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Aquaponics in Auroville, India

Discussion in 'New Aquaponics systems - DIY' started by akashh, May 14, 2010.

  1. akashh

    akashh New Member

    Joined:
    May 11, 2010
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    Hello everyone,

    I'm relatively new to aquaponics, less than 1 year of experience. I started off by experimenting with an NFT technique and then moved to a system with a fish tank of 2500l. Photos of the NFT method can be seen here:
    http://hyptonics.blogspot.com
    And for the last experiment with 4 grow beds:
    http://www.avhypotonics.com

    In the flood and drain system we had 4 grow beds and about 100 carp fingerlings to start off with. However, half of them jumped out during the first two days for some reason. After that things were OK for quite a while. We grew some nice veggies but nothing like what I read about in this forum. I think the problem has to do with nutrient levels and feeding habits. We did not really feed the fish enough, and the food was probably of poor quality. Mostly rice and wheat bran mix. But since the system had no particle filtration the water quality became quite poor. Monitored levels of Ammonia, Nitrite and they were nearly 0 ppm. Nitrate less than 5 ppm. pH around 7.5 to 8.

    The new system we are starting to build can be seen in the attached photo. I'll describe the components:

    Grow beds
    The grow beds are built from 'kadappa' which is a stone slab that's stuck together with metal paste. It's used as a drain here in India. Size is 2 x 2 x 1 foot. We plan to use 54 grow beds of this size.
    The tank is calculated to be 12000liters. We have an existing pool that we are walling off to the right size for the experiment. A 1 HP pump will be circulating water through a 1" pipe through the grow beds. 3 rows of pipes will have 54 valves (one over each grow bed) to adjust the flow. From our first experiments the flood and drain system with the siphon stopped working after time. We though to make it simple this time, just a couple of smaller holes at the bottom of the pipe for slow draining and set the top height so the bed never overflows (2" below the top of the bed, or 1" below the gravel)
    The beds drain into a 4" pipe that will return water to the fish tank.

    The fish tank
    The size of the fish tank is about 5 m x 2.4 x about 60 or 70 cms (depending on how we adjust it to keep fish tank: grow bed ratio). We are planning to buy an aeration pump with flow rate of 40l/minute and about 10 air stones to help aerate the tank. A question about the fish tank: Is more surface area and lower depth better than more depth and a smaller area? What would be the ideal minimum depth? We still have plenty of space to play with, the existing tank is 12 m x 4 m, and we can use as much of it as we need.

    Sump tank-like thing
    Since the tank is below ground level and we wanted to minimize the cost of the system, the best idea we had so far was to wall off about 2x3 feet of the tank, and join it with the tank through some 1 or 2" pvc pipes at the bottom. Somewhere half way up we'd install some sort of mesh to keep large particles from leaving the tank, and then above that the pump would suck out the water for circulation. The logic behind this is that a slow suction at the lower end of this tank would pull in debris and larger particles, and it would settle in this tank allowing for easier removal.

    Fish
    We though to put in 1000 carp, but maybe 500 is a more safe bet.

    Feeding
    That's a problem here because you cannot get commercial fish food at that quantity and at an affordable rate. From research on the net, we saw that aquaculture in eastern asia feeds them mainly rice bran with groundnut cake. But it's very all very small particles that float on top of the water and probably that's part of the reason our test system is so dirty. One idea was to put the food in a mosquito net to hold it together and have them peck it out. Suggestions are welcome.

    That pretty much sums up the system so far. We are currently clearing the area and masons are coming to build our walls next week.
     

    Attached Files:

  2. akashh

    akashh New Member

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    Just did a calculation on the actual grow bed size. It's 0.066 m3 per bed -> 55 cms x 55 cms x 22 cms high. So, 54 beds makes only 3.6 m3 of grow beds! Therefore, my calculations seem to have been fully wrong. What that would make my tank very small, only about 3-4000 l and not 12000 like I planned.
    The only reason we went for such small grow beds was due to the cost and availability. We didn't find any large plastic containers and I was worried about the quality of the industrial plastic barrels.
    Is there any problem with going for such small grow beds? Can anyone suggest what a good way forward would be? I have already purchased 20 of the grow beds, but still didn't buy the last 34. I am attaching a picture of the existing tank that we plan to wall off and the grow beds.
     

    Attached Files:

  3. akashh

    akashh New Member

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    A few more days into the building of the system, I thought I'd post a few more pics. It's quite an ambitious project - we had to bring electricity and water for over 100m. The masons are nearly finished building the bases for the grow beds. The stone slabs have arrived with drain hole specially drilled. These will site on top of the rows and have a single brick wall go up about 1 foot to hold the blue metal rocks.

    Does anyone have experience with blue metal? It's cheaper than pebbles, but not sure whether it works as well? Any feedback or suggestions would be welcome.
     

    Attached Files:

  4. Murray

    Murray Site Admin Staff Member

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    Hi Akashs,
    Interesting project you have there. Keep the photos coming.

    Blue metal is just fine....20mm is the way to go.
    Just test it to see if it contains lime or similar, but blue metal is usually very good for Aquaponics systems.

    Most fish will jump out in the first few days in a new environment. Just put a lid of some sort for the first week and that will solve that problem.
     
