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GaryD

Gary's 3 Mega Bin System

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Hi,

Yesterday, in a marathon 16 hour effort, Crusty and I (actually more Crusty than I) built my new 3 Mega Bin System.

I've been fond of mega bins for the entire time that I've been associated with aquaponics.

Their cost and versatility makes them almost a 'must have' for a microponics (integrated backyard food production for the unitiated) design freak like me.

I wanted to demonstrate that a mega bin (or two or more) could be set up in such a way that they would function as a serious backyard aquaculture/aquaponics system.......but at a fraction of the cost of the kit packages that are around.

Anyway, in the next few posts I'll talk about the background to this system and I'll reveal how it went together.

Right at the outset, I want to acknowledge the efforts of my collaborator and mentor for this project. I know of few people who would work as hard as he did for sixteen straight hours just to help someone else realise a personal goal.

Paul, my deepest appreciation.......you're a legend.

Gary

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Yes it was a long day, though I am pleased we got it finished on that day. You did well Gary, to keep going until midnight without dinner, then stand about staring at it for an hour while I looked for faults lol. Also a big thank you to Jan for keeping me in supply of caffeine and bickies.

Gary can explain away the workings of this little gem and if there are any gaps, I will be more than happy to fill them. I hope you all gain some benefit and knowledge to add to your sustainable journey.

I too am looking forward to photos and I have seen it lol.

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Hi,

Our new 3 Mega Bin System was an idea whose origins are about 18 months old. More about that later.

I wanted to get some photos happening so here they go.

Our first task with the new system was to get it up to so that it was at the right height for the swirl tank (and a more convenient working height) so we placed the mega bin on cement blocks.

Then we set up the second bin at the appropriate distance from the wall and from the first bin.......followed by the third bin.

The filtration module comprises a swirl tank and the 200 litre polyethylene drum we used for the combination sump and Moving Bed bio-filter.

Gary

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Edited by GaryD
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Some more photos.

1 - This is a packed media filter - it's filled with Kaldnes K1 media and is designed to function as a clarifier. It sits inside the swirl tank. The clean (less the sedimentary solids) water flows through the holes in the clarifier bucket and flows over a stand pipe and enters the bio-filter.

2 - An inside view of the swirl tank plumbing.

3 - The filtration module plumbing.

4 - Inside view of the bio-filter

Gary

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Airlifts move the water around this system......just one of its several innovative features.

We're still tweaking the airlifts and they're looking promising. We can also add a small submersible anytime we choose......if we decide that the water flow is not quite what we want. I'm besotted with the idea that this entire unit runs on air.

We're also running a 200mm air stone in each tank and air drives the the moving bed bio-filter.

At this stage, it looks like it will require about 125 watts to drive the entire system. Not bad for three tanks and an all-up capacity of over 2000 litres.

Gary

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This piece of handiwork is Paul's innovation.......and I'll leave it to him to explain what it does and how it works.

This is an outlet used in some much larger tanks. It is designed to remove dead fish and solids from tanks that do not bottom drain and are too big to reach into. We have put much larger versions (big enough to suck up full grown 1kg + fish) in 25,000 liter tanks where floor space is a premium. The same thing can be achieved with side box outlets and dual drain bottom outlets which both need additional floor space. Where both can not be done, this is used.

In this little application:

  • will take up solids from the bottom and small dead/near dead fish
  • act as a skimmer to remove the oily film build up when using high fat feeds
  • is a level control to manage the operating height of the water in the tank
  • shows when you are over feeding
  • does not block or restrict flow
  • completely removable for cleaning and netting, without interrupting the water flow
  • can be installed into any tank size or shape that does not have a center bottom drain. This would be nearly all tanks used in aquaponics.
  • can be any size for any tank

It is a far better method of removing solids than putting a sump pump in the center of the tank with the fish as the solids are taken up without grinding them up. Any one interested in building them, they are easy enough to whip up. If you need to buy the components, simply pm me for prices. Either way, they make life much easier if you can not put a center bottom drain in your tanks.

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At this stage, it looks like it will require about 125 watts to drive the entire system. Not bad for three tanks and an all-up capacity of over 2000 litres

It gets a little more versatile if a hydroponic subsystem is installed outside as it can run on the same air system and much slower as the exchange rates in the hydroponics is not as important as the fish, so it will use less air. This is where it will come into it's own on an economy scale. I am really looking forward to fine tuning the air to achieve those results.

