Reconfigured aquaponics setup – first test fill.

It’s been a while, and I’ve been somewhat busy.

Old setupIf you recall what my setup looked like before, it was a single IBC cut into two pieces, with one piece inverted and used for the growbed.

The problem with this setup is that it left the whole thing in the open.  I have several trees in the backyard that drop debris, which was getting into the system and causing problems.  Also, the tank was in the bright Fresno sun, which caused problems with algae, and with the fish trying to hide from the sunlight.

This wasn’t a great setup.  And I had always considered it to be temporary until I setup my fishery.

I had planned to use the North side of my house for a Fishery.  However, I would have needed to install cement, or crushed rock at least.  I would have also needed to create an awning over it due to the Camphor tree in my neighbor’s yard.  That tree drops a LOT of leaves.

There is a 10 foot x 10 foot cement pad in my backyard that I had used with an inexpensive backyard canopy as a breakfast area… a place for us to go and enjoy the backyard.

But I kept looking at it as a possible fishery.

So I beefed up the canopy, and installed shade cloth all the way around it in order to keep the wind from blowing leaves from the Pecan tree into our tanks.

And then I moved in the tanks and started putting in the plumbing for them. 

Here’s the basic design of my fishery:

Aquaponics setup

One of the 330 gallon IBCs sits on cinderblocks in order to give it the necessary height that I need to allow it to drain into it’s 330 gallon neighbor.  The second 330 gallon IBC is the perfect height to drain into the 220 gallon IBC.  The last IBC is the same one that I cut in half in order to give me a growbed.  It is now a 175 gallon IBC.  

The tanks do not fill completely due to the way that the plumbing needed to be installed.  But this works out for me by giving me about 15-20 gallons leeway in the 330 and 220 tanks.  When the entire system is full, at rest, it holds just over 1000 gallons of water.

Aquaponics tanks, first fill

Here’s a picture of the system being filled with my garden hose.  

Since my garden hose supplies about 5 gallons a minute, it took about 3 hours and 20 minutes to fill the entire system to capacity.  

I did have some problems with the setup.

Layout and assembly was my first difficulty.  And actually, it wasn’t very difficult.  Putting everything together is a little like assembling a puzzle that you design.  Make sure that you dry-fit EVERYTHING before you cement any of the PVC pipes in place.  PVC is cheap, but the PVC fittings are more expensive and can add up pretty quickly.

Cutting PVC pipe to size can get old pretty quick if you do it with a pipe cutter or hand saw.  PVC scissors DO exist, but the ones I own are too small for the 2″ pipe that I was using.  So to get the job done quickly, I used a hand-held jigsaw with a 4″ wood / plastic cutting blade.  If you use this method, measure your cut mark carefully and pay careful attention to keeping your jigsaw square while cutting.  It is easy to get a pipe end that is not square.  Clean up the cut afterward with a utility knife.

One of my 330 gallon IBCs had a leaky lower valve.  I unscrewed the valve assembly from the IBC and found out that it had squeezed out the gasket that rested against the ball valve.  There was no way to repair it since the whole assembly is press molded together.  You can take it apart only by destroying it.

So, I added a PVC ball valve to the output of that IBC in order to be able to shut off the drain of that tank.  

DrainEach IBC has it’s own valve assembly that I connected to a common 2 inch PVC drain pipe, which (when I finish it) will be finally run out to a French drain in my garden.  I will be able to completely drain one IBC while leaving the others full – which will allow me to repair, or even remove and replace a faulty IBC.

This drain will also be useful in removing bottom sludge in the IBC tanks after a period of usage.

Cascading drain

Here you can see a picture of the input to the cascading overflow drain.  I used standard 2 inch PVC pipes and fittings to build the overflow drain.  This design allows for water intake at the bottom of the tank, instead of merely a waterfall off the top of the tank.

The PVC pipes and fittings are standard from the plumbing department of Home Depot.  But in order to prevent fish from taking a ride, I installed a 3 inch “Atrium Grate” to a 2 inch PVC coupling.  Since the atrium grate was designed for sewer pipe, it wasn’t going to fit any sort of PVC pipe, even if it came in a 2 inch grate.  

So I used my stationary 1-inch belt sander to sand down the 2 inch PVC coupling to fit inside of the atrium grate.  

It worked perfectly, and I as able to press fit it with a rubber mallet, no glue needed!

Bulkhead connector

To make it all work, I needed 2-inch bulkhead fittings.  You can find these in town, for about $20 each!  That’s pretty excessive.  You can also get them from Amazon for under $8.  But I wanted to be sure of the quality, so I got them from National Hardware Supply here in town.

These are the same type of bulkhead connectors used on stock tanks and plastic water tanks – and they worked great.  





So, how does the system look?  Take a look:

1 comment

  1. calladus’s avatar

    Of course it rained last night, reminding me that my sump needs an overflow drain in case of overfilling.

    Either that, or I need a hoop house over my grow beds.


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