Mikhail

Hello from Sacramento CA

19 posts in this topic

Hello, my name is Mikail. I live in Sacramento California area. I found out about aquaponics only last year which got me pumped up to go on the journey to build one. It took me a while to gather all the parts necessary to finally assemble the CHOP 3 system.

I have only recently started to cycle the system with 3 grow beds and 300 gallon fish tank. Initial investment has been costly but still cheaper than (2x to 3x cost) prefab aquaponics systems. I am still learning @ the cost of some dead fish 😞. I am not giving up!

I have joined to learn and to share the little experience I have got with my recent 3 weeks start. Hopefully I can get up to speed fast to get my system running smoothly.

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Hi Mikhail,

 

Welcome to APN.

 

What is a CHOP 3 system?   I was aware of the CHOP 2 system - and that was a disaster from a design (and a fish') perspective.  Has something happened in CHOP 3 to change that?

 

Gary

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Sorry I meant chop 2. Phone typing with my big fingers.

I am curious what are the design flaws with CHOP 2?

So far all bell siphons work like clock, continuous water flow to all grow beds and fish tank. Only problem is that I am concerned about stuff settling in the sump and fish tank (I am testing stuff out how to better stir the stuff at the bottom to circulate it to the grow beds). That's main reason fish died I probably over fed them and the feed settled creating toxic environment for the fish. The fish lived for 3 weeks. It was my fault 😞.

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Hi Mikhail,

 

CHOP 2 is a designer's dog's breakfast.  We canvassed the 'design' back when it first got launched.....see HERE.

 

The key failing is that it allows for water (laden with fish wastes) to be returned to the fish tank without having first gone through filtration.

 

Don't be too hard on yourself about losing fish.  That system is, by design, prejudicial to fish health.

 

You really have two realistic options......incorporate dedicated mechanical and biological filtration to the system.....or remove the gravel and fill the grow beds with sand and convert it to an iAVs.  The latter option will more work but will be cheaper to do and will result in a more productive, more resilient and more sustainable system.

 

Gary

Edited by Gary Donaldson (see edit history)

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Gary,

 

thank you for the information. i am fairly new to this so most of what i have done was experimenting the entire setup based on "popular" advertised design "CHOP 2". However after encountering problems i began to research further which led me to several forums including this one.

 

what i have gathered so far is that the CHOP 2 system:

  1. does not adequately move fish waist/settled food out of the fish tank.
  2. continues to recirculate the same poop from sump to fish tank and actually refines the poop preventing it from settling to the bottom which produces more ammonia and robs the system of oxygen.
  3. causes more work since you require to clean/stir up the settled particles @ the bottom of the fish tank and the sump.

the recommendation so far is that i need to:

  1. invest in some metala filters to filter water returning from the fish tank to the sump.
  2. figure out what i can do to automatically and more effectively clean the fish tank from settled poo and food. create a gentle swirl effect to move everything to the center? move the draining of the fish tank to the middle? something like this? https://snag.gy/PRxK1S.jpg

 

any feedback would be great, i would rather fix this right then create some more maintenance for myself.

 

https://snag.gy/z1QMGe.jpg <-- here is my system so far. you can see the fish tank in the back.  

 

 

 

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Gary,

 

thank you for the information. i am fairly new to this so most of what i have done was experimenting the entire setup based on "popular" advertised design "CHOP 2". However after encountering problems i began to research further which led me to several forums including this one.

 

what i have gathered so far is that the CHOP 2 system:

  1. does not adequately move fish waist/settled food out of the fish tank.
  2. continues to recirculate the same poop from sump to fish tank and actually refines the poop preventing it from settling to the bottom which produces more ammonia and robs the system of oxygen.
  3. causes more work since you require to clean/stir up the settled particles @ the bottom of the fish tank and the sump.

the recommendation so far is that i need to:

  1. invest in some metala filters to filter water returning from the fish tank to the sump.
  2. figure out what i can do to automatically and more effectively clean the fish tank from settled poo and food. create a gentle swirl effect to move everything to the center? move the draining of the fish tank to the middle? something like this? https://snag.gy/PRxK1S.jpg

 

any feedback would be great, i would rather fix this right then create some more maintenance for myself.

 

https://snag.gy/z1QMGe.jpg <-- here is my system so far. you can see the fish tank in the back.  

 

Hello Mikhail,

 

I've experimented with this CHOP2 design concept. It did not yield favorable results for me, as you have also discovered. Like Gary said, If you want to salvage your existing design, you'll definitely need to add mechanical filtration inline between the fish tank outlet and before the grow beds.  Ideas of mechanical filtration devices are swirl filters, radial flow separators for larger particles, then secondary mechanical filtration devices like bird netting, and sieve filters for removal of suspended particles and small solid materials.  All of these will take maintenance.

