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Aquaponics Garden Part 1

After 3 weeks of work I've finally finished my aquaponics garden to the point where it's ready for the fish and plants.




Early last year I purchased the barrels from a gentleman in Benton. These were barrels that held concentrate for flavored water so I know they are food grade barrels. I purchased a total of 10 barrels for $10/each. I sold 3 to my brother, and kept the rest. Unfortunately I did not clean them out immediately; therefore, when it came time to clean them out almost a year later they were rather nasty. Having a power washer is a must for that type of job. The barrels already had seams in them from the vacuum forming process so cutting them was in half was an easy job with a reciprocating saw.


Uniseals are a rubber, water-tight grommet that allows a PVC pipe to pass through a material. It's like a bulkhead fitting, but is much more versatile for it can create a seal on a non-flat surface. I purchased 10-1" Uniseals from Greener Hydroponics for $1.55/each, compared to Amazon which is selling them at $4.50. The measurement of a Uniseal is the inside diameter which is different than the outside diameter, so the hole drill size is different than the Uniseal size. The fit is VERY tight so I used olive oil as lube when inserting the PVC. through the Uniseals. Some of my Uniseals do not fit flush against the side of the barrels but surprisingly there is still no leaking.

Green Hydroponics Uniseals

Uniseal Hole Size Chart


I originally purchased a 800 GPH high-lift pump from Amazon thinking I would have to raise the water 5 feet and I'd always been told that pumps never perform as they say on the outside so I overcompensated. Well, that pump was WAY to powerful so I downgraded to a 291 GPH pump. Each grow bed will fill up to about 1/3 of the full barrel size so that is 18 gallons x 2 growbeds, and I want each to fill 4 times per hour so that's 144 GPH. The rise is actually only 4' so on the Pump Spec Chart for a PP-291 16W pump the flow is 172 GPH @ 4' rise. After installing the pump, but before building the aerator, the tubs were filling every 16 minutes so it was close. The pump has an adjustable opening on one side that seems like it would limit the flow, but I haven't found that it makes much difference if it's open or mostly closed.

16W Pond Pump (Flow Spec Chart is Last Image)


I created a Radial Flow Filter to remove the fish effluent solids from the system. I found some similiar systems on the web, but most of them used plastic paint cans with conical shaped cement in the bottom. I didn't want to go that route so I found a couple Mountain Valley Spring Water water jugs and cut the bottom out, flipped it over, then drilled a couple holes in the side for inflow and outflow. I destroyed the first one with the hole-saw, the plastic at the top and bottom is strong, in between it is very easy to rip. The outflow must be above the inflow to regulate the outflow speed. The inflow pipe has a 90 degree elbow that causes the water to spin. I made a cleanout by attaching a coupling to the spout at the bottom and a 2" PVC pipe. I'm not sure what this is called since it's not a flexible fitting, but it was cheap ($3.50) and it worked perfectly. Then I added an elbow, a reducer, and valve, and an elbow to extend the drain to the front of the garden for easy access. I also cut the bottom off the container so I could access the inside to install the components. The container sits upside down so the cut out bottom is actually the new top.

2" Coupling

Grow Beds:

I originally planned on cutting the barrels completely in half, but realized that if I left the rim I could attach some fencing material should I have a problem with critters. Once I cut them I drilled the drain hole, then built a couple Bell Siphons, installed the drain components, and the barrels were done. Excluding cleaning, the entire build process for the beds and bell siphons took about 4 hours. The link below contains instructions on building a bell siphon, one issue that I didn't realize is that the two 90 degree elbows that are part of the drain are required to create some back-pressure to help the siphon form. Without these elbows once the water reaches the top of the stand pipe it will drain straight out without creating the suction required for the siphon. I don't necessarily agree with the instructions on priming/gluing the bell cap, I don't think that is required and makes disassembly impossible later on if needed.

Construction of a Bell Siphon



Venturi Aerator:


I've never truly been impressed by those cheap air rocks people put in aquariums. Fish need oxygen just like humans and those rocks don't put very much oxygen into the water. If you ever notice a fish gulping air at the surface of a fish tank then that water does not have enough oxygen in it. So, I decided to try to build my own. I found some articles on the web on how to do it, but they used some custom sized components and I wanted to get parts at Home Depot. The 5/8" inside diameter (ID) incoming tube (In the above picture water flows left-right) attaches to a 5/8" outside diameter (OD) barb to 1/2" adapter. This attaches to a 1/2" ID to 3/8" OD flare, in the middle is a 3/8" ID T-connector. The right-side of the T-connector is set up exactly the same but backwards. The inside diameter of the 3/8" flare is 1/4", therefore the change from 1/2" to 1/4" then back up to 1/2" is what creates the Venturi Effect, the pipe on the top is where air is sucked into and mixes with the water stream.

Here's a video of the aerator in action. You'll notice when water first starts to flow that it comes out the top pipe, but eventually gets sucked down in by the pressure differential. Once all the water is out of the pipe the air starts mixing with the water in the outflow.


Over the next couple weeks I'll post more updates on my garden. My 25 talapia should arrive later this week or early next week, I'm still waiting on a call to arrange deliver. The plants will be started this week in rockwool, and I'll hopefully move them over to the grow beds in two weeks.

