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 Post subject: Sam's Acuaponía
PostPosted: Feb 14th, '16, 14:54 
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Hi Forum! :hello2:

Well, I've been hanging out on this forum studying Aquaponics for a couple of months now. I think I've got a good enough handle on things to dive in and start building my first system. So with this thread I start in earnest describing my plans, asking design questions, and seeking general advice from others who have been there, done that. I stumbled on to the idea of aquaponics accidentally a few months ago while I was researching something else -- I think it might have been growing potatoes in a barrel or maybe it was just an interesting news story about combining fish and gardening. I really don't remember. Now I'm already making plans for my next 3 progressively larger and larger aquaponics systems and I haven't even killed my first fish yet! :wink:

I live between 9º-10º north of the equator in Costa Rica in a microclimate nestled between 2 volcanos at 600m where we've got a year round temperature range between 17ºC - 30ºC (63ºF - 86ºF) and it rains about 4 meters (13 ft) per year. Growing things in the rich volcanic loam that fills this fertile valley is too easy. However being a hard-headed technologist and troubleshooter who likes to garden, this seems right up my alley.

Anyway, for Jardín Acuaponía #1:

I've got a small farm out back where someday I might build a giant greenhouse for aquaponics that could rival the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, but for right now, for starters, I've got a nice little spot in the corner of our backyard, that is about 1m x 2m and I think a small media-based growbed that size with a fish tank underneath would be about perfect for supplying our household a neverending supply of culantro and hot peppers. An occasional fish would be cool too. If I lived near Jandakot I'd buy a Courtyard System and already be cookin' with gas. I don't, and I don't have many readily available non-basic materials to build with around here. It is 5 hours or so up and down mountain passes to get to the nearest thing similar to a big-box hardware store like Bunnings Warehouse or Home Depot, so I'll be mostly building with things I can make myself (welding or concrete/block or wood) or things one might find in 3rd world rural areas / low-tech farm and ranch land. I have located IBC's about 3-4 hours away down by the coast, and if I need to I'll pick up some of those to get started, but otherwise I've got 2 options for fish tank right now:

1. 885L, 1.5m diameter x 50cm high plastic plastic cattle watering trough
2. 1100L, 1.2m diameter x 1.35m high plastic sealed w/lid potable water tank

I think if I cut off the conical top of the 1100L potable water tank, I'll be left with about a 1000L round tank almost 1 meter tall. It will require a smaller footprint and hold more water and that is what I'm planning to go with as of right now:

Image

Alongside that 1000L fish tank I think I can squeeze in 2 x 200L blue barrels for a sump tank to make a CHIFT PIST system with an almost 1m x 2m x 300mm growbed above. I'll do SLO drain from FT to ST and pump from ST to growbed which drains via bell siphon back into FT.

I haven't found any suitable liner material for the growbed in less than 100m rolls, so I'm planning to build a 3' x 7' x 1' (915mm x 2135mm x 305mm) growbed out of two 4' x 8' sheets of plywood and fiberglass it in. I've read about several cases of wooden growbeds buckling under the load, so naturally I'm concerned about that and I'll try to build it extra strong, maybe even with steel rod (rebar) reinforcement.

For media, I've vinegar tested 3 types of gravel I've got available and I plan to go with a pretty inert 20mm gravel that some would refer to as "blue metal gravel" that looks like this:

Image

So, I'll have a 595L media-based growbed, 1000L FT, and 400L of ST that I expect to look like this:

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I'm kind of limited on placement and will have to put it about 1m away from an outdoor kitchen (in red behind the growbed) and up against a storage building. If I think the heat from the outdoor kitchen will be a problem I'll shield the garden with sheets of concrete board when cooking outdoors. I'll have a bit of shading in the mornings but generally pretty decent sun for 7-8 hours of the day.

I have located 40mm (1.5") PVC bulkhead adapters so I'm planning to use 40mm PVC piping throughout the system.

I have yet to find a suitable pump, but I'm looking for a 2000LPH+ submersible fountain pump.

I'm planning on inviting Tilapia to be my first guests in the big blue tank. I think the temps should suit them fine.

