Brock does hydroponics in a setup called dutch buckets. Rob does aquaponics down in Australia. And Larry Hall has a setup where he grows in buckets with soil but he waters them by wicking with rain gutters. This setup has inspirations from all of them and more.
The aquaponics portion is from Rob, of course. Not sure what part is from Brock but he's just an inspiration anyway. The part from Larry Hall I'll explain as I explain the rough draft that I drew up. This is by no means a final layout either. I plan on doing a small prototype with some small containers just to see if things work out the way I think they will. I'll do that when we're in the new townhouse. Then by the time I work out the kinks, we should be ready to get our property and I can build the full version.
So let's start with the fish tank. This part is pretty self explanatory. This is where the fish are kept. In the full size version I'll be getting tilapia. I love baked tilapia. But in the prototype I'll probably just use feeder goldfish since I won't lose a whole lot if something goes wrong. I've also thought of getting some small koi eventually, growing them out, and then selling them back to the fish store. A way to make some extra money on the side. Not sure if I'd include them in the tilapia tank or if I'd make a separate tank for them. To be decided at a later time.
Ok, the pump will be in the fish tank. I'm thinking about putting sponges around the pump just to keep too much fish waste being sent into the grow bed. But not sure if sponges will restrict the pump's ability to intake the water. In the bigger setup I'll probably put a swirl filter in between the fish tank and the grow bed.
Now the grow beds aren't going to be like most aquaponics setups. I'm not going to have any pea gravel or hydroton or anything like that. I'm going to have soil in the brown colored area. Yes, I know, supposed to be a big no no but let me explain. The black boxey things in the bottom of the grow bed are going to be net pots or something similar. Those will be lined with landscape fabric or something that won't degrade. Then they will be filled with coconut coir to create a wicking effect for the grow bed. That's the part inspired by Larry Hall and his rain gutter system. But those net pots will be the only thing down in the water.
The smaller things in the bottom of the grow bed will be lava rocks or possibly hydroton or bioballs to create the area for the living bacteria that most aquaponic and hydroponic setups depend on. The water will flow throw the bottom of the grow bed from one side to the other. The net pots will wick up what they need and the lava rocks will filter the rest of the water.
Then the water will go out to a couple of pipes where it will be dripped over a trickle filter. This idea comes from when I once had a salt water tank. Trickle filters were one of the more popular and efficient ways to filter a salt water tank. So I figured it could work really well with an aquaponics setup also. The trickle filter is the main inspiration for this particular setup because the trickle filter has to always be wet. With a bell siphon setup, the trickle filter would stay dry for too long and not work properly. So I knew I'd have to have a constant flow system.
After it falls through the trickle filter, it'll fall into a sump or holding tank. There will be a pipe going from the sump tank to the fish tank and atmospheric pressure will keep them the same level.
Now, one modification I might make is put the sump container on the other side of the setup and use it for the swirl filter. Then just feed the water from the trickle filter straight into the fish tank.
But yeah, that's pretty much the gist of the idea. A constant flow system that gives me the freedom of using soil but with the advantages of the nutrients from the fish waste and what should be a good filtration system for the fish's return water.
My only concern at the moment is whether the soil will still effect the water chemistry even though it won't be technically in the water.
Let me know if you have any thoughts or suggestions. Or if you have any other questions about the setup.
P.S. - I remember how Brock was inspirational for this build. Eventually I plan on attaching some dutch buckets to the system and see how they do.