This is an overview of the aquaponic setup I'm currently working on. It is made up of three 275 gallon water totes as the fish tanks, half a tote as the sump, and 55 gallon drum halves as grow beds.
Basic hand and power tools were used:
Hole saw ( for bulkheads)
Spade bit ( for standpipe hole)
Hack saw ( for cutting pipe to length)
Any size PVC pipe could work but I chose 3/4 inch for water delivery to fish tanks and 2 inch for the pickup tubes and exit manifold. I did this so that in the future the system will support a higher flow rate as additional sumps and grow beds are added. For now though, 3/4 inch is running from the exit manifold to the beds.
Step 1: The Sump and Pump
As mentioned earlier, the sump is the bottom half of a water/Chem tote. The cage it was once in has been cut in half vertically and is used to hold up the grow beds in part. This also helps the tank keep its shape to some degree but it still likes to deform. Because of this, I will be re doing my sump soon. I will post pics and keep this instructable updated as I do.
The pump is a fountain pump from lowes. It's 350-500 gph and cost around 50 bucks. You could do better though. For about 100 bucks they have a sump pump with a float valve on it to keep your sump full. It isn't rated for continuous runtime though so that's something to keep in mind.
Step 2: From Tank to Grow Beds
Each tank is fitted with a 2 inch bulkhead. On the inside of the tank there is a 2 inch 90 threaded in with a 2 inch pickup tube pulling water from the bottom of the tank. This ensures proper circulation. On the outside a 2 inch manifold collects the water from each tote. This water is gravity fed to the grow beds.
Step 3: The Grow Beds
Each grow bed is half of a 55 gallon drum. The beds are equipped with a bell siphon for draining. The grow/filter media is lava rock topped with pea gravel and the beds are fed for one hour in the morning and one hour at night via a timer. I did this because my fist plants died of root rot (squash). It's all a mess right now though because my dogs like to climb on it :/
Step 4: About the Bell Siphon
The bell siphon is pretty simple. You need a standpipe with an adapter to make its mouth twice the diameter of the pipe and a "bell" to go over that. The bell is a pipe, just a tad bit larger than the mouth of your standpipe, with a cap on one end and notches in the other that allow water to flow. Don't make the notches too high up as these determine the low water level while the top of the standpipe will determine the high water level.
On the bottom side you need at least 7 inches or so of drop, then a 90 degree elbow with about 6 inches of runout before ending with a 45 degree elbow. Also, the whole thing works a lot better if it is slightly angled towards the ground. The siphon also has a small hole drilled at its base. This is a weep hole and it allows the beds to completely drain once the pump times out.
Step 5: Conclusion
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed. I would have liked to go into deeper detail and show each build step but this was already together before I decided to write about it.
This is actually the second incarnation of an aquaponics setup, as my first attempt failed miserably. This system is still a work in progress though and I will keep updating as I go along. One of the first things I have planned is an improved sump and more grow beds. Any input from the more experienced crowd will be much appreciated.