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PostPosted: Apr 1st, '06, 08:07 
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This first page contains a summary of the system as at 1 January 2008 - over 18 months after my first post to this system thread. Happy reading.

Veggie Boy's (Paul's) Small System

System Component Specifications
Fish Tank: 1000 litre round fibreglass aquaculture tank – slightly sloping bottom to 80mm centre drain
Sump: 350 litre polyethylene pond – approx 40cm deep
Grow Bed: 580 litre, fibreglass construction, sitting on angle iron stand. Approx 2 square metres growing area
Grow Bed Media: 5-10mm drainage gravel
Grow Bed Cycling Method: Flood and drain
Pump: 3900 litre per hour impellor driven pond pump (Sun Sun HQB 3900)
Fish: 15 silver perch, 15 jade perch and approx 5 gold fish (at time of writing)

How the System Works
The pump is located in the sump and runs continuously, pumping water into the fish tank. The water enters the fish tank through a venturi fitting, which provides significant aeration to the fish tank. Due to the design of the tank (circular), the flow of water into the tank also causes circular movement of water in the tank. This whirlpool action moves all solids towards the centre of the tank.

80mm PVC pressure pipe is fitted into the centre drain of the fish tank and runs vertically to within about 8cm of the top of the tank – I will call this pipe the tank’s ‘standpipe’. Because the standpipe sits snugly in the drain and has no holes in it, the only way that water can exit the tank is through the top of the standpipe and then down through the centre drain. As a consequence, the level of the tank is always constant at approximately 8 cm below the top of the tank (the level of the top of the standpipe).

Because the solids quickly accumulate at the bottom of the tank in the centre (because of the whirlpool action) – it is important to have a way to draw the solids through the top of the standpipe and out of the tank. This is achieved by having a 100mm PVC pipe sit over the top of the standpipe. The bottom of this outer pipe sits on the tank floor, but it has crenulations (gaps) cut out of it at the bottom. Because the outer pipe is longer than the standpipe, the only way water can get out of the tank is by going through the crenulations and then travelling between the outer pipe and standpipe before exiting through the top of the standpipe. This is a very efficient and effective way of removing the solids. Although rather crass, I sometimes make the statement that the fish poo is out of the tank in no time from when it leaves their bums.

After leaving the tank through the standpipe, water travels by gravity to the grow bed. The top of the grow-bed is about 30cm below the level of the top of the standpipe, however this gravity feed method would be effective with a much smaller differential. My tank has a 40cm built in stand and I also placed it on besser blocks to lift it even higher – the besser block thing is overkill – particularly given that my grow bed is only centimetres from the tank.

Although the fish tank drain is 80mm, outside the tank I have reduced the pipe to 25mm pressure pipe which travels to the grow bed. I do not have a grid in the grow bed – the water simply flows out of the end of the 25mm pipe onto the top of the gravel in a single spot. I have had no issues with build up of solids in this spot. I expect this is due to the water flow pushing the solids into the gravel a bit and the flood and drain action dispersing them around the bed. Also, the worms in the grow bed help to deal with the solids. I put 5 or 10 worms into the bed when I put it into commission in about September/October 2006, but now have hundreds in there. Anywhere I dig I find worms and/or worm capsules (eggs).

A bell style autosiphon is fitted to the grow-bed to achieve a flood and drain cycle. As the pump is continuously pumping water from the sump to the fish tank, water continuously enters the grow bed at a steady pace. The water in the bed gradually rises until it is approximately 4cm from the top of the gravel. At that point the autosiphon kicks in and the bed is rapidly drained of water – the water flowing back to the sump, by gravity, through 25mm pressure pipe. The draining action as well as the splashing of water into the sump adds a lot of oxygen to the water. The draining action also ensures that air is supplied to the plant roots between flood cycles to supplement the oxygen that is available to the roots from the water during the flood cycle.

The approx. 1350 litres of water in the system (includes tank and sump) travels through the grow bed approximately once every hour.

