Yesterday I rebuilt my aquaponic system to accommodate an additional grow bed. The single tray I used last year was just not enough. I have switched out the gravel I used last year for hydroton (expanded clay balls) so (theoretically) the beds will be light enough to move inside when the weather grows too cold to sustain growing. A single bed filled with gravel would require four muscle men, a pygmy goat and some special equipment. That so won’t work for portable beds. With hydroton I should be able to lift the bed onto a rolling cart for transport indoors.
Now that I’ve got two beds to flood, last year’s system won’t work as is. Two beds means at least twice the water volume. I will gang together two 5-gallon buckets to make up the required flush volume. By ganging buckets together using a short length of 1½ pipe and tee-less connectors, I can supply the volume for both beds using my existing fill and drain system bucket.
So far I’ve got one tray filled and water cycling through but I have more to do before I’m ready to consider planting. I need to cut new piping for the drain system. I want the system to flash-fill the beds so I don’t have to rely on an auto-siphon for drainage. That reduces the complexity of the system and reduces the parts needed to get additional beds attached to the system.
The tank’s water temperature is still below 55° [brrr] but if I’m going to get a head start on the season, I need to get my beds functioning mechanically now. To get the beds up to temperature a little more quickly, I’m thinking of installing a solar water heating system for the tank. We’ll see if I manage to get it done before the tank gets up to temp.