Balcony Aquaponics 35 litre – Setup

Overview::

Trying out Aquaponics in the limited space of  balcony. This post tries to explain the basics,  components needed and initial minimal setup to get the system in place. As you must be aware Aquaponics is the practice of growing fish and plants together. Fish excreta is rich with Ammonia which will be converted to nitrate that is good food for the plants. Conversion takes place in plant grow bed where bacteria grows. Water is cycled  from the fish tank to the plant grow bed and back.

Aquaponics-Diagram-41-649x779
A 35 litre / 10 Gallon container is used to grow the fish and a 25 litre plant grow bed is used . Grow bed is placed on a level above the container and water is pumped into it with a submersible pump . Draining of the growbed back to the fish container is performed with an Auto siphon.

Components::

  • 35 litre container for tank ( Fish tank volume should be larger than the growbed vloume )
  • 25 litre barrel cut on top used as grow bed
  • 9″ x 6″ HDPE sheet to cover the container ( Optional if you have a food safe container )
  • 3/4″ PVC Standpipe
  • 1 1/2″ Bell Siphon PVC pipe
  • 1 1/2″ PVC cap
  • 2 1/2″ PVC Gravel guard
  • 3/4″ PVC tank connector
  • 3/4″ PVC Female & Male adaptors to connect to tank connector
  • 3/4″ L joints
  • Tape to insulate the PVC fittings
  • Submersible pump
  • 1/2″ Hose

Points to note::

  • Fish tank volume should be larger than the growbed vloume or else a sump tank must be used
  •  Make sure you have  food safe container. To make sure used containers / barrels  are food safe , they should have any of the below markings in the bottom
  • Food safe container markings
    Use a HDPE sheet inside the container if you are not sure your container is food safe

Tools required::

  • Drill
  • Hack saw
  • 1″ Hole saw
  • .3″ drill bit

Howto::

Clean the container and barrel. Wrap the container with HDPE sheet .

Grow bed preparation : Drill a 1″ hole using hole saw in the bottom on the Growbed barrel

1" hole on barrel for siphon
1″ hole on barrel for siphon


Tank adapter :
Connect the tank adaptor on the drilled hole, make sure the adaptor has valves that will seal the hole ( seals not in image )

Tank adaptor

Stand Pipe: Measure the depth of the grow bed and cut the 3/4″ standpipe so that it stays 2 inches below the surface. This is to prevent the water from reaching the surface of the growbed ( to prevent algae growth ). In my case growbed is 9 inch deep. the top of standpipe when connected to the tank adaptor is 7 inches from the bottom

Stand pipe
7″ Stand pipe

Bell siphon: Cut 1 1/2″ pipe with length 9 inches for bell siphon and connect the cap  to one end. The cap should be air tight, use PVC solvent to fix it.  Other end of the  pipe should have slits to allow water in. When placed on top of standpipe the bottom of the cap should be on level with standpipe

Bell Siphon
Bell Siphon

Growbed Outlet:  Used 2 3/4″ pipe with length 7+ inches and elbow joint as growbed outlet. You should have enough outlet pipe length as this will help in starting the Autosiphon.

Growbed outlet
Growbed outlet

Pump and inlet :Submersible pump with 1100L/H output is used for the cycling water. Garden hose connected to the pump is used as inlet to the growbed.  The whole setup assembled together is looking as below.

Growbed
Growbed
Fish container tank
Fish container tank

Testing : Switch on the pump , water should start flowing into the growbed . Once the water level reaches near to Siphon cap the water will drain back into the fish container . Water flow should stop when it reaches the slits of the Siphon.

Let the system continue on its flood and drain cycle, check the joints and make sure there is no leaks.

References:: 

Aquaponic Gardening Rules of Thumb

Plastic Containers as Planters: Safe or Not?

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