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This is a conversion kit to turn your old aquarium into a garden with the added benefit of enabling it to run without a filter.

What we hope to achieve with this project:

Our goal is a lot bigger than just this one project.  We hope to expose as many people as we can to the benefits of growing food at home using organic methods.  There are so many reasons to go with aquaponics that we can't possibly cover them all here, but we hope to give you a good enough taste to get you interested.  You can help us spread the word by funding this project.  We are a small group of people with a bunch of ideas designed to allow the average student in class and the average person at home some exposure to aquaponics without a huge investment in either time or money.  Let's face it, these days we're tight on both of those.  Having said that, let's give you an idea of what this project is about.

Aquaponics....

So, we keep using this word aquaponics.  The Aztec people were raising plants on rafts on the surface of a lake around approximately 1,000 AD.  Humans have been trying to increase the yield of crops for a very long time.  Aquaponics is a way of increasing the nutrients that plants absorb in a natural way.  By providing a good environment for beneficial bacteria we can harness their natural ability to convert ammonia into nitrates.  Plant roots are able to take up nitrates directly.  So, basically, the fish help make nutrients for the plants and in turn the plants clean the water for the fish.

What is this "Tank Top"?

If you've watched the video you have a pretty good handle on what this thing is.  It provides an environment where the waste that your fish produce is processed into beneficial nutrients for your plants naturally.  Now I'll give you a little more insight into the scope of this project.  You already have a fish tank at home (the Tank Top will fit 10 gallon as well as 5.5 gallon tanks).  You've been wanting to get into aquaponics for a while now, but most systems you see are pricey and take up a lot of space.  We have a solution for both of those points, just convert that fish tank you have sitting around into an aquaponic herb garden.  Get your feet wet without a huge investment.  I know what you're asking.  What makes this system different?  We've put together a list of areas that we have addressed to make this system well worth a try.

  • It replaces the filter in your fish tank naturally.  (No more cleaning or replacing that aquarium filter, the water is naturally cleaned for your fish by the plants you are growing)
  • Doesn't take up any more space than your current fish tank setup. (It installs right on top of the tank!)
  • It's  a small system, but it actually has enough surface area in the grow bed for the beneficial bacteria to grow and make this a viable system.  The plus is that by removing the need for net pots you also make it easier to arrange your little garden just the way you like it.  It doesn't just look good, it actually works!
  • Need some basil for tonight's spaghetti sauce, pick it right there.  Can't get any fresher than that.
  • You're child needs a science project.  This science project helps demonstrate a real solution to the world's increasing need for ways to produce food on ever shrinking land areas with rapidly diminishing resources.
  • Simple to maintain.  Plug it in, plant your herbs, and feed the fish.  Oh, you may need to top off the water every so often.  That's it.

How did we get to this point?

Well, as we mentioned before.  Fish produce waste and it has to go somewhere.  It usually winds up in some sort of filter you set onto the edge of you aquarium.  There's where we started.  Why not kill two birds with one stone.  The design simplifies the system by directly replacing the filter and acts as a cover for the tank.  A sketch quickly turned into a wooden model.

Concept sketches.
Concept sketches.
CAD fit check.
CAD fit check.

Once we got the shape down to something that looked good we began testing with acrylic.  Acrylic is good because it comes in FDA approved, food safe varieties and it is easy to work with, not to mention that it just looks good.  It had the added benefit of coming in clear also which was very useful in testing the system.

Water flow testing.  Air lift pump moves the right amount of water and food coloring shows the area of coverage.
Water flow testing. Air lift pump moves the right amount of water and food coloring shows the area of coverage.

After checking for leaks we moved on to the next step.  The real question is, is this actually a viable system.  We got rid of the net cups early on.  In order for aquaponics to work you have to have everything in the right proportions.  By removing the net cups we gained enough surface area to support a big enough colony of bacteria to support the system (added bonus is that you can arrange your plantings any way you like).  Using pond test strips we can get a rough measurement of nitrites and nitrates in the water.

Nitrite spike.
Nitrite spike.

PPM measurement with the strips is approximate, but it was enough to determine when we got our nitrite spike.  We got nitrites in 5 days and nitrates in another 7.  We have a viable system!

Nitrites converted to nitrates.
Nitrites converted to nitrates.

 We now have a system that we know works.  :)  We actually produced so many nutrients that algae tried to move in.

We have a solution for that.  Actually, it's something that most aquariums already have.  The backdrop (which is attached to every other tank I've ever seen except our test tank.  LOL) goes on there next.  Also, the aquarium in your living room probably won't sit in front of the window like the one in our lab.  The secret in any aquaponics system is to keep the sunlight on the plants and out of the water.  As you can see in the video though, the system is removing the waste rather efficiently from the water.

Let's get deeper.

