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mrPickles

Advice on setting up a new system.

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So I've been farming for years and I'm finally getting a hoop house. I'd like to transition it to a continuous flow aquaponic setup as well. We'll likely be building an 18'x72' gothic hoop house, air insulated 6mil poly, and solid dual layer poly end walls.  I plan on installing a climate battery and potentially a rocket mass heater to hopefully gain a couple zones (I'm zone 5b just outside Lafayette, CO and we get lots of sunshine) and extend my season. The greenhouse runs E-W with the pond on the north side and grow bed(s) on the south side and a small sitting area in the Southwest corner. I'm a total newbie to aquaponics but I've been doing a fair amount of reading and this seems like it would work but let me know if I'm off my rocker  :dontknow: 

Here's my initial thoughts on a layout:

38J7mD5e_o.png

Pond:  ~4ft wide, 2.5-3ft deep and 55-60ft long pond so somewhere between 4100-5400 gallons. Add small trickling waterfall either with return water from the beds or a small additional solar powered pump. Planning on putting reflective backed insulation on the north wall to hopefully redirect extra sun and heat into the water during winter and shade it during the mid-late afternoon of summer.  Use an airlift pump to pump water up to the beds. My wife and son won't eat the fish so I'm planning on raising koi. Beautiful, tolerate of temps and could hopefully potentially resell them. 

Beds: Flow through two gravel beds that filter before flowing into the raft beds. What is the preferred method to flow from one bed to the next? Especially to get the cleanest water possible for the raft. I was just thinking of a perforated pipe in the middle of the bed, plumbed to the next bed. Should i not perforate and let it siphon the cleanest water from the top and they'll each level out? I have a laser level to ensure everything would be at the proper level across the whole setup. I have lots of leftover lumber from other projects so I was planning building wooden beds 4' wide 8-12" deep and lining them with a duraskrim liner. So each bed I add that is the length of the pond would add an extra 1000-1500 gallons to the system depending on how much is gravel vs raft. I might start with one bed and add the other after the fact once I'm up and running unless there is a reason not to. 

What would be a good stocking rate for something like this? Especially since koi are so expensive I'd rather buy them as peanuts or 3-4" so that I'm not spending a fortune. I've seen some horror stories of pump failure and fish die-out so I'm planning some alarms and failsafes there but I was also hoping that a pond this big would allow me some time before any issues like that. 

Am I crazy or is this doable?

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Hi Mr Pickles and welcome to APN,

You certainly am not crazy and yes I think it's doable.

I would start of small first and teach your self how to build and run an aquaponics system.

Maybe a modular system where you can add as you grow in knowledge. Maybe some separate systems with different fish. Maybe start with one small system add your koi learn how to run it then build from there. That way when you make, notice I said when, a mistake it is easier to rectify and not so costly. Once you have learned and are successful, then expand so you don't have a major disaster and lose all want for an aquaponics system. Also, you may build a system then find aquaponics is not for you. If you are anything like me you won't, but if you do you haven't invested a lot in a hobby you no longer want to do.

That's what I'd do if I were you.

With gravel media I'd work on 1 fish tank water to 1 wet gravel and stock lightly. I used that with my first system  3/4" gravel 2 tanks roughly 1 50 to 175 gallons each joined together towards the top with 2" PVC pipe going to one grow bed with a 3/4" ring around the outside with hole drilled in the top to allow for even distribution of water, my drain was at the lowest point. Then I didn't worry about the inlet I just put a 3/4" poly inlet at the highest point of the growbed and let the system drain on its own, there was no difference in the growth of the plants. I started with the fish by lightly stocking the tanks with 20 in each. There is formulae around from the aqua culture people to work out FCR etc but I'm a backyarder so I just started with numbers of fish.

With your design I'd also put seperate inlet valves on each grow bed it gives you better control of the flood and drain.

Cheers.

 

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Thanks for the advice. I have the spring and summer to get started. We're waiting on a grant for the hoop house that won't come through til October at least. Was debating if I should get the climate battery and pond dug beforehand but starting early w/ a small setup is probably a good idea. I have a tendency to jump right in sometimes :) That's how we ended up with 11 geese and 10 ducks! I was also reading that bigger setups can be a little more forgiving. I do worry a bit about starting them outside due to raccoons and the neighborhood cats. If I'm starting that small I might try to rig something up indoors or maybe in our duck coop. Duck coop would be ideal for protection but doesn't get a ton of sun. 

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HI mrPickles,

I read you about jumping in. I think bigger systems are probably more forgiving but there is more cost at risk if something does go wrong, so you need to know what you are doing to effectively manage it. I think if you can build and run a small set up, it is possibly a steeper more intense learning curve but that prepares you for bigger and better things in the future. 

If you built outside, you could position the system close and handy to your house and maybe build a small greenhouse and put your system in that. Or if you do it indoors you already have that, but an indoors system may require lighting? so that will add another complexity to get tour head around. It is still achievable though. Both ways have their pros and cons. The duck coop sounds good too. Plenty of ideas to make a decision, let's know what you decide and how you get on.

Cheers.

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Just a bit on the design; the raceway setup for the fish is going to need a lot of flow or a lot of cleaning to keep the water quality acceptable. A couple of IBC's for the fish will work better, or even better some round aquaculture tanks.

You could install an extra ibc after the fish tank to add some extra filtration as this can reduce the fluctuations of water quality due to changes in biomass of plants.

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Thanks @phri hadn't thought about that. I've made a few changes to the design including splitting the pond in two and putting a radial flow filter in between the two. I might look into some round tanks but the in ground raceway type pond is going to be a lot less expensive and look better since my wife is concerned w/ aesthetics. Would a 20'x4' pond still have the same issues do you think? I could break it up into thirds. 

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If you just want to keep a couple of koi, it will be fine. However I don't think you going to have enough nutrients to grow much plants on the waste.

IMO round tanks can look just as good as a raceway, but I am not an expert in WAF. Second hand aquaculture tanks shouldn't be too expensive. Alternative smooth wall round poly rainwater tanks can be used for the fish. Second grade watertanks with imperfections in the top molding can often be found cheap,  and you want to cut of the top anyway.

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