Biotechnology June 2010BIO-10
Published by the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) and issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in coopera-tion with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Andrew G. Hashimoto, Director/Dean, Cooperative Extension Service/CTAHR, University of Hawai‘i at M
noa, Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96822. An equal opportunity/afrmative action institution providing programs and services to the people of Hawai‘i without regard to race, sex, age, religion, color, national origin, ancestry,disability, marital status, arrest and court record, sexual orientation, or status as a covered veteran. CTAHR publications can be found on the websitewww.ctahr.hawaii.edu/freepubs.
Construction of Automatic Bell Siphonsfor Backyard Aquaponic Systems
Bradley K. Fox,
and Clyde S. Tamaru
Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering
University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program
quaponics is a developing agricultural technologythat is rapidly gaining worldwide popularity, bothfor commercial production and small-scale, backyardsystems. The aquaponics concept involves integratingaquaculture and hydroponics, where sh wastewater isutilized as a nutrient source for plants grown in soillessculture. Publications describing a high-yield aquaponiclettuce production system and detailing on-farm food-safety practices for aquaponics have recently been is-sued by CTAHR.
These efforts are consistent withthe college’s 2010 Plan of Work
and Hawai‘i’s 2050Sustainability Plan,
which focus on decreasing the state’sreliance on food imports by producing more food locally.Alhough the integration of agriculture and aquaculturehas been practiced globally in one form or another bymany indigenous cultures for thousands of years, modernaquaponics (applying modern materials and tools such asmetals, plastics, and electricity) has been developing andpracticed for only about the last 40 years, beginning withexperiments at the New Alchemy Institute in the early1970s.
The two major types of modern aquaponics aredeep-water, or “raft,” aquaponics and reciprocating, or“ebb-and-ow,” aquaponics.
Ebb-and-ow aquaponics isbased on a “ood-and-drain” concept in which sh efu-ent water is pumped through a solid hydroponic supportmedium (e.g., gravel, expanded clay balls, or cinder rock;see Photo 1). As this nutrient-rich water is cycled throughthe system, the medium is completely ooded and thendrained at short intervals. The solid support mediumserves the dual purposes of providing structure for plantroots to grow in and surface area allowing proliferationof aerobic nitrifying bacteria, which are essential forconverting nitrogen in the efuent to forms suited to theplants’ nutrient uptake.Flood-and-drain cycling in ebb-and-flow aqua-ponic systems can be controlled by electronic timers,which regulate the activity of water pumps, or by non-mechanical devices called automatic siphons. These“autosiphons” start and stop on their own, dependingon the level of the water surrounding them.
One of thesimplest and most reliable types of autosiphon is calledthe bell siphon, and while many examples of these canbe found on the Internet, how they are made and oper-ated are among the questions most frequently asked of CTAHR’s aquaculture extension workers. This publica-tion describes how to construct, size, and troubleshoot anautomatic bell siphon for use in a small-scale backyardaquaponic system.
Bell siphon theory
A bell siphon consists of several components, beginningwith a vertical standpipe (schedule 40 PVC) that projectsupward from a bulkhead tting in the bottom of the aqua-ponic grow-bed. The standpipe regulates the maximumwater level in the grow-bed. A drainpipe extends fromthe bottom of the bulkhead to the sh-rearing tank. Asthe water level in the grow-bed exceeds the height of the standpipe, the water overows through the insideof the standpipe and the drain directs the ow of waterto the sh-rearing tank. An additional pipe (the “bell”),which has a diameter twice that of the standpipe and isslightly longer than the standpipe, is tted and glued witha cap on one end. Notches, or “teeth,” are cut into thebottom end of the bell, and it is placed teeth-down over