 

Gary is a huge proponent of iAVS, which according to him and others, performs well without the need of mechanical filtration, but it will require a complete redesign of your media beds. If you do that, then you won't need to set up all of these mechanical filtration devices.

 

Now I run a completely different kind of configuration than either of these. The upside to mine is increased flexibility, but I also have an increased maintenance work load involved.  It works for my specific requirements.  Your needs might be completely different.

 

To address your points:

 

  1. invest in some metala filters to filter water returning from the fish tank to the sump

 

If you keep your existing media beds and sump tank, I would install a two stage mechanical filtration of a swirl filter, or radial flow separator as stage 1.  For stage 2, I would include a second filter with cheap deer or bird netting.  Both of these would be inline between the fish tank outlet and the media beds.  You'll have to periodically clean them.  It involves stopping the water flow, draining the filters, hosing them out, cleaning the bird netting with a hose, and putting it back in the filter.  You might not want to do this, or you might not mind.  Luckily, if your fish density is low, you won't have to clean them but possibly every 2, or maybe even 3 weeks.  Increased fish density could mean once a week filter cleaning, and higher density even more.  I doubt this is where you are going, though. The reason why I picked these two over other mechanical filters is because they are very easy to build from common components and I know that they work from my own experience and others on here.  The downside is they are not optimized for maintenance.  There are commercial filters that are efficient and low maintenance, but now you're playing a different ball game, figuratively speaking.

 

Now by adding in these two components, you will have help fix one problem and introduce another.  In order to clean your filters, you'll have to stop the flow of the water in your system so you can clean your mechanical filters out.  A few things need to be taken into account when you do this:  Dissolved oxygen levels in your fish tank, lack of biological filtration while the water is not moving, and potentially draining your media beds for some time.  You'll want to think those two through.  Can you put an air pump in the fish tank, if you don't already have one?  Can you potentially leave some water in your grow beds while you clean your filters so that your plants don't wilt?  The media bed ability to retain moisture will depend on what kind of media you use...

 

As currently configured, your media beds are your biofilter.

 

 

  1. figure out what i can do to automatically and more effectively clean the fish tank from settled poo and food. create a gentle swirl effect to move everything to the center? move the draining of the fish tank to the middle? something like this? https://snag.gy/PRxK1S.jpg

 

What kind of fish tank do you use now?

 

 

In closing, I'm not sure how CHOP2 was mentioned to you, but often it's presented as a low maintenance solution.  In reality, it isn't.  I tend to think that iAVS is probably the only kind of design that really fits that low maintenance bill, but it's mostly about the plants, and not the fish. Some other members on here are not starting to experiment with it, so you might want to read through some of those threads and see what you can find out, then ask some additional questions.  

 

If you want to really raise a lot of fish, you'll need to re-think your design.

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Hello Craig, 

 

thanks for the feedback.

 

even though i have just built the system, i feel that redesigning it will benefit in long run to reduce the time wasted which to me is worth more than money. As an software engineer i am very interested in automation and efficiency. Due to that i am used to failures which i look at as learning experience to see the experiments flaws and work around them. After which you evaluate and then adjust. However i want to be more wise and reduce the self-learning experience and look to the experienced to gain the already known wisdom. Unfortunately this was kind of a rushed project in addition to trusting the CHOP 2 to work 100%. i also didn't want to waist missing the spring/summer when the plants are the most vibrant which would quickly allow me to see system work live. i am still learning and want to make this system as efficient as possible. 

 

i looked into the IAVS you mentioned (CHOP 1) is definitely a different approach to my currently setup, which would require two pumps if i was to salvage my current system with minimal changes. one pump in fish tank to deliver the water to the beds and the siphoned water returns to sump which is pumped with another pump back to the fish-tank. i could easily reuse current plumbing to set this up. i have two pumps but that would add as double point of failure and double the electrical usage.

 

if i was to fully adjust to IAVS i would need to:

  1. move the draining of the fish tank to middle by installing the pipe in the middle and then reducing the 2 inch pipe to 1 inch pipe which splits to the 3 grow beds.
  2. the original 1 inch pip that delivered the water via pump from sump to fish tank will stay with minor adjustment to the connector where the pump will now only deliver water to the fish-tank.
  3. i have the added benefit of having the valves already in place to fishtank and to grow beds. so i can still stop water flow when i need to. i only have concern with sump getting flooded with water. which is why i took the effort to bury part of the sump into the ground and the sump is not as small as the chop 2 specs. its basically 2/3'rds of the 275 gallon IBC tote instead of the half size. so i have some room there.

you answer to the question about keeping the beds with water: 

 

the grows beds use auto-siphon so i can easily let the water fill up before it siphons and keep the water in there if i was to do maintenance in order for the plants not to die. my siphons are easily removable to only dump the water before the draining so the water stays and only overflow is drained which is 2-3 inches below the evaporation barrier so the roots will stay in moisture (https://snag.gy/NsYRxa.jpg). 

