Backyard Aquaponics

Pond Sucker's build a.k.a. Oh yes, there will be fish!
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Author:  Pond_Sucker [ Feb 23rd, '21, 07:04 ]
Post subject:  Re: Pond Sucker's build a.k.a. Oh yes, there will be fish!

Quick disclaimer. I am not nor ever was here to teach. Please don’t try to use anything in this post as a guide. My own words and choices are flawed, but the responses from other members are gold and might hold value for people trying to learn.

Holy nitrite Batman! It's insane how fast time passes. This is a like a class reunion for me. It’s been 5 years since my last post.


We bought a house and I need to redesign everything from scratch. It’s on a spring fed lake so I hope there might be other ways to utilize that clean water somehow pertaining to AP. It also has a spring fed well independent of the rest of the house. I also need to ask about child proofing. And I need a solution to changing my grow bed height to sump since I’m moving and I need to rebuild all of it. I’m going to make a separate post for all that stuff.

This is just closure and feedback about my original build before I start my second build

Starting with the things that went wrong.

#1… I will never again put a sump completely underground.

It works and it does make things more aesthetically cleaner, but it's prone to several big problems that I could’ve avoided. Installing it in the first place was bad enough and my wife still has a scar to prove it. Where it went terrible was with surface rain water. It was the main source of PH problems and the timing made it easy to prove. In Florida we get heavy rain in the summers so we have some days where our yard has 6 inches of water. It was a battle that started with dry wall on the outside of the IBC that gave me a 2-3 inch gap between dirt and my IBC but that still fills up pretty quickly in a heavy rain. I slowed it with a really long overflow pipe but eventually that gets saturated too. It still is a pain to keep both filters and even the sump tank as clean as possible. This hurts my bottom side. Depending on where you live it might be a bad idea. That said I’m still going to do it again but I’m going to let it hang 12” above ground level. I’ll just plant something around it to hide the sump.

Plant choices. We eat Fish Poo Pineapple Upside-Down Cake every year, but we spend hours pulling roots when if we try to clear out that space or luckily with pineapple move them to dirt. You can pretty much murder a pineapple and throw it into a ditch and it still makes a comeback. The root systems get crowded depending on what’s growing. My media guards clog up with roots that needed to be pruned. Mine are pretty wide too, 4’ and it's still hard to pull or cut them out. I needed a ton of holes and slits to compensate for root blockage. Cleaning the IBC media bed at least on the very edges where the roots like to bulk up seemed to help. The deep water culture is even worse when I remove one plant I wreck the roots of everything next to it. We do a lot of homework on root systems now days.

I should’ve cleaned the IBC containers better from the start. While cleaning roots I noticed an oily substance building up in two of the grow beds. I completely emptied the bed and pressure washed it which balanced the PH better. It was the cause of a lot of PH issues and could’ve been avoided.

I killed too many fish. I had several PH related die offs and a lost a ton of small fish into the filters. When I rebuild, I’m only tossing a few fish in at a time with low expectations. Tilapia grow fast. I won’t put all my fish in one basket! The opposite seems true with water cycling I wasted almost 6 months just cycling water. I feel like it should be just one fish at a time and watch ph from the start. At least that is how I handled with my die offs. 2-3 fish at a time and watch PH closely.

The ‘nasties’ from the roof of my house have also been a source of PH issues. I made extra rain gutters that helped a little. But again, with Florida’s rain storms it just comes off the roof in waves when it gets bad enough. I feel like there is a fine balance between sun for the plants, shade for fish and what ever roof top you need. It should not be a house with roofing shingles.

The media stays wet pretty much all the time. So anything with a timer, like the indexing valve, needs to be set hours apart. Draining quickly seems to be more important that flooding often. The roots look healthier.

I’m now the proud owner of a power generator after hurricane outages. Side note. always empty the freezer and fridge before evacuating. I also have a new refrigerator because the smell never went away. A 14 day power failure killed 30 fish.

Finally, I should’ve built a proper walk way sooner. It was a dirt mess for almost 2-3 years. We eventually used pavers but I hope to build a small deck next time.

I’m still not sure if PH ever really balances or if its just my system. It’s ever changing.

If I could go back and do it all again I would not build next to a roof and I would not bury a sump tank underground.

And what went right…

Leaks seam to magically disappear once everything settles in. The only thing I’ve added are a few overflow pipes. Otherwise, the plumbing has held up without any adjustments since the original build. Huge credit to the pros who guided me. I still don’t know how I pulled that off. THANK YOU GUYS!!!

The mechanics have worked almost perfectly. I have replaced 5 pumps, a dozen impellers and 2 indexing valves over almost 6 years now. I’m probably forgetting something else. 99% of my issues have been maintaining PH.

The indexing valve has done its job better than I expected. Yes, it’s an extra pump to maintain in the system but it I don’t see any other flaws to it.

Plants have always survived fish kills even with ph issues.

Overflow valves have helped me a few times. The sump more often than the fish tank.

Most importantly though. We’ve had tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, lettuce, peppers, green beans, pineapple, basil and a few flowers. They probably cost us a fortune but the entertainment value has been a pretty big deal for us, our guests and even the guests of our guests. People think I’m a lot smarter than I really am thanks to you guys!

I'm starting a new thread and doing this all over again from our new home. :cheers:

Again please don’t try to use anything in this post as a guide. My own words and choices are flawed, but the responses from other members are gold and might hold value for people trying to learn.


Author:  Pond_Sucker [ Feb 23rd, '21, 15:28 ]
Post subject:  Re: Pond Sucker's build a.k.a. Oh yes, there will be fish!

oh ya... and I ate about 10-15 tilapia and didn't die.

Author:  boss [ Apr 11th, '21, 03:49 ]
Post subject:  Re: Pond Sucker's build a.k.a. Oh yes, there will be fish!

Awesome as always. Very well covered and described. I haven't had to take down our system, but it seems like a great plan and advice. Great job on the new home and AP setup, I can totally relate. If people are interested: The slightest drip from galvanized roofing into the AP will sicken trout terribly. Unfortunately I found this out the hard way.
Glad to see you back

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