We gave you a quick rundown on the Tank Top's functionality in the video.  In this section we'll go into greater detail.  If you don't like technical you can skip to the end, but I have to tell you that you may miss some good details.

  • In the video you see two different aquarium sizes.  The same unit will fit either 5.5 and 10 gallon tanks be means of guide rails that are integrated into the bottom of it.
  • Setting up the system is easy.  All you have to do is insert the pump tube into the center grommet all the way the built in stop and add the included expanded clay.  Just plug in the supplied air pump, add you fish and plants and away you go.
  • What if you need more access to the tank than the feeding tube provides?  You can slide the whole Tank Top to the side.  The bottom has a built in stop designed to let you slide the unit over without the fear of it tipping over.

What features are we planning to incorporate in the future?

We are very open to feedback and ideas for what you would like to see next in the Tank Top.  After all, we really want this to be a project for everyone.  Here's what we have in the pipe so far.

  • We are working on a light system for the fish as well as a special illuminated faceplate add-on for the front to provide that relaxing atmosphere while you watch your fish swim.

What do the rewards look like?

Here are a few pictures of the rewards to give you an idea of what you will get when you back us.

The "Aqua Thumb" thumb drive.
The "Aqua Thumb" thumb drive.
T-shirt sneak peek. (initial design, final graphic may differ)
T-shirt sneak peek. (initial design, final graphic may differ)

How are you going to put it all together?

We are going to bring it all together with help from you.  Your funding will help provide the tooling and raw materials we need to get this system into as many hands as possible.  You can help us make "healthy food grown at home" more than just a catchy phrase.  By funding us you will enable us to purchase materials at a price that will make the Tank Top affordable.  Buying in bulk quantities will bring the price down quite a bit.  A portion of the funding will also go towards tooling to cut assembly time.  This system will make it easy for anyone to get into aquaponics and learn how to start bringing more healthy food or even just an easier method of gardening right into their home.  You provide the funds and we provide the way.  Thanks for reading.

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

We've done plenty of testing on this one so there's no challenge there. Our main challenge will be assembling the unit in large quantities should the need arise. We are looking at several suppliers for the raw materials so that we can be sure to have a backup should our main supplier have problems accommodating a larger volume. We are also looking at various locations to carry out the assembly of all the rewards once we get funded, so that part is covered. The final hurdle would be assembly time and we are designing fixtures in order to cut the assembly time way down. All-in-all our group has the skills, experience, and resources necessary to make it happen. Thanks for taking the time to check out our project and we hope you will join us in the effort to bring everyone healthy food grown at home.

FAQ

  • That's a good observation and that's something that we didn't think to mention. There are several factors contributing to the difference in the water color. First is our choice of tables to put the tanks on, some of the brown color was being reflected by the glass. The Tank Top aquarium is also darker since we don't have lights in the tank and it is casting a shadow. You can see that the water in the see-through Tank Top is a little lighter. Another is the choice of expanded clay. Some expanded clay media have fine particles that remain in the water for a very long time. Lastly, as you said, there is a lot of organic material from the grow bed. I feed my goldfish pond stick instead of the flaked food because the flaked food that you find at the pet shop is made to minimize the waste that the fish put out. This means that we won't get good levels of ammonia out of the fish to keep the bacteria going. After a bit the water starts taking on a yellow tint, but the water is very clear.

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  • Pledge $2 or more
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    Access to our Kickstarter supporter forum for this project. We have a website, the website has a forum, you will be there. The most important part of projects like these are the information and feedback we all share. Let's get aquaponics out there and let's make these systems better and more affordable.

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    5 backers Limited (95 left of 100)

    You get reward #1 plus a PDF, the "AquaThumb" super basic guide to aquaponics on cool thumb drive. There will be pictures for those of you needing visuals. Even if you don't use the guide, the thumb drive is really nice. LOL

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    T-shirt. You get the very stylish "My Tank Top Grows Food!" T-shirt with the Homestyle Aquaponics logo on it. Look to the left for a sneak peek at what it looks like. Yep, we just have gray at the moment.

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    Also available, T-Shirt in 3D relief. Limited supply, so get yours early! Look to the left for more detail.

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    T-shirt plus thumb drive. That's right, you get both in one package.

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    5 backers All gone!

    First off the bench kits. These are the very first ones made. These will be serialized and signed by the person assembling them for that personal touch. Kit is complete and ready to go. Includes the pump and grow media. Just set it on top of your aquarium, plug it in and add your seedlings.

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    5 backers Limited (45 left of 50)

    Tank Top conversion kit. Same as the $40 pledge, but without the signature. These will be the ones produced on the new assembly fixtures. Full support including a forum through our website.

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    "All In" Tank Top system. Same as the $40 pledge, but comes with that T-shirt and thumb drive everyone is talking about.

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Funding period

- (30 days)