Archive for August 2012

There is nothing like a hurricane for disrupting an aquaponics project.

Especially when the expected tidal surge is 12 feet and your garden is 10 feet above sealevel.

So last few days have been spent tying everything down.  I’m nearly finished with my stuff but I also have clients that are pleading for help to secure their property and computers. (Did I mention I’m an IT consultant?)  With Issac (hurricane/tropical storm) 100 miles off the coast I’m busy backing up stuff and moving PCs etc instead of finishing my tying down.

Thankfully it looks like this will only be a mild inconvenience and I can soon get back to the garden setup.

I’ve been busy planning and redesigning the system.

Seems like when I experiment with things I’ve never done before, I try to do things that are way out of the ordinary.  I tend to challenge every concept to see if there is a better way to do it.  Sometimes this is a good thing.  It makes me think ‘out of the box’.  But sometimes the outside of the box thinking leads to a lot of unnecessary detours or added expenses because of trying to do the impossible.

This is one of those times.

In trying to create a filter box that would be ‘custom’ built and perform great, I spent a great deal of time and energy chasing an expensive rabbit.

Here is a picture of the filter box I built.  It is custom designed to sit on the dual IBC totes and fit perfectly without covering the access covers.

Wooden Box Filter Bed

Wooden Box Filter Bed

After I spent the better part of my day building this wooden box, I decided the best way to seal it would be with fiberglass resin and fiberglass cloth.

 

I had forgotten how frustrating it can be to work with fiberglass.  It seems to have a mind of it’s on.  Each time you try to apply it to the resin to the fabric, you get a wrinkle.  I found an online tip to use spray adhesive on the wood and ‘stick’ the cloth to the wood.and then appy the fiberglass resin.  This would have been fine except, I was in a hurry and did not want to stop and go get some spray adhesive.

The result was a box with lots of wrinkles and bubbles in the glass.  To top it off, it was not water tite.  I know that will not be acceptable so I started over.

This time, I had the brainstorm to use some polyproprolyne tight woven fabric as a liner.  In prelimiary testing of the fabric, it seems to be water tight.  So I spend a day planning the layout so that I could have one piece of fabric and cover the entire box with no seams.

After completeing the project, I find that the fabric IS NOT water tight.  It leaks alll along the seams.  No amout of caulk, silicone, fiberglass will solve the issue of waster pouring from the seams.

Here is a picture of the finished box sitting on top of the sump and holding tanks.  It looks good but really does not “fit”. And I don’t like the way it looks.

Wooden Box Filter on Top of Sump

Wooden Box Filter on Top of Sump

After a dismal failure of the filter box water test, I had to consider other options for making the seams water tite.  The reason for even attempting to custom build it was to save money.  As it turns out, I could have purchased a finished product and not had the headaches of ‘building it yourself”.  The cost of the box and materials has almost doubled what I could have purchased a similar rubbermaid tank.

While considering the next step and what to do with a wooden filter box that does not hold water I discovered I had over-looked the most obvious choice.  When I started this project, I purchased 6 IBC Totes.  After setting up the ones I need I have two left over.  I can use one of them and cut it in half and make a nice “water-tight” filter bed.  The cost?  $40 for the IBC.  DUH !!!

Tote Bottom on Sump

Tote Bottom on Sump

This is a picture of the tote sitting in it’s resting place on top of the Sump and Holding Totes.  That looks better and I like the way it fits.  :-)

In my next post I will show you how I prepared the tote for it’s new use.  I’ve designed it with what I consider a great water transfer desing.  It does not require any cutting of holes in the tote.

After a day (weekend) such as this, I’m calling it a night.

This is a similar aquaponics system to the one I am building. I am adding a sump tank in addition to the fish tank so my pump will not be in the fish tank.  The NFT type system uses a small flow of water across the roots of the plants to feed them.

This is just one of many animations on this topic.  I hope this shows a general idea of the concept.  Of course, I will be doing a lot more video’s and photo’s of the actual system as the building continues.

Thanks for following the blog.

I bought a 2600 GPH pump from Harbor Freight.  I think it will do the job.  It was on sale for $55.00 which seems like a good price.

