Running Your Aquaponic Home Garden System

 

There are a few common methods of running your aquaponic home garden system. You can flood and drain it by using a timer on the pump to switch the pump off and on, while a standpipe in the grow bed controls the flooding level. You can flood and drain it using an auto siphon within the grow bed and running your pump continuously. You can also run the system with a continuously flooded grow bed using a standpipe in the bed. We have been running some trials of these three different methods.

At the time of writing this our trials have been running for over 12 months and in reality there’s been little difference at the end of the day between the three different systems. There were some differences in the early period but after 12 months there really is very little difference between them. This being the case I would recommend running your IBC system continuously flooded as we have set up our IBC system on this website.

Chift Pist

Chift Pist systems are popular amongst the aquaponics DIY sector with many people. Water is pumped from the sump tank into the fish tank, this causes the water level in the fish tank to rise, flowing out into the grow bed. The Easy DIY Aquaponicsgrow bed then drains into the sump tank before being pumped back to the fish again. Uses either an auto siphon within the grow bed to flood and drain the grow bed or run with the grow bed constantly flooded.

A SLO (Solids Lift Overflow) is normally incorporated into these systems, This means that the overflow pipe in the fish tank goes right down top the base of the fish tank where it will draw solids up from the bottom of the tank and deposit them into the grow bed.

Not often set up with timers on the pump unless you have a very large sump as it requires a large capacity to top the fish tank and fill the grow bed in a pumping cycle. Not the simplest method of setting up a system because you have to incorporate a sump tank in your design.

Advantages

  • Pump is in sump tank away from fish and wastes
  • Water level in fish tank remains constant
  • Great if you have a tall fish tank
  • Larger water volume because of sump

Disadvantages

  • Extra equipment required (sump tank)
  • Must have tall fish tank or stand
  • can take up larger footprint
  • limited running methods (no timer possible)

Simple Flood and Drain

Simple flood and drain can be done a couple of ways, you can either have a standpipe in the grow bed and timer on the pump, or you can use a siphon in the grow bed. The debate over which method is better is a hotly debated topic and I think the answer is fairly simple, that each has advantages and disadvantages. Personally after playing with siphons on a few different systems I decided a long time ago that I didn’t want to use them, so all systems I make, use standpipes.

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Advantages

  • Simple Design
  • Only two major system components
  • Great if you have a tall fish tank

Disadvantages

  • Pump in fish tank
  • Water level in tank fluctuates a little

What are standpipes you might ask?

A stand pipe next to a drain fitting, then sitting in the drain fitting. By changing the length of the standpipe you can adjust the flooding level in the bed. If you want to flood the grow bed to make caterpillars or slugs come up out of your media, then slipping a slightly longer piece of pipe over the end, or just a coupling fitting you can enable the bed to flood, causing all the pests to come up out of the media. If your media level in the bed drops over time then you can cut a little off the stand pipe, lowering the flood level in your bed.

There are two small holes in the bottom of the stand pipe, this allows the water to slowly drain out of the bed when the pumps off, hence the flooding and draining action.

Constant Flood

Looks a bit similar to the one above? Yes that’s because it is basically the same as the flood and drain system above, except that when you remove the timer from the system the grow bed remains constantly flooded.

Most importantly if this is getting a little confusing for you don’t worry about it, it can be difficult to conceptualize exactly how these things work, if you follow through our simple building and installation steps you’ll be able to build yourself an IBC aquaponic system in no time. If you ‘d like to learn more about the different methods of setting up and running your aquaponics system, then join the forum, you’ll find lots of information on the forum.

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Dealing With Pests And Deficiencies

 

There are a few different methods of dealing with any pests and/or diseases in your system, of course most of these require no petrochemical based sprays as these are generally very toxic to fish and also possibly the beneficial bacteria within the system. Caterpillars are easilyEasy DIY Aquaponics controlled by applications of Bacillus thuringiensis, this is a natural soil borne bacteria which is available around the world under a number of different brand names. Often organically certified the spray is safe for aquaponic systems.

For sap sucking insects you can use chilli and garlic sprays, these are often available commercially now a days, however they should always be used in moderation, as excess and over spray is never good.

For moulds and fungus on plants you can use potassium bicarbonate sprayed onto the effected plants. Potassium bicarbonate is available under a number of different brand names around the world. It also can help a system by adding potassium, something often lacking in a system and the bicarbonate helps to keep the pH up, as most of the time pH goes down in mature systems.

If slugs are a problem, a small saucer filled with beer will attract them and they easily drown, making disposal simple and effective. Colored sticky traps work well for thrips, aphids and whiteflies and are a good way to monitor visitors to your aquaponic system.

