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  1. #1
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    First build - Indoor vertical tower system

    Hey everyone,

    So I've been lurking on here for several months now but held off commenting or posting mostly because I was still trying to wrap my head around aquaponics conceptually before adding my .02. I absolutely love whats going on here and I am excited to read your posts as they are some of the best information on the web for aquaponics.

    So I finally decided to take the jump into designing and building my own system. I chose to design my own system on account of the facts that I am in the city (Philadelphia if anyone is from around here), have limited space, and want to grow all year round. This eliminates a lot of the designs on here that require a lot of space or require natural light. I appreciate any and all comments and feedback, especially if I am missing something stunningly obvious (which is something I am good at! ).

    So here's what I have so far.

    A four tower system with a 45 gallon tank using a 120GPH pump. Each tower is 3' tall and suspended directly over the fish tank. I have 1/2" PVC tubing for the plumbing and 4 1/2" ball valves, one for each tower. The towers will be filled with Hydroton and are hanging by sturdy steel hooks (and not so sturdy zip ties..) I am using this as a prototype for future (hopefully commercial) vertical tower systems so I am very flexible in what I want to plant, what fish to grow, and practically every other aspect of the build.

    Questions:
    1. Will this system work? Haha, loaded question and I'm sure it won't until I get some much needed critiques

    2. Should a system like this be a constant flow system or will I have to add a grow bed w/ bell siphon to make it an ebb/flow setup?

    3. Directly tied to how many/what type of plants I am growing, how many fish per plant would people recommend for a vertical system? I was planning on varying the number of holes in each tower to see which grow better but are there rules I should stick to?

    4. Is this pump going to be big enough to raise water 5+ feet in 1/2" pipes? http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006M6 ... os_product

    I will continue to post updates as progress happens. Am I missing anything obvious or non obvious?

    Thanks for any input, looking forward to becoming a more active member!
    -J
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    Every time history repeats itself, the price goes up.

  2. #2
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    Re: First build - Indoor vertical tower system

    Also, before I forget, I live in an apartment where the temperature stays around 70 degrees so I don't think I'll need to heat the tank unless I want some serious fish growth. I have two fluorescent lights, 70W each, but am in the market for new ones if need be.
    Every time history repeats itself, the price goes up.

  3. #3
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    Re: First build - Indoor vertical tower system

    Welcome and thanks for the pictures!

    Quote Originally Posted by jbrowne
    ...

    4. Is this pump going to be big enough to raise water 5+ feet in 1/2" pipes? http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006M6 ... os_product

    ...
    This is directly from the amazon web site:

    FLOW RATES: 120 Gallons Per Hour (GPH) @ 0' Lift; 95 GPH @ 1' Lift; 66 GPH @ 2' Lift; 20 GPH @ 3' Lift; Max Lift - 3' 3".

    Notice that the max lift is 3 feet 3 Inches. Even if you got the height down to 3 feet, you would only get 20 gallons per hour of flow.

    I would rethink this!
    Scott
    Jesup (S.E.), Georgia, USA

  4. #4
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    Re: First build - Indoor vertical tower system

    Exactly my point about missing obvious things haha! Thanks for the welcome Scott, I'll keep posting pictures and will order a new pump today. I think I'll use the smaller one for a second system.
    Every time history repeats itself, the price goes up.

  5. #5
    Members Basil1's Avatar
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    Re: First build - Indoor vertical tower system

    Neat idea but you could also go with a tub directly above or below the tank, or even in it like I do and not need such a strong pump.
    People cry because they are sad. For example, I cry because other people are stupid, and that makes me sad.

  6. #6
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    Re: First build - Indoor vertical tower system

    OK first update since January:

    System is currently plumbed, filled with hydroton and cycling. Decided to get a much larger pump if (when) I decide to scale up. I added 2 tsp of Clear Ammonia to kick start the bacteria. Have been testing for pH, Ammonia, and nitrites for 3 days now. pH is a bit high around 7.8 but it is fine for now until the plants come into the picture. Ammonia is right around 3.5ppm and nitrites haven't been seen yet.

