Trial and error with aquaponics

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I checked on the Grow Dome yesterday to see how the system was running.  It was not as dramatic as the loss of fish, but I entered the Grow Dome and found about half of our plants dried up and water was not flowing out of the system while the pump was making a sound of being clogged or bogged down. A little investigation revealed that the intake filter was not seated properly (and not robust enough if it was) and all kinds of floating debris had clogged the pump, the hoses, and biological filter.  The first job was to take the intake and filter apparatuses apart and clean everything.20140630-192859-70139075.jpgAfter everything was cleaned, we redesigned the intake, pictured above.  We found a one-gallon bucket with multiple holes in the sides and bottom.  We got an old pair of panty hose and stretched it over the bucket and then hung the bucket inside a filter screen bag that is sold for people who paint using a sprayer.  This design works really well.  It allows access to the pump without having to allow the surrounding water into the system.  The bucket hangs conveniently from the handle by hooks anchored in the crossbar of the water tank.  As an extra biological benefit, we also put a pumice stone from our aerator into the bucket so that oxygenated water is sucked into the system for use in the biological filter and then into the hydroponic trays.

20140630-192859-70139503.jpgWhile we were at it, we redesigned our biological filter.  We had to disconnect everything and dismantle it.  We took all the pumice and pea-gravel filter media and dumped it into a plastic tray.  We used high pressure from a hose to clean out all the gunk from the filter media pads.  We put the filter media pads back in place but with a different order.  As before, we put the coarse- and medium-density filter pads on the bottom of the bucket.  Then we put the mixture of pumice and pea-gravel that was cleaned using a colander and high-pressure water spray and replaced it on top of the medium-density filter pad, the second layer in the bucket.  All in all we have about 4 inches of pumice and pea-gravel.  Since some pumice can float, we sandwiched the pumice/pea-gravel with another pad of medium-density filter.  We used some extra pieces of filter pad to stick in the outlet holes to prevent any detritus from entering our outlet tubes and hydroponic trays.

We still have some plants that survived this episode and we planted some more seeds in those little fiberglass-like plugs to put in the system in a couple of weeks.  We are also looking to obtain some starter plants, wash off the soil from the root zone, and place them in this system once it is up and running…  All in all we feel good about the learning experience we are engaged in and feel fortunate that we have the opportunity (and funding) to develop this system and share with you our progress…

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About Miguel

Miguel Santistevan is a researcher, educator, and advocate for traditional agriculture crops and systems.
This entry was posted in AIRE, Chrysalis Alternative High School, Grow Dome, Research and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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