We’ve had a tonne of people ask us about our aquaponics setup so I’ve decided to share a post on how we set our first system up which is a basic chop and flip.
How it works
I am not really technical in this department but I’ll explain it as best as I can in regular person terms. Essentially you have your fish in a tank, a pump that pumps water up into a bed of growing media, the microbes and plants convert the fish waste into useable nutrients for plants, which in turn filters the water to be returned to the tank. The water floods and drains the growing media bed so plants don’t become waterlogged.
If you haven’t heard me talk about it before, Aquaponics is our main source of food production at the moment as it requires little maintenance (just feed the fish and check the water).
What you’ll need
A second hand empty food grade IBC (bulk liquid storage container). You can generally find them on gumtree for around $100, you may be able to grab one for free if you’re in the know. You need to make sure it’s one that has not had chemicals in it, the one we found was previously used as storage for cooking oil.
A pond pump
Pumps you can find at most hardware stores or even ebay, all you need is one that has a 2m head on it. Generally they are anywhere between $50-$150 depending on the quality. If you go lower quality maybe get 2 in case you need a backup.
A bell siphon
You can DIY your own (google is your friend) but we purchased one pre built from our local aquaponics shop for around $75 which was specifically fit for an IBC (screw it in and off you go).
This is what you put your plants in. We used Canna Clay beads from our local aquaponics shop, for 5 bags it cost around $125. You can use blue metal rocks (but it’s really heavy and you need to check that it’s not going to leach anything into your system).
Poly Pipe & Fittings
You’ll need to purchase extra pipe to add onto your pump to get the water to your grow bed – sizing and fittings will be determined by what pump you purchase and where you choose to locate it.
Crate & wood
You may or may not need a wooden crate for support and extra pieces of wood.
- An angle grinder to cut the IBC
- Something to cut your Poly pipe with
- Level to make sure your pod is level
How we made it
With your IBC you want to take off the frame first from the container to make your cuts, essentially what we do is cut the top off and flip it over.
After you’ve removed the tank it’s time to cut it. We use the sturdy base for our grow bed base.
We then popped the tank back into the ‘grow bed’ frame to measure it correctly ready to be cut.
Then we chopped it! Making sure the tap was on the ‘tank’ section of the container.
Our IBC was a little cheaper because it wasn’t ‘clean’ so we we cleaned out the oil with a bit of earth friendly dishwashing liquid, we make sure to rinse thoroughly (this took longer than actually cutting the thing up).
We didn’t have any level space so we used a crate, some wooden planks and a bunch of bricks to get the tank level. If you have a level slab or the ability to create a flat bed, you wouldn’t need this but it’s important for your bed to be on a flat surface so get your level out.
Now to setup the spot for your siphon. Pop your grow bed container section into the frame and measure where the outlet is onto the frame, what we need to do is cut through this on the base so you can connect your siphon.
You’ll need to cut through the base (and there are a few layers)
Once you’re cut and ready to go you can place the grow bed on your tank. These tanks are longer on one edge so you just need to swivel it one way. We’ve seen some people not use any support but we added some untreated timber for that extra level of support.
We then connected our bell siphon.
We then added our clay beads and checked that the bell siphon was working. What it needs to do is allow the top bed to fill to a certain point and then once it gets to that point forcefully drain into the tank below.
Once we knew the siphon was working we then connected the pump. We did initially put a pipe all around the edges but have since found a single pipe in is enough.
And that’s it! We let ours sit for a few weeks before we put any fish into the system to make sure it was flooding and draining correctly. About a month after we got fish and plants we we’re starting to harvest, we could not believe how quick it was.
Have you tried aquaponics? Leave a comment below