With the pump inplace, it is time to test the amount of the flow from the pump to the fish tanks.  The outlet of the pump is 1 1/4″ so I think I will be ok with the 2 1″ pressure lines to the fish tank and to the growbeds.  I’m concerned about the size of the return pipes.  The 1″ pressure pipe should be ok but with only gravity flow to return the water to the sump tank, I think I will need a much larger return PVC pipe.

Here is a picture of the plumbing on the sump tank.43716720-20120812_164505

Just as I expected, the return pipe is not large enough to allow for sufficient return flow.  So I left the 1″ pipes in the ditch but added one 2″ pipe as a return pipe.  You can see it in the photo with water flowing from it.  The pipe is high above the bed to test the height of the filter bed which will be added to the top of the sump tank next week.

I have two 1″ pipes coming from the pump with two valves.  One of the pipes will eventually go to the grow bed and the other will be used to add additonal flow /water movement / air to the fish tank.

All of the pipes are temporary setups and most of the connections are not glued.  These will be glued when the final design is determined.

This is a photo of the fish tank with a drain pipe into the side of the tank. The pipe on the top is the pressure flow from the pump and the larger 2″ pipe is the return. All of these are temp connections.  I hope the additon of the 2″ pipe will be sufficient.  If not, I will be digging this all up again.

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Here is a short video of the pump running with water flowing. Notice how strong the water in the return stream is.  I’m surprised it was so strong with only one fish tank supplying water.

 

 

The last post of creating slab two was done from my Android Tablet.  I found that I do not like the app used to create the post and prefer the browser based posting.  Using the app is easy and fast but is not as flexible as using the full browser based posting.  Because of that, the post was much shorter than I would have liked but at least got started creating slab two.

The next picture is of the slab after all of the concrete and wire mesh were in place. The process was the same, put the initial 6 or so bags and spread them dry in the form.  Add the wire mesh on top and complete the filling with enough dry concrete mix to fill the form to just over the height of the forms.  Level the dry mix with a 2X4 long enough to reach from side to side and pull it completely from one end to the other while wiggling it back and forth to spread the dry mix evenly and level.  Once the mix is level, mist sprinkle it for a few minutes and further smooth it as needed.  After the mist has begun to soak the mix for an hour or so, it will start to setup and then you just need to keep it wet for a few days until it is cured.

Fish Tank Slab

Fish Tank Slab

This is a picture of one of the IBC totes I bought.  I found a supplier with food grade contents.  (mine had liquid smoke used to make smoked sausage).  It was water soluble and easily washed out with water.  I purchase 6 of them for $40.00 each.  I plan to use 4 of them in the initial setup and the other two will be for future projects or as a spare should I damage one or cut them incorrectly.

IBC Tote

IBC Tote

I dug a ditch between the two concrete slabs.  I cheated by using my mini tiller to help with the Louisiana Muck dirt.  This is a picture of the ditch with the PVC pipe I plan to put into the ditch.

PVC Pipe in Ditch

PVC Pipe in Ditch

This is the PVC in the ditch.  I decided to use 4 – 1″ PVC for pump and return lines.  2 in each direction.  One 3/4″ Gray PVC electrical pipe for power to the pump and lights if needed.  One 2″ Gray PVC (normally used for electrical) but I am using it as a drain pipe incase I need to drain the fish tank and to handle run off water from rain.

This is how it looks on the reservior / sump tank end.  I have a drain setup on the opposite side of the tanks incase they need to be drained.

Sump/Pump Tanks

Sump/Pump Tanks

And this is how the fish tank setup looks.  I have not cut the top out of the fish tanks yet.  I’m waiting to decide where / how to cut them.  All of this is mostly trial and error creation so some mistakes will be made and planning each step is essential.

I added a ground level drain and pipes to drain the fish tanks.  These tie into the 2″ pipe and will drain into the bayou.

Sump rear view

Sump rear view

The next phase is to test the drain system and test the pumps.  I’ve been using a simple 12 volt bilge pump 300gph to pump water from the bayou to fill the tanks for testing.  It works well but I think I will need something much larger in the final setup.

