Aquaponic Drainage Systems: Return Lines

Posted by Nate Storey on September 23, 2013

Aquaponic drainage systems

Planning a drainage system for any aquaponic system can be a daunting task, but planning a drainage system for ZipGrow Towers can sometimes be even more daunting, simply because they are so new, and most folks are unfamiliar with how they are plumbed.

If you find yourself in this position, don’t worry!

Plumbing in drainage systems for ZipGrow towers can be a very simple task with a little planning.

Simple systems make for happy growers


Mint in ZipGrow towers As you can see, the towers rest in a simple rain gutter. We got ours at the Home Depot!

Here at Bright Agrotech, we try to keep our systems as simple as possible.

So, we run central 4” drain lines at an incline, from one end of our greenhouse to the other. Our greenhouse is around 100 feet long, and our drain drops around 1.5’ over the course of that 100 feet. The trays that towers hang over, drain into these drain lines (one for the South side of the Greenhouse and one for the North side) and run down to the low end of the line, where our sump tank is located.

Right before our sump tank, the drainage lines merge and drain through a 2” bulkhead fitting (a special fitting that allows us to put watertight pipes through the walls of containers) into our sump tank.

A gate valve is located right upstream of this bulkhead fitting, allowing us to close off flow from our plants to our sump tank if we want to. Right above the gate valve is a screw valve with a hose fitting that allows us to use a pump to suck the water our of the lower portion of our drain line.

In the case where we want to limit the water flow from our plants to our sump tank (i.e. if we were using a fish-toxic pesticide or wanted to cut the plants off from the fish for some reason), we can close our gate valve, plug a pump into the screw valve and pump water away so that we can completely separate our plant production system from our fish.

Overall this is more complex than most growers need, but it can be very useful for growers who want more control over their plant and fish subsystems.

For the simple system, a 4” drain line set slightly in the ground and delivering water from your plants to your sump tank is all that is necessary. This is a simple, inexpensive, and effective way to move water from your plants to your sump.

If you’re struggling with how to plumb your drainage, please check out our YouTube videos, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

See for yourself, in person.

If you want to see a commercial hydroponic set up, Haydn Christensen - an Upstart Farmer in Fort Collins, Colorado - is now giving farm tours. This is a great opportunity to checkout a successful greenhouse, see how it's set up, and ask someone about a hydroponics greenhouse. You can find more information here.

Topics: Setup & Plumbing

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