Saturday, October 8, 2016

Aquaponics - end of the 2nd year and time to replace a grow bed


I have had the original aquaponic system since Feb 2014 and now I have decided to upgrade the grow bed. My original grow bed was actually a cement mixing trough from Home Depot that I paid $12 for and then hooked up the bell siphon. It was actually a really good way to get started since it was easy and cheap. But now I want more growing room so I found a great deal online for a 2 x 4 feet grow bed for only $45 and bought it. I also bought new expanded clay pellets so that I can start out with something that is sorta clean. Before I go through the "how-to" here is the old system running...

The first thing you have to do is remove all the plants, growing material and water. Don't be fooled into thinking you can just lift these things, you can't. They are very heavy when completely weighed down like this.
New Grow bed - it was being discontinued so I got it for about 50% off

Rooting some of the strawberry plants and needed to remove them

Half the plant removed
Start shoveling clay pellets
 It is a very messy job! And being by myself it took a lot longer than if you have someone to help you. Next, you have to measure and build a stand for the new grow bed that will be strong enough to hold it up and level. This is the hardest thing to do because I couldn't get behind the fish tank so all the boards that I screwed into the studs took some twisting and bending to reach them.
What I started with when the old tank was removed 
Added a post to support the front of the tank and it is tied into the back wall board

I have 2 levels that I used, a short one and a long one. Being level in this set-up is important or the water will run over the side. 

I screwed the support boards into the back wall and then out from the corner. You need it to be really sturdy.
Once you have the support stand built and able to hold up the weight of the tank with the rocks and water you can put together the grow bed. You will need to buy the drain piece and that comes in a kit, and you will need a drill and some PVC pipe. I find duct tape to be invaluable as well...

First you drill a hole using your drill and a spade bit that fits the size of the drain tube. This is a two piece contraption that goes through the tank and you use the large screw on connector from the bottom. I use the longer version of this so that I can get more water in the tank before it drains out. You can use the shorter version if you have a shallower tank.

The bottom connection is for a black irrigation hose which I never have the right size of anyway.
 I use a few spare PVC pieces for my drain, with an elbow to angle it back to the tank, and DUCT tape to hold it on!
What did humanity do before duct tape?
Then go ahead and position it on your stand. Don't fill it up with anything until you are sure it fits correctly and it is really level. You might have to shim it up in a spot or two to get it right. Slowly add some water and check for leaks. This process can take a while but don't rush it! I know you can see the finish line but this is really critical. Make sure it is running correctly back into the tank and then you can add the planting material and plants back.

Make sure you rinse your new clay pellets as they have a lot of dust on them..
I let the new ones sit in a old tank for a while and then use the net to scoop them out.
Add your rocks and fix your hose so that it stays... and then turn it on!

Throughout the process the frogs were being disturbed from the their homes so I tried to watch out for them as much as possible.. here they are watching me!

The tank is doing good after 2 weeks and I have been adding a lot more plants to it than I could before. I have decided to not grow tomatoes anymore because they don't taste right when grown in the tanks. I think they are missing the "terroir" from the dirt for that homegrown taste. However, the greens grow fantastic and I will continue to grow them.


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