Aquaponics Build for Classroom (Picture Heavy) - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-11-2017, 09:02 PM Thread Starter
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Aquaponics Build for Classroom (Picture Heavy)

I decided to build an Aquaponics system for my wife's Pre-School classroom.

Here is a list we're hoping the children can learn from this system:
  • Proper Animal Husbandry
  • The Nitrogen Cycle
  • Symbiosis of animals, plants, and light
  • Plant life cycle
  • Identification of plant parts (Roots, stem, leaves, fruit, flowers, etc...)
  • Pollination
  • Identification of fish anatomy

This is my first foray into the world of Hydro/Aqua-ponics. From the research that I've done I decided to mimic a floating raft system (DWC). Initially we'll be sticking with leafy greens and herbs but, eventually we'll try some more robust plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, etc... (this will be down the line). We'll be growing lettuce so the kids can feed it to the classroom bunny.

I built the stand this way in case we wanted to change how we grow the plants (in the future I can modify it to an Ebb & Flow system if desired).

The stand is 4 ft tall by 4 ft wide and 17 inches deep. The aquarium is a spare 55 gallon that I got for free a while back. The "plant tank" is roughly 16 inches tall by 4 feet wide by 17 inches deep. It is a bit narrow, but it'll be attached to the wall with steel straps so if a kid decides to climb on it it won't fall over. The stand is built out of spare cedar 2x4's and the plywood for the "plant tank" was leftover from some project (maple or birch). I will be drilling bulkheads into the bottom of the "plant tank" for recirculating the water from the aquarium.

I'm planning on stocking the aquarium with some Cory's, some sort of Minnow (Danios, Shiners, etc...) , some loaches, and perhaps some tetras. I haven't finalized the stocking yet (other than knowing there will for sure be some Cory's and Minnows). I chose the minnows b/c I want the kids to see a schooling fish.

For lighting the plants I'm using 3 4ft Bridgelux 4000K EB Series Strips powered by a Mean Well HLG-185H-C1050B with a potentiometer for manual dimming. I built an aluminum mount so that I can hang them above the plants and adjust the height based off of canopy size. I also bought a Far Red Initiator Puck from RapidLED to help the plants "sleep" faster (unsure if I'll be using it though). I will be building a wooden "canopy" to place around the lights to help with light splashing and direction.

Here are some pictures (pictures are links to bigger versions):

Stand:










Liner (Plant-Tank):




Light:





Due to the holidays this project will be on hold until January.

If there are any suggestions for stocking, what to grow, or literally anything I'd love to hear them!
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-11-2017, 10:41 PM
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You're probably best off just filling the tank with guppies or some other hardy fish since you're going to need to seriously overstock (or overfeed) it to produce enough nitrogen to actually grow plants decently. Also you're going to need a bioreactor somewhere in your system if the goal is to convert fish waste to usable nitrates or ammonia for the plants to take up into their roots. There's also a fairly good chance that the bottom tank is just going to be an algae farm.
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-11-2017, 11:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JusticeBeaver View Post
You're probably best off just filling the tank with guppies or some other hardy fish since you're going to need to seriously overstock (or overfeed) it to produce enough nitrogen to actually grow plants decently. Also you're going to need a bioreactor somewhere in your system if the goal is to convert fish waste to usable nitrates or ammonia for the plants to take up into their roots. There's also a fairly good chance that the bottom tank is just going to be an algae farm.
I have to respectfully disagree with just about everything here. Over stock yes, though proper testing will determine how much stocking you need. Algae farm, not unless you're blasting light in the lower tank. Put some nerites in and some amano shrimp and it'll stay nice and clean. Don't really need a bioreactor either, there is more than enough surface area in whatever substrate you choose to use in the hydroponics side of thing for bacteria to colonize (plant roots from floating rafts will also work).

As to plants look through the riparium plant list in my signature for ideas. Lots of stuff will grow that way


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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-11-2017, 11:42 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the heads up JusticeBeaver!

Here's some extra info on the setup:

The 55 gallon aquarium will have a HOB filter (either Fluval C4 or Marineland Penguin filter [2 bio wheels]) as well as 2 run of the mill plastic lids and 2 fluorescent lights. A submersed 300GPH (more likely 200GPH with head height) will be what circulates the water from the two tanks. This may end up being too much water flow, but tweaking will come later.

