Skip to content

The 2013 Aquaponics Association Conference will be held in Tucson from 9/20 - 9/22. Register now and save!

Stepping into Hydroponics with BA Kratky

Last week we started to educate ourselves on the many growing methods and decided we would start with the BA Kratky method. If you’re not familiar with the concept then I highly recommend you read: “The Kratky Hydroponic Method” along with Damion’s post: “Pumpless Hydroponics“. These will give you everything you need to get started.

We are going to start with three beefstake tomato plants, two cucumbers and a pepper. The hydroponic nutrients are from the good folks of We have the utmost confidence that this will be successful that we picked up 20 more food grade buckets.


Looks like well be needing more nutrients!


Bulkhead Fitting

I decided to use 2 inch (SLO) solids lifting overflow from the fish tank to the sump tank. I went to the electrical section of Lowe’s and picked up a few 2-inch terminal adapters both male and female. For some reason they only show the 3 inch and 2-1/2 inch PVC adapters on their site but they do carry them in stores. I’ve been to about 10 of them so far and they all had them in stock. If they don’t Home Depot also carries them too. For the washer I used a flush valve seal which is in their plumbing area. I got to thank Mark Massingill for that tip!


Here’s Mark Massingill’s video:

For the smaller growbeds I went with 1 inch terminal adapters using the same as above but with a different washer of course which I also got from Lowe’s and talk about on my post: Main Growbed.


Raidal Filter

Today I received my 2-inch Uniseals from Bulk Reef Supply and the fit perfectly. Don’t get me wrong it was a bit of a struggle but with some soapy water it eventually slipped in. So I quickly pieced everything together and here’s the final product. I essentially went with Rob Bob’s style from his video “Aquaponics radial flow filter for solids removal”. He uses a 7 gallon bucket and I couldn’t locate one locally so I opted for a 5 gallon. That’s a bit of a difference but I am confident it will work.


Here’s the video from Bob Rob:

Main Growbed

Last night I was able to finish the assembly of the main growbed after a little trip to Lowe’s for the 3 inch PVC pipe and cap to make the bell siphon. One test run proved that I had the standpipe a little taller than needed so I trimmed it down about 1-1/2 inches as well as the bell siphon. After that it worked great. I used a 1-1/4 inch PVC schedule 40 piping for this size of a growbed. I still need to pick up a 5 inch PVC pipe to build the bell/media guard.


To prepare for the other growbeds I picked up a few Keeney Mfg. Co. 1 3/4-in Od x 1 3/8-in Id Rubber Square Cut Washer which I used for washers for the 1″ standpipe and they fit great, though a 1-1/2 inch washer would fit a bit tighter but my tests with this size washer did not leak. I’ll work on getting those setup this weekend. I am pretty excited to finally have a large system in place.



I’ve also been tossing around the solid filter bin for my radial filter and here is what I came up with. First off you have to imagine these upside down. Also this will rest inside of a 55 gallon plastic barrel where it will be secured with 2 or inch 3 inch pvc piping to bring the solids in from the fish tank and out to the sump via skimming. I might even use some of the scrap 3 inch PVC to build a stand so-to-speak for the solids filter to rest on. I decided on this layout because I wanted to have a funnel like cone to help direct the solids rather than having it just lay flat on the bottom of the bucket.

Version 1 does not require any screws as the 5 gallon water jug fits very snug inside the 5 gallon bucket. Version 2 will require stainless steel screws to secure the 5 gallon water jug to the bottom of the 5 gallon bucket. I am leaning towards version 1 because of the fact I like having the option to quickly disassemble the filter without needing tools.