I have yet to find a freshwater test kit for checking pH, Ammonia, Nitrites, and Nitrates, but I've got a little bit of construction time before I'll be ready for fish, so I'm still looking. I suppose I'd still give it a go even if I can't find anything suitable, even though flying blind is a bit risky.

So that's my general idea.

If anyone has any pointers about building a fiberglassed plywood growbed and what size of angle iron or tubing to use for building a stand to support 600+ kilos of gravel and water, I'd love to hear them. I'm also not terribly thrilled about my 2 x 200L "blue barrel" sump tank idea. I may be able to squeeze a single 450L potable water tank in their place and not have to deal with a double-sump.

Thanks to everyone past, present and in the future for all the good advice and ideas!
If all goes well, Jardín Acuaponía #3 might look like this: :headbang:

Image

BTW, I have already started hosting the Wednesday evening beer night for the Costa Rica Aquaponics Society at my place, so if any of you are in the neighborhood, please stop by and the beer and Chicharrónes are on me! :lol:

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Sam

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 Post subject: Re: Sam's Acuaponía
PostPosted: Feb 14th, '16, 15:13 
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With that much enthusiasm it cannot fail to be a success,this is just a thought i reckon we have similar climates,a DWC system could give you everything you need plus be better suited to the temps..... :think:

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 Post subject: Re: Sam's Acuaponía
PostPosted: Feb 15th, '16, 04:43 
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Thanks, Andy!

I followed your transition from media-based beds to DWC with great interest and I've noticed that almost all large-scale operations are DWC as well. I'm sure I will be headed that way, so I see this media-based bed sort of as baby steps. It is the bio-filter part of things that seems so much easier to grasp in a media-based bed. As I recall your transition to DWC (or away from media-based beds) started with the tubes and then the need to filter for those with a swirl filter plus shade-cloth filter to keep the roots clean. Then the tubes got swapped for some DWC and improvements in the filtering (shade-cloth for bio-balls, or maybe in addition to?) Then a Mineralization Tank was added and I think you still had media-based beds at the time. To help prevent DWC root rot (?) you then added an air pump, or maybe that was mainly for the fish? Sorry, I really need to go back and reread some of the epic build threads like yours. At some point you experimented with air-lifts which seem like such a good idea, I'm not sure why we don't see more of that. You added (or swapped out the swirl filter for) a Radial Flow Filter which it seems the consensus says is a bit better. A bird-net filter came into play at some point, I think it replaced the shade-cloth, but was a pain to clean. Then after a rebuild, a Baki Shower trickle filter came in, media beds went out. At some point the MT went out as well, but then came back??? With a serious rebuild mid-to-late last year, the fantastic looking block DWC tanks came into being and the bird-net filter got swapped out for an up-flow bottle cap filter... Is that pretty much where your current success stems from now?

I hope I got your journey to DWC and sequence of improvements mostly right. It has been very inspirational following along -- thank you so much for sharing, not only all the pretty pics, but your decision process and the failures as well as the successes.

Do you think you could have arrived at the point you are now without all the growing pains, without paying the tuition to the school of hard knocks, as you figured out what worked and what didn't? Obviously there is learning from the experiences of others, but as has been pointed out so often on this world-wide forum, situations are different, and what works in one place might not work in another, etc.

So one of the big differences I see between media-based growbed systems and DWC systems is the filtration and where the bulk of the nitrogen cycle takes place. The filtration in a media-based growbed system is mainly the media-based growbed and that is where the bulk of the Ammonia/Nitrite/Nitrate conversion happens. So in a DWC system, is that almost entirely done with more extensive mechanical and bio-filtering? Do you think a significant part of that happens with bacteria on roots and raft bottoms? That is part of what I don't fully grasp yet about DWC.