Fish
The fish in my system are quite large. A number of the jade perch exceed plate size, weighing in at about 600 grams. I am yet to eat any of my fish, but am likely to soon. I grew these fish from fingerling to eating size in 9 months despite not feeding at optimum levels for much of this period because my system was not fully operational.

Plants
I have grown a large variety of plants. I have in my system (at the time of writing this), 2 varieties of lettuce, some Asian greens including chines cabbage, spring onion, jalapeno chillies, bell chillies, purple king beans, 3 tomato plants (a plum variety called Health Kick) that have loads of fruit on them (over 100 in total), turmeric, lemon grass, Italian parsley, coriander, a large paw paw tree (approx 2 meters high) that has a number of fruit on it, egglant and sugercane (silly I know). There are many other things I have grown successfully since starting this bed last year.

General
The whole system is currently outside, in full sun. I intend to set up a larger system in the near future and put it in a greenhouse (though I may place the fish tanks in my shed – which is next to where the greenhouse will be). The location has presented some issues, including:

- Too much sun on the plants in the middle of summer (full sun all day). The constant supply of water means that the plants survive okay, but they use a lot of their energy dealing with the excess UV.
- The fish do not like too much light – so the tank needs to be covered. The fish then become unused to movement meaning it is more difficult to observe them (observing them is one of the most enjoyable things about AP I think).
- In winter, the tank and grow bed are exposed to the cold at night.

Links to System Thread
My system thread is quite long, so I have provided links to a few different key places where you may choose to start reading.



April 2006 - The beginning

June/July 2006 - First little test system up and running

August 2006 - Feeding fingerlings by hand (while bringing them through the cold in my aquarium)

September 2006 - Big grow bed goes in (plonked test bed on top)

September 2006 - First plants go in big bed - great growth pick over the following few pages

January 2007 - Basil plant comes out, check out the root-ball

February 2007 - System overhall - new tank goes in and system changed to design it is today

April 2007 - Fish weigh in at....

May 2007 - Sunflowers are blooming - yep sunflowers :lol:

June 2007 - That paw paw is getting big :shock:

July 2007 - First harvest

July 2007 - Dinner Time (Third fish from first harvest)

November 2007 - The smoking experiment (whole Perch)

December 2007 - Let's make some smoked Jade Perch dip for new years eve :D

December 2007 - And here it is 8)


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PostPosted: Apr 3rd, '06, 18:55 
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Have been keeping my eye out for ages - trading post, ebay etc, for materials that I might be able to use in a small experimental setup. The purpose of this setup would be to satisfy myself, but more so my wife, that the expenditure for a bigger setup is warranted.

Today I bought a round black poly pond to use as my fish tank. Got it from the trading post. It is quite small, oly 125cm diameter and 45 cm deep. Therefore it holds about 500 litres. I guess I can't really fill it to the brim, so will oly be 40 or so cm deep in reality.

Not sure yet what I will use for the growbed - though for my part I reckon this is the easy part. An old bath tub would probably do the trick. The pond came with a pump that pumps to 2.1 meter head, so should have no problems using this to pump up to my growbed and then let it drain back to the fish tank.

I am wonderring what type of fish I could sustain in this rather small tank. Do you guys reckon it would be pushing it to put a few silver perch in it. Is the tank deep enough. I guess that even if I can, can problem will be sourcing such a small number, though for my experimental setup I guess I would be willing to buy a couple from an aquarium shop.

Anyway quite excited taht I may be able to start something soon and thought I would share.


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PostPosted: Apr 9th, '06, 14:40 
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Karal - am interested in the large grow beds you found at your local produce. What sort of plastic are they made out of. I went looking for containers at bunnings today but bought nothing. The reason is that I am concerned about buying a container that is not Uv stabilised and is not food grade.

I see no point growing my food organically only to fill it with toxic chemicals from the plastic breaking down.

What is everyones thoughts on the toxic issues with grow beds and tanks.

Surely it can't be wise just to buy any old plastic tub to use.


