Monthly Archives: July 2012

Grow Bed Build – Bed #2 Complete!

Got this one done in double-quick time!

Since building the first, I now know what lengths are needed without trial and error, plus I pre-cut some of the supports for the second bed when I was completing the first. Makes the work go by a whole lot faster 🙂

Now that the first two beds are completed, I can move on to getting them setup, lined, leveled and plumbed. I’ll then add additional beds in sets of two going forward till all 8 beds are completed. This should be interesting as now I’m having to pre-plan a bit with regards to how all the plumbing will work together (not just for the first two going forward, but all eight down the line).

Starting off, I’ll have 48 sq ft of growing space. Upon completion of all the beds this will give me 192 sq ft of grow bed area to work with! Not too shabby! I have also considered the possibility for expansion and so if down the road I’m feeling spunky, I can expand the width of the greenhouse to accommodate another 50% increase in grow bed space. That will be phase two. I’d also have to incorporate a sump tank into the setup to help keep my fish tank levels from dropping. So this idea is a bit of a ways down the road.

I’m getting quite excited now!

I should be ready to start cycling the system come mid-August.

A slight delay as I’ll be doing a bit of traveling in the coming weeks.

Progress is good! I’m happy.. and more updates to come! 🙂

Fanatic Aquaponic Grow Bed Build – Bed #1 Complete!

Now that the tank is finally in the ground, I can now move on to the grow bed building portion of the greenhouse.

As before I’m sticking with the reclaimed lumber I had from the shed tear-down. Expenses here included screws, pond liner, paint and a few drill bits (go through them like butter).

As with everything in this build, I’m making it up as I go along.. i.e. I have no set plans to work from, I’m just building as I go based on a rough sketch I did when this whole ball of wax got started 😉

Originally I had planned on making the bed size 8Lx4Wx1H, but revised that just a bit to 8Lx3Wx1H. This reasoning came when I decided to take a look at how much space such a grow bed would take within the greenhouse itself. At four feet in width, it became apparent that my reach across the entire width of the grow bed would become difficult as I would only have access to the bed from 3 sides versus 4 (since that side will butt up against the outer wall of the hoop house). This was confirmed when during mock-up the wife mentioned as much for herself.

So, now the final tally will be 24 sq ft per grow bed versus 32. I’ve also decided to go solely with grow beds versus a split between beds and an NFT raft setup. Mosquitoes are a big problem and I’d just as soon avoid that fiasco all together.

Next up will be painting the growbed to help it stand up to the elements and so that it looks a bit better aesthetically. I’ve got several more of these to build, but now that I’ve been able to get through the first, I now know what I need to put together from a parts list standpoint and can pre-cut everything before hand going forward to save time.

Once I’ve got the first beds painting completed I’ll then start working on initially placing them in the hoop house and getting it leveled, lined and plumbed (this is another little bit of build I’m looking forward to with the PVC.. as I’ve never done it before, it should make it very interesting) 😉

Some items of note that came up after a good discussion with a fellow AP’er.. the ratio of fish to grow bed capacity came up. Now what’s considered a safe ratio is 1:1, that being 1 fish to 1 square foot of grow bed. He noted that he originally started off with 50 fingerlings and would eventually have two grow beds totaling about 48 sq ft of growing space. Problem was he never got to building the second bed due to family constraints. Of the 50 he started off with he’s now down to about 30 due to not properly screening off his pump. 20 or so poor little fish got sucked up into his grow bed and that was that.

Even so, at 30 fish he is now noticing his ammonia levels getting high. After screening for anymore dead fish, reducing the amount of feed given to the fish and his ammonia still on the high side.. the deduction is that there is just not enough biofiltration going on with the one grow bed to take care of all 30 fish (which within the span of 6 weeks went from 1 inch to nearly 5 inches!.. bigger fish = more poo = more ammonia). He is now working on plans for a second bed.

With that in mind I’m going to start with even more of a buffer and limit it to about 20 fish per grow bed.. or about 1:1.2 = 1 fish to about 1.2 sq ft of grow bed (roughly 160 fish at maximum capacity). Ultimately the main plan is to keep the system as stable as possible. I’d rather er on the side of caution then have to restart a new cycle on a system. Anyway, that’s my 2 cents.

More updates to come!

Fanatically Happy Day! – The Aquaponic Tank is in the Hole!!!

As it has been a while since my last update, I wanted to quickly go over the reasons for my delay in getting our large fish tank (840 gallon capacity) into the ground…

Originally the idea I had in mind was to get 3 extra people together and coordinate a time to have them come over to lend me their muscle lowing the tank in the hole with some large rope. Problem was I could never get everyone together on the same day. Family plans and being out of town were the main reasons. This then made me research hiring some movers to come out and help me get the tank in the ground. Well that plan was also a no-go as I was repeatedly getting quotes somewhere between $240-290 dollars to have them come out and put in an hours worth of work (uh uh). What finally ended up happening was that my friend John, who has many cogs and gears whirring through his head at any given time, helped devise a game plan that involved the use of 1 inch PVC to act as rollers underneath the tank to get it from my porch to the other end of the yard. He also help devise a sketched idea of using an a-frame gantry and a winch that we used to span over the hole. My job was essentially getting the needed materials together and building it.

So with this new plan in mind, I paid a visit to a local Harbor Freight and got my hands on a hand winch and straps with hooks. I then was able to piece the A-frame portion together with some 2×4’s, OSB board and some 3/8″ lag screws. For the gantry portion going over the hole I had to purchase three lengths of 2x4x10’s (as all I had was 8ft lengths at home which were too short). These lengths I then screwed together with deck screws and then mounted the winch in the center.

These eventually showed me a few issues that I needed to overcome. One, the hand winch is the cheapest unit I could find at Harbor Freight (rated for 2000 pounds, the tank I figured was pushing about 6-800 pounds).. this winch had originally been placed on the bottom of the gantry, but that proved to not be a workable idea since the design of the winch did not allow for a cleared area of the cable and hook away from the hand crank, essentially eliminating my ability to crank it up and down. The solution was to detach and re-attach the unit on the side versus the bottom of the 2x4x10’s. Because of this I need to add a 4th, shorter piece of 2×4 so that I could accommodate the entire footprint of the winch on the side. Immediately I could see that this would cause some serious torque happening on the overhanging gantry, essentially setting it up for failure by twisting to the point of falling off the A-frame support. To negate this, I added a 2×6 piece at the end overhanging the cinderblock wall on the other side, giving the gantry some much needed leverage.

In the end the whole system was a one-time use setup, so as long as it did the job of getting the tank in the hole, that’s all I cared about.. and… it worked! We needed to constantly work on maneuvering the tank into the hole cause I made the size of that hole only inches of clearance on each side (this did require some modification on our part with a pick ax and shovel before hand as we found a few areas that would not clear the tank.. my bad).

The last aspect of this endeavor was that we were doing it in Summer in Phoenix. Even though the sun was not directly on us at the time of the lowering. It was still reading 108-109 outside. Yeah, we’re a crazy bunch for doing this in that heat, but it was either that or wait till September to get it done when the temps drop… uuuuh NOPE!

So, to say I’m ecstatic about the tank finally being in the hole is an understatement!

The next steps of my progress will be to back fill the areas around the tank, add in the pond liner, start in on the end frames for the greenhouse and get started on building at least 2 grow beds to get the system started on cycling.

Obviously I’ve still a ways to go, but now I’m no longer bottlenecked going forward! WOOT!

BIG, BIG, BIG thanks to my buddy John for all his help on this project.. a true friend to the end!