 

in regards to aeration, i have yet to install a swirl aeration system, which i plan to most likely add between the pump and fish tank.

 

 

my fishtank is an 275 gallon IBC tote. i use the full capacity. in theory its total is almost 300 gallons. my water level is about at 280 gallons level before its drained.

 

additionally i have one extra 275 gallon IBC tote just in case :) i was planning to expand the system after the trial runs with current if it went as well as it was advertised.

 

also, what kind of air-pump would you recommend? or would a swirl aerator be sufficient?

Edited by Mikhail (see edit history)

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here is my siphon at work :)

 

here water is not draining since i have removed the siphon:

post-4696-0-29704600-1466465228_thumb.jp

 

adding the siphon back the water begins to drain:

post-4696-0-10377100-1466465234_thumb.jp

 

water being drained to the sump:

post-4696-0-51842400-1466465245_thumb.jp

 

by the way the water is dark because i have added seaweed extract to initially start the cycling. i caught about 20 bluegill 2 weeks ago and put them in fish tank, they where fine eating ok and non died until i purchased some feed purina aquamax thats when the feed went to bottom after 12 hours and began to cultivate. the feed rose back up with the dead fish covered in some strange stuff. thats when i started to stir up the tank and seen all of the stinky stuff thats was on the bottom. my learning curve to seeing that the stuff settled at the bottom was not getting picked up as well as i expected it with the return pump to the sump.

Edited by Mikhail (see edit history)

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Mikhail,

 

The easiest way to upgrade your current stinker would be to redirect flow from the fish tank to the growbeds.  That assumes that your grow beds can be easily made to drain into your sump tank.   Leave your pump in the sump tank.  This will convert your current system into CHOP.....the basic flood and drain system.  Remove your auto-syphons and insert a short piece of pipe into the bulkhead fitting that goes through the bottom of your grow beds....so that you have about 6" of water in your beds at all times.  Subsurface continuous flow watering is no less effective when it comes to growing plants than autosyphons and it's far simpler.

 

While CHOP is far from ideal, it's far better than CHOP 2 - at least all of the water is flowing through your grow beds.

 

At this stage, you're at the crossroads.....because you still need to improve the filtration if you're going to make your system a safer, healther place for fish.  You have two choices......you can insert dedicated mechanical and biological filtration.....or you can go the iAVs route.

 

Of the two, iAVs is the easier path.......all you have to do dig all of that gravel out of the growbeds and replace it with sand of the right spec....and make whatever changes to your drainage pipework that are required to keep it (the sand) in the grow beds.

 

Building the filtration units is simple enough but they will increase your footprint and you'll still be lagging in terms of filtration efficacy.

 

I would strongly advise that you go with iAVs.   Not only will you have a better system for less cost, but you'll have something that your neighbours don't have.  You'll have an iAVs......and you'll be a pioneer.  

 

And women will find you more attractrive.

 

I'd put an air pump and stones into your system whichever way you go.

 

Gary

Edited by Gary Donaldson (see edit history)

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Hello and welcome to APN,

 

While I don't disagree with Gary on the IAVS conversion ,  a more immediate change will be more helpful in the short term.    Two easy adjustments I see that can be made that cost very little and require very little added maintenance are:

 

1. The return from the fish tank in your drawing is submerged.  If this is correct then simply altering the pipe so the return breaks the surface of the water will increase aeration of the fish tank.  Lack of oxygen is a common killer of fish in new systems that overfeeding likely exacerbated, but was not the primary reason the fish died.

 

Adding an air pump and air stone will help in this as well.   I would do this ASAP.

 

2.  Adding a simple fluidized sand filter.  While it will not have as "magical" an effect as IAVS, it will provide more surface area and filtration capability.

 

You will need a bag of  high quality pool filter sand and a 4" PVC pipe at least long enough to come up a foot over the water level of the tank and a 4" pvc pipe cap.  You will also need a way to make the pipe stand up, I used a square cinder block, but there are numerous ways to do that.

 

post-166-0-81149600-1466530380_thumb.jpg

 

 

the pipe extends above the waterline so as water goes down the walls it forms into a thin layer and increases oxygenation.  

