On an equally rainy Friday, I made my way to Nithsdale Street to assemble the micro-aquaponics system in Locavore. There was nowhere in Glasgow that sold the size of irrigation piping I needed (not yet, anyway…), so I ordered it online along with the connecting pieces. The wood was provided by Locavore, freshly sealed with linseed oil, and the zip ties were kindly donated by a bike shop I stopped into on my way there (thanks to Willy Bains!).
Here is the configuration of piping that I used. 13mm sizing:
The upper pipe has three nozzles, one for each of the bottle rows. They will slide right into the holes that were drilled into the bottom of the bottles previously. As you can see, it’s just straightforward connecting the pieces. Putting my playschool skills to good use…
Next I attached the piping to a wood frame using saddle brackets, and secured the bottles onto the nozzles with the zip ties. Yes, a few zip ties were lost by messing around with them and zipping them too early. I’m pretty sure that’s the nature of the beast.
In the neck of each of the bottles I also put a small bit of sponge. This will help regulate the flow and also filter out any large particles that would otherwise cycle back into the fish tank. An old Irn Bru bottle provided the water catchment area to guide the water back into the tank.
I went to turn the system on and…the pump wasn’t strong enough. Womp womp. The tank I got off of Gumtree came with a pump, but it was old and most fish tank pumps are not tasked with pumping the water straight up nearly a metre. After a trip to The Aquarium on Chilsholm Street (just off of the Trongate) and a chat with the very knowledgeable owner there, we got a stronger pump, took it home, and voila! Three healthy streams of water. a sight to behold, if you ask me (video content and quality will improve, I promise. Still, a decent illustration, for those of you following along at home):
Stay tuned for next time, wherein we cycle the system to grow bacteria and introduce plants and fish to their new symbiotic home!
So there I was, tasked with a small-scale model aquaponics system for a local food shop, in a new city. I want to source as many materials as I can from recycled materials and local businesses to try and support local economy. At the moment, unfortunately, many of the materials needed to build the systems aren’t readily available without ordering them online. Hopefully as aquaponics becomes more popular, that will change. In the mean time, I’ll be sure to highlight any local businesses I do find that have a good stock of well-priced products.
First order of business was to source a tank. We decided to go with a tank rather than an upcycled barrel or IBC (Intermediate Bulk Container, more on these later) because of the small space we had to work with, and the way the end product would look. Because this is going to essentially be a window display, aesthetics are important. Also, because of its size, the fish will be ornamental rather than consumable, so we want to be able to see them. I got a 60L used tank off of Gumtree for £30, and went with 6 750mL plastic bottles to match. While the recommended tank to grow bed ratio is usually 1:1 (and can stretch to 1:2 for experienced aquapnicists) the bottle systems I’ve seen seem to stay on the conservative side, so I decided to go a bit rogue with the ratios. If the plants are overwhelmed with nutrients, we could always add new bottles.
So one rainy Thursday, we began our assembly. First order of business was to drill holes in the bottom of the bottles (this will be where the nozzle of the next bottle will go) and in the sides for the plants to grow out of. This proved more difficult than we had anticipated, given that plastic melts with the drill heat, and is generally a pretty stubborn material to work with in cylindrical form. However, we managed to get them drilled without too much carnage and spray-paint the bottom (this will discourage mildew and algae growing in the clay substrate).
They may look a bit flimsy, but the bottles have held up very well so far. In the future I’d like to get a plastic cutter so that the lines can be a bit neater, but overall they seem to be doing the job. And they’ve got that added rustic element that the cool kids love these days.
Next order of business, piping and framing and pumping, oh my!
For those of you following along at home, you may notice a new addition to the blog in the form of a nifty new logo. Pretty great, isn’t it? It’s the work of Dutch graphic and product designer Geert van der Linden. As well as his freelance work, Geert is currently working with sustainability company Nudge to design a tool for defining, assessing and visualising the impact of wildly different sustainability projects. You can find more of his work here.