Further to that it can run on 12 volts with the right air pumps.

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Hi Gary and Crusty,

That is a very impressive set up. It looks clean and sleek and to be able to drive it all with 125 watts, is pretty cool.

I asume that the 125 watts is purely the compressor power.

This all leave me with lots of questions because I don't understand it all so the questions will show my ignorance. But I would like to learn, so here they are.

Did you design and build the air-lift pumps and if so, could you provide the dimentions?

Where are you using gravity to move the water and where are you using the air-lifts?

What do you call the "Paul's Inovation" thingie? And how does it work? It looks like it may have an air-lift at the bottom of the pipe in the Mega Bins.

Are the Mega Bins new or 2nd hand? What do they cost?

Can you provide any details of your compressor? Capacity etc?

What is the diameter of your pipes? They look quite large.

Sorry if I am asking too many questions, but this is all pretty inovative stuff for a back yard environment and may be a significant addition to aquaponic thinking.

Longing keenly for answers, but hoping that they don't take up all of your week.

RayH

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Hi Ray,

That is a very impressive set up. It looks clean and sleek and to be able to drive it all with 125 watts, is pretty cool.

I asume that the 125 watts is purely the compressor power.

Yes......the air pump is rated at 125 watts.

This all leave me with lots of questions because I don't understand it all so the questions will show my ignorance. But I would like to learn, so here they are.

No problem......that's a major reason why APQH exists.

Did you design and build the air-lift pumps and if so, could you provide the dimentions?

Paul did the design work on the airlifts after he'd calculated lift heights and pipe diameters......he's best qualified to comment on that.

Where are you using gravity to move the water and where are you using the air-lifts?

The water level throughout the entire system is the same. The water only moves through the system because the airlifts pick it up from a common manifold from the sump/bio-filter and drop it into the fish tanks.......displacing water already in the fish tank.

What do you call the "Paul's Inovation" thingie? And how does it work? It looks like it may have an air-lift at the bottom of the pipe in the Mega Bins.

Paul will address the "thingie" and how it functions. There is no airlift in the mega bins themselves. What you can see attached to the centre drain is a 200mm airstone.

Are the Mega Bins new or 2nd hand? What do they cost?

They were new when I bought them. They cost around $300 incl. GST. They are available from People in Plastic at Archerfield......their website is here.

Can you provide any details of your compressor? Capacity etc?

We started off with a 200lpm blower but, while it puts out plenty of air, it is not big on pressure. We've decided to replace the blower with a diaphragm air pump which will move 125 litres per minute (at a much higher pressure).......at 125 watts.

What is the diameter of your pipes? They look quite large.

We used 90mm and 50mm DVW PVC pipe throughout.

Sorry if I am asking too many questions, but this is all pretty inovative stuff for a back yard environment and may be a significant addition to aquaponic thinking.

Yes......as backyard systems go, this one is quite sophisticated.....particularly in terms of what it will do.

Having said that, it is easy to get your head around once you get close to it. I'll put a water flow diagram together when I get the chance.

Gary

Edited by GaryD
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I'll look forward to the flow diagram and Paul's 'How the Thingie works'. :-)

Ray

Yep, Just like Ray, I'd love further explanation to understand the operation better on both...whenever you guys get the chance.

The pic's & set-up look great, very, very compact.

Cheers,

Shane.

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That is a very impressive set up. It looks clean and sleek and to be able to drive it all with 125 watts, is pretty cool.

I am glad you like it. Permit me to ramble a little. One of the most important things to remember when planing the plumbing for any size system, is it only need a supply line, waste line and waste dump. Anything else makes it more and more complicated. To show you what I mean, below is the crayon drawing I sent to Gary to give him an idea of my intentions. Looks simple enough, yes?

[ATTACH=CONFIG]757[/ATTACH]

I asume that the 125 watts is purely the compressor power.

Yes. The important part of the air design is the pressure required to run it. While the 200LPM (90watt) blower ran plenty of air, it only ran at 7kpa from memory. This would not run one of the air stones at 500mm deep, it did run the air lifts but not that well. So, we reduced the LPM to 125 but now with 50kpa to push a bit harder.

Did you design and build the air-lift pumps and if so, could you provide the dimentions?

