a slow start / 1

Okay, if you dropped by Gelb 109 today and went to take a look, all you’d see is a fish tank filled with water and substrate and nothing else. Believe me, for every bit as boring as it may seem to y’all, it’s as painful for me to see such a big beautiful waterscape devoid of life.

So what’s the deal?

The deal is Winter Term’s schedule is crazy wacky and after construction attempt #1 returned (let’s call them) mixed results, I haven’t found the opportunity to go out and buy new shiny parts to play around with.

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The first skeleton model of the plumbing system

Construction attempt #1 actually went okay – the system worked, but the few problems were pretty substantial, and I wanted to do this right. I have the time, and I have the funds, so why not make the system the best it could be?

I started with a single flow Nutrient Film Technique connected the two grow beds with 1/2″ PVC piping. The pump came up from the right side, deposited the water in first grow bed, where it flowed into the second bed and then out the back into the aquarium.

The biggest issues with the design was just kind of keeping everything together – I was working with brittle plastic, a scalpel used for cat dissections (shh), and electric tape, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the entire thing was prone to malfunctions, with tons of leaks and also difficult-to-equalize water levels.

I took the system apart and rethought my design – the few things I wanted to focus on were (1) quality of construction and (2) water level management.

So here’s the new plan: split flow into separate growth beds (to eliminate the need to somehow connect them). Bulkheads and drilled, measured holes for the PVC piping instead of playing around with a scalpel and electric tape. Finally, more substantial grow beds that won’t break down or tear when messed around with. In addition, I’ll be trying my hand at building a bell siphon drainage system. If that all sounded like technical jargon that was a little hard to understand, that’s because it was – and trust me, it’s confusing for me too. This should be fun.

Next post will likely cover the construction process, but hopefully soon we’ll have the system up and running so we can start talking about the real meat (pun +1) of the project: fishies and veggies.

Stay tuned!