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PostPosted: Apr 10th, '06, 07:40 
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I am just about finished the moulds to produce Gro Beds from Fibre Glass - Polyester - very UV Stable - life beyond 30 years - and there has been numerous studies done on F/G workers and their exposure to prelonged use, the longest study not long ago completed, has followed 1500 workers for a 30 year period found F/g to be inert. The danger to F/g workers is the dust produced when grinding or cutting F/g. The dust so produced is inert but posed the same danger to the workers as any dust (wood dust or just dirt dust for example) when inhaled over long periods of time. So F/g will give very long, safe life for Aquaponics projects, will last much, much longer than steel or vessels lined with plastic liners, and look good too. Easy to clean when needed, and very strong.
According to my sums, the grow box I am making (2100mm x 920mm x 300mm internal) will weigh in the order of 875 Kgs when full of gravel (average weight of gravel is 1.45 tonnes per cubic mtr - varies slightly depending on gravel type), then the amount of water that will occupy the spaces between the gravel and my guess is that could be as much as 100 ltrs so total weight on the stand could be conservatively 1000 kg -
What ever you use for a grow bed needs to be consructed with care.... It would most destressing to have one collapse just when you were about to pick the tomatoes !!!!!! I want my system to be permanent , long lasting and rewarding. I will put some photos up as soon as I have finished the first one for those who are interested. Murray


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PostPosted: Apr 10th, '06, 09:11 
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Sounds good Murray - unfortunately, as always, price may be the main barrier. Let us all know when you know for sure the retail prices, and of course the discount that you will no doubt give us all to help you test and market the tanks :D


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PostPosted: Apr 10th, '06, 11:38 
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HI Veggie Boy, The prices will be better than you think, I have given up all ambition to become a millionair !!!! :cry:
I have ben pricing round gal steel water tanks and the prices vary heaps, the least expensive so far is 250.00 each plus GST in lots of 4 so we will get the f/g grow beds to be as close as possible to the cost of a round steel grow bed. The most expensive is 550.00 plus, so there is a large variation in price. Regards Murray


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PostPosted: Apr 10th, '06, 15:07 
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Let me know when you are ready Murray - I too live in Brisbane so may become your first customer / guinea pig. I am on Northside, but North Maclean is an easy drive.

What sort of stand do you invisage a purchaser building for the grow beds. Would they need even support for the whole bottom??

I would want to raise the grow beds so that the water could flow back into tank by gravity.


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PostPosted: Apr 10th, '06, 16:10 
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Veggie boy,

I have already figured out a stand welded up from 50x50x5 angle iron which will be lay flat and able to be assembled easily with just 8 bolts. The stand will hold the weight of the grow box and contents and will well support the base of the grow box. I have also made up the draining device for the grow beds fashoned along the lines shown in Joel's book. Once again, I feel Joel has pretty much worked it out, so I intend to follow his system with just a few little changes, ie, F/g grow beds and fish tank instead of corrigated iron tanks, and I am also hopeing to run the whole thing on 12 volts DC /solar panel etc. Already started on a shade house, found some suitable steel in the steel rack for the ends of the shade house, so I am keen to be eating top quality vegies by spring, wow ! :lol:
Murray


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PostPosted: Apr 22nd, '06, 20:11 
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While I wait for Murray to make the big grow-bed for my test system, I am going to start trying to build up some beneficial bacteria. I have taken one of my worm farm trays and filled it with 10mm drainage gravel (this is what I will use in my grow beds - don't have pea gravel in Qld - at least I don't know where to get it from). I will suspend this tray above my tank planted out with some strawberry runners I am preparing for planting into a garden. I will have a continuous flow going into this tray from a pond pump that I have. Te water will simply drain through the gravel back into the tank. I have no intention of getting ay fish yet. The tank will just have some duckweed in it.

The question is can I artificially replicate fish conditions to get the bacteria to start. I remember that Jole cycled his system with some seasol before getting his fish (not for as long as I intend to though) and also that Steve hypothesised that putting cloudy amonia into the system should get the bacteria feeding.

