Aquaponic Filter Upgrade!

McFly

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I've been looking to spruce up the fish tank area, and thought a shelf over the
aquarium with plants with 'hanging' fauna would be nice. Well... I'm not one
to let the plants get off scott free... Everyone pulls their weight in the fish tank area.

My goal is to convert a 36 inch planter into an Aquaponic filter for the tank.
I've seen various Youtube vids explaining DIY systems, and started gathering
required parts, and re-engineering some aspects to make the system easier
to maintain. It also needs to keep some visual appeal because it is in plain
sight.

Auqaponic%20filter-L.jpg

Here's a rough sketch I made to figure out the basic design. I have (2) 17 inch LED aquarium
lights that I will mount over the planter to provide better light for the plants.

The planter will have a power head (Maxi-Jet 600) feeding water on the right side,
and a gravity drain on the left side. There will be a partition on either side, floss and filter sponge on the input,
on the right side I'll put a bag of biomedia to keep for quarantine filtration when I need it. Maybe a
coarse sponge over the exit bulk head.

The main compartment in the center will have 5/6 four inch hydroponic net pots filled with
clay bead media for the plants to grow in. I think I'm going to secure one set of net pots
to the planter bottom, and then nest (float) a second set of pots with the media and plants in them.
This will make it easier to lift plants to trim roots without moving the media around too much.

With the net pots in place, the rest of the center area will be filled with one inch bio-balls. So
in theory, the nitrifying bacteria will produce nitrates, and the plants will absorb some of the nitrate.
The return hose will feed back into the tank through a tee or an elbow to add what little water
movement it can.

This will be a secondary filtration system in addition to my Cascade 1200. The addition of
this aquaponic filter will hopefully reduce nitrate levels in the tank. Having 15ppm Nitrate
out of the tap should help keep nitrates even lower.

I currently have everything I need to plumb the system. I'm just waiting for the planter, aquaponic
media and net pots before I start assembly. I'll continue to post my progress throughout the project.

Should be interesting. :nailbiting:
 
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McFly

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What kind of plants are you going to use?
I think the middle plants will be Pothos (Devil's Ivy), and the outside plants I may plant some
herbs the wife uses frequently, maybe Basil, or Mint. I definitely want something that will crawl over
the front and hang down... after that it's a free for all!
 

Fish0n

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I think the middle plants will be Pothos (Devil's Ivy), and the outside plants I may plant some
herbs the wife uses frequently, maybe Basil, or Mint. I definitely want something that will crawl over
the front and hang down... after that it's a free for all!
Fresh herbs would be an extra bonus! Very curious to see how this turns out!!
 
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McFly

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I get the planter tomorrow, then I can start working on it. Should be a fun project.
I'll document my progress here. I've done aquarium builds and projects before,
but this is my 1st time delving into Aquaponics. I'm sure there will be hiccups!
 
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McFly

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The Planter:

Most of the DIY examples are far from visually appealing, and usually
have a planter propped up on the back of the tank on a plank. The
planter is usually 'bulging' from the water and media pushing out on
the thinner plastic walls of the planter. I'm going to try and take this
up a few notches, because it won't be sitting in a fish room. It will
be on display in my living room. Making this filter quiet will also
be important. It's gotta be sexy and quiet...

The Aquaponics part of this will be the ability to grow plants in the planter.
To make this 'serviceable', the plants are going to be placed in "net pots".
They're popular in the hydroponics world, and it will allow me to use
clay pellet media in the net pots, keeping the plant and roots easy to remove
and replace for root trimming and planting new plants. This will also
limit the amount of heavy clay pellet media being used making the whole
planter considerably lighter. There will be net pots affixed to the bottom
of the planter for the planted net pots to sit in. Surrounding the
net pots will be bio-balls for added filtration for the tank.

The planter came today. It's very basic, and the wrong color, so I'm going to
have to paint it up a bit.

IMG_0549-M.jpg


The planter (36 inches long) will go on a shelf over the aquarium. I was fortunate
enough to have (3) studs to mount the shelf brackets into, so it will hold the weight.
I tested it with 30 lbs of lead and bricks and it didn't budge. Shelf is spot on level.

