Step 8: Test the Bell Siphon

To make sure everything works properly before adding rocks, set up the system for a quick test. Attach the long 1/2" PVC pipe to the discharge of the Bulkhead Fitting. This long discharge will help to keep the siphon going. Put the Bell over the standpipe.
Running pumps dry is bad. They use the water they pump to keep themselves cool. Put enough water in the bottom of the tank to cover the pump. Turn on the pump and make sure it pumps water into the Grow Bed. If not, you may need a bigger pump. Now that you know the pump works, Add more water to the tank and turn on the pump. Fill the grow bed, and look for leaks on the Bulkhead Fitting. Also check to make sure that the shelf isn't going to break. That would be bad. Once the water level gets above the standpipe, water will start flowing through this siphon. It will be slow at first, and then SLURP! speed up as the air is sucked out of the Bell. Make sure that when the Grow Bed is empty, the siphon action stops. If the pump is going too fast, it may be adding water just as fast as it is draining. If this happens, close the ball valve a bit. Mark the maximum level of the water.
If this isn't a chance for someone to become rich I don't know what is. Why hasn't anyone developed a self contained unit to make this happen! I am so tired of seeing people rig this from scratch (I applaud their efforts though!) We should have about a dozen options by now of different auquaponic systems for our homes. If I had the money to make it happen I would, but I don't. I would save up to buy one as I think would many many other people. If you add a solar panel connection that you put on the roof that powers the filter and everything else you would have something amazing! There should be one in every home.
Actually, the folks at GardenPool do sell a kit for a 'shelfponics' setup they put together. They have a nice article on how it's made and how to put one together yourself.<br><br>Essentially, it's one of those cheap plastic fit together type shelves with the upper actual shelf pieces flipped upside down to hold water. With some plywood reinforcement the bottom shelf can hold a full 10g tank, and the rest of them hold growing medium. Some cut holes and tubing later you've got a system with a surprising square amount of growing footage for usually under $100 (assuming it's all bought.<br><br>It's a freestanding piece too, so it won't tear down any of HoboWhisperer's drywall either! :D
hey what do you do about all the fish poop left at the bottom of the tank?
there are units for personal as well as commercial use that work great, look under cropking on the net to find some of them
It is now about a year after this system was built and it has been decommissioned (sadly!). <br><br> The shelf that the tank was mounted on was starting to pull out of the wall. Apparently when drywall anchors are rated, it is for xx lbs (in my case 80 lbs each) pulling straight down. The shelf brackets ended up pulling out on the upper drywall anchors and they began to slide out! I propped up the shelf with books for a while, but eventually my wife yelled at me and I took it down :). I would recommend that anyone thinking about this sort of thing should screw their shelf brackets into studs, not use drywall anchors.<br><br> A challenge that I WAS able to overcome was an invasion of fungus gnats. They look a bit like fruit flies, but they are not as good at flying. They hung around the planter all of the time. I tried flypaper and vinegar+water (works for fruit flies)but those did not work. I didn't want to add insecticides to the system, because of the fish, but I ran out of options. I ended up adding Bt to the water. Bt is harmless to people and (apparently) fish. It works by fooling insect larvae into thinking that they are not hungry, so they stop eating and die. It takes a few weeks for the adult flies to die and for all of the eggs to hatch and starve, but it did clear up the infestation. It also turned the water brown, which I was not able to ever get rid of. After decommissioning the system, I added a charcoal filter to the system and the brown color went away within a day or two.<br><br>It was a fun project!
Hobo whisperer, for some reason my siphon won't kick in. I've replaced my bell with a clear one so I could see what is going on, and for some reason it's not forming a vaccume when full. Any suggestions?
Here are some formulas for #s of fish and tank size:<br>http://offa.wordpress.com/category/aquaponics/<br><br>Seems the rule of thumb is 1&quot; of fish for every gallon of water and about 3 gallons of water for every cubic foot of growing space.<br><br>I suspect there are others that get it done with other sized tanks and different amounts of fish, though.<br><br>
I know that my system would stop syphoning when my pump flow rate was too low. This would happen when the water level in my fish tank was too low - the lower the fish tank water level, the harder the pump had to work to get water up to the grow bed (which means slower flow rate). I know there are some other instructables with more expertly designed bell siphons - I'll take a look around and see if I can find a good link. Good luck!
What I ended up doing is putting a small piece of pipe inside the first elbow joint under my grow bed. This caused a step down and fixed the problem. HOWEVER your advice does help because when the water gets low the system does have trouble cycling. It does kick over, just takes longer. I imagine if I let it get too low it will hinder the cycling all together. Thanks so much for the reply!