An Entire Year

It seems that I failed miserable in my attempt to update this blog more often than twice a year, since the is the ONLY POST within the last year. I always vow I will do better, but rarely do in this and so many other things in life. So what has happened over the last year you might ask?

1. My total sailing house has surpassed 300 hours sailing since I started in March 2011. That averages to 11 hours per month that I spend on a sailboat. I'd like for that number to be up around 20, and it should be considering I live so close to GMSC.

2. I captained my first keelboat in the GMSC winter series (on keelboats) and I won first place. Kudos to me. (I don't have a picture of that.)

3. I pulled my ACL/MCL and haven't been able to sail Khalessi this summer (there's no way I'd be able to use those hiking straps.) Two weeks later I shanked myself with a 1/2" wood chisel in the thigh which further decreases the change of me making any centerboard races. Thus I've decided to sell Khalessi.

4. I took my first single-handed sail of the summer and it was a blast. I realized the main is totally trashed and not really worth it's weight in cow shit.

5. I now have a spinnaker pole and spinnaker, but no cash to get it cleaned up and rerigged with new running rigging before the races start in October. I might need to sail without a spinnaker depending on the "Racing" main I received when I bought the boat is what the previous owner described to me.

5. I've made a list of all the items that need to be completed on my boat, and it's HUGE! Now, working on the boat at the club sucks BIG TIME, I always for get multiple things when I go out there and by the time I do get out there all I want to do is sit around and drink beer (well, maybe the beer comes first some times.)

Well, guess that's it. I will make the promise of updating this site with more content, and actual content that shows something.... but take that promise with a grain of salt. :)

Holiday in Dixie

I came to realization the other day that I have almost 60 hours worth of sailing footage, most of that being racing on a J/24 this winter. Unfortunately the most exciting part of watching sailing is the crashes. There's some weird thing law of the universe that states that if I'm wearing my camera there is a good chance the boat I'm on will stay upright and not collide with anything. For the most part this is a good thing cause, well, it keeps the boat upright and in hole-less. However, when I do crash I'm always pissed I don't have it on camera. However, I have had a few crashes. Nothing super-spectacular except for one race down in Shreveport, LA for the Holiday in Dixie Regatta. Halstead and I had a fairly awful weekend of racing, we only managed to finish two of the five races over the two days. I had the my GoPro on for the first day where in the first race I screwed up a gybe (I went to the low side and the boom caught me in the back) and we filled the boat with water. The second race we were on the line early and Robert ducked instead of crossing and someone was in our way so we did filled the boat again then submarined it about six minutes later. The next day we laid the boat on it's side after Robert fell out. The video of the first incident is lame, the second day incident I didn't have the camera on; however, I did have the camera on for the submarineing incident on the first day. The video is below, and it was sort of comical as you can tell by my laughing after we submarined... that was until my vest cartridge fired... which I didn't put into the video below cause there's only so much I could take. :)


Sailing to Bimini v1

I haven't posted anything from our Bimini trip, this is mainly because I've been working on a post-trip diary of sorts. It's not extremely exciting because, well, my writing sucks. Regardless, it's WAY to large to post here since it's 13 pages long. Here's an excerpt:


Our destination on that first day was Biscayne Bay. We had originally expected to head straight to Bimini, but we still had to perform the practical tests for ASA101 and ASA103. The sail from Ft Lauderdale to Biscayne Bay is (for the most part) straight south and we lucked out that day by having a 15-25 knot eastern breeze so we reached the 20 miles down to Government Cut which leads into Miami Harbor. Once we passed Fisher Island we motored along the south side of Dodge Island past a large number of docked container ships. We proceeded toward Miami proper until we were directly north of the eastern edge of Burlingame Island at which point we turned due south and headed directly for, then under, the Rickenbacker Causeway.


Thistle Ride #3

The wife and I took our Thistle out for a ride last week. The winds were around 7-10 as we made our way across the lake and picked up slightly once we went into the waters behind the big island. I'd never been back there before except on a power boat so I thought we'd give it a try. The wind was out of the southeast, so the waves were about a foot tall, but the sailing was fairly easy-going. Heading into the sheltered waters the wind was squirrelly due to the funneling effect of the island, and once we made it to the west end of the island we could see a perfect delineation where the calm waters behind the island met the almost-perfectly straight line, 15-17 knot winds with whitecaps every 2 feet. I was a bit nervous, I'd never had the Thistle out in such high winds. Making the transition from the calm waters to the windy waters was nerve wracking but we made it across that line without tumping. I did find that it's very hard to sail into the wind without a cunningham, and my Thistle sails significantly better on a starboard tack.

Below is a horrible diagram of the wind paths that day. Winds are out of the southeast, they diverge around each side of the eastern tip of the island; the northerly side swirls then stops while the southerly side continues on around the island and tries to meet up with the wind that should be coming around the north side of the island. The left white line is where the wind shear was the worst.

We were only on the water about an hour, the sun was going down and it was 103 degrees outside. Between the temperature and the unexpected high winds we had more than enough excitement for the evening.