There is still so much to learn... I think my journey into the world of Aquaponics will be one of the most fun things I've done since learning how to dance the Bachata... :twisted:



Ah... la Bachata... mmmmm..... uh, now, what were we talking about??? ;-)

Yeah... we don't have bowling alleys nor many movie theaters in Costa Rica, but we do have lots of dances and I'm sure it's a sin how wicked they can be. :dance:

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 Post subject: Re: Sam's Acuaponía
PostPosted: Feb 29th, '16, 22:34 
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Holy cow Sam, dive right in. Hahaha! Honestly with the kind of growing climate and the rich volcanic soils you've got there it sounds like this adventure into aquaponics will be for entertainment purposes mostly. :notworthy: That and the remoteness makes it all the more amazing of a project. Four meters of rain a year!?!? Most of us are topping up or APs while you will need to remove rainwater :think: Four hours from a hardware store?
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I will never again complain about being and hour and a half away from the city. I'm certain I speak for everyone when I say I can not wait to see your progress and descriptions as you build this Mayan masterpiece in the jungle.
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 Post subject: Re: Sam's Acuaponía
PostPosted: Feb 29th, '16, 23:51 
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Do you think you could have arrived at the point you are now without all the growing pains, without paying the tuition to the school of hard knocks, as you figured out what worked and what didn't? Obviously there is learning from the experiences of others, but as has been pointed out so often on this world-wide forum, situations are different, and what works in one place might not work in another, etc.

So one of the big differences I see between media-based growbed systems and DWC systems is the filtration and where the bulk of the nitrogen cycle takes place. The filtration in a media-based growbed system is mainly the media-based growbed and that is where the bulk of the Ammonia/Nitrite/Nitrate conversion happens. So in a DWC system, is that almost entirely done with more extensive mechanical and bio-filtering? Do you think a significant part of that happens with bacteria on roots and raft bottoms? That is part of what I don't fully grasp yet about DWC.


No I don't think I would,I am just one of those that has to learn the hard way,if it don't work redo it until it does,it's taken three three years to get here one step forward two back at times but it does seem to be clicking into place,I reckon another year should consolidate what I have learnt to date and give me a reasonable understanding on the basics of AP.
Filtration within a DWC system primarily occurs within the trough,most surfaces are coated with a layer of bacteria and also the entire water colum throughout the trough as well,BUT this is dependent on the required amount of air being added to the troughs,the counter flows created by this washes every surface with oxygen rich water and propagates bacteria,free moving in the water colum.UVI quoted a figure of one square metre of grow area being able to utilise 180 grams of feed.
With suitable solids removal I wouldn't add any further Bio filtration to a system.

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 Post subject: Re: Sam's Acuaponía
PostPosted: Mar 1st, '16, 21:57 
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Dasboot wrote:
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No I don't think I would,I am just one of those that has to learn the hard way...
It's all a
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:laughing3:
But then again I'm a shoot from the hip kind of guy.

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 Post subject: Re: Sam's Acuaponía
PostPosted: Mar 2nd, '16, 10:58 
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Brian,

It's not entirely terrible down here. We actually do have UPS delivery... Just not the high-falutin' drone trucks like you guys in the developed world have... The closest FedEx delivers to me is the Central Valley about 5 hours away. :-(

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But pretty much no Amazon shipping to Costa Rica. So that still locks us out of things that can't be found locally. We do have nearby little hardware stores, but your local 7-11 store probably has a better selection of hardware than what these near me have. I can buy cement and block and basic PVC pipes, plus we have all sorts of beautiful old forest hardwoods. When I had a couple of bars down here, all of my tables were just like this one:

Image

Yeah, I can hardly wait either. I am pretty close to picking up some water tanks to get this ball rolling. I think later this month I've got to make a run into the big city and if I haven't already gotten a pair of 1000L+ water tanks for this project, surely I can pick up at least one on this trip. I've got a few more leads to check out for water testing kits. But at this point, I'm about to go forward without one and may need to wait for some mule I know to come visit. The expat community relies a lot on "mules" down here -- friends or family who come to visit and can bring hard-to-get items with them in their suitcases...

boss wrote:
with the kind of growing climate and the rich volcanic soils you've got

That is a mixed blessing. One of the results is a bunch of lazy farmers that don't have to try too hard. Not all of course, but it can be too easy to survive as a lackadaisical farmer. Costa Rica tops the list by far of kilos of pesticide per hectare and while I think these numbers can be a bit misleading, some of the big agribusiness plantations (mainly pineapple and bananas) can leave behind a "green desert" when they move on -- e.g. where the only thing left living in huge swaths of land are pineapples. Use of pesticides is profitable and widespread.

