We’ve completed the basic structure of our Patio Aquaponics System. Our next step is to prepare and complete the aquaponic grow bed setup to properly test the water pump, plumbing, irrigation system and bell siphon to ensure a reliable flood and drain action.

Lining, Bell Siphon and Containers

As you may have read in our post detailing construction of the system, we’ve already lined the grow bed with 6 mil thick vizqueen — we also installed a custom-made bell siphon. For containers, we purchased Hydrofarm’s half gallon Vega Square Pots which measure 5.5×5.5x6in. This size allowed us to put 16 pots snugly in our grow bed.

Why Square Hydropnic Pots?

We went for a square-shaped pot to maximize the amount of hydroton we could load into the grow bed which provides more surface area for beneficial bacteria to reside to process the fish waste into nitrates and nitrite (plant food). So to fill about 8 gallons of net pot, we needed to purchase a 50 L bag of hydroton which provided more than needed.

Aquaponic Grow Bed Irrigation

After placing our hydroton filled pots, we installed the irrigation system made using 3/4 schedule 40 PVC piping in which we drilled 1/8 sized holes so water would be deposited into each of the pots. We wanted to spread water distribution equally to all the 16 pots in an attempt to equally spread solid waste since water was directly being pumped from the fish tank. The intent is for the hydroton-filled pots to also serve as solids filters, especially since we are going add red wiggler worms to the setup later to process the solids trapped in the hydroton.

Aquaponic Grow Bed Plumbing Test

We filled our 55-gallon fish tank with water and started up the 400 GPH hydroponic pump we purchased at Amazon. As expected, there were several leaks at the joints where we installed either elbows or t-joints so we sealed using plumbing tape. We chose to use tape vs PVC teflon sealant since we may want to disassemble the plumbing as we improve the system. Great news, it all worked! The 400 GPH provides a heavy flow so it took about two-three minutes for the grow bed to fill. The bell-siphon then took about a minute and half to drain the grow bed empty. Our next step is to purchase and introduce fish to the system to begin cycling the water.