 liters. According to the 1:1 growbed:tank volume rule of thumb, that will be enough to feed 1,600 liters worth of grow-bed volume. These barrels hold approximately 200 liters each, so cut in half, that's 100 liters per barrel, and 16 barrels in total are necessary.

I plan on arranging them in two rows of 8, and supporting them ontop of metal 1" pipes resting accross cement pedestals.

Below are some pictires of the basic set-up coming together.
This is the recently built roof that will protect the AP system. The small structure within the enclosed area is my old germinating green house/nursery. I'll leave that there for now until I get the larger area fully enclosed, at which point I will not need a second enclosed structure.

Cement block pedestals to hold barrels.

Fish tank. The pipe on the right is the return for the draining system. As I later discovered, it is much better to have a separate drain pipe for each grow bed. Multiple grow beds draining into the same drain pipe are a challenge. The water draining out of any one grow bed seals the system. Air inside bell siphons of grow beds that are still filling will not be able to escape, and so the vacuum fails to form. I suppose there could be a way around this, by creating some sort of air escape between each siphon and the drain pipe, but after looking at all the extra plumbing that would require, in addition to not knowing for sure if it would even work, I decided to go with separate drain pipes for each bed. I'll post pics of the blown-out fish tank wall and new drain pipes when that's done.
The barrels cut like butter with a jigsaw. Here, I've called them all together for a meeting to explain to them their new role in life :)

Tanks arranged in row 1. I'll be changing those wood boards to 1" steel pipe just as soon as I get the pipe delivered. Also, I'm going to start the system off with 1,000 liters and build the second row after the system has begun to stabilize.


It's been about a month since I was first introduced to the concept of Aquaponics. Amazingly enough (or maybe not), I have never met the person who introduced me to this incredible concept - he's a cyberspace friend from an economics blog I spend probably too much time on. Anyway, thanks JAG for the heads up.

The purpose of this blog will be two fold. The first reason is selfish - to document for myself everything I am doing and how for future reference. The second reason is to help others who may be interested in Aquaponics learn from my experiences, share their own, and overall generate useful ideas and information for those new or old to the field.

There are already a number of websites on Aquaponics, and at least one very useful blog which I will be posting links to. Nevertheless, there are things I have already encountered which there are no easy answers to. For example, I have been forced to design and build my own fail-over switch for my back up pump. I will go into details later in a separate post, but the point is I now have a fail-over switch design that works, has been tested, and is available no where else on the internet that I am aware of. Seems to me like others could benefit from that information.

Like I said, the very concept of aquaponics was foreign to me until about a month ago. In that time, I've built a covered area for the AP system, built supports to hold the growbeds, designed and tested my bell siphons, built a fish tank, and obtained my pumps. The system I am building is for a 1,000 liter fish tank and ten, 100-liter grow beds, all expandable to 1,600 liter tank and 16, 100-liter grow beds. The next big steps on my to-do list are to obtain my grow-bed fill material and buy fingerlings. I've located a quarry near Poas volcano that sells crushed volcanic
rock which should function well. There are local Tilapia hatcheries in the country which, while I have not contacted them, I assume will sell me all the fingerlings I want. I estimate I will have a functioning system within about 2 weeks.

What I will be doing on this blog is documenting as much as possible everything I do. I can already tell that aquaponics is absolutely amazing and want to share what I learn with others.

Now, I am new to hosting a blog, so please bear with me while I figure out how this all works.