Category Archives: Uncategorized

Building an Aquaponics system

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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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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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:

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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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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:
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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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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 ūüėČ

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.
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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:

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A couple shots of the finished tank:

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

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

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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

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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.

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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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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:

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Here is the plumbing all done and in the trenches:

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Here is a shot of the Intex pool pump.

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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: 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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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:

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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.

More Progress Pictures

This is a small scale house lot You’d be amazed at how much perennial food you can grow in a small area.¬† Do the initial work once and then little or no maintenance just harvest. Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

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Hugelkultur Hugelkultur Hugelkultur

We ¬†are big fans of Sepp Holzer and his techniques. Lets face it anyone who can grow lemons and kiwis in the Austrian Alps at 4000 feet is someone to listen to and learn from…

Check out this video of his farm… Heaven on earth I say…¬†https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sm68_LlR4yE

What’s hugelkulture? Basically you bury a bunch of wood, throw on some top soil and mulch and voila you have the ultimate grow beds that depending on the size need little or no irrigation or fertilizer… As the wood composts it generates heat ¬†provides nutrients and airates the soil… This is little or no maintenance and can extend the growing season as the roots stay warmer longer…

For more info check out http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/

This is a drawing from Richsoil.com
This is a drawing from Richsoil.com

Here are some hugelkultur’s we have built recently in various stages of completion…

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hugelkultur’s are a good place to get rid of ¬†tree prunings

HugelkulturTreeWell

Here is a finished hugelkultur tree well