Judging by the fact you are still responding to comments, this went well? I am curious as to the amount of fish you need to plants to get a good equilibrium as I was considering doing this for just a few plants and have usually only seen larger applications. What did you grow? How did they turn out?
great instructable, I definately have to try this since I&nbsp;have an empty tank in my closet and an already established fish tank in my living room. The ammonia in the fish tank comes from the fish excrement (urine and feces).&nbsp; Now a thought on your process, since I&nbsp;have an already established fish tank, and some out there might, it would be a great idea to use the water from that fish tank that you take out during a water change to get your healthy bacteria started.&nbsp; also to clear uup the water a bit maybe try having the water from the plant container actually run through a fish tank filter to clear the water up a bit so you keep your fish happy.&nbsp; using a carbon filter shouldn't affect your plants and it would sure help to be able to see your fish more clearly.
Using the water from an existing aquarium is a good idea! There's bound to be beneficial bacteria in there to kick start the process. As far as the carbon filter goes, it may help with water clarity, yes - I personally have not run both at the same time. Good luck!
in my aquaponic aquarium filter, i cut holes in the sides of the toat the plants grow in, and have that toat sitting inside a slightly larger one, with a hole in the bottom. it drains directly out the hole in the bottom back into the aquarium, through a hole i cut in the lid. it saved on buying parts and there are fewer moving parts that could fail and flood my appartment
Good info, you can learn more for your aquaponics system at DIYAquaponics.com . It's a forum where you can discuss your system. I'd be careful about using goldies though, I prefer Guppies unless you intend to have some eating fish like tilapia in the future. the guppies have fry, the betta and the larger guppies will eat the fry, and you'll save on fish food ;) A lot less cleanup on the bottom of the tank that way, You've got a 10 gallon tank from the looks of it, you could have a few guppies in there without a problem and if the guppies end up overwhelming you, you can always give some of them away to the neighbor kids and drive their parents nuts! lol<br />
Great set-up and nice detail in your instructions, thanks! &nbsp;Question: &nbsp;how do you keep the screen in place? &nbsp;I have a similar set-up (see youtube.com/joezbrosac) and needed to secure the screen to the bottom of the grow bed to keep it from being dislodged whenever I bump it accidentally. &nbsp;Do the pebbles weigh down on the tapered sides of the deli container to hold it in place? &nbsp;I would love to use your deli container design next time, if dislodging is not a problem.
To be honest I&nbsp;hadn't really thought it through when I&nbsp;chose that for my screen, though I&nbsp;have not had a single issue with it coming loose, so I&nbsp;suspect that you are correct - the taper keeps it in place. <br /> <br /> I&nbsp;checked out your system&nbsp; - looks pretty good!&nbsp; Thanks for the comments.<br />
&nbsp;Thanks, and congratulations on your success. &nbsp;I'll try the ol' deli container next time! &nbsp;Certainly cheaper/easier than what I came up with...
following your example, i found part of a toilet flush mechanism to serve as the bulkhead fitting, only the piece turned out to already be a pipe within a pipe with an inlet at the base - effectively a bell siphon already! i had to find a cap for it, then i made a hole in a five gallon bucket, put it all together, added water, and... voila! it worked! i can see that the flow of a pump will have to be matched to the effect of the siphon, but with some slight alterations i'm on my way to a Flood-and-Drain aquaponics set-up from junk i had laying around thanks to your instructable, HoboWhisperer!
Nice! It's always great when yout can use stuff that you already have laying around :) As far as matching the pump speed to the Siphon speed goes, I timed my cycle today - the grow bed fills about once every 4 minutes, and it takes about 1 minute to siphon the water out - the Siphon is pretty fast. The drain tube sticking out of the bottom of the standpipe definitely speeds up the siphon effect too - I think the falling water in the tube creates a bigger suction on the siphon, speeding things up. Good luck!
hey great instructable very detailed. i was just wondering does it matter how long the cycle takes to fill and empty the grow bed ..
It takes 4-5 minutes to fill, and about 30 seconds to drain.&nbsp; I'm not sure what the ideal cycle would be - the pump I bought is probably a bit over-sized for the application, but I&nbsp;haven't seen any down sides to it so far.<br />
I've actually been meaning to make a good step by step instructable on a home aquaponic system like this. I've run 3 systems, a micro (3 gallons) continuous flow, a small (20 gallon) continuous flow, and my current one which is a small (20 gallon) ebb and flow / flood and drain. From what I've done it seems the continuous flow was much more efficient than the ebb and flow, however the current system I have is in the kitchen so a continuous flow would get very annoying to listen to 24/7 which is why I have the ebb and flow (only runs 4 times a day for 3 minutes each). It is running a traditional hydroponic style ebb and flow on a timer instead of a bell siphon. Currently in the system is a bunch of parsley, a few clones of my basil plant (3rd generation clones), and a huge cherry tomato plant. The only problem I am having is putting the tomato in a 12/12 light cycle to make it bloom because the system is in my window and gets ambient light from the house. This is a picture that I took of the overall system awhile ago, but I'll have to take another picture of the current growth because it's crazy.
Nice setup :) I notice that you are using a clear container for your growbed too - have you had any problems with algae growth? I was wondering if my system would run into that as an issue. Thanks for the post!
