This tutorial will provide you with a materials list and the procedures for creating an aquaponic system. An aquaponic system is a system of aquaculture in which the waste produced by farmed fish or other aquatic animals supplies nutrients for plants grown hydroponically, which in turn purify the water. For this aquaponic system, we will be using tilapia and cherry radishes.
Materials needed: *SEE BILL OF MATERIALS IN IMAGES
- 4 - 5 Gallon buckets
- 3.5 feet of 1/4" Clear tubing
- Growth light 12 watt LED
- 7 PVC 1/2" Elbow joints 90-degree and a 45-degree
- 3 feet of 1/2" PVC pipe
- 7" of 2" PVC pipe
- 10" of 3" PVC pipe
- 5 - 1/2" Uniseals
- Automatic fish feeder battery powered
- Electronic water pump 120 volt
- ~5 tilapia
- Fish food
- Cherry radish seeds
- Hot knife
- 1/2" diameter bit
- Permanent marker
- Expanded clay pebbles (growth medium)
- 1 x 4 x 6 wood board
- 5" x 5" Plexiglass
- Hot glue
Step 1: Label the Buckets
Label each bucket for it's designated purpose. There should be a separate bucket for the fish, plant, sump pump, and swirl filter.
Step 2: Prepare the Buckets
On the fish, sump pump, and swirl filter buckets, mark off 10" of the top lip. Remove the lip with a hot knife and sand away the remaining pieces until you have a smooth surface.
Once sanded, arrange the three buckets to where the smooth edges are touching. The buckets should be in a triangle formation.
For the plant bucket, mark 7" from the top all around the bucket. Use the hot knife to cut along this line. Use sandpaper to smooth it out. Save the piece you cut off.
Step 3: Drill Holes and Attach Uniseals.
With the three buckets in the triangle formation, mark where they all touch. Then, take the fish and swirl filter bucket and mark 4.5" down from the top of the bucket. Draw a horizontal line around the bucket at the point of the 4.5" mark. This intersection point will be the point that you drill into.
The fish bucket should have one hole, the swirl filter will have two holes at a 60-degree angle from each other, and the sump pump bucket will have one hole.
On the plant bucket, mark a spot about two inches from the edge on the bottom of the bucket. The plant bucket will have only one hole.
Take a hole saw with a 1/2" bit and drill into the marked points. Place a uniseal on each hole.
Step 4: Pipe Set-up (Part 1)
Begin with the fish bucket. Cut a piece of PVC pipe to ~7" (enough to go between the uniseals, the fish bucket and the swirl filter with 90-degree elbows on the pipe).
Step 5: Pipe Set-up (Part 2)
Put the pipe you just cut into the uniseal of the fish bucket. Once in place, put a 90-degree elbow on it. Then take the opposite end of the pipe and push it into the uniseal of the swirl filter bucket. Push it in far enough into the swirl filter so that you can place another 90-degree elbow on it. Position the elbow downwards.
Step 6: Pipe Set-up (Part 3)
Cut a 6" pipe and attach it to the elbow in a turned down position into the fish bucket. Now, cut an 11" pipe and on one end connect a 90-degree elbow and on the other end connect it to the 90-degree turned down elbow in the swirl filter. Cut a 12" pipe and stick one end into other uniseal in the swirl filter, enough to get a 90-degree elbow turned upwards on it. Continue to push the pipe in until the elbow is in the center of the bucket.
Step 7: Pipe Set-up (Part 4)
Cut a 6" pipe and attach it to the elbow in a turned down position into the fish bucket.
Now, cut an 11" pipe and on one end connect a 90-degree elbow and on the other end connect it to the 90-degree turned down elbow in the swirl filter.
Cut a 12" pipe and stick one end into other uniseal in the swirl filter, enough to get a 90-degree elbow turned upwards on it. Continue to push the pipe in until the elbow is in the center of the bucket.
Now push the opposite end into the uniseal of the sump pump until the two buckets touch.
Step 8: Bell Siphon Construction
Cut a 3" diameter PVC pipe 10" and center it over the uniseal in the plant bucket. Hot glue it down. Cut a 2" pipe 7" tall. Mark a line an inch from one side of the pipe. Draw the line along the diameter of the pipe. Pick a point on the line and draw a line straight to the end of the pipe. Measure a 1/4" from the line to the right. Draw another line straight down. Using a band saw, cut along the lines you just marked. There should be two cuts at this point. Leaving the two 1/4" pieces, cut the rest of the pipe off.
Using the bandsaw, cut along the line until you get to the 1/4" nubs and do that on both sides.
Trace the 2" pipe onto a piece of plexiglass. Use the bandsaw to cut closely around the line. Super glue the plexiglass circle to the solid end of the 2" pipe.
Now place the 2" pipe onto the 1/2" pipe sticking out of the plant bucket. This is your bell siphon.
Step 9: Pipe Configuration
Now cut a 1/2" pipe 10" and stick it through the uniseal in the plant bucket. Stick it about 5" past the uniseal. For the portion of the pipe sticking out of the bucket, place a 90-degree elbow on it. Cut a 1/2" pipe 4". Connect it to the elbow you just placed in the previous step.
On the opposite end place another 90-degree elbow on it. Cut a 1/2" pipe 14" and ensure that it is placed into the fish bucket. On the end of the pipe, place a 45-degree elbow on it.
Step 10: Bucket Configuration
Place the fish, swirl filter, and sump pump buckets on the ground (maintaining the triangle formation). Place the plant bucket on a table that keeps the bucket about 2 feet above the other buckets.
Step 11: Add Water
Add water into the fish bucket. Slowly do so until all of the surrounding buckets are filled about 2" from the top. (*There should not be any water in the plant bucket yet.)
Step 12: Creating Water Flow
Cut clear tubing to be about 3' long. Place one end in the bottom of the plant bucket. Connect the other end to the electronic water pump. Place the water pump in the bottom of the sump pump bucket. Connect the electronic pump to a power source.
Follow instructions of the water pump and turn it on.
The pump should suck water from the sump pump bucket into the plant bucket. The plant bucket should continue to fill up until the bell siphon activates.
Once the bell siphon is activated it should start pouring water into the fish bucket. This will remain a constant cycle of water flow through the buckets.
Step 13: Add Height to Fish Bucket
Place the remaining part of the lid (Step 4) on top of the fish bucket. Place the automatic fish feeder on the outside edge. (The added height helps keep fish inside the bucket and minimizes splash from the fish food.) Follow the directions of the fish feeder to get it working later.
Step 14: Plant Seeds
Place clay pebbles in plant bucket. Fill it up about half way. Add cherry radish seeds into the pebbles. Move pebbles around to mix up seeds.
Step 15: Create A-frame for Light
Take the 1 x 4 x 6 board and cut two 24" long pieces. Then rip the two pieces down in the center. Cut a 14" piece from the remaining part of the 1 x 4 x 6 piece. Take the two sets of two 24" pieces and fashion each a pair into a triangle. Attach both sets of triangles to the 14" piece.
Step 16: Attach Light
Clip the growth light to the 14" piece in the middle of the board. Position the wood structure over the plant bucket, to where the growth light is centered above the plant bucket.
Step 17: Add Life
Add tilapia to fish bucket. Add bio-balls to the sump pump bucket.
Your aquaponics system is complete!