IMG_0548-M.jpg


IMG_0547-M.jpg


The shelf itself is over 5 ft. high, so this is really geared to me, standing at 6'4" tall,
I can still reach into the planter, and a step stool may be needed for any "big" jobs,
but I think once that Pothos starts hanging over the front it'll look great!

Back to making that planter an overhead sump...

It will need two dividers to make chambers on each end, I cut out a template from
cardboard, then transferred the shape onto some acrylic I had in the garage.

IMG_0550-S.jpg
IMG_0551-S.jpg


IMG_0553-M.jpg


After some cutting, and trimming I had a (3) chamber sump...

IMG_0554-M.jpg


These partitions will add ridigity to the walls, as well as provide a dedicated space for
filter medium at the entry and exit of the sump. I have to wait until the net pots arrive
to silicone them in, because they will also set the water height for the middle section.
I need everything here before I can proceed with setting them permanently in place.

I do have my bulk heads for either side of the sump, but once again, I need all my parts
here to measure things out... Here's one of the bulkheads pictured below.

IMG_0552-M.jpg


IMG_0547-S.jpg
So there's today's progress!!

Stay tuned!
 
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McFly

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Shipment 1 of 2 showed up today... Poly Filter, Bio balls and clay pebbles.

IMG_0555-M.jpg


Shipment 2 of 2 should be here tomorrow, then building/testing starts!!

Ok... that's a lie... Shipment 2 of 2 is now (2) shipments, soooo I'll
have everything on Thursday! Oh well!!
 
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McFly

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Finally got the net pots, and now I can start working on this project.

With the floor of the planter uneven, my 1st job is to give the base net
pots a stable, level base to be affixed to. A half dozen pieces of acrylic
and silicone has taken care of that. I've also taken this opportunity to
seal the drain plugs.

IMG_0558-M.jpg


Here's the basic layout for the net pots:

IMG_0556-M.jpg


Going to let the silicone dry, then attach the net pots to the bottom.

Work is a terrible inconvenience, and I'm working tomorrow.... Baby steps...
 
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McFly

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Long day at work, not much time to work on the sump.

I did manage to drill for the bulk heads and install them,
and drilled out holes in one of the dividers.

IMG_0559-L.jpg


IMG_0560-M.jpg


Hopefully I can sneak into the shop for a bit before
Easter company gets here tomorrow....
 
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McFly

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Got right to it when I woke up, and got quite a bit done.

First I set a mock up with the sump, and a 5 gallon bucket to see if water
flow will work properly.... and it didn't. I had to install a second drain to
make things flow properly. Found out my powerhead was too powerful
so I've got a fountain pump (adjustable flow rate) on it's way. After some
feddling, I got the water flow going right... Yea! The adjustable fountain
pump will make things

Best guess is I'm running at about 140-160 gph. 2-3 times tank volume per hour.
(I also have a Cascade 1200 running as a primary filter) Hopefully it'll be enough
to get those nitrates to the plants!

IMG_0561-M.jpg


Now that I know it will work, it's it time to build up the planter section.

There are 6 net pots that are 'glued' to the floor with aquarium silicone, and 2
section walls for me to add a little pre/post mechanical filtration, and keep some
biomedia available for the quarantine tank when it's needed.

IMG_0566-M.jpg


IMG_0570-M.jpg


IMG_0567-M.jpg


The idea is a second set of net pots will rest inside the affixed pots. This way I can
lift each plant out to trim roots, and rinse the clay pebbles. I'll put a spacer on the
bottom of the affixed pots to raise the planted pots up, so water can circulate through.

That's all for today! It's starting to come together... It'll be 48 hrs before I can move on.
(Curing time for Silicone)
 
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McFly

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Aquarium silicone has completely cured, and this project is starting to come together.

The 'base' net pots are set firmly, so the bio-ball medium went in, which really locked
In those net pots. I put some clay pellets in one of the top net pots to show how
the planters will look. The floss and sponge is on the input side (from the pump).
The output will likely get some sponge and floss to start out because the plant
roots will likely be dirty and I'd like to catch that 'stuff'.

IMG_0584-M.jpg


IMG_0585-M.jpg


Next a wet test, to preset pump power and re-leak check. I did have a drip from
one of the plugs on the bottom the first time, I (hopefully) resealed it properly.

Then, I need to prep the clay medium in a bucket of tank water with an airstone for
a full day (minimum) to clean and saturate it. I also have to go get some plants
to start growing. Lastly, I have to install an overflow so if the sump clogs, there's
a water outlet back to the tank.