Any suggestions of the best way to go about this on the basis that I could well do this for a number of weeks if not a couple of months before putting fish in, with the hope of getting the bacteria established in advance. I have plenty of bacteria in my aquarium cannister filter, but am reulctant to use this in fear of introducing disease into the system. THe fish I currently have I have had for years. I have had no deaths for years, but did always have problems when I had angels. They would live Okay until a good size (I even used to bread them) but would all seem to die within a couple of years of the same bloating disease. The aquarium people suggested at one stage they might have had the fish version of TB. Eventhough I have had no angels, or any deaths for probably 3 years, I am still concerned of the prosepect that my remaining fish, just clown loaches and bristlenose catfish, or the water may carry some sort of disease. Am I being silly here, should I just use my bacteria. After all, when I buy my fingerlings, who knows what I'm going to bring into the system, let alone if I chose to initialise it with feeder gold fish like Joel did for his big system.

Thoughts on all of this are appreciated.


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PostPosted: Apr 22nd, '06, 22:00 
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VB,

My thoughts on your questions;

I have found with my aquariums that diseases (fungal and bacterial) manifest themselves when water quality drops and the fish are stressed or have lowwered immune systems. Fungal and bacterial "germs" are ALWAYS present, it just that the fish are able to fight them off. Much like people, when they are run down they get sick. Parasites are a little different, for example white spot (Ich). Once your tank is cleared of white spot it will stay clear until re-introduced from a new fish, as they can not survive long outside a host. I have had MUCH experience with this dreaded parasite, the only time i have been sucessful in riding myself of them without a fish death is when i used natural remedies (salt and temperature shifts) instead of the usual chems.

I'd use your filter bacteria with out too much worry :)

I think Joel used seasol to SUPPLEMENT plants with nutes, not to actually cycle the system.

DO NOT use cloudy ammonia, only the CLEAR ammonia.

What i would do is this;
:arrow: set your tank up as you described.
:arrow: Grab a hand full of media from your aquarium filter and/or a good squeeze of muck from the sponge and place/squeeze it over the gravel about 1 inch down from the top layer
:arrow: add clear ammonia to say 4PPM.
:arrow: Check ammonia after a few days and re-dose to 4PPM

You will get to the stage where the ammonia is being coverted to near zero each day. Your first set of bacteria are thriving.
continue on dosing for another two weeks to give the nitrite bacteria a chance to establish (they will only start after the ammonia converting bacteria are well established)

This proceedure will nessesitate using an ammonia test kit, i don't see any way around this, other wise you're only guessing and you will either severly over or under dose!

keeping the temp in the mid to high 20's and the PH around 7.0 will speed the process up greatly.

If any one is concerned about high nitrite levels research has shown that the Cl- ion seems to negate the nitrite poisoning in fish. inface commercial aquaculture routinely adds sodium chloride (salt) to their ponds to safeguard against nitrite poisoning in fish. i'll get the reccomended concentrations and post them later.

Then again VB i have found silver perch to be VERY tolerant of bad conditions including ammonia levels that would kill many other fish.
If you tank is 1000Lt or more and you don't plan to put more than say 50 fingerlings then you could just let the system cycle naturally when you add the fish.

I've added a few links to fishless cycling
http://badmanstropicalfish.com/articles/article14.html
http://malawicichlids.com/mw01017.htm


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PostPosted: Apr 23rd, '06, 09:54 
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Thanks Steve. A couple of follow-up questions:

- where do you get clear ammonia
- I have already put some clody ammonia in my tank thinking it would provide nutrient to the duckweed. Have also started cycling through the gravel. Do I need to empty the tank again and flush out the gravel because of the cloudy ammonia, or will any bad stuff in it dissipate in time.
- I presume you get amonia test kits from acquarium shops.

BTW - my test setup is only 350-400 litre poly pond. Once I have a proper sized grow bed - will probably put about 15 silver perch in it.

I have also put some seasol in the system to supplement the plants I am going to chuck in the gravel. I hope the thing with the cloudy amonia will not require me to start again : - (


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PostPosted: Apr 23rd, '06, 11:53 
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VB,

to be completely honest i don't know!

Cloudy ammonia has detergents in it. clear ammonia USUALLY doesn't.

I have not actually used fishless cycling, i learned about it after i had set up my aquarium years ago.

