First aquaponics tank is online!

IBC tank of fishI now have my first aquaponics tank online.  The grow bed is not establish yet (It’s waiting until next weekend, I’ll have a 5 day weekend and can spend the time to get it ready).

Although I’ve read a lot about setting up IBC tanks, this is the first tank I’ve put online for myself.  Much of what I did was improvised as I did it.

First, I removed the two top square tubing braces from the square tubing frame using a Torx driver.  I then removed the plastic tank completely.  I decided I wanted a growbed that is 14 inches deep, this will give me room for 12 inches of grow media, and some overflow area if things go a bit wrong.  So I measured down from the top of the tank 14 inches and marked the side.  I placed the tank on my patio and used a metal yardstick to mark the height of my mark, and then used the yardstick to make several marks at the same height all the way around.  I then “connected the dots” with a sharpie, and used a grinder with a grinder saw blade to cut the plastic along that line.  Wear a mask and an apron!  The plastic dust will cover you!

Since the top is uneven the distance from my cut line to the top was about 14″ at the deepest, and about 12.5″ at the shallowist.  

I then changed to a metal grinding wheel, and cut through the vertical ribs on the frame.  This left me with a lower frame that I put the larger part of the tank into.  I then turned the remainder of the upper frame 90 degrees and found that it fit the lower frame at 4 points.  I drilled through the frame at those points and used bolts to bolt the two frames back together.  I used the metal grinder to remove the extra vertical ribs.

I turned the top part of the tank upside down to be my new grow bed.  I removed the cap and put it aside for later modification.

I then removed another two top square tubing braces from a second IBC.  I took all four braces and bolted them across the top frame so
 that the grow bed will sit on them.   This worked out very well!  I am concerned about how much weight they will support – I’e already filled the grow bed with water with no problems in support… that’s about 450 pounds of water.  Rock is heavier than water, so there may be an issue.  I’ll put two 4x4s between the units when I fill the growbed with grow media to cushion any sudden failure.

reducer bushing

The cap has a center screw in plug.  I removed that plug and drilled a hole in it sufficient to install a 1 inch pipe coupling.  I installed that using various glues, but unfortunately the plug doesn’t respond as well to PVC or ABS glue as do the couplers.  I finally just cranked the couplers together very tight, and then filled the cap spaces with silicone. 
I tried to make Affnan’s bell siphon, but the local hardware stores don’t sell the funnel style of PVC pipe reducer.  Instead they sell a reducer bushing that looks like this one.  This bushing connects to a 1″ pipe on the back, and slides into a 2 inch coupler on the front.  A 2″ pipe is the same diameter as this bushing.

So I used my vertical belt sander to remove the hex bolt from the bushing, and then used PVC primer and glue to glue the edge of a 2″ pipe directly to the edge of the bushing, and then put a 1″ pipe on the other side, to create the Backyard Harvest variation on Affnan’s Bell Siphon that you see here:

Back Yard Harvest Variation

I then used 3″ black PVC pipe to create the outer shell of the siphon.  You can see that here – you can also see that I haven’t created inlet ports along the bottom yet.  I did so on my first iteration, and got a working siphon out of it, but the two were too high for my grow bed, so I cut them shorter.  After I finish posting this, I’ll go back outside and create inlets for incoming water on the outer shell.

The outer assembly and strainer are not physically attached to the grow bed, they work fine just sitting in place.  

I didn’t glue in the siphon either, it is held in by friction between the PVC pipe and the coupler.  Just in case I need to disassemble it for maintenance.Not pictured is a 4″ black PVC pipe that I’ve filled with holes to create a strainer to prevent the bedding material from slipping into the siphon.  That will go over the whole assembly when done.

The output from the siphon is based on Affnan’s high water level siphon.  I’ve used an identical part list except for the reducer and the breather.  Instead of a reducer and breather, I use a small section of pipe.  My system seems to work correctly in this fashion.

Output of siphonHeres an image of the siphon output, at high water level.  Yes, it descends too far into the water.  I will correct that by shortening the down pipe by an inch.

The plant in the background is a Water Hyacinth that was a gift to Wendy from J & J aquafarms.  As soon as I finish building my Koi Pond (gottastart first!) I will be purchasing many more aquatic plants from J & J.  The other plant in the orange tub in the far background is my tomato plant in a bucket!  (i.e. the sub-irrigated planter)

Image of fish underwater.Lastly, here’s a gratuitous photo of my fish.  Mostly Koi, which are easy to see at the depth they are swimming.  The Bluegill are more difficult to see.  This will change as I add fish to this container.  This container will be where I experiment with fish and growing as I continue to set up my fishery.

Once I get the Koi pond online, I’ll transfer my koi from this tank.

I am expecting to be able to procure 20 to 40 Sacramento Perch sometime in the next few weeks.  They will go here when I receive them.


JUST A REMINDER – be sure to sign up for the tour of the Aquaponics Project at the City of Clovis Surface Water Treatment Plant!