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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sincere Flattery?

I spent a few minutes today catching up on favorite youtube channels and blogs. In the process, I stumbled across a video that looked unusually similar.

There was the bulkhead fitting created out of electrical conduit connectors. The standpipe had the Affnan-style flared mouth I figured out how to make out of standard US plumbing fixtures. The bell on the siphon had the same cap and a series of slots sliced into the base, as I'd done.

On the other hand, I didn't see a media guard. And instead of using the single 45 degree connector to exploit the coanda effect to form the siphon-starting water plug, the author of the video had a traditional 90 degree connector, but with a 45 degree connector at the end. From a hydrodynamic point of view, the 45 degree connector at that location wouldn't do anything useful. The video creator didn't cite any prior influences on his design, so it's not clear if he even knew his "design" was completely derivative of what I'd posted. Then again, he didn't repeat my faux pas of calling a standpipe an "upstand." ::blush::

It's not like I do any of this for money or even fame. I really do just want to make aquaponics accessible to the maximum number of people. But it was surprising to see myself so completely copied, if copied imperfectly. Heavens knows I've learned much of what I know about aquaponics because of the generosity of individuals who made their information available on the internet. But there are a couple of ideas that weren't out there before I posted them.

I'm reminded of a wonderful poem my mother wrote. In later life she went back to college to complete a Bachelor's Degree. In one of her college textbooks, she found her poem, attributed to "Anonymous."

The Gardener
by Pat Chiu

If you were a gardener, your child the seed,
Your task it would be to nurture and weed
'way wild things that threaten distruction and strife
and prepare the young plant for the rigors of life.

But a daisy's a daisy. A rose is a rose.
The child must be true to its form as it grows.
True to the form from the maker sent
And not to the will of the gardener bent.

There are so many people to whom I owe my understanding of aquaponics. And in some cases they may have been leveraging knowledge from others of whom I never knew. We all stand on the shoulders of giants.

May those who've learned from my little contributions go on to further the journey. Upward, towards more effective and efficient systems, and forward, towards ever-more affordable ways of doing this kind of gardening.


  1. Good morning, I've not posted any videos, but I have used your techniques in my own siphons. I'm grateful for your leadership and even know the terms you've used, because I've watched your videos and followed your blog. Thank-you for both.
    Just to tell you a story, in growbed #3, we couldn't get the siphon to trigger properly every time. It would work and work then we'd come back and the bed was full of water with the siphon acting as a standpipe. Yep, even with the 45 degree turn just below the exit of the drain. The others triggered reliably, but this one did not. I added a second 45 degree bend and turned it off center by about 15-20 degrees so the water would flow a bit off center, and enter the fish tank at a different point than the other two tanks. Now it cycles reliably.
    I was following your theory that disrupting the flow would trigger the siphon. All three siphons dump their water into the fish tank with rough aerated water, adding more as they splash messily into the water adding more air to the that tank. The flow out of the fish tank into the sump is smooth and does not aerate the sump water significantly.
    As a side note, your plumbing has kept the fish tank bottom clean, but the dirt has settled in the sump tank. Any ideas how to get that circulated successfully to the pump [and to the growbeds]?

  2. Hi Lloyd,

    On grow bed #3, I assume you had a pipe stub in the outlet side of the 45 degree bend? And it still wasn't triggering... Adding another connector below will push it to trigger more reliably, and I'm glad you found that worked!

    I've got a hybrid set-up, so I have two grow beds dumping into the sump and the other two grow beds dumping into the fish tank, one of which is a floating raft bed. I also have three nicely fat goldfish in my sump, who tend to keep it clear. My challenge is the build-up of solids in my fish tank (dark tank, dark fish, tank cover, all making it hard to see what's going on...).

    You might want to add a few fish that munch on detritus - goldfish or fathead minnows (sold in pet stores as rosy reds). That might help. Or your could add an additional grow bed that drains into the sump, giving you a periodic burst of high velocity water to stir things up (read, encourage solids to go up the pump).

    I'm toying with the idea of setting up a swirl filter for the express purpose of reducing the amount of suspended solids in my fish tank. Based on a lecture by Dr. Lennard at the last Aquaponics Association Conference, I'd decant the goop and some water into a barrel with an air stone, allowing the nutrients to mineralize (return to the water). After a week or so, most of the nutrient should have dissolved in that water, so turning off the air stone will allow the muck to settle and I can pour off the nutritious water and add the muck to my compost bin.

  3. Love this post. Dude's totally busted and you did a classy job of mopping up. :) Especially nice how he messed it up.

    I have used your design on all 3 of my siphons and link back to you whenever I mention them on forums. In fact I am on your site this evening because I linked back to you from my tiny blog.

    I wanted an overflow box for my aquarium that drew solids from the bottom with no drill holes and came up with this last weekend based on your siphon parts and plumbing design. Here it is:

    1. Hi John,

      Nice move using a bridge siphon into the plastic bucket to lift your tank solids up and out into your grow beds! Rob Torcellini recently posted about the large bridge siphon(s) he has between his floating raft beds. He taps a threaded hole into the top and inserts a fitting that allows him to suck all the air out of the siphon.

      You may find your bridge siphon created from clear tubing starts growing algae after a while. One solution could be covering much of the tubing with something opaque (duct tape?) while leaving a section you can uncover when you want to validate that the thing is still full of water.