    I also started germinating my plants. I went simple with lettuce, spinach and basil. Should be another day or two until sprouting, at which point I will have to hope the system is ready for plants.

    I will post pictures of the system so far when I get home but I have two questions for anyone with experience:

    - Can anyone recommend a good set of grow lights? I'm thinking about going with LED for the energy savings but am hesitant about the cost/coverage. I was looking at these http://www.amazon.com/Power-Hydroponic- ... d_sbs_lg_6

    - I also need a timer to operate the pump. Has anyone had a good experience with a particular mechanical version?

    -J
    Every time history repeats itself, the price goes up.

  7. #7
    Members David - WI's Avatar
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    Re: First build - Indoor vertical tower system

    Quote Originally Posted by jbrowne
    Can anyone recommend a good set of grow lights? I'm thinking about going with LED for the energy savings but am hesitant about the cost/coverage. I was looking at these http://www.amazon.com/Power-Hydroponic- ... d_sbs_lg_6
    Those don't look like they offer very much "bang for the buck"... they are only 10 watts for $35/each. ($3.50/watt)

    These are 16 watts for $25/each. ($1.56/watt): http://www.htgsupply.com/Product-Fou...d-Spectrum.asp

    Unless there were some phenomenal reviews (which there aren't), I don't think I would even try them.
    It's all about the fish, dude.

  8. #8
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    Re: First build - Indoor vertical tower system

    Thanks David I will look into the ones you linked, I really appreciate it!

    Here's some of the pictures I promised. I'm hoping the spacing is going to be enough, it seems that the hydroton is loose enough to be moved around for transplanting at least.
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  9. #9
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    Re: First build - Indoor vertical tower system

    Been a while since my last post but here it goes,

    I decided to rebuild the system after realizing how hard it was to plant in the tower. A few lessons I learned:
    1. Use schedule 40, not 80, PVC. This is the thickness of the walls of the PVC pipes and it was pretty hard to thermaform the pockets with 80. I got the pipes at Lowes and they didn't have another option. The lower schedule is easier to mold and will still provide enough strength to hold the media, water and plants.
    2. Take your time with thermaforming. Make sure you apply the heat from the heat gun for a decent amount of time (2-3 minutes) before trying to push it in. I used a pry bar and actually shattered one of my tubes by trying to rush it. Make sure the pockets are deep enough, otherwise you will have a hard time transplanting plants into the system.
    3. Cut slits in the around the edges of the caps on the bottoms of the pipes. If you don't, you will hear a constant drip as the water cannot be fully drained. This gets annoying pretty fast.
    4. Use a pump with the correct head. If the pump is too small, it won't be able to get the water all the way to the top, and if it's too large you'll be putting a lot of pressure on your plumbing.
    5. Solid frame: I was lucky enough to have a perfect beam from which to hang the tubes from, but if you don't, you'll need to build one. The towers get pretty heavy when full of media and water so build the frame with that in mind.

    Now, to introduce my new system...

    For this one I went with a 15 gallon grow bed w/ bell siphon and 4' T5 fluorescent grow light. The water drains right back into the FT and is pumped up using a 250GPH pump I ordered off of Amazon.

    The bell siphon was surprisingly simple to make, but I practiced on a small container to make sure I knew it'd work. I used a 2" Bell siphon with 3/4" standpipe. The siphon works great and only takes about 10-15 seconds to start and stop. I'll take actual times for flood/drain if anyone wants to know that badly.

    Here's the pics, I'll take more when I get home
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  10. #10
    Members Aloha Don's Avatar
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    Re: First build - Indoor vertical tower system

    Thanks for the update... In my first experiment in AP I used clear bins as grow beds but I had a problem with algae growth. I think it is better to use black mixing bins that look to be about the same size as in your pictures...
    Just my thoughts.
    Thanks again,
    Don
    Put all excuses aside and remember this: YOU are capable - Zig Ziglar

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