The Beta Prototype is the successor to our first aquaponics system. After completing the Alpha prototype in early 2016, we found out that building such a small system wouldn't suffice in our pursuit of uncovering the true potential of what aquaponics can offer. Thus, we decided to go bigger; and bigger we got. We began plans for what type of system we wanted to construct, and settled on a raft-based system. During the designs for this system, we incorporated several other components that were missing from the Alpha prototype, but necessary when creating a larger system: a mechanical filter, biofilter, and more extensive calculations in fluid dynamics to guarantee successful ebb and flow.
Construction began in Early 2016 and has progressed nicely throughout the year, and it is now completed! We are now designing a fish tank cover and in the process of developing a plan for an automatic fish feeder. Check out the ecology page to learn more about the planting process of the beta system.
Below are pictures showing CAD Models of our design and pictures of our build sessions. Each critical component of our system is detailed below, containing information about our plant bed, mechanical filter, biofilter, and fish tank.
The plant bed was design to hold exactly the same amount of water that is held within the fish tank. Maintaining a 1:1 ratio between the fish tank and plant bed allows for a balanced transfer of nutrients. The structure is made out of wood, and the holed pink-sheet on top is our raft, which is the resting place for the plants.
The fish tank is a re-purposed IBC tank that contains around 250 gallons of water. Within the tank, as seen from the CAD model, contains a vacuum system that flushes out all of the water, along with the waste, into the mechanical filter. The inlet into the fish tank is through a mounted PVC tube with holes drilled on the backside, creating a simple spray-bar for additional oxygenation of the incoming water.
The biofilter within this system is where the ammonia released is converted into nitrates that are used by the plants. Within our biofilter, we have placed a large amount of microstructures (not shown) that act as growing area for the nitrifying bacteria.
The mechanical filter is where all of the solid waste from the fish tank is sorted out and deposited onto the bottom of the can. This particular mechanical filter is classified as a radial filter. Its main mechanism for removing the waste from the water is using the principal of gravity. As water enters the can through the inlet, it is pumped upwards. As the water exits, it encounters a larger radius PVC, which forces the water downward. The solid, heavier waste is deposited onto the bottom, and the water is allowed to freely exit through the outlet pipe.
Member Caleb Sherwood measures our fish tank at Matthaei Botanical Gardens to design a new cover.
Several members of Michigan Aquaponics work to organize our materials at the end of a Sunday build session.
Our Beta System is mechanically complete! Check the Ecology page for updates on where the system is headed next.