The Beginnings – Grow Bed Prep
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!