Instructables

Best damn organic recycled solar pump hydroponic system

SolarHydro - Overview 2.jpg
SolarHydro - Overview 3.jpg
A hydroponic system that is made from trash and incorporates an electric solar pump to supercharge your growth?! Wow!

Here's a modular and lightweight rooftop setup. You can also place it anywhere that you have full sunlight, and no earth--like a parking lot!

This is the third revision of this model. It's cheaper, has a larger reservoirs, and the reservoirs are self-leveling.

Total cost for a single "pod" (two are shown in the below photo) is under $45USD.

Please post comments about success or failure you've had with this system.
 
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Step 1: Gather Supplies

You will need a few things:
  • 5 x Styrofoam "fish boxes" (approx 18"x40"x18 WxLxH), two with lids (FREE!)
  • 20L (5gal) plastic bucket (FREE!)
  • Solar pump (cheapies on eBay for $15)
  • 16' of 3/8" poly tubing for drip irrigation (about $10)
  • 2 x 3/8" tee
  • 2 x 3/8" elbows
  • 3 x 1/2" drain fittings, sometimes called bulkheads ($10)
  • 16 x 1/4" drip tubing "taps" which are punched into the poly tubing ($10)
  • Growing medium that doesn't clog (Coconut husk chunks work great!) ($10)
  • Mesh screen (FREE!) use a broken screen door
  • A stone to weigh down the reservoir lids (FREE!)
You will need the following tools:
  • Power drill
  • 3/8" drill bit for drilling holes in styrofoam for poly tubing
  • 3/4" drill bit for drilling holes in styrofoam for drain (bulkhead) fittings
  • Sharp screw or other poking tool for making pilot holes in poly tubing for the drip taps that feed each plant
The styrofoam fish boxes can be found in the dumpsters of seafood stores. They are used to ship large salmon, etc, and are usually thrown out back. Be sure to check for leaks, as they need to be water-tight.

The buckets can be found at sandwhich shops. They are used to ship pickles.

The solar pumps are found on eBay.

The drip tubing and fittings can be found at hydroponics stores, or home improvement centers (Home Depot, Lowe's) in many regions.

The 1/2" drain fittings, or bulkheads, can be hard to source. Hydroponics stores will be your best bet.

For a growing medium you can use wood chips. I use coconut husk, which is rather chunky and was on sale for $0.50/cubic foot.

Criterion for media:
* Large sized, so it won't wash into drains, tubes, and pump
* Absorbent
* Cheap
* Inert
* No coloring
* Gives roots something to bite into
* Retains moisture

Plan your system. Determine which side you want the reservoir on.
xWildCardx2 years ago
How about having the upper bins drain into the lower bins, then into the buckets. This would give u many more days between fluid replenishment. Also any sediment would rest on the bottom of the box, adding another layer of filtering for ur pump.
YotaTruck (author)  xWildCardx2 years ago
Hi there!

As a matter of fact the design was changed this year! I'm using styrofoam bins as reservoirs instead of buckets, as each holds about 2.5 buckets of nutrient. The reservoirs were placed as close as possible to the edge of the roof (they are reversed in contrast to the current pictures) to reduce weight on unsupported portions of the roof.

I'm concerned about using the support stand boxes for holding nutrient solution, too, because of the weight. My landlord has been very kind to allow me to use the roof for this project, and I'd hate to jeopardize that good will.

As you also suggested, I'll be daisy chaining the styrofoam reservoirs so that they self equalize.

Updated pictures to come!
xWildCardx2 years ago
Might as well just connect all 3 boxes on the backside to. This will help match (precipitation) thru all 3 boxes.
YotaTruck (author)  xWildCardx2 years ago
Yes! This is my plan for next year since my tomatoes were exhausting their water supply while the other reservoirs were still full.

Oh, and I think you meant "evaporation"?
Tannius4 years ago
You can turn this into a Aquaponics system just by replacing your nutrients with live fish and you have a source of fertilizer that you can also eat. The size of enclosure you have there could easily contain up to 10-15 Blue Gill or Tilapia, or 2-3 Channel Catfish. I'm working on a similar concept using a 200 gallon reservoir.
jongscx Tannius4 years ago
That would add a layer of complexity to this project that I personally wouldn't want to deal with.  I'm not saying it's not possible, but you'd not only be balancing the water for the plants, and for the fish, but for both together...

I'd love to see your system, but for a small-scale system, it seems like over-kill.