I'm also thinking about a pump cut off switch (optical or float I'm not sure) so
the pump just shuts off if the water level gets too high.

An after thought might be a cover for the top, and just leave holes for the net pots.
 
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McFly

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Work, work, work... Little time for this project unfortunately.

Yesterday I took the clay pebbles out for a bath. They're in a bucket
full of tank water with an air stone and a pond pump stirring them
around. I'd like them to be fully soaked before I start up the filter.

Going plant shopping tomorrow at the Garden Center. I want to run
The system with the new pump and leak check it one last time.
Busy day tomorrow, but I'm going to try to get a bunch more done.
 

Fish0n

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Work, work, work... Little time for this project unfortunately.

Yesterday I took the clay pebbles out for a bath. They're in a bucket
full of tank water with an air stone and a pond pump stirring them
around. I'd like them to be fully soaked before I start up the filter.

Going plant shopping tomorrow at the Garden Center. I want to run
The system with the new pump and leak check it one last time.
Busy day tomorrow, but I'm going to try to get a bunch more done.
Let me know how you like the clay pebbles. I have some media that never sank so I capped it with some gravel and it works but I wasn't impressed.
 
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McFly

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Let me know how you like the clay pebbles. I have some media that never sank so I capped it with some gravel and it works but I wasn't impressed.
I have about a 75% sink rate. I knew it wouldn't all sink, so I got extra.
I've used it before in a drip hydroponic set up for herbs, and it worked
well for me. Of course it's apples and oranges when we compare it to
this set up.

I'll put some of the floating pebbles on the bottom of the net pot,
then cover them with sinking pebbles, as I set the plant. Then turn
the system on to fill up the planter. I have some gravel for weight
if needed. Having the base net pots to nestle the planted pots in
should make a floating pot little to worry about. (fingers crossed)

I'll be back to it this weekend, hopefully to finish up and get it running.
 
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McFly

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Wish I could say I'm up snd running, but.... my pump died. I had a pond
pump, but at 400 gph, it's way too powerful. So, another delay.

A new pump will be here Tuesday, as Home Depot's mark up on pond pumps
is outrageous. No leaks, which is a good thing.

Delays, delays...
 
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McFly

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The overhead sump is running. Not the "permanent" set up, but there's water
flowing through it, and aside from a noisy pond pump, I'm satisfied with its
function.

The pump is too powerful, so I set up a ball valve on the feed tube to slow the
water flow down.... I know, I know.... BAD Marty putting the valve after the pump,
but it's temporary, and I really need water moving through that sump.

The ball valve/flow control:
IMG_0601-M.jpg


The 'way to noisy' pond pump:
IMG_0602-M.jpg


The exit hoses:
IMG_0600-M.jpg


Water level is about half way up the lower bulk head, and
a quarter up the other bulkhead. Very consistent level that
I'm happy with.

The clay pellet media was put in a half full of tank water 5
gallon bucket. I put a powerhead in it, about mid way under
water, and pointed it up slightly. Agitating the surface and
creating a swirling current in the bucket. That ran for 5 days
to get 90% of the media to sink. I put the remaining floating
clay pellets on the bottom of the net pots and covered them
with sinking clay pellets.

Here's the 'feed side' of the overhead sump:
IMG_0598-M.jpg


And the drain side of the sump:
IMG_0603-M.jpg


The overflow can be seen on the back above the water line.
That will have a hose connected to it... before I go to bed tonite!

The clay pellets are all sunk in their net pots nicely, and ready
to receive some plants, which will be put in on Thursday.

The lower power pump will go in on Thursday too. Busy work week,
so once again... babysteps... Still, making progress!
 

Jack B Nimble

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We think alike I had almost identical one about 6 months ago except I used lava rock and it sat on top of tank. Worked fine then became the forest I have today.
 
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McFly

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By the way....

That green foam on the drain side is 2 pieces, each one will fit in my
OTB filter for my quarantine tank!
 
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McFly

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We think alike I had almost identical one about 6 months ago except I used lava rock and it sat on top of tank. Worked fine then became the forest I have today.
Awesome! I like to hear that! Clay pellets were a PITB, but I'm
glad they're working.

What did you plant?
 
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