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Aquaponics without Bell Siphon: Step by Step Guide

A Bell Siphon is a pump device that can regulate the flow of water in aquaponic systems easily and efficiently, with the need of electrical power. The bell siphon comes with a lot of benefits including not requiring you to manually turn the pump on and off during the flood and drain cycle. 

It also ensures that the plants get enough oxygen and absorb nutrients properly. However, if you do not want to set up your system using the bell siphon, there are several other ways to set up the aquaponics system. 

To set up your aquaponics system without the bell siphon, you can use the ram pump or PVC pipes.

aquaponics without bell siphon

Aquaponics without Bell Siphon: Step by Step Guide

1. Choose a Fish Tank

You will need a fish tank for the hydroponics system. The size of the fish tank would depend on the species and the amount of fish you want to rear. 

2. Prepare the Media Bed

The media bed will support the roots of the plants while acting as a filter. You can construct a media bed just from any material including plastic and fiberglass 

3. Construct the Pump System

Since you’re not using the bell siphon as your pump system, you will have to go for an alternative. Below are the common options to go for aside from the bell siphon are: 

  • Ram pump
  • PVC Pipes

A. Using a Ram Pump

A ram pump, or hydram, is a hydropower-driven cyclic pump system that doesn’t require electricity to operate. The pump takes in water at one pressure and flow rate and drives it out at a higher pressure and flow rate. The pump creates a force using the water hammer effect, which allows the water used to power the pump to be raised to a higher level than originally was. 

The ram pump is very effective in aquaponics done without a bell siphon. It uses only the kinetic energy of flowing water as a power source. 

The ram pump features the following components: 

  • Inlet-drive pipe 
  • Outlet-delivery pipe 
  • Waste valve 
  • Delivery check valve 
  • Pressure vessel 

How the Ram Pump works

The waste valve in a ram pump will open while it in use while the delivery valve will be shut. When in operation, the water in the drive pipe will begin to flow under gravity. The water continues to flow and build up kinetic energy until the waste valve is closed by the rising drag force. 

The water hammer effect will be caused by the momentum of the water flow in the supply pipe against the now-closed waste valve. This raises the pump’s total pressure, which will open the delivery check valve, and push water into the delivery line. 

The water hammer effect could also result from the waste valve generating a pressure head that travels up the supply pipe toward the source. When it gets to the source, it is then converted to a suction force that travels back down the pipe. This suction force will drive the waste valve open, which continues the water cycling operation. 

B. Using PVC Pipes

Using PVC pipes, you can construct a simple pump, However, using PVC pipes to make an alternative pump system will require some technical knowledge, and, the resulting device won’t be the most effective. 

  • To make a simple pump, you will need a pipe measuring 8 cm (3 in) which will be placed into the elbow to connect a cap to the other end. 
  • Drill holes into the cap to allow water to flow through it into the pipe. 
  • Insert the pipe’s cap into the lowest part of the tank’s bottom and leave it there until the mineral-rich water in the pipe reaches the same level as the tank. 
  • After that, you can create suction by placing your hand over the pump’s end. Then lean the pipe out of the water, at the same time, the holes in the cap will be pushed against it to prevent any fluid from draining out. 
  • You will need to lean the pipe until the water pours out the other end and into the growing bed. 
  • You will have to perform this operation as many times as necessary until the water level in the media bed reaches the desired level. 
  • When the media bed is filled, take out the board dividing the algal bed and allow the water to flow into the algae bed. 
  • The algal bed will grow algae for the fish as fish food and also removes extra minerals from the water before returning to the fish tank. 
  • The function of this process is to reduce the possibility of overpopulation of microorganisms in the tank. If such happens, it reduces the amount of oxygen available to the fish. 

To ensure there is enough oxygen flow in the system, you can install a grid of sticks in the media bed. This device breaks up the water when poured into the bed allowing oxygen flow. For it to work, another device is required to sit underneath the discharge produced by the media bed as well as the outlet from the algal pool. 

Manual labor is also required for it to work effectively. You will need to take a few minutes each day to scoop water in and out of the fish tank to boost oxygen levels in the system.

  • Add Fish to the Aquaponics Farm

After setting up the pump, you will have to cycle the system to make sure it is habitable for the fish. Then you can add fish to your farm. You can go for tilapia which is the most popular option. You can also choose other species including goldfish, koi, guppies, catfish, pacu, or species of choice. 

  • Add Plants to the Aquaponics Farm

You can grow a wide range of plants in the aquaponics system. The range of plants includes peppers, lettuces, basil, cucumbers, roses, kale, watercress, squash, and mint. When it comes to aquaponics, the best plants to grow are those with a lot of leaves that can survive on low nutrient levels. Any of the above plants will give great results with aquaponics.