Monday, May 5, 2008

First System, the LM1

Yesterday I started my first attempt at an aquaponics system using two rubbermaid containers, three bags of gravel, a handful of fittings, and a pond pump from Lowes. I christened it as the Lowes Mark 1 (LM1 for short). Over time you'll be able to see all the posts about this system using the "System: LM1" Link over there on the right. ->

Brenden, Bella, and Ashley helped me test the pump and fill up the tanks. Kids take to playing with water better than fish do.. ;) Anyway I tucked the fish tank, a 50 gallon Rubbermaid tote, underneath the deck, and plumbed a drain into the 10 gallon tote full of gravel. I clicked the pump on and... Viola! it worked, the growbed filled with water. Yeah!

My growbed uses a "loop siphon" This allows the pump to fill the bed slowly and then very quickly drain the water back into the fish tank. This "flood and drain" cycle alternates between feeding the plants and giving them the air the roots need to survive. My autosiphon worked perfectly... once. After that it just trickled. Ooops.

A couple of things went wrong. First, the siphon was too small. (Okay, I will admit it.. Size matters.) I cheaped out and tried to use the pump piping as the siphon. That did not work because the pump is faster than the drain. Second, the siphon pulled rocks into the inlet, slowing it down even more.

Also, the 50 Gallon tote I'm using for a growbed is severely bowed out from the weight of the water. I will need to reinforce it if there is any hope of getting the lid back on. I could put something together out of 2x4s, or partially bury it. Time will tell.

Lessons Learned.
  1. Tanks need to be stronger.
  2. Siphons need to be bigger.
  3. Siphons need a screen to keep the rocks out.
  4. Kids like to play in the water.
I can see the future.. I see another trip to Lowes tonight.

-Ellie

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