Agriculture > Pesticide use: Countries Compared

The rich environment is a literal Dagobah teaming with life. Some of the fiercest farm foes are actually, the acknowledged world's 1st farmers... ¡Zompopos! The Leafcutter Ants. Biologists estimate that these little fellas clear about 15% of the vegetation in their area. One nearby colony can strip a mature mango tree of ALL its leaves overnight. They don't eat the leaves. They take the leaves to use them as nutrients for their underground fungal farms. The ants cut the leaves, haul them underground, where their planted fungus feeds on the leaves, and the ants eat the fungus. Pretty symbiotic.



So, I expect to be improving our food quality and variety and once I get the hang of it and start expanding, I expect I can also compete on the local market by providing the best quality produce, getting to market early for various crops, and continuing to bring produce to the market long after the local farmers have moved on to other crops as they follow seasonal changes. The dry season (Dec - May) can really dictate what fresh produce is available. Being a bit of a high-tech hobby is icing on the cake.

Thanks for your kind words and the inspiration!

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 Post subject: Re: Sam's Acuaponía
PostPosted: Mar 4th, '16, 00:42 
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I was reading this and thinking you did not really need a greenhouse because of the wonderful temperature range, but the bugs might be a problem. A good greenhouse could keep out the bugs and really get good produce bug free to market. You have written a good description of what you want to do. Sounds like an amazing place to be and farm.

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PostPosted: Mar 4th, '16, 03:09 
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donone wrote:
A good greenhouse could keep out the bugs and really get good produce bug free to market.
Yes, that is definitely a good reason for a sealed up greenhouse, but the vast majority of greenhouses down here in Costa Rica are not for the bugs. But rather to protect the plants from the rain, and for some types of plants, to cut down a little on the sun. That 4 meters of annual rainfall I mentioned earlier, comes pretty much all of it during the rainy season (June - November.) It is never like monsoons you hear about, but we just have lots of little showers -- maybe an early morning shower before sunrise, another mid-afternoon, and perhaps one in the evening. None of them usually last more than an 1-2 hours and we rarely have hard rain like might be found in Florida. Even if it is only 75% of the rain that comes during the rainy season, that could be 1/2 meter/month of rain (about 20"/month.) During the dry season we might go a week or two without rain and it might be very light rain at that. I live on the edge of a valley between two volcanos on the continental divide and benefit from an almost perpetual green season, due mostly to weather from the Caríbe blowing around the volcanos and through our valley before dumping out over the Pacific. Costa Rica is a mountainous tiny country (about the population of the Dallas/Ft. Worth metropolitan area) with 19,730 mi² of land, which is about 13.5 times smaller than Texas and a little more than 1/3 the size of Arkansas. There are gazillions of microclimates like mine. I can go 5 km down the road to a buddy's farm which is always brown during the dry season when mine stays green... Anyway, the rain will knock off the blooms of things like tomatoes, green peppers, and many other crops, But even lettuce might be grown under cover for protection from the rain:

Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) in Costa Rica

Image

Banana plantations protect their product from insects (and probably sun) by bagging it early...

EARTH University (CR): Sustainable Farming in Action

Image

I grow about 5 or 6 varieties of bananas or plantains in the dirt. They are so easy... We eat fried ripe plantain pretty much every day. Just thinking about them make my mouth water!

Receta de la Semana: Deliciosos Plátanos Machos Fritos

Image

All about bananas

It is a real shame that folks in the US pretty much skip over the black plantains they see in the produce aisle that look like rotten bananas. They are super delicious! That also goes for so many varieties of bananas that you'll never see in North America or Europe because they don't ship well. The varieties that make it to US or UK market do so because they were designed to ship well and look pretty on the shelf 2 weeks after they are picked green and chemically matured. The big producers know to within a 4 hour window about what time the banana stalk they cut today will be on the grocery shelf a continent away next week. They are picked green, when they get to their destination port they are sprayed with ethylene gas to ripen them so that at just the right time they will appear beautiful and unbruised on the shelf.

The most tasty varieties don't ship well or they are ugly and so they're only known locally where they are produced.

