Affnan’s Excellent Aquaponics Siphon
Since Malaysian Affnan Ramli began tinkering with Aquaponics a few years ago in his small backyard, he has successfully managed to redesign and simplify one of the central pieces of kit used in Aquaponics – The Auto-Siphon. Affnan runs a very successful blog where he constantly shares you-tube clips of his system designs and generously shares his experiences in Aquaponics. We caught up with him recently to to tell us a little more about his innovative siphon.
How did you first find about Aquaponics?
For a long time I’ve been doing ornamental fish keeping, mostly Goldfish, Koi and Gouramis. From there, I began experimenting on Bio filters to reduce work needed in maintaining fish ponds. It then further evolved to water gardening as one way to reduce Nitrates in pond water. With numerous research on water gardening on the net – it brought me to Aquaponics.
At the time this was a new term for me. Further reading on subject and with a lot of research on the net mostly to Australian sites I feel this is a perfect system for my small backyard.
How difficult was it to build your first system?
In March 2008 without much experience and virtually no clear instruction available on how to go about it, I started to build my first system out of 1 x 3 containers and using 15mm straight stand pipe as siphon. I had no idea this is too small at the time.
What mistakes did you make along the way?
Numerous failures, nothing significant grew and most plants died after few weeks. Those that survived are nothing to be proud off. Reliable water control is the main issue; it’s too unpredictable the siphon to be effective or dependable. Usual siphon problem either it’s don’t start leaving high water or don’t stop causing low water level in the grow beds, killing either the plants or the fish.
Affnan’s Siphon Explained
The Affnan Siphon is based around the work of fluid dynamics and 18th Century Dutch/Swiss mathematician Daniel Bernoulli. He created Bernoulli’s Principal, which roughly states that an increase in the speed of the fluid occurs simultaneously with a decrease in pressure or a decrease in the fluid’s potential energy. This insight was used by Affnan in designing his aquaponics siphon. What Affnan did was attach a larger funnel to the top of his up-stand pipe. As a larger volume of water rushes into a constricted space it creates enough pressure to drive the siphon action. A simple idea that simplifies the construction of an auto-siphon in aquaponics.
Read more about building your own Affnan Siphon Here
Your siphon that you helped improve and develop is commonly referred to as the Affnan Siphon by many people here in Australia. Can you tell us how you developed and designed it?
After about 8 months of trial and error with various designs to make siphon more reliable I arrive at the present siphon. My main criteria on a design are simplicity, ease of maintenance and reliability. We cannot afford to have something that can fail without understanding why it fails, so that we have a reliable Aquaponics system. I have made minor improvement on its outlet to cater for my “high water” level in my fish tank. I constantly monitor the siphon and look at feed back from users, to address any problem that may come after usage. To date nothing major has been done. Most failure is due to plants roots, algae growth and significant reduction in pump capacity. These issues are external and can be resolve by routine cleaning of the siphon.
How hard is it to find plumbing parts in your country?
I am making few sets for some friends, those parts needed use are common plumbing item over here. It will take me 5 minutes the most in any hardware store that I walk into to get those parts.
What are the common reasons why a lot of people have difficulty with getting their siphons to flow properly?
This is a very difficult question to answer. Water flow in a Siphon must not be too restrictive or within the siphon having steps than could cause excessive back flow. The mechanics of siphon although look simple but its fluid dynamic that need to be looked at. An ideal siphon will have a smooth funnel that can channel water giving maximum effect for a good siphon (action). The whole siphon as an assembly, works to achieve this ideal siphoning. I understand many people having difficulties to get parts, but I would recommend understanding siphon principle on how to increase efficiency and overcome the equilibrium flow the its possible to use alternate parts to achieve the result.
What tips do you have for people starting to build their siphon for the first time?
The stand pipe and funnel combination get the best possible smooth flow. Ratio of stand pipe to funnel don’t exceed 1:2
What fish do you grow in your Aquaponics systems?
Mostly Red Tilapia, I tried Malayan Mansheer, Barb, Goldfish and Yellowtail Catfish. Currently I am into natural Tilapia breeding not using hormones and I am also looking at other fish that can be of better value than Red Tilapia.
What sort of plants do you grow?
Being Tropical I am limited to my plants species, Strawberries is a no no over here. Having a small backyard also limit my trial to few at a time. I mostly grow kitchen herbs for my kitchen regular use. Tomatoes, Okra, Chillies do well. I’m having problem with leafy vegetable, it may be due to my grow bed media. Those seeds get washed and germinating rate is virtually nil. I need to address this by sowing it on elsewhere first.
Are there other people in Malaysia now getting interested in Aquaponics?
There are interested people, however over here general concept of sustainability or environment protection is still lacking so most people are not aware of advantage of Aquaponics. I’m slowly promoting Aquaponics and query to do commercial kits over here. But I’m worried that these people are more into the profit end of business than bother about actual Aquaponics in itself.
What does your family think of you?
Like most that started Aquaponics, initially they think I am crazy, after seeing the result they are very supportive of what I am doing.
You say on your website that one of your dreams is to have a Permaculture Food Forest? Why is that?
Traditionally we have those Food Forest in the old days, but now with modernization of the country it is difficult to own one. Permaculture Food Forest is heaven on earth, where we can experience relaxation and be with the earth at the same time producing our daily needs.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to promote Aquaponics here in Malaysia and visit setup elsewhere and learn various way Aquaponics are done. I want to provide a way for people to start Aquaponics the easiest possible with minimal failure. My blog, will mainly focus on Aquaponics my personal endeavour so that those that interested can say “Hey he can do it, I can do it too”
You can visit Affnan’s very informative website here: http://affnan-aquaponics.blogspot.com/