Sizing a Pump for Aquaponics or Hydroponics

Sizing a Pump for Aquaponics or Hydroponics
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Sizing a Pump for Aquaponics or Hydroponics *

Variables For Calculating Pump Size *

Figuring out the correct size of pump for you aquaponics or hydroponics system is something beginner growers run into when starting out. In order to determine the best pump for your system, you’ll need to analyze a few variables.

Gallons Per HourPumps for aquaponics

Pumps will almost always have a Gallons Per Hour (GPH) rating that tells you how many gallons of water that pump will move every single hour. Obviously, places who favor the metric system (which is really most places around the world) will use liters per hour. 

Pump Height Efficiency

Because almost all aquaponic or hydroponic growers need to move water upwards, you’ll need to also understand how efficient your pump is a different heights. Even if you’re still using a traditional horizontal grow bed model or NFT, as opposed to a high density, productive powerhouse like ZipGrow towers, you’ll still need to move water vertically from your fish tank to your beds or troughs.

 

Pumps for Aquaponics or Hydroponics *

*

 

How Much Water Do You Need To Move? *

aquaponic IBC system

A standard IBC grow bed system.

Before we can delve too deeply into pump height and efficiency, it’s crucial to understand how often you’ll need to turn over (fully cycle) the system water.

We recommend that hobby or small commercial aquaponic or hydroponic growers turn over their system volume at least once every two hours. While there is some flexibility here, it’s a good place to start when you’re calculating the size of pump you need for your system.

Hobbyist Aquaponic Scenario *

So, let’s say we have a 100 gallon system. Thinking about our minimum recommended amount of water we should be moving, we’ll need to move 50 gallons per hour in order to turn our entire system volume over at least once every two hours.

That means we’ll need a minimum of a 50 GPH pump.

BUT WAIT. Remember, almost every person reading this post will be moving their water up in some form or another. This includes people using traditional IBC systems, who need to move their water at least two feet of head height.

What is Head Height? *

pump head height

Most pumps will have a GPH/Head Height Chart like this one.

The distance between the top of your grow bed (or ZipGrow tower) and the top of the water in your tank.

Now, you’ll need to look further into what pump your’e using and find the efficiency and head height info usually posted on the side of the box (see photo on left), or contact the manufacturer directly.

Usually pump efficiency at different head heights is almost never a linear relationship (again, check out the example on our pumps).

Now, back to our hypothetical example. If we look at the chart on the whiteboard, we’ll then figure out that when we need to move the water two feet vertically, we’ll need  a pump with a head height of 30 GPH. Any pump capable of pushing 30 GPH (or more) at two feet will work great for our application.

Other Important Considerations *

System Variance

When choosing a pump, remember that our recommendation of turning over your entire system volume at least once per two hours is a recommendation. If you shoot a little long, or fall a little short of this recommendation, everything will probably be just fine.

Just remember that every aquaponics or hydroponics system out there varies considerably. Whether the it’s the plumbing, system design, grow media, etc., every system is different and required GPH can vary because of it.

The important thing to remember is that you are exchanging your water fast enough to maintain a good level of dissolved oxygen in your system. Try to avoid those lethal anaerobic zones in grow beds or towers.

Pump Efficiency

When researching pump efficiency and GPH and various head heights for your own application, remember that you’ll be moving water through what could be quite a long length of hose.

That said, the further your system volume travels, the lower your pump’s efficiency will be, and that could mean a decreased GPH or overall system performance.

While it’s possible to do the efficiency calculations here, it’s much more simple just to eyeball it and calculate anywhere from a 15% to 30% loss of efficiency (this of course depends on your plumbing and system design).

 

Questions?

Post them to the comments below and be sure to share this content if you’ve found it helpful!

 

12 Comments

  1. I saw one other comment only two days ago about whether the volume of water in the calculations is for the fish tank or whether it includes also all the water in the deep raft, sump, and other parts of the system. Also, can the pump efficiