Aquaponics - Flood and drain

Plants seem to like it when their roots are not too wet and not too dry. Goldilocks would have us set the moisture level juuuust right, but in aquaponics, there is a better way. Flood and drain.

In our blue barrel system (pictured here at day one) we have half a barrel at ground level as a fish tank, and half raised above the fish tank as a grow bed (within the online forums you will see FT as fish tank and GB as grow or garden bed)
This allows us to pump water up to the grow bed and have it drain back down with gravity. But rather than have it running all the time the plants prefer to get some water, then some air, to their roots. One very simple way of doing this is to use an auto-siphon.

An auto-siphon allows us to fill the grow bed with nutrient rich water to a predetermined level, and then have the water dump back out into the fish tank bellow, exposing our plant's roots to the air. Plants love that kind of thing. And the fish love the circulating water. Keeping the water moving oxygenates it and running it through the grow beds filters it.                               

A bell auto-siphon would look something like this if someone were to make an animation of one working ...

- water is pumped in at the top from the fish tank (FT not shown)
- when the water level rises to the top of the standpipe (the standpipe is the innermost pipe) it starts to overflow.
- As the standpipe fills and the water flows down the tube and back into the fish tank, it forms a siphon.
- the small amount of air left at the top of the bell (the bell is the bit that surrounds the standpipe) is sucked down with the water and the grow bed quickly drains back into the fish tank.
- when the grow bed level gets to the bottom of the bell the siphon is broken and the draining action stops
- the water is always running in but the siphon is designed to allow water to flow out faster than it comes in
- the result of this is a flood and drain cycle that plants love.

Other beasties in the grow bed love this flood and drain as well but more on that later.


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