Aquaponics Sump Tank – Do I Need a Sump Tank For Aquaponics?

Aquaponics Sump Tank

A basic aquaponics system is meant to have fish tank water pumped to plants before sending it back to the fish – after a thorough filtration system. The cycle is continuous and consistent. But then, every now and then, you will realize that you may need more grow beds in order to increase the plant production. As a direct consequence, fish will have less water in the tank.

Keeping fish happy implies bringing some extras in. An aquaponics sump tank may not be mandatory in the process, but it can help you keep the water levels at the optimal standards. You basically come up with a better environment by reusing all the runoff. Bringing a sump tank in requires some upfront planning, as you need to do it with the grow bed to fish tank ratio in mind.

Understanding what an aquaponics sump tank is

Understanding this concept is fairly simple. This tank is basically an accessory for your current system. It is often brought in with the grow bed to fish tank ratio at 2:1 or higher. As you increase the size of the grow bed, the fish tank is no longer proportional with it. As more beds and plants require water, there will not be enough water in the actual fish tank. If your fish are not healthy and happy, the system will fail.

So, what does the sump tank do then? Simple. It collects all the water drained in your grow beds before pushing it back into the actual fish tank. In other words, it aims to keep your fish healthy by optimizing and keeping the right water levels. Consistency is key when investing in an aquaponics sump tank. At the same time, the tank will boost the aeration, providing more dissolved oxygen for the fish.

The general idea is fairly simple to understand. If you have managed to find the perfect balance and you run an excellent self sustaining environment, there is no need to bring in a sump tank. But if you want to increase the plant production, chances are this tank will compensate for the minuses associated with lower water levels in the fish tank.

sump tank
Photo from: Microponics The Integration of Fish, Plants and Micro-livestock

Deciding on the right size for an aquaponics sump tank

Common sense prevails when not sure about the right size for the sump tank. What works for some systems will not work for all of them, so do not take any ideas or recommendations without doing some research first. Otherwise, you might just waste your money. The general idea is fairly simple to understand – the sump tank should be able to handle the total amount of water needed in the grow beds. How do you figure it out then?

First of all, figure out the total amount of water in the grow beds. Then, you need to double check the growth media and its displacement effect. It depends on what you use – while not really a general rule, you will probably have more than 50% of the water displaced. Deduct this amount from the total volume of the grow beds and write the result down.

Now, make sure the sump pump in the tank is fully covered. Figure out the amount of water required to keep it like that. If the pump is not covered, it will clearly overheat and fail – you might need to purchase a new one. Write this number down as well.

Finally, add the two numbers you wrote down and you will have the final result. This is the overall volume capacity to consider when interested in an aquaponics sump tank.

Planning the design

As you shop for sump tanks, you will find two different designs out there and each of them has its advantages and disadvantages.

One of them is the CHIFT PIST CHOP, which may seem a little confusing, but it is actually intuitive and easy to implement. Water from your fish tank is sent to the grow beds. Since there are more plants now, you will lose more water. Then, the water goes into the sump tank. The sump pump will push it back into the main tank for your fish to keep happy.

This type of design must go to the lowest point of the system. In fact, you might need to alter the entire environment to install it. If your system is on the ground, you will have to dig a pit or elevate the system in order to fit the sump tank underneath. The system is easy to setup overall, but it requires regular monitoring of the water level in the sump tank.

The second system is known as CHOP 2. This type of design is a bit more complicated, but still doable. Its role is to provide enough water to both the grow beds and the fish. It relies on a dual loop system that makes it possible.

The fish tank operation is based on a gravity feed system, while the grow beds rely on an automatic siphon. The system is scalable – its greatest benefit. Practically, you can add further grow beds later on without making any adjustments. There are a few conditions though. Make sure the tank can take the overall volume of water and relies on a proper pump. Other than that, it will require some extra materials to complete the setup, while the water coming from two different directions is mixed up.

The CHOP 2 system is mostly recommended to those with a bit of experience. If you have never used sump tanks before, a CHIFT PIST CHOP system could be a better choice. It is simple and easy to install. To avoid overheating your pump, it helps getting a sump tank with a vertical float switch. This feature will trigger the pump and turn it on or off based on the water level.

Costs associated with an aquaponics sump tank

Getting an aquaponics sump tank depends on more factors, so prices vary widely from one model to another. The cost depends on the materials used to design the tank and overall system, as well as the pump. Some pumps come with extra features for safety, but also to prevent overheating. Then, the clear pipes will also add to the price, not to mention the clear tubing.

Should you choose to hire a professional for the job, these costs must be included as well. Of course, you can also research parts online and make it yourself too – not suitable for beginners.

Suggested article: Aquaponics Costs – How Much To Spend For Your Organic Food

Final words

As a short final conclusion, an aquaponics sump tank is not mandatory for such a system. It is, however, needed under certain circumstances – such as growing more plants. Unless you plan to do so, the tank will still work on the overall efficiency of your system, as well as the water consumption. It will keep your fish healthier and happier. The tank may also help against particular fish diseases too. As for its mandatory uses, adding more grow beds or increasing the system to a different ratio – 1:2 or 1:3 – makes it an actual necessity.

Double check the size of the tank and the pump capacity before making any investments, as these factors can make or break a deal.

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