Fish Tank Slab Form

Fish Tank Slab Form

After the first slab was complete most of my energy left my body in the form of sweat.

95+ degrees in the Louisiana Swamp will do that.

I did not mention that I live in / near the Honey Island Swamp. The area is beautiful but sometimes very hot and humid. If the heat does not get you the mosquitoes will try to take up the slack. Lucky for me, I’m part Cherokee Indian and mosquitoes seem to not like the way I taste. They still bite but are not as agressive toward me as they are on the pale face visitors.

Today I will setup and dry pour the second slab. I’m showing this so others can see how easy / hard it is. Some may think they can’t do it or can’t afford concrete to be done by a contractor. But using this method it is easy.

Here is a picture of the fish tank form. I’ve already cleared and leveled the area.

Notice the ‘elevator’ in the back.  This was an old pallet lift i rescued. It makes bringing groceries upstairs easy.

The area for the concrete I poured yesterday is to the left in this pictue about 40 feet away.

This is my place.
My Place

My Place

As you can see, I have plenty of land to use for a garden.
The big issue is where?
Do I want it close to the house (way off in the picture)
Or somewhere on the 6.5 acres.
There is a bayou completely surrounding the property with only a small driveway connected to the real world.

After several days of considering the spot I think I will put it near the house and use IBC containers as fish tanks and reservoir tanks.  These will give me about 250 gallons of water in each tank.  With a bayou completely surrounding the property, water is not in short supply but this will be a closed system and will not make use of that water.  With more and more pollution in this world, I think filtered water from the well will be the best option.

I will put the tanks on the right side of the house with two 250 gallon fish tanks near the house and two 250 gallon reservior tanks near the bayou and about 24″ lower. (the land near the water is lower than the land near the house).  This will work out well to allow natural gravity flow from the fish tank back to the reservior tanks.  These reservior or sump tanks will hold the water pump that will pump water through the system.  I will be using a single pump and let most of the water flow be a natural gravity flow from the grow beds to the fish tanks and back to the sump/pump tank.

This is the area I have sellected for the sump tanks.  I will be pouring a concrete slab in this area for the tanks.

Proposed site for Sump Tank

Proposed site for Sump Tank

The other two tanks will be about 40 feet away (directly behind me) sitting under my raised deck.  I have a deck around most of my raised home.  The home sits on piling about 10′ above the land. The building code in this area required I build up about 3′ above the land and I decided to go up 10′ so I could use the space under the house for a patio, carport, etc.

This was a good decision.  I live southern Louisiana. in 2005 Hurricane Katrina paid us a visit.  The eye actually crossed over my property.  The water from the gulf reached a height of 8 1/2′ onto my land.  If my house had not been built up 10′ we would have lost everything in that storm.  But we were back at home two days after the storm with only my workshop and garage damaged.  A lot of the trees and neighbors did not fare as well.

The area I have choosen for the tanks has a lot of root and over growth and it will take a bit of sweat to remove them and prepare the area for the concrete.

I don’t know if many of you have tried this but I am going to dry-pour the concrete.  I’ve found for simple jobs such as this, the process is simple and a lot less labor intensive than doing a wet pour of the concrete or getting a concrete truck to deliver a small amount of concrete to a remote area.

With the ground prepared and the forms in place we are ready to begin.  Here is the picture of the forms ready for the concrete.

Sump Forms

Sump Forms

The first thing to do is to figure out the amount of concrete sacks needed.  I will be using 80# bags from the local building supply and a 4″ slab 4′ X 8′.
I have calculated that I will need 18 bags of concrete.
If you don’t know how to figure it, go here:
http://www.quikrete.com/Calculator/Main.asp

I will purchase 20 bags since I will be pouring a second slab and the extra may be needed if something goes wrong.

With the forms set and the ground level, I will put the first layer of concrete in by dropping the bags into the forms.

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Once the bags are in place, I take a shovel and break the end of the bags with the point and pour them dry into the forms.  You can see the first two opened in the forms.