Updated 2013-09-07

After a quick measurement version 2 exceeds the height of a 35 inch 55 gallon plastic barrel. So I have simplified the bin by removing the 5 gallon water jug top altogether, leaving the two 5 gallon buckets connected as they were. I have since added a 3 gallon bucket and fastened it to the top of the bin with both facing downwards. This will change the direction of the water flow and redirect the solids downwards to the bottom of the bucket. I might even go with just a 5 gallon bucket and skip using the 55 gallon barrel. That would save some PVC and simplify things even further. I would prefer at least a 15 gallon barrel with a removal top. that would be ideal. Time to search craigslist!

Upsizing My Aquaponics System

It wasn’t long ago when I reached out to the Aquaponics Association to volunteer. I did this because: 1) after learning about aquaponics I knew that this was the path I would follow, 2) by volunteering I plug myself right into the community (essentially tapping into a wealth of knowledge and resources) and there’s no better way to accelerate the learning process and lastly 3) it will put me in a position to give back and help others as they express interest in growing and raising their own food.

The first objective was to locate an intermediate bulk container (IBC) which is probably one of the most economical methods in respects to building your system. I picked up this food grade IBC from for $50. The way I cut the tote is what I often refer to as the “IBC of Aquaponics cut style” by Backyard Aquaponics which you can see here on their Starting Off page.


Then I put together a grow bed table from reclaimed wood and pressure treated lumber which I got from Lowe’s at a tremendous discount. I am going to add a coat or two of exterior paint (primer, stain, sealer all in one) to help protect it from those rainy days and to give it a nice color.


I also painted the IBC cage for a couple of reasons: 1) protect it from rusting and 2) to remove that industrial look. Unfortunately I am a novice at painting but I did clean the cage beforehand though I ran out of paint before I could finish it all. Rookie mistake.


All that is left is cleaning the insides of fish tank and grow bed made from the IBC tote, finish rinsing the red/maroon cinders (lava rocks) and cleaning my patio since grinding left a huge mess. Then I need to add the sump tank where the grow beds will drain into as well as any overflow from the fish tank. Then there’s the pump, plumbing, water and plants. The fish will come later once the system fully cycles. Meaning I’ll add the fish once good bacteria has had a chance to develop properly. I can add plants before I add the fish and use maxicrop for plant food. After some review it is likely I will be using 1-inch schedule 40 PVC. I’ll also factor in a radial filter to help with the solids lifting overflow (SLO).

Updated: 2013/09/02

I finished painting the cage thanks to my friend Mr. Frost who dropped off the spray paint. After light sanding with a 120 grit sand paper and a good wipe down with tact cloth I stained and sealed the table using Olympic Maximum Stain and Sealant All-In-One Toner (Redwood) which I actually had lying around. I think it came out OK. Though I should have used a wood conditioner for the sides as they seem to be blotchy in my opinion. All in all I am pretty happy with the outcome since this really my first attempt at staining. I did not realize that it was pretty thin as opposed to standard paint so I only used a little bit of the one gallon that I had.


Dealing With Pests

Today we went out fully armed with Safer Brand Insecticidal Soap and started to spray the squash bugs and bordered plant bugs. To our surprise they were nearly dying instantly. Well within at least 10 seconds. There are a few other types of bugs which we are still trying to identify. Overall we are pretty satisfied with the product. The directions say to use 2.5 ounces per gallon and we have a 2 gallon sprayer so we dropped in 5 ounces and went hunting. Those little suckers sure do multiply quickly. We are not sure if the soap will kill the eggs so we will wait and see.

Pictured: Bordered plant bugs. Image from:

Copyright © Lewis Scharpf

Pictured: Safer Brand Insecticidal Soap. Image from:
Copyright © Safer Brand

Intro to Arduino

I wanted to share this youtube video as it is a great intro/foundation to the world that is Arduino should your interest travel down this path.

Here’s a great Arduino cheat sheet provided by the great folks at If you haven’t visited their site I urge you to do so.

“LEDs are the bacon of the electronics world!” ~SparkFun

Here’s a nice document from SparkFun that provides details about 14 different projects along with real world examples. It provides you a list of everything you need, the layout and the code.