Dealing With Deficiencies

We have found that generally supplementing for plant deficiencies is not necessary when using good quality aquaculture feed, the systems here at our display center rarely receive any supplements, perhaps once or twice a year we might dose our systems with seaweed extract if we see some deficiencies. Deficiencies can be difficult to diagnose, thankfully there are a number of sites online which can help you diagnose particular deficiencies with images. One of the simplest ways to deal with any deficiencies is by the addition of seaweed extract. Seaweed extract is available under a number of different brand names around the world, it can also come in a powdered form or as a liquid, sometimes extracted by boiling, but often considered better if you can get liquid extracted by crushing rather than boiling as you have the advantage of getting added elements like humic acid.

Seaweed has very high levels of most micronutrients and minerals. Some other things you may want to add if the relevant deficiencies are showing in your plant growth. Chelated Iron, readily available in powdered and liquid form. Potassium bicarbonate for potassium deficiencies, so long as your pH is not high already. Be sure your pH is not high before you try and add elements to fix a micronutrient problem.

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  easy diy aquaponics 2 Probiotics Increases Bowel Health

 

Methods Of Cycling An Aquaponic System

Methods of Cycling an Aquaponic System

Peeponics

Yes, it is as it sounds, some people get their system started and cycled by adding urine to the system. Urine contains urea and urea breaks down to ammonia, once you have ammonia this can be a useful source of food for beneficial bacteria populations. It’s a good idea to age your urine for a few days to a week in an open well ventilated area before adding it to the system, but not totally necessary, you can just add straight from the source if you wish. If you are taking any type of medication it’s not recommended that you try this method.

Urea Fertilizers

Another method to add an ammonia source to help establish the beneficial bacteria is to use Urea fertilizer, generally available from agricultural suppliers, hardware stores and nurseries. This is a fairly straightforward method of cycling a system, however you must be careful of your dosing, regular water testing is recommended.

Ammonia

Household ammonia can be sourced from many different places. As with urea, care is required to ensure you don’t overdose the system. Also when sourcing your ammonia make sure that you only use food grade ammonia, there are plenty of cleaning and industrial ammonia sources but they often have perfumes and other additives.

The Dead Prawn or FishEasy DIY Aquaponics

Yep a method of cycling practiced a fair bit within some aquarium circles over the years. By placing some rotting fish or crustacean in the system you are inducing a source of ammonia for the bacteria to feed on.

Fish Feed

You can start cycling a system by introducing the fish feed you will be using to feed the fish into the system, as the feed starts to break down on the bottom of the fish tank and in the growbeds it will release ammonia for the bacteria to feed on.

Feeder Fish and/or Fingerling

Possibly the simplest method of starting a system and the method we recommend so long as you follow a few simple golden rules. Your system can be cycled by adding feeder fish, usually cheap bronze comets or goldfish to start the system before adding your final fish species. You can also stock the system with fingerling of whatever type of fish you plan on growing in the system and this is the way we start our systems and the method we recommend people start theirs. But feeding the fish must be kept to a strict minimum for the first 2 months. No more than one tablespoon of feed, per day, per 500L of media. If you get an algal bloom, stop feeding until the algae clears. After 2 months you can start increasing feed levels slowly because your bacteria would have been established. You can easily monitor this with a basic freshwater master test kit.

 

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Backup Your Aquaponic Home Garden With AC/DC Aerators

 

Having a backup system for your Aquaponic home garden is very handy, bordering on essential. If and when the power goes out, you want to be sure that your fish are not going to die. A well stocked system filled with fish will not last long as they consume the available dissolved oxygen within the water, so you need a way to get oxygen into the water that doesn’t rely on mains power. There are a few ways you can go about this, you can keep battery operated aerators or a generator handy for when the power goes out so that you can implement your contingency plan when things go wrong. But,Backup Your Aquaponic Home Garden generally as Murphy’s law would have it, if the power is going to go out, it will be when you are not home, so you will be unable to react to the power failure.

This means you will need to have your backup system already thought out before hand, and it will need to be automatic. There are a couple of simple ways you can do this. We like to use AC/DC aerators, these are air pumps with internal rechargeable batteries in them. Normally they run while plugged into the power, pumping air through air lines and air stones in the fish tank. When the power goes out they switch automatically over to their internal batteries and continue to pump air into the water keeping the fish alive for the life of the battery within the unit, often up to 10 hours. When the power comes back on, the internal battery is recharged.

Another method used by some is to make their own back up using either water pumps or air pumps, using batteries, something like a car battery, an inverter, a trickle battery charger and a power fail switch. Essentially this does the same thing as the AC/DC air pump above, but it’s larger and in an individual components form. This type of system can be chopped and changed, you can leave out the inverter and use 12/24V DC components if they are readily available.

 

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