Aquaponics System Build – Tanks and Plumbing

With the holiday season over it’s time to get back to building, and the rush is on to get things ready by spring. We experienced a setback in late December, a neighbors dogs got loose and killed all of our chickens. That being the case, I’ll document the process of raising them from chicks when we get new ones in February or March. I’ve also made a lot of other progress on the property, we are getting ready to start the first phase of fence and have started a couple of banana circles which I’ll show in a future post. For not, the focus is on the aquaponic system.

The system was originally going to be a three grow tank system with media beds, I’ve switched that to two media beds and one floating raft system. Last post showed setting up the pad for the system, now I’ll go through the assembly.

The Layout

First thing to be done is place the sump and tanks together. I’m starting with a simple setup, the fish tank will overflow into the grow beds, they will dump into the sump, then a pump in the sump will return the water to the fish tank. Here’s an amateurish drawing of the plumbing:

Sump based aquaponic system

The system does not have any additional filtration at this time, I’m hoping the sump and floating raft bed act as settling tanks and I’m also using some filter material in the media beds to grab any solids. There are some system designs that are probably better than this, one uses the pump return to feed the grow beds and fish tank so each subsystem can be isolated for cleaning or maintenance. For now, this will do and I can always change it later.

The Build

First step is to lay out the sump and grow beds to get their width so I can set up supports. I wanted the grow beds to be as low as possible to get good flow from the fish tank overflow, in the end I had to raise the fish tank anyways.

Blocks for aquaponic support

Once I had the width and depth figured out it was time to put support boards on. These are 12 foot long 2×10’s.

Aquaponic tank support

Next, put the grow beds on.

Aquaponic tank installation

Before getting too far, checking for leaks and testing the bell siphon.

Aquaponic leak testing

Here’s the underside of the center tank where it dumps into the sump. Yes, it’s a little dirty but I’ll clean it all up once assembled.

Aquaponic sump detail

The bell siphon test was successful, so I placed all the tanks and plumbed everything up.

Aquaponic tanks

A view of the fish tank.

Aquaponic fish tank IBC

Back side of the grow beds.

Aquaponic tanks plumbing

Here’s one of the spouts the feed the grow bed. I didn’t glue these connections so they can be adjusted or moved around as needed.

Aquaponic fill spout

Testing everything, success!

Aquaponic tank layout

And a final view of the raft bed.

Aquaponic being filled

So far everything seems to be working good. Next I’ll add the media to the grow beds, build the raft, and add aeration and a heater to the fish tank. If everything goes as planned I should be able to start planting early March. Time to start some seedlings!

Happy planting!

Aquaponics System Build – Base

I had planned on eventually building an aquaponics system but it wasn’t a priority – until there was a deal on eBay that was an absolute bargain. It’s a good size for starting out, has 3 grow beds and a fish tank made from IBC containers. Now I have this system sitting on the driveway waiting to be installed so the priority has gone to the top of the list.

The location needs to be near a power source and raised up to avoid any flood areas, I’ve got a good spot behind the workshop that is built up and fairly flat. I didn’t want to put it directly on the ground so I’m using a bunch of leftover materials to make a pad approximately 11′ x 13′ (canopy will be 10′ x 12′).

The first step was laying out the shape and leveling the edge boards in place. This will be a temporary setup (2-3 years?) so I didn’t want to concrete the pavers in place.

Aquaponics pad squared

Next, added paver base at about 2″ depth. Normally this would be deeper but again this isn’t a permanent setup and the ground underneath is very well packed down. This was just about a cubic yard of material.

Aquaponics pad with media base

Started tamping down the paver base by hand, eyeballing level to try to get it as close as possible to be 2″ below the top (height of a paver).

Aquaponics pad media base leveling

Finished tamping. A good workout.

Aquaponics pad media base levelled

Made a screed board, spaced a 2×4 under another using 1/2″ pieces of plywood.

Screed board design

Laying in the pavers a row at a time. I used a simple alternating direction pattern. Not fancy, but I didn’t want to cut any pavers so they can be reused again.

Aquaponics base paver installation

All pavers in place.

Aquaponics pad pavers complete

Brushing sand into the cracks. I had a bunch of sand left over from the last chicken coop clean out.

Sanding pavers on aquaponics pad

And the finished product. Now I just need to clean up the area around it. I’ll start the aquaponic system build in the next week or two.

Aquaponics pad completed

Until next time, keep on planting!