When ever i set up a new aquarium i use part of my filter media from an existing aquarium.

Using ammonium chloride or ammonium hydroxide as the links state is probably the easiest source of ammonia, i tried 3 supermarkets in vain to find clear ammonia!

A curious point with the bacteria(s) is that their population only grows enough to match the ammonia output of the tank. which means that with fishless cycling even when you have grown your bacteria(s) and they are "converting all the ammonia within 24hrs you will still need to add ammonia every day to feed them UNTIL you add the fish (natural source !

so when every i add a few fish to my aquarium i expect the ammonia to rise from zero for a few weeks. (not very high though)

Yes, you can get ammonia test kits from aquarium shops.

Joel is right in the sense that the best "gauge" of the operating parameters is your eyes and nose, but i feel that comes only with experience. i have not used my ammonia or nitrite test kits in about a year with my aquarium. One the system is set up and stable and you keep a stable PH (this is all i ever had to dose for) then you will find that all you will every get is zero readings for ammonia and nitrites

BUT i do belive they are a great tool for a newbie.

I still check PH in my aquarium every couple of months. i've seen a seemingly clean sweet smelling aquarium with VERY unhappy fish (at a friends house) when the PH was tested it was 6.1 which also meant that the bacteria would have gone on strike, so i didn't even need to measure the ammonia. Did a 50% water change and adjusted the PH and fish were instantly happy again :)

VB, at the very least i'd dump all your water and start with fresh water even if you leave your gravel intact. Then do another complete water change before you put your perch in.
I'd like to hear others opinions on this.

How much cloudny ammonia did you put into the 400L? if it was like the full bottle then change the water, if it was a couple of cap fulls....... you might be safe. Its just the detergents that worry me, like squeesing morning fresh into your tank :shock:

Seriously though 15 perch fingerlings in a 400 litre pond...... NO PROBLEMS in my opinion.

I'd even add them 3 to 4 weeks before you get your final grow bed, as the temporary gravel bed you are using will be more than enough media for the bacteria to colonise onto and the plants only removed the final product which is nitrate which is only released in high levels once both the bacterias have cycled (see the graph from one of those links.

TO summerise;
if u are going to cycle with ammonia buy an ammonia test kit
if you are going to cycle with perch just keep PH around the 7 to 7.5 mark and throw in a good hand full of rock salt (table salt without the iodine or anti-caking agents) to guard against any nitrite poisoning
:arrow: I'd go with the second option, i put 44 silver perch in a 1000L tank no cycling, but with a couple of handfulls of salt and 24/7 air via an air stone and they all survived.

:!: EDIT :!:

Just got the exact figures for adding salt to guard against nitrite poisoning
I worked it out to about 30grams per 10 Litres. Ouch that works out to 1.2Kg for your 400Lt pond. from memory i put in about 500g for my 1000 Lt tank. Some is better than none in this case.

here is the link
http://www.fishdoc.co.uk/water/nitrite.htm
remember it is a UK website so they are using UK gallon (4.5L)


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PostPosted: Apr 23rd, '06, 19:55 
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Great information. Thanks Steve. I only put a couple of caps full of cloudy ammonia in the tank. All the same will do a water replacement before adding fish - but keep cycling in the meantime with the water I have in there.

Have you bought ammonium chloride or ammonium hydroxide. If so - from waht type of store and under what name.

I think I will end up just getting the fish, but will probably wait until I get my big grow bed. I am now running the temp bed continuous flow and have some doubts as to whether the pump I am using will keep the grave wet enough to support the plant life and bacteria properly. Will monitor over the next week.

Thanks again.


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PostPosted: Apr 23rd, '06, 23:46 
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VB,

Don't know where to source them.

Let us know if you find out.

Steve


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PostPosted: Apr 24th, '06, 08:25 
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Hey VB,

I thing Steve is on the right track there. If your getting hold of 15 fingerlings for 400L, I'd go for it now.. They don't really need anything in the way of filtration at the moment, assuming that they are only reasonably small. This then means that your not having to stuff around with the ammonia, and the bacteria will build up naturally over time with the fish as they grow.


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