  5. akashh

    akashh New Member

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    New updated pictures of the work so far

    We have been working hard on the project over the last days - frames are ready to be welded in place now - we are going to start that today.
    The beds are nearly ready. The stone slabs are all cemented in place. One of them already has the brick wall around it. The big 4" pipes in the picture are the return pipes and are connected to the drain pipes in each grow bed through flexible hose.
    The tank was a mess and it took two people a whole day to clean out.
     

    Attached Files:

  6. RupertofOZ

    RupertofOZ New Member

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    Starting to look pretty good there Akashh
     
  7. akashh

    akashh New Member

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    Updated pictures

    Things are moving along, but there's still a lot of work to be done. The masons need to plaster the tank and the grow beds, and the welded mesh needs to be fixed onto the greenhouse frame. A plastic sheet has been ordered for the roof and will need to be installed.
    We decided to separate the 5000l tank into two parts - they will be joined by a pipe to keep the water level the same and circulate it. Pump will remove water from one side and it will fill back into the other side. We thought that since catfish are omnivores but have a tendency to eat themselves, when they are mismatched in size. This way, we can keep some in both tanks and then move the smaller ones over to the smaller tank as they grow out. It also allows us to get fingerlings into he system while we still have big fish. Comments/suggestions on how to link the two tanks are welcome. I thought initially to use one side as a sump but realized that since catfish are air breathers they really don't care much about water level, etc. So it's safe to pump the tank half empty every hour.
     

    Attached Files:

  8. akashh

    akashh New Member

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    More greenhouse images

    We worked all sunday... man was it hot, about 41 degrees here with a RH of about 50-70%.
    Anyway, you can see the mesh being tie-roped onto the structure for tack welding later. We had some trouble getting the top bars on, since our ladders were not quite long enough.
     

    Attached Files:

  9. Castaway

    Castaway Senior Member

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    Should be a real show piece when it's complete. Good luck.
     
  10. akashh

    akashh New Member

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    More pictures

    Progressing along, the fish tank is actually plastered now (this is an older pic) and the entire greenhouse frame is welded together. We need to concrete in the frames now since the whole thing is very rickety. Mesh is tie-roped onto the frame and will later be fixed with metal wire or even welded on.
    We are really looking forward to getting our system going. Have to order the blue metal still and of course do the whole plumbing, but that can only be done once the whole greenhouse is secured.
     

    Attached Files:

  11. Erich

    Erich Member

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    looking good :carrot:
     
  12. akashh

    akashh New Member

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    More pictures

    The greenhouse is really coming along now. We already got the blue metal into 3 of the 7 large beds. Drilling holes in the drain pipe is taking longer than expected. Looking forward to getting the water in and setting up the pipes next. The roof material will come next week and once the place is lockable and the roof is on we'll start with pump and air pump installation.
     

    Attached Files:

  13. akashh

    akashh New Member

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    Coming along

    Still working hard at it, it is just over a month since we started. Here are some pics of the latest stages. Today we are going to start setting up the wires guides for the roof (huge 80 ft x 20 ft greenhouse plastic sheet).
     

    Attached Files:

  14. Daryl

    Daryl New Member

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    WOW it looks great
     
  15. akashh

    akashh New Member

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    Thanks. We got fully funded by the community's farm group that has so far been doing organic farming in conventional ways. They are interested to see whether this would be a viable option as well. Looking forward to getting the fish and plants in.
    Total cost of this project so far is about $3500 US including wages at indian rates.
     
  16. akashh

    akashh New Member

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    The roof is on

    We finally got the greenhouse roof on, a 80ft by 20 ft piece of plastic specially ordered to size. Now we can finish hooking up the pump and start circulating the water!
     

    Attached Files:

  17. RupertofOZ

    RupertofOZ New Member

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    Well done... crank it up and let us know how it all goes...
     
  18. bigdaddy

    bigdaddy Super Moderator

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    Hi AKA,

    Really nice job.
    Just a question,with your kadappa,What did you seal it with,to make it waterproof,or was there no need for it?

    Cheers.
     
  19. akashh

    akashh New Member

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    Very good question bigdaddy... In fact in the initial test yesterday the seam between the bricks and kadappa leaked. I have masons coming today with waterproof compound which they are going to mix into the cement and plaster all the grow beds from out outside. Not optimal but I'm going to try and avoid removing the granite gravel, it's HEAVY.
    Had a huge rain with lots of wind and the roof stayed on, that's one good sign anyway!
     
  20. akashh

    akashh New Member

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    Just wanted to give everyone an update. I'll be posting some pictures soon but things slowed down since we ran into a bunch of problems.
    1) Grow beds in cement leaked. We had to plaster it from the outside since the gravel was already in it and it would be too labour intensive. It's still leaking, but less and according to some experts it will stop leaking as the holes calcify.
    2) The stone 2 by 2 foot beds cracked apart and leak. We just finished gluing up most of them, a bit more to go.
    3) The 1 HP pump is not self priming and there was a problem that every hour or so one would need to reprime it. That's solved too.
    4) We put in 6000 l of water and after 3 days of cycling, we lost about 3000 l. Water is also not so abundant here so we are hoping those leaks get filled up soon.
    5) The white plastic heats up the rocks like anything so we had to apply a layer of green net (90% sun blocking)
    6) Seedlings were coming up but after 1 day in the sun they withered. Planting a new batch and waiting.
    7) The catfish that we wanted are no longer available, so we are going to go for carp as soon as the ammonia cycle is complete - added 100 ml of 25% ammonica (ammonium hydroxide) to the water.
     

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