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This story was first published in October 2006.
Many have found this example to be useful in getting them started on a simple home system of their own.
I decided it was time to upgrade my system. I have been running a small system based on a 200 Ltr fish tank and one strawberry tower.
My little Darling and I have had a number of very nice Strawberry and Cream desserts from the strawberry tower. The fruit was very sweet, not at all like the slightly tart strawberries one usually gets in the supermarket.
However the strawberry tower was becoming increasingly blocked. It needed some modifications to improve efficiency, but that will be a project for some later time. Frequent tapping with a hammer to clear the blockages was not the way to go for a long term project.
The Fish Tank.
I had obtained some poly rectangular tanks that I thought would be good to sell on the website , for people who wanted a medium sized home system, but on testing one tank before sending it out, it proved to be a fizzer. It was just not strong enough to support the weight of the water once filled.
I could not waste the tank, so I figured I would use some old 1" SHS I had lying in the paddock to make a support frame for the 600 ltr tub, and presto, a new Fish Tank.
The next job was to hook up the mains power submersible pump to move water out from the fish tank to the Grow Bed. I decided I would try one of the, Stainless Steel no brand made in China pumps, for this purpose. I like to try each product sold on our site.
The photo below shows the new China Stainless submersible pump all plumbed in to the tank and the end of the water return from the sump can be seen...
I am using two of these Stainless pumps and they are going It was a very quick job to transfer the 60 Jade Perch into the new 600 liter tank.I left it hooked up to the Strawberry tower while I set up a grow bed. The 12 volt pump from the old 200 liter system can be seen still hooked up to take water to the strawberry tower.well.
One pump is used to take the water from the fish tank to the grow bed and the other to return the water from the sump to the fish tank.
The return water seen here enters the fish tank with some force, so the flow is throttled back using a plastic ball valve to reduce this effect and to prolong the cycle time a little. It should be noted that centrifugal type pumps can be throttled back to the flow required by the use of a tap or ball valve without harm to the pump. The red handled ball valve can be seen set at about half open regulating the flow of water to the fish tank.
Returning the water in this way serves to aerate the water for the fish, and does this task very well.
The Grow Bed.
LEFT : -
This photo shows the plumbing entering the Grow Bed from the Fish Tank.
The flow to the Grow Bed is throttled back by the use of a stainless ball valve. This throttled back just enough to slow the cycle time down a little but with still enough pressure to make sure the water reaches all parts of the distribution grid on top of the Grow Bed.
BELOW: - View looking down the drainage up-stand and showing the 20 mm drainage gravel as the growing medium.
The Grow Beds need to be at least 300 mm deep. This is necessary to support the colony of beneficial bacteria that consumes and converts the fish waste into food for the plants, at the same time cleaning the water for return to the fish tank. Less that 300 mm depth will just not work as well and may not work at all.
The beauty of Aquaponics is the way the whole system works together for the mutual benefit of the fish and the vegetable plants. It is an ECO system.
LEFT : - This is the hard part, loading the gravel into the Grow Bed !!
It takes just over half a cubic meter of 20 mm drainage gravel to fill the Grow Bed.
The Gravel had been given a good rinse in the back of the utility prior to loading into the Grow Bed, but when I started circulating the water from the fish tank through the gravel an amazing amount of brown dirt came out for several days, discolouring the water in the fish tank.
I was reluctant to wash the gravel much more anyway as it is a waste of water, and one of the things I find attractive about Aquaponics is the minimum amount of water needed to run a system, so, to me it is a contradiction to waste large amounts of water washing gravel. Jade Perch in their natural habitat, during long dry periods, live in very muddy waterways, so I figured that they would come to no harm by the muddy water.
It took about two weeks for the water to become clean, the muddy sediment finding it's way to the bottom of the Grow Bed by the natural and wonderful filtration process of circulating the fish tank water through the Grow Bed.
This is yet another reason why the Grow Bed/s have to have at least 300 mm in depth, to accomplish the filtering of solids such as fish and food waste that are part of the system.
Properly set up Grow Beds will continue to give service for years without clogging.
LEFT: -Here is a 300 mm deep Grow Bed that was recently replanted with a new crop and before replanting he dug down to see if there has been any clogging or build up of solids. The only stuff in the gravel is fresh roots from plants that had just been pulled out… No old roots of build up of any solids at all.
My 600 Ltr Aquaponics system is now running along very well.
The first Grow Bed in this system was planted on 3rd September 2006 running off the 600 liter tank with 60 Jade Perch of various sizes.