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After all of the bag have been opened use a garden rake to level it out.  Notice the concrete is only half way up the forms.43691847-20120723_185547

Next I will add some metal to the forms.  Normally I would use 4X4 mesh but this is an informal job so I will just use some old hardware cloth (heavy screen) I have laying around the house.  It will do and I won’t have to buy mesh for this job. You can see the screen on top of the concrete in the forms.

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The second picture is the roll of the hardware cloth.

Hardware Cloth

Hardware Cloth

 

With the hardware cloth in place, I will add the remainder of the dry concrete.  Once all of the concrete is in place, you can level it again with the rake and a leveling board. The leveling board is simply a 2X4 that will span across the entire form from side to side.  You will want to pull it across the form wiggling it side to side as you pull it.  If the concrete is slightly above the forms, it will pull the concrete level and make a nice level surface for the tanks to sit upon.  If you can’t visualize what I am saying, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXhkvV3LJ0Q) about 2:50 into the video shows the process.  This video is about wet pour so the other steps are a lot harder than the way I did it.

MAKE SURE IT IS LEVEL.  After you have it level. Water the concrete by putting a sprinkler on it for several hours.  It is important to only ‘mist’ the dry concrete at first so it does not run or puddle up.  I watered my slab for about 4 hours before I turned it off and went to bed.

 

After the concrete has gotten wet you can use a hand trowel to smooth the concrete but it really is not necessary unless you require a very smooth surface.  The finish surface of this type of slab will have some exposed rocks but I’m sure the fish will not mind so neither do I.

This is a picture of the misting of the concrete.  I chose to mist the concrete between the first layer and the second but it is not necessary.

Watering the concrete

Watering the concrete

 

Now that this slab is being misted and I’m tired, I will call it a day and pour the next slab tomorrow if the weather cooperates.

 

 

The next morning, the slab was hard enough to walk on.  I wet it several times in the next few days.  A light wetting for several days is needed to cure the slab.

If you have any questions or comments, let me hear from you.

AquaBiotic: Water is Life !!!

AquaBiotic: Water is Life !!!

Twitter: @AquaBiotic

This blog will be a journal of my project to create an aquaponic garden on my property.

AquaBiotic:
What is this and why did I name it that instead of aquaponics?

Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (growing fish or water creatures), and hydroponics (growing plants in water).  This is an appropriate name for the process.  However, I like to be a little different from the crowd so I started looking for some thing a little different and came up with the name AquaBiotic.

I like to think about the name as meaning several things:

Aqua meaning water.
Biotic meaning living things.
When combined we have Water of Life or Living Water.

I kind of like that because the water is alive with nutients and living creatures that feed the plants that grow in it.  The plants ‘pay-back’ the water by adding nutrients and removing harmful things from the water.  So the fish, plants and water all work together to make a system of growing living water.

The idea of creating an aquaponics garden has come and gone many times in the last few years.  It was not until I became very concerned about food and the condition of the available food supply that I decided to take it more seriously and try to actually grow my own food.

I’ve had small gardens in the past but they always ended up requiring more work than I had time. The garden would end up suffering and end up as a weed patch in the yard.  I know that is just an excuse but the gardens would seldom last more than one season.

I’m getting near retirement age and I think it is time to look to creating something that will help prolong and improve my later years.  I know that nutrition is a very important consideration at all ages but with new aches and pains everyday it seems much more important now.  As a result of that I have become an avid homemade juicer.  I make a delicious vegetable juice that I drink at least once a day.

Juicing is not only very healthy, it is very expensive.  The price of organically grown or naturally grown fruit and vegetables is getting harder to find and more expensive every day.  It seems as if most of the offerings in the grocery are either of poor quaility or loaded with artificial insecticides and/or additives.  I know growing my own produce will require some work but I’m willing to do that for better food quaility.  Also, maintaining a garden will allow me to be active doing something I can enjoy and see the results of my labor.

So the journey begins:
I will be posting pictures and videos of the entire process from start to finish during the creation process.  I know I have a lot to learn about aquaponics but I love challenges.  I’m sure I will make lots of mistakes and hopefully I will not hide too many of them from the blog by admitting my errors that others going down the same path can benefit from my inexperience.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please post them so we can all enjoy the journey.