You may need to  add a means of flow control to the return pipe if its too fast it will flush the sand out of the pvc pipe.

 

The goal is to have water flow through the sand in the pipe  fast enough to come out of the sand, but slow enough to not raise the sand out of the pipe.  Worse comes to worse you will need to add a tee and a ball valves to adjust flow into the filter.

 

Google fluidized sand filter for more detailed information if interested.

Edited by Ravnis (see edit history)

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Gary, 

 

thank you for the valuable information. it directed me to research iAVS design, in addition some explanations about CHOP 2 http://iavs.info/editorial/aquaponics-biggest-mistake/ .

 

However i am all mixed up right now, seems there is some conflict with facts in regards to what i have learned prior to reading about iAVS. IAVS seems to contradict Murray Hallam claims about best conditions for plants and fish. Both systems have presented "evidence" of them working. I didn't realize there is such an information battle going on with aquaponics and best practices. i guess i can only try and see the results. i will have to do fair amount of work to convert my system to IAVS so that is the risk including my plans are growing fast so i will need to do this before them become too rooted. Basically buy lots of sand! thats about 10 50 pound bags per bed. bury my sump to level with the ground so i can lower the beds more. remove the auto siphons, however i am still puzzled by how water is drained with sand as the media, how is sand prevented from entering the sump? that can easily damage the pump. i will need to find specs on how that works. my fish tank will require some modifications where i will need to move the draining of the tank to the center. i will need to add some swirl aerators... maybe between the beds and the sump, or between pump and the fish tank. so now i have lots of questions in regards to iAVS.

 

i am very tempted to take the approach suggested by Ravnis to add sand filter between pump and fishtank. however i want to take the best approach available.

 

"1. The return from the fish tank in your drawing is submerged. "

 

sorry my drawings where not fully accurate, i actually have more tricky drainage system which seems to add additional aeration.

 

post-4696-0-33794400-1466569094_thumb.jp
post-4696-0-54865600-1466569088_thumb.jp

 

 

 

 

 

post-4696-0-54865600-1466569088_thumb.jp

post-4696-0-33794400-1466569094_thumb.jp

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Ya, Murray Hallam is a good promoter.  I built my first chop 2 system in  March  of 2009 long before Murray started promoting it.    I quickly realized it was a terrible design when I lost 2000 tilapia months later.   In my defense I only knew about aquaculture and aquaponics from what I had read on the forums at that time.   It's such a bad design , I'm more than happy for Murray to claim credit for the poop soup maker.  

 

 

We have had many a thread come here with a title similar to Help my fish are dying.   Something I believe you have already experienced(my condolences). 

 

After seeing the plumbing of your fish tank drain it is obviously functioning as a settling tank and will not give you very good circulation and will create a stagnant and toxic zone toward the bottom.  Adding air stones will at least allow it to mix better.   I do understand your confusion as to which is better, I was in your shoes several years ago, but if I can save you some heartache , I will.   

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However i am all mixed up right now, seems there is some conflict with facts in regards to what i have learned prior to reading about iAVS. IAVS seems to contradict Murray Hallam claims about best conditions for plants and fish. 

 

 

Hi Mikhail,

 

You can be absolutely certain that iAVs contradicts Murray Hallam's view of best conditions for plants and fish.

 

There is scientific evidence to support the iAVs (and the dedicated filtration) approach but there is no scientific evidence to support CHOP 2.  There isn't a scientist or aquaculture engineer anywhere that will tell you that CHOP 2 is OK.  

 

I condemned it the day it was made public.....and it still stands condemned.  Murray has been counselled at length about why it's problematic but he continues to reflect (at best) wilful ignorance.  It's important to understand that this is not a Ford/Chevy thing.....CHOP 2 is aquacultural malpractice.....pure and simple.

 

Click HERE.....for an article that explains why solid wastes need to be taken out of the water column.  Click HERE.....for an article that explains why and promoters like Murray Hallam do what they do.....and how. 

 

Basically buy lots of sand! thats about 10 50 pound bags per bed. 

 

That's an expensive way to buy sand.  In a place the size of Sacramento, you will have a sand vendor who will be able to supply ASTM C33 sand in bulk - and that's how I'd buy it in your situation.  It will be much cheaper buying it by the cubic yard than in 50lb bags.

 

......however i am still puzzled by how water is drained with sand as the media, how is sand prevented from entering the sump? that can easily damage the pump. 

 

There are a variety of ways to keep the sand in your grow beds.....and which way is best will be driven by your exact circumstances.  You could, for example, stretch some coarse weave stretch material over your existing media barrier.....or create a sleeve from very fine insect screen mesh......or you could lay a section of slotted agricultural drain pipe (with matching sock) along the length of your grow bed so that it connects into the bulkhead fitting on your grow bed.  These are just a few suggestions. 

