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Off Grid Solar Powered Aquaponics System

Full details and explanation of my fully off grid, solar powered aquaponics system in our greenhouse. This is a small system for demonstration purposes but it is fully operational now with no moving parts except for the water pump impeller.


Off Grid Aquaponics Equipment & Materials


I got an aqurium at a garage sale for only $5 with all accessories. I kept the stones and shelter for the fish to hide in and spawn. The water filter may come in useful somewhere else one day. There was also a small fish net which will be convenient later on.


The grow bed is a mixing container with 11 gallon capacity which I got locally for only $4 brand new. The bulkhead fitting was under $7 and you can get it here: Aquaponics Bulkhead Fitting


The water pump is a 12 volt, 5 watt pump with a 280 lph capacity. This translates roughly to about 70 gallons per hour, or one gallon per minute. With this pump the entire fish tank can be cycled through every 10 minutes. You can get the water pump for under $10 here: Aquaponics Water Pump


I had the battery, solar charge controller and solar panels on hand already but the cost is mininal if you look around.




I am digging an underground greenhouse so I have plenty of sand to sift though in order to get free pea gravel. I did just that with some hardware cloth stapled to a 2x4 frame over a wheel barrow. I was able to sift out enough pea gravel for the grow bed in about an hour or so. I washed the pea gravel in another wheel barrow with water. I pulled out the clean gravel by hand and put it into the grow bed. I need just a little bit more though which I will do in the next day or so.


The water comes from a local, private lake so that it already had active life forms and bacteria in it. This, I figured, would help establish the water for the fish better and faster. I left this in the aquarium for a week or so before I got the system going.


Some hoses from the local hardware store were all that I needed to complete the system.


Off Grid Aquaponics System


Aquaponics Fish Tank & Grow Bed Assembly


I drilled a hole in the grow bed container to push the bulkhead fitting through. Then I put a hose on the bulkhead fitting and filled up the grow bed with the clean pea gravel.


The siphon is a very simple loop syphon. This is, I believe, the easiest of all to make but yet the least found on the internet or in books. Most sources mention the bell syphon, which is harder to make and costs more. This syphon consists of just a loop of tubing coming off the bulkhead fitting. You set the depth of the low level water by placing your bulkhead fitting at the level you want it. The high level water line is set with the top of the loop. As the water fills up the tank and rises in the tubing, it will eventually tip over the top of the loop and cause a syphon effect to drain the water down to the level of the bulkhead fitting.


I used baling wire to hold the tubing in place. I also had to use some baling wire to hold the cheap vinyl tubing round and keep it from collapsing on itself. I did this by wrapping the baling wire around the tubing along the entire loop. This worked pretty well.


I put some tubing on the end of the water pump and dropped it into the tank. I will later put some weight on the water pump because it is so light and small that the kinks in the tubing make it pull up in the water. I prefer to have it lower down in the tank.


Next I set up the power to get the system running.



Solar Power Aquaponics Electronics Installation


As mentioned above, I had all the solar power equipment on hand already.


A deep cycle battery like the ones used for boating is the best for this job. I have some small solar panels to keep the battery charged up. And a solar charge controller to ensure the battery does not get over charged finishes the electronics.


I hooked up some heavy duty cables and battery terminals to some wire and put that into the charge controller battery connections. Just connect positive terminal of the battery to the + terminal on the controller and the negative of the battery to the - terminal of the charge controller. Always connect the battery BEFORE connecting your solar panels to prevent damage to the charge controller.


This is a simple, cheap PWM solar charge controller.


Next I ran some wire outside the greenhouse to some solar panels. I plan to have 45 watts of solar panels in order to top off the battery quickly on a sunny day. After a period of cloudy days the battery will become depleted and needs to be charged up quickly. The water pump only uses 5 watts, which adds up to about 60 watt hours overnight. This energy must be replaced into the battery quickly when the some comes up in the morning in order to prevent harmul sulfation of the battery.


The other end of the wire goes into the charge controler solar panel terminals.


The water pump is connected to the battery through a fuse block which protects the battery and wires from a short.


Solar Powered Aquaponics Operation Explained


This is a very simple system and easy to explain. The water pump runs 24/7 and cycles the water through the grow beds. The pump runs constantly to extend its life. Cycling a water pump on and off will shorts its life span. As the water rises in the grown bed, it brings nutrients and fish waste to the roots of the plants. The water level will rise up in the syphon tubing until it reaches the top of the curve in the tube. At this point, a syphon effect will take place and cause the water to drain out and back into the aquarium. The syphon will continue until the water level reaches the bulkhead fitting and the tube sucks in air. This breaks the syphon cycle and the water in the grow bed will rise up again until the cycle repeats itself.


The fish will eat and deposit their waste in the aquarium. The water pump will bring the fish waste into the grow beds. The plants will filter out the fish waste and the clean water will be poured back into the aquarium for the fish.


This is a very simple closed loop system with the only input being fish food that you must provide. You can eat both the fish and the plants that you grown in the system. Depending on the type of fish and plants that you grow, you may be able to feed some of the plants back to the fish.


With the only moving part in the entire system being the water pump impeller, this should last very long without the need for maintenance. The small size of the fish tank also means that no air pump is necessary. In larger tanks you will need to add an air pump for the fish. In this case you should adjust the size of your power system accordingly with larger batteries, charge controller and solar panels.

You can watch today's video here: Watch the video now  Fully Solar Powered Off Grid Aqauponics System Explained In Detail


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Troy Reid


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