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PostPosted: Mar 4th, '16, 07:33 
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I spent almost 8 years on St Croix. USVI. Loved it there and wish I could go back ever time it gets cold here. We loved the fruit and flowers there. When I first went there I had a 3rd floor apartment and it had flowers outside the viranda. when my wife came down she saw the flowers and said they seem familiar and she had a fit when she realized that it was a shefalera (sp) because she had one that was about 10 years old that was only about 36" tall and no flowers. Those flowers were dinner plate sized and really smelled great. We also had giant sour sop and huge mangos. I miss them and the plantains too. NOW I am hungry again.

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PostPosted: Mar 4th, '16, 19:39 
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Don, holy cow 8 years in STX? LOL! I'd lose my mind in STX after a few days, or in ANY of the Lesser Antilles, (even as much as I love visiting them)!

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PostPosted: Mar 4th, '16, 22:10 
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mwdesign, of all the islands I visited I liked Puerto Rico best. I've been in New Mexico for 40+ years and the people there have the same pleasing demeanor and I could speak Spanish when I needed to.
Sam! Damn you!
Image
Up here at 7500 feet in northeastern New Mexico growing anything is a huge chore, and here you go frying bananas for breakfast, damn you! I bought 7000 eggplant seeds off Amazon Prime for like $6.00 with free two day shipping! Now the intended sting is totally fizzled! :laughing3: No seriously, dammit man! I need a bigger greenhouse or a second home down there.
I keep thinking I'll plant our irrigated pasture in eggplant, IF I can make them grow in our dirt garden this Summer. That's a big if. Here and probably many places due to climate change gardening and farming is even tougher now than is was ten years ago.
I don't need to tell you
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It is worse up here.
Figure out how to protect from drought, and next season it floods, etc etc

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PostPosted: Mar 4th, '16, 22:52 
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Can't say I've had fried ripe plantains for Breakfast before (can't say I've had ANYTHING fried in a long time), but my mom used to make "Canoas". See pic here: http://sazonboricua.com/wp-content/uplo ... 1-copy.jpg

But then again, my mom is Cuban. So I get all the goodies they cook as well! Congrí, Tasajo, you name it! :)

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boss wrote:
I don't need to tell you [the weather] It is worse up here. Figure out how to protect from drought, and next season it floods, etc etc

One of the first interesting weather phenomena I noticed after moving to Costa Rica from the USA (besides the obvious fantastic climate) was that there are not many violent weather patterns like you have further away from the Equator. The 2nd was that sometimes the Sun is a little north of directly overhead. Of course it is true with the Sun being sometimes north of directly overhead (as opposed to in the US where the Sun is ALWAYS south of directly overhead, but I think more violent weather patterns are also the result our planet's tilt-o-whirl configuration. Closer to the Equator the days are more regular -- the difference between longest day and shortest day is much shorter down here -- the planet's tilt is much less apparent. There are no wild swings between hot and cold. We change our climate by going up and down. If you like hot, live by the beach, if you like cold, live in the mountains. Further away from the Equator the tilt aids in the seasonal battle between hot and cold resulting in much more fierce storms and much more violent weather patterns.

Image

We have lots of rain and we have lots of wind. But it is much more predictable. I grew up near the Gulf of Mexico in Texas and hurricanes were a fact of life from a very young age. Costa Rica NEVER gets hit by hurricanes. Supposedly there has only been 1 touch Costa Rica in recorded history and that is one that made landfall in Nicaragua and wobbled about for a week or so overland before it crossed over to Costa Rica maybe 150 years ago. We do have volcanos that erupt and earthquakes, but both occur regularly enough that they are mostly small "letting off the pressure" sort of events rather than blow the mountain apart like Mt. St. Helens.

Of course some things I'm sure are more geared for seasonal changes like that, but down here we grow crops 365 days out of the year. Common crop rotation is dictated by things that like rain that grow well during the rainy season, and things that don't like rain (like onions), that are grown during the dry season.

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Location: Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Felix,

Thank you so much for the pointer to "Canoas". When I brought up your picture my wife and girls all gathered around to ooh and ahhh about it. I think we'll be eating "Canoas" soon. (No, not that kind MartinC! If you want to know the Spanish vulgar/slang joke for that, search for "se le moja la canoa" and translate as need be.) However my favorite dish like that from Puerto Rico is of course, Mofongo!

Image

Mofongo Recipe - Plantains and garlic! What's not to love? :dontknow:

--
Sam

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Jardín Acuaponía #1


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