i [heart] physics

Physics is how my garden grows.

We are going to actually plant stuff! [SQUEEE!!!] <— crazy excited noise. So here is how this rig can allow me to start a garden in the middle of a Las Vegas summer and not doom myself to failure.


The grow beds (left) are flooded with water from the sump tank (right) to about an inch below the rock level. The sump also pumps water into the fish tank.


Here is the brilliant physics part. When the fish tank water level gets to a certain point it drains out that tube on the right back into the sump tank, but it pulls the water from the bottom of the tank. So ucky fishy water leaves from the bottom while cleaner water flows into the top. Meanwhile in the grow beds, physics is hard at work being even more awesome!


This is the auto-siphon inside each grow bed. It is three layers: The open drain pipe attached to the bed on the right, the bell covering thing on the left and then the gravel guard lying on its side in the right picture. Put these together and when the tank fills to a certain point a siphon is formed to drain the water faster than it comes in. So it cycles (filling and emptying) about 5 times an hour. This is excellent for the plants because they have a constant root temperature, constant nutrient rich food supply, and are oxygenated when the system drains. Because of this the plants can grow much faster. But wait there’s more!

I also [heart] chemistry and biology. The way that the ucky fish water can be good for the plants is actually because over time a bacterial colony will grow on the rocks in the grow bed. This bacteria will convert the ammonia to nitrites and then to nitrates (which the plants devour ravenously) as it fills and drains. Then the cleaned and de-ammonia-ified (like that word making up?) water goes back to the sump and back to the fish.

These are the happy plants that get to live in our garden. Best way to start seeds. EVER. Plus it meant I had an excuse for Panda Express. Total win-win. Here we have zucchini and yellow squash up top and spinach on the bottom.


On the left we have cucumbers (foreground), Roma tomatoes (back left), and  green beans. On the right we have cherry tomatoes (foreground), cantaloupe (back left) and watermelon.

Once we get these suckers planted, we add in this rank smelling seaweed extract to start the whole process. Then after the system has been running for about two weeks we add our fish. Which means we have a deadline to 1) decide on fish 2) figure out where to buy said fish. Current thought is Koi, unless anyone has any suggestions for a fish that can thrive in 85+ degree water and is easy to keep alive? I don’t have a great track record with fish. So I’m calling them Neil’s fish so as not to bring down my horrible aquatic juju on our unsuspecting aquaponics system.

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Filed under Animals, Garden, homeschool, life the universe and everything

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