You are better to design your own air lift based on how yours is set up. A simple formula (here goes the math lol), is measure from where the air will be injected to the bottom of the outlet pipe (usually the lip of the tank). Divide that by the inside diameter of the pipe you would like to use for the air lift. The answer must be greater than 50. The closer to 100 it is the better flow you will get. Make sense? The design criteria is somewhat more complicated than that, but it will get you out of trouble. Here is another crayon drawing.

[ATTACH=CONFIG]758[/ATTACH]

Where are you using gravity to move the water and where are you using the air-lifts?

The gravity moves the water out of the tank, through the swirl/solids filter, through the bio filter. The air lifts put the water back in the culture tanks. This provides the required positive displacement to get the solids out the tanks without mushing them up.

What do you call the "Paul's Inovation" thingie? And how does it work? It looks like it may have an air-lift at the bottom of the pipe in the Mega Bins.

Simply it is an "outlet tray" I don't have a better name for it... "Suckeruppera?" How do they work? The pipe you see reaching to the bottom of the tank lifts water up using gravity. The tray creates a positive force so the water inside the tray is shallower than the outside (in the tank) which makes the water move to balance. This means it has to travel up the pipe to do that. The other pipe is simply an outlet connected to the waste line. This creates a air break to prevent a vacuum forming and draining the tank. There is no air lift. The thing you can see at the bottom is a 40x170mm air stone. Which reminds me I have to make a thingy for the stone... I never put air on the bottom of a tank as it will keep re-suspending the solids, which is not what. We want, we want the solids out of the tank not being "boiled up" in it. Keeping the air stone just off the bottom assists in creating a laminar flow (sweep the muck to the middle).

What is the diameter of your pipes? They look quite large.

Don't be shy about larger pipes. There is some thought that goes into choosing the pipe sizes as one size can never fit all situations. I like to always keep in my mind that some poor bugger is going to have to clean those pipes at some point. If I can make it so a bottle brush can be pulled through it, the job is only a two minute effort and being so, quick makes sure it gets done. It is called rodding in fish farms and is always part of the management of any system. We will show you how this works later on as the system ages.

Sorry if I am asking too many questions, but this is all pretty inovative stuff for a back yard environment and may be a significant addition to aquaponic thinking.

Questions are a good thing mate. Ask away. Part of the point of building this unit, for me anyway, is to showcase some very simple methods that are used at a commercial level and are very relevant to a back yard situation. Remember, commercial farms are designed to be efficient on power and labor. So if I can bring some of that to you guys, I am certain it will make your journey with aquaponics more a pleasure than a chore.

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Thanks Crusty, the drawings help a lot and I comprehend it now (I think).

Yes. The important part of the air design is the pressure required to run it.
This sounds like one needs to 'suck it and see'. Is that right? or did you have some calculation (or prior experience) that you used to pick the the size of the 'blower'.
You are better to design your own air lift based on how yours is set up. A simple formula (here goes the math lol), is measure from where the air will be injected to the bottom of the outlet pipe (usually the lip of the tank). Divide that by the inside diameter of the pipe you would like to use for the air lift. The answer must be greater than 50. The closer to 100 it is the better flow you will get. Make sense? The design criteria is somewhat more complicated than that, but it will get you out of trouble. Here is another crayon drawing.

Gary had mentioned 'Air-lifts' a couple of months ago in one of his posts. That sent me off hunting the internet where I found a nice description of the calculations for sizing. "

http://www.emt-india.net/equipment_tips/fans_pumps/pdf/ComponentsandWorkingofAirLiftPump.pdf ". I like your 'simple formula' much better.

Simply it is an "outlet tray" I don't have a better name for it... "Suckeruppera?"
Sort of like a standard CHOP fish tank outlet, only the anti-siphon air-break is very big. Big enough to take dead fish. Very clever.
Don't be shy about larger pipes.
Actualy I love larger pipes. It's the cost that scares me. On the other hand I am trying to become lazy, so I take the point.
Simply it is an "outlet tray" I don't have a better name for it... "Suckeruppera?"
"Wot's in a name? - she sez . . . An' then she sighs,

An' clasps 'er little 'ands, an' rolls 'er eyes.

"A rose," she sez, "be any other name

Would smell the same........"

I like "Suckeruppera". Definitely more descriptive than "outlet tray" or 'thingie'.

Anyway, the more that I see of the design, the more I think that it has gone beyond 'cool'. Maybe into 'way cool'. Teriffic and impressive job.

Thanks for the answers.

Regards,

Ray

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This sounds like one needs to 'suck it and see'. Is that right? or did you have some calculation (or prior experience) that you used to pick the the size of the 'blower'.