 

Most people share your concern about keeping the sand in place but it works better in practice than it appears.  Sand sinks (like a stone) so don't be too concerned about it getting into your pumps.  Even if your system is leaking a bit of sand, you can fit an inexpensive removable sand trap between the grow bed outlet and the sump tank.

 

Any sand that actually makes it into your sump tank can be syphoned out easily.

 

As I pointed out in my last post, your first imperative is to stop the unfiltered water from going directly back to the fish tank.  That's dead simple.....you just re-route the outflow from your fish tanks so that it flows to your grow beds......then draining into the sump tank where the pump then moves it back to the fish tank.  As I said, that's far from ideal but it's a whole lot better than what you have now.

 

I like fluidised sand beds, too.....but they are not without their issues.  While they are very effective in trapping solids they will clog up and the water flow will be reduced....to the point where little to no water will pass.....particularly if you're using the low pressure submersible pumps that most aquaponicists use.  I've found them best where you have a good external centrifugal pump and the capacity to regulate flow according to the filter loading.

 

Another possibility - and one that lends itself to system like yours - is a radial flow separator.  They're a simple device and they work very well - removing all of the sedimentary solids.  The subsequent addition of other filtration modules that focus on removing suspended solids will further enhance the performance of your system.

 

This is the approach that I'd have taken (and recommended to others) prior to becoming aware of iAVs.....and I have just built a small recirculating aquaculture system premised on this idea.  I have cleaned the filter on that puppy three times since I set it up and, each time I do it, I'm reminded of why my next system will be an iAVs.

 

Gary

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You guys definitely have helped me understand over the course of few days corresponding with valuable information. i am glad i found an active forum.

  1. what would be a good centrifugal pump to invest in? 
  2. what would be a good aeration pump to go with for my size of setup?
  3. i have some slotted drain pipe waiting to be used. i knew it would be useful. 
  4. seems i would need to build the sand beds instead of using sliced up totes in order to create the space necessary for the furrows. what do you think?
  5. how would i adapt radial flow separator with the IBC tote fish tank? what would you suggest? i am still researching your suggestion :)

i am a bit bummed out. i am thinking to continue to use CHOP 2 for period of time that my summer plants grow. i will get some throw away fish to put in the tank and work on filtration (using the sand suggestion with pvc pipe) and aeration pump. burnt me out a bit :), i was juggling this with a 4'th baby birth so it has been hectic. 

 

some final questions, apart from the CHOP 2 flaws with filtration, and other issues, what would you say the difference would be in regards to quality of the greens and the amount you would grow between iAVS and CHOP 2?

 

Thanks!

i am a bit bummed out. i am thinking to continue to use CHOP 2 for period of time that my summer plants grow. i will get some throw away fish to put in the tank and work on filtration (using the sand suggestion with pvc pipe) and aeration pump.

Edited by Mikhail (see edit history)

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i have begun the journey of converting my original CHOP3 system to IAVS model. i wanted to do this earlier, however i didn't find time with my crazy schedule. however i have bee eager to start as soon as i learned about IAVS.

my chop 3 system was running for over a year and didnt do so well. Most of the fish died except the mosquito fish which are extreme survivalist. they have no problem living in dirty water ph imbalanced water. i have a single grow bed left which uses gravel media to keep the system circulating while i build the IAVS grow beds.

now that i am in the middle of the process i have some questions:

  1. I have a 280 gallon fish tank, including a 200 gallon sump. what size grow beds would i need to handle this size of fish tank?
    1. Based on some rough calculation i plan to build two grow beds 10 feet long by 3.5 feet wide (about 1 meter) and 14 inches high (1 foot for sand and 2 inches extra for flow).
    2. i plan to use silver carp from local vendor.
  2. for the sand media i have a bit trouble choosing. i understand i still require to test the ph and do a vinegar test. however i need some guidance on how course the sand must be.
    1. here is example of local vendor i can purchase from: http://www.nimbuslandscapematerials.com/product-category/rock-and-gravel 

here is what i have done so far:

  • purchased the timer for the pump 
  • purchased the pond liner to line the grow beds
  • reworked the pipework to fit the IAVS model
  • berried the sump below ground level for grow bed drain which will pump the water to the fish tank using timer once 
  • installed all electrical pipe work with weather proof outlet and breaker to shut off in case of short circuit or overload.

i have yet to purchase the lumber to build the grow beds.

i appreciated any feed back.

Thank You

 

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