The other day, we posted about the design of our aquaponic system. We wanted to follow up today with details of the construction, and in subsequent posts, we'll talk about the fish and the water.
We mentioned earlier that one of the design criteria was that the system had to look nice. Thus, we were (Jake was) forbidden from designing it out of dimensional pine lumber from the hardware store (even though it would have matched the rest of our projects and reduced the cost and weight of the aquaponics, Katie!) It actually worked out nicely, though, because we met some nice folks up north of Lancaster, PA and got some roughsawn cherry lumber for a good price. The catch (one of the catches) was that it was a fairly long drive, and the wood was heavy. Having only a faithful old Saturn station wagon with which to haul the wood, this meant we were kind of limited to one trip, and to only as much wood as the springs on the Saturn could hold without breaking an axle. In the end, we didn't have enough to cover the sides facing the back wall, but the effect on aesthetics was minor. (Even according to Katie!)
Getting roughsawn lumber also meant we had to plane the wood in our apartment, which we did with a little 10" Ryobi planer from Craigslist. (We probably owe the neighbors another plate of cookies for the noise it made.) But the wood undeniably looks nicer than pine (and is stronger). The apartment also smelled awesome for many weeks, and we ended up using a lot of the shavings from the planer to form the bottom of the grow bed (as shown below). So, without further adieu, let's take a walk through the construction of our system.
NOTE: We took these photos on deconstruction of the system for moving rather than while constructing it, so some of the pictures may seem out of order. Don't panic! We've tried to describe the process in the actual order in which we constructed it, even if some of the components are present in the pictures that weren't there during the construction.
|This is what the inside of the box looks like from the top. The two holes on the left side are for the bell siphon and the overflow pipe.|
|Then we added an additional part of the frame for the fish tank.|
|After we completed the framing, we took some of the shavings left over from planing the wood and used them to form a bottom to the box that would make the holes the lowest part.|
|Here's the finished grow bed. The rubber is stapled to the wood, but since the Hydroton pushes it out that way anyway, the staples aren't really necessary.|
|We wanted the tank to have secondary containment, too. But the fit was so tight that we couldn't build a box and then put the tank in it. So we built part of a box and put a layer or rubber down, then slid the tank in on top of the rubber.|
|The ropes go up from the light fixture to a series of pulleys.|
|We needed two pulleys per side to get the rope up, over, and back down.|
|Here's another shot to show how they were aligned.|
|Then we just clamped the rope back onto the upright to hold the lights in place. Maybe a little risky, but we never had the lights come crashing down or anything.|
|And look! The storage space holds all the fish food, leftover pond liner, and everything!|
|There are a few other details to consider, like tubing and pumps, but there are many more qualified venues online to find that information. (Or look in Sylvia Bernstein's book.) We followed Bernstein's suggestion to have a pump that can exchange the water every 15 minutes (which for our 50 gal tank meant roughly a 225 gph pump after taking into account the three feet of head it had to overcome). But once those details are set, the next step is to add plants, worms, and a nitrogen source, and start cycling the system! It's a lot of fun to see the plants growing well and hear the siphon tripping and untripping. Well worth all the work that went into this. Plus it doesn't look half bad!|
Any questions about details we might have glossed over? Any thoughts on design improvements? Let us know in the comments section below!