It is not really a suck it and see as I calculated around 16kpa (or psi can not remember) to run it. There are 13 calculations to get to that and I find them incredibly complicated. But you can suck it an see without too much trouble. Most diaphragm pumps will do the job on the pressure side of things. Keep in mind, with pressure comes power (watts). The liters per minute is relative to the amount of water flow you want after you take out all the other things you are running.

This system for example:

3 x air stones that require an ideal flow rate of 15 liters per minute @ 1M = 45LPM

Bio filter around 20LPM

This adds up to say - 65LPM

Then you need to work out how much air the lifts need.

Sort of like a standard CHOP fish tank outlet, only the anti-siphon air-break is very big. Big enough to take dead fish. Very clever.

I have no idea what that is Ray. What is it?

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Thanks again Crusty.

It is not really a suck it and see as I calculated around 16kpa (or psi can not remember) to run it.
I thought you would have would have calculations. I guess my question was "What was your thinking that led to your initial choice?" You answerd that question even though I did not ask the question very clearly.
I have no idea what that is Ray. What is it?
My version of it is in this drawing. If you open the top of the anti-siphon pipe another 30 cm and rearrange the connections, then you get something exactly the same as the Suckeruppera, only different. :)

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In case my above attempt at humour is too bad, let me say that I recognise that your device has more functionality. Both items rely on gravity to push the water up the outlet pipe carrying the solids with it.

I love the fact that in your device one can extract large solids (fish, food etc) and provid a way to eaisly remove them even before they reach the swirl filter.

Ray

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What Ray is referring to is called an SLO on other sites. Solids Lifting Overflow. It keeps the bottom of the fish tank very clean, just no tray to catch the big stuff.

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In case my above attempt at humour is too bad, let me say that I recognise that your device has more functionality. Both items rely on gravity to push the water up the outlet pipe carrying the solids with it.

I love the fact that in your device one can extract large solids (fish, food etc) and provid a way to eaisly remove them even before they reach the swirl filter.

So it is simply a pipe going to the bottom of the tank with an air break at the top, before it exits the tank?

Getting the morts (dead fish, you always have them) out of the tank is part of all designs in very large tanks. You can imagine having a tank with a 12 meter diameter and hoping to get the dead fish out of it with a net lol. The other trick with the suckeruppera, is it acts as a skimmer box to remove the floating "stuff". This is really important with high fat and protein feeds (oily film on the surface of the tank creating a "bath ring"). The downside is when you use floating feeds.

Now ya just need to make one.

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Good Morning Crusty,

So it is simply a pipe going to the bottom of the tank with an air break at the top, before it exits the tank?
Yes. Of course one needs a gap at the bottom of the pipe ( or slots or holes) to allow the muck to pushed up the pipe.
Now ya just need to make one.
Which leads me to ask what you used for the dish at the top?

Ray

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Hi,

We purchased another air pump today. It's a Sonic Hi Blow that delivers 125 litres of air per minute at a pressure of 50kPa.....considerably higher than the 200lpm blower that we used initially.

All three airlifts are hooking along at around 10 litres per minute......which will change each tank over every hour or thereabouts.

Yesterday, I washed a tray that was covered in filter gunk in one of the mega bin tanks. Within a few minutes of starting up the airlifts, the solids began to appear in the skimmer tray......which suggested that the flow from the airlift was creating a circular motion in the tank (or, as Paul calls it, swinging the tank). This circular movement of the water moves any sedimentary solids in the tank to the centre....and within range of the pickup pipe for the skimmer arrangement.

The three 200mm airstones (one in each tank) are sending out a generous stream of tiny bubbles and the media in the sump/Moving Bed bio-filter is simmering away.

A glimpse into the swirl tank confirmed that the water was spinning steadily.

When we started the system up initially, I placed a small handful of feed in the bio-filter and the first fish tank to condition the filter media. Tonight, I slipped a bucket under the swirl tank drain and cracked the dump valve and a satisfying slug of watery sludge issued forth.

Paul and I were delighted with the way things were performing with the new air pump.......but the pleasant surprises hadn't ended there.

When I bought the new air pump, I had it in my mind that it was about 125 watts. Closer inspection confirmed that our new 2000+ litre system was, in fact, operating on just 85 watts.

I attempted to take more photos but my camera battery was flat........tomorrow perhaps!

Gary

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