Bell Siphon

This last weekend I made a lot of good progress on my Aquaponic Gardening System. I got grow lights (so I can set it up in my basement), got a grow bed rockin (think I will make a second soon) tested how it will all go together. And I wanted to share with you a few things I found to be kinda a pain.

My biggest issue with the whole thing after paying for it, was getting the grow bed together. I am a programmer not a plumber. So learning how to plum the drain pipes and what not was a bit of a challenge for me any way.

My grow bed/s are concrete mixing trays or I think that is how they were marked. They are about 3′ by 4′ trays about 12 inches deep and ran about 9$. I really like them as they are cheap enough I can pick a few up and use them for a lot of different projects. They also have a good thickness to them, not so thick I couldn’t use a good razer knife to make some small cuts but thick enough that it would take a fair amount of work to put a hole in the thing.

I went decided that 1 ½ inch pvc pipe would be about right for my needs. If I would do this over I might go with a little bigger pipe. 1 ¾ to 2” would give me faster drainage and make finding some parts a little easier.

I also did a lot of research on using a uniseal vs using other bits to make a bulkhead type connection. Uniseals would be easier, but I would have had to order them. My local chain stores thought I grew a 3rd head when I described them. So I ended up with two bits to do what I needed. A male to 1 ½ pvc pipe fitting and female to 1 ½ pvc pipe fitting. Drilled a 1 ½ inch hole in the tray and used got the male to screw in to the hole. Added some fish safe cocking and attached the female and screwed them as tight as I could get them. And added a little bit more cock around my “bulkhead” just to be safe.

Now you want the water to drain about an inch below the top of your grow medium. So I cut a length of pipe to be about 9 inches. My bulkhead was about a inch tall. Making my grow area about 11 inches deep. Some were in the 8-11 inch range is ideal so I think I am going to be good. But I can always cut a little shorter.

With out glue I dry fitted my drain/stand pipe and made a Bell Siphon out of some 2” pipe. A bell siphon is just a pipe sealed on one end that loosely fits over the drain pipe to act as a straw so once the take starts to drain it can suck almost all the water out of the bed. Depending on the style of grow bed you make you might not want your plants roots to be soaked all the time. In my case I do not.

Once everything was dry I set my grow bed on some over turned buckets and filled it with water. To show my family how it would work.

But it didn’t. Not being real sure of why it wasn’t working I took a bottle of water that happened to be clear and cut the bottom out placed it over the drain pipe to act as the bell siphon. Once I could see that there was no suction, it dawned on me that I needed to attach a pipe to the bottom side of the drain taking the water down below the bottom of the tank. That water traveling longer out the stand pipe is what gives the bell enough suction to siphon the water up and out keeping the flow of water moving until there is enough air to break the suction. Other wise you would have to do some kind of over flow that pulls a plug not unlike your toilet. And that uses a lot more space and has moving parts to bind or break.

Here is a drawing of a bell siphon in case you decide you want to make your own aquaponic system some day. Believe me if someone would have explained that to me last week my weekend would have been a lot smoother.

bell siphon

Boy that was a lot of not Ddo related information, next time more DDo


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