There is a tiny bit of algae on the side, but it's a pretty insignificant amount. The biggest problem I have run into is that the growbed is slowly bowing out so I have been trying to find a new, more sturdy container. I will most likely end up building one of plywood though.
you could always use scrap metal or plastic to brace it
I notice your bell siphon doesn't have a smaller air tube to help break the siphon when the water gets low enough. I don't have an aquaponics system myself but I've done a lot of research and I've always thought that extra tube was unnecessary. It adds complexity without really adding anything useful. The siphon will break just fine when the water drops below bell. So now that you have a functioning system without that tube do you wish you had it?
I just installed a siphon-break tube a few minutes ago - I have to say, I like it. Originally, the level in my system would reach the top of the water inlet 'teeth' on the bell, and then the system would start this 'slurping' sound, and continue to do it for 30-45 seconds. It got a bit irritating, to be honest. With the siphon-break installed, it takes somewhere around 2-3 seconds to break the siphon, and it is almost perfectly silent. Also, by sneaking the end up and down, you can adjust the low level point (although the lowest it can get and still be silent is about 1cm above the original 'slurping' point). The last major benefit is that the discharge back to the tank can be under the surface of the water! This means no cascading sound as the water returns to the tank. Though to be honest, it could be a bad thing, since the cascading water is supposed to be one of the ways that O2 is added to the system. I couldn't move the discharge point too far below the surface though, because it seems to push the level 'high limit' up at about a 1:1 ratio - every 1cm I discharge below the water level, the 'high limit' goes up by 1cm. I'm guessing this is because of hydrostatic backpressure on the discharge pipe not allowing air from the pipe to bleed out at the start of the siphon.
Wow! What a great response to my question. Thank you. That's really good information, you ought to cut and paste it into the Instructable. Not everybody reads comments.
I have been debating that recently - it seemed like an unneeded accessory when I was building the system to begin with. I am thinking about adding it now though, because I am not 100% confident that the system will always break siphon at the end of the drain cycle - it seems like it is pretty close to not breaking. It 'slurps' for 10-20 seconds at the end of the drain, waiting to pull in enough air to break the siphon. I'll keep you posted about whether the siphon-break tube improves the behavior.
I like the bell siphon in yours, and was planning on adding it to mine for the garden contest; but alas never got around to it.<br/>In case you haven't seen it, my 'ible is about 6 months old...<br/><a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/Organic_Hydroponics_Aquaponics/">https://www.instructables.com/id/Organic_Hydroponics_Aquaponics/</a><br/>Almost step by step the same 'ible, minus the bell siphon.<br/>Great ible!<br/>
I've read so many websites and Instructables on Aquaponics over the last several months, that I'd lost track of where I found what information. But I'm pretty sure that your Instructable was the first reference to Aquaponics that I ever read! I guess you could say that it was my inspiration to give it a go. Glad you liked mine!
Really cool instructable, top marks mate.Just a thought but do you reckon you could put some airstone in the grow tub to add more o2 to the feeding process?
Good question - I've seen references to that in certain larger scale systems. I don't have any way of measuring dissolved O2, so I'm not sure if it'd be necessary for me. I have read that the flood-drain cycle in the media, as well as the splashing of the water back into the tank during a drain cycle add a sizable amount of O2. I wasn't too concerned about it at this stage (since Beta fish can live in O2 poor water). I can't imagine it'd hurt though!
now i see the wisdom of using the toilet parts for the standpipe - bulkhead fittings are not so easy to locate. that was a good idea!
this bell siphon thingy appears to be the missing link to my attempts at this kind of project. i can grow fish, and i can grow plants with wet feet, but i haven't been able to successfully marry the two into the awesome bio-filter that this potentially could be. BTW, be aware that some of those clay balls never become saturated like you might expect and some of them will float. please keep us updated on your project!
Thanks for the tip on the clay balls - to keep them from floating, I've just added another inch of them above the top fill level. This keeps the lot of them weighed down. Also, I'm still working on the Bell to tweak it. I'm not 100% confident in its reliability so far, so I've only been running it while I'm in the room. I"ll keep you posted!
would brine shrimp (sea monkeys) be a suitable substitute to the fish?
Hmmm, It looks like brine shrimp live in salt water - I imagine you could do something similar to this if you could find plants that grow in salt water. If you try to do it, make sure to use some sort of net to keep them from getting sucked into the pump!
hi guys! please check this link out:<br/><br/><a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.diyaquaponics.info/how-aquaponics-works.html">http://www.diyaquaponics.info/how-aquaponics-works.html</a><br/><br/>it&acute;s the magic working<sub></sub> very good link to understand and built up these stuff <br/><br/>regards<br/>
Cool setup! Do you have any photos of the system with the plants growing?
Thanks! I just set it up yesterday :) Once I figure out what I am going to grow (most likely lettuce and basil) I'll post pictures of the progress.
Awesome instructable. I was just looking for exactly this kind of stuff.

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