As for the stocking:
I'm planning on throwing like 50 minnows (was thinking pearl danios) in there and hoping to get a good schooling effect. It'll definitely be overstocked and will have minimal decoration in there as well. Light sand bottom, maybe a piece of driftwood, and some rocks. Maybe some low light plants (anubias, java fern, val, etc...) for aesthetics. The reason I'm thinking minnows (and corys) is because they can handle fairly low water temperatures (high 60's low 70's) without issue and they like current. Where as guppies prefer warmer temperatures (as far as I know) and don't like temp fluctuations (I was thinking of not putting a heater on this). From what I've read about hydroponics, nutrients are more available in the upper 60's lower 70's, so I was going to try and keep temperature in this range.

I'm hoping that the low light atmosphere of the aquarium (bottom tank) will keep most of the algae at bay, but I'm OK if there is some algae.
The plant-tank (top tank) will have a 2" piece of polystyrene board (blue insulation foam) floating on top of the surface which should (in a perfect world) block the bright light from interacting with the water.

The plant-tank (top tank) will also have 4 large air stones running 24/7 in order to create oxygen for the roots. I'm unsure if this will help in decreasing algae, but it'll produce very oxygenated water.


Any other suggestions for stocking? I've been all over the map on what to do (one big ol' oscar, some cichlids, goldfish, etc....). I finally narrowed it down to minnows b/c of the criteria listed above, I like the way schooling fish look, and they are fairly inexpensive so I can overstock greatly without breaking the bank.

If guppies are the best choice, I'll use them (I don't particularly care for them though). What would you do with all the babies anyway?


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Originally Posted by theatermusic87 View Post
I have to respectfully disagree with just about everything here. Over stock yes, though proper testing will determine how much stocking you need. Algae farm, not unless you're blasting light in the lower tank. Put some nerites in and some amano shrimp and it'll stay nice and clean. Don't really need a bioreactor either, there is more than enough surface area in whatever substrate you choose to use in the hydroponics side of thing for bacteria to colonize (plant roots from floating rafts will also work).

As to plants look through the riparium plant list in my signature for ideas. Lots of stuff will grow that way

theatermusic87: will amano shrimp be ok with heavy nitrates? I haven't looked into shrimp that much, I just thought it would be a no go.

Last edited by Zippybear; 12-11-2017 at 11:47 PM. Reason: Added question for theatermusic87
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 01-14-2018, 04:16 PM
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What about getting ahold of a trout hatchery in your area and stocking with fingerlings? I've been wanting to try that for awhile. That way when they start getting too big you can pull them out, add more young ones and have a fresh fish dinner. If theres enough circulation as you're planning on with all the air stones up top as well, the water should be oxygenated enough for trout. Although a bigger tank would obviously be better to allow them more swimming space plus for them to be able to grow larger.

I'm thinking of making a real small aquaponics system running off a 25gallon pea puffer tank just for lettuce(need to upgrade the filtration on that tank anyway). Though I have a 55gallon and a 120gallon collecting dust and I've been playing with the idea of setting up one of those for trout/aquaponics...wanted to do that for years, just limited on room here.

As for the amanos, no they won't handle high nitrate levels.

Any more progress on this setup?

Last edited by brianp603; 01-14-2018 at 04:19 PM. Reason: error
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 01-18-2018, 03:41 AM Thread Starter
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What about getting ahold of a trout hatchery in your area and stocking with fingerlings?
I thought about this, but I wasn't sure if it would work out since Trout are cold water (50 - 60 degrees Fahrenheit) species... or at least that's what I've found research wise. My wife's room is always kept at minimum 70deg F, so, even running no heater the water would hover around that temperature.

I thought about doing brook trouts, but the water temp thing keeps me from doing it. At one point I wanted to make a bigger system for the backyard and contemplated putting trout in it. I kept running into what to do during the summer. I have a secondary water system that comes straight from the reservoir and is cold all summer and thought I could just keep it on a low continuous flow, but I figured that would be too much of a waste of water.

Trout are BEAUTIFUL fish though!


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Originally Posted by brianp603 View Post
As for the amanos, no they won't handle high nitrate levels.
Thanks for the clarification! That's what I was thinking, but you never know! Do you know if there are any other kinds of shrimp that may survive in this environment (High Nitrates)? I think that would be really neat if the kids could see that life form, but I'm not holding my breath. Shrimp seem to be sensitive little things.


Quote:
Originally Posted by brianp603 View Post
Any more progress on this setup?
We just got into town last week after being gone for almost a month and school started 2 days later. I haven't made any progress as of yet, but I've made my list and will be tackling items on it this weekend.
Hoping to be able to:
  • drill the bulkheads and run the plumbing
  • paint the back of the tank black for aesthetics and wire hiding
  • I'll also try and get to building the light shroud, at a minimum I should be able to get the materials
  • electrical should be easy unless I want to make it fancy and put some boxes on the stand (which, I may do since it's in a professional setting)

I'm going to do a "dry" one in our house before we move it into my wife's classroom. They're moving schools, so I don't want to move it twice. I was going to fill it up and run it like a hydroponics system; no fish, just fertilizers. I think this is the safest move just in case anything goes wrong! Plus, there's an off chance I might be able to pull in a harvest from it!
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 09-22-2018, 05:47 AM Thread Starter
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Update: System up and running!

It's been a while since I've posted anything. Got news that we were pregnant in February and with preparing for that, working full time, and attending school life got crazy busy. Baby is due soon and I'm enjoying the calm before the storm so to speak. Given everything that has occurred this year we decided to sell the 75G tank and instead of putting the Aquaponics setup in my wife's classroom we decided to put it in the basement. I wanted to post an update on how it's doing (These aren't the best pictures btw):

Here is the tank now:


The "branch" in the center is PVC pipe that I brushed with a cement mixture. It is a dirted tank capped with industrial quartz; it's very deep, but I wanted to experiment with dirt and a DSB (deep sand bed).

Here are the vegetables:


From left to right there is: Lettuce (Mesculin Mix), Cilantro, Sage, Marjoram, Basil, Pakchoy, Parsley, Red Basil, Lacinato Kale, Red Scarlet Kale, and 2 types of Tomatoes. This has been up and running for about a month and I've already had 1 harvest of Lettuce, basil, kale, and cilantro which was about 1/2lb in total weight. Lettuce was the majority of harvest.
It is a DWC setup, all plants are on a Styrofoam raft that is floating on top of roughly 10" of water. There are 4 large airstones underneath the raft pumping air 24/7.

Here is a pic of a basil leaf:



Here is a pic of the whole setup but it's a terrible pic:



This has been running for a month. All plants and livestock came from a 10 gallon tank that was up and running for about a year. The filter from the 10 gallon is also on this tank so there was no cycle time for the filter.

I bought the PPS Pro fertilizer pack from NilcoG and have been dosing the tank. Did it everyday for a week per his recommended schedule, but noticed my nitrates were off the charts and that my TDS measurements weren't moving. So I dialed it back to dosing every 4 days. TDS has slowly dropped but I definitely need to do a water change. I'm also a heavy handed feeder which doesn't help. I haven't calibrated my API test kit, but I will soon [hopefully].

PH: 8.8
TDS: 631
Nitrate: RED [Water Change Time]
Grow Lights: Bridgelux EB Series 4,000K @ 1050ma on a timer 15-hrs a day
Tank Lights: Random bulbs (thinking 10,000K b/c of the purplish hue) on same 15-hrs a day timer
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 09-22-2018, 10:49 PM Thread Starter
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Forgot to add livestock list:

4 Emerald Green Cory's
6 Pearl Danios (Turquoise Danio)
3 Female Guppies
2 baby guppies
and a ton of pond snails (hitchhiked on some plants)
2 Nerite snails

Aquatic plants:

Anubias
Java moss attached to artificial limb
3 Moss balls
Some random fern of some kind (sprouted a bunch of new plants from the edges of leaves)
Some other random plant of some kind (sprouted new plants off of runners?)

I could probably stock it more, but I'm gonna let the system mature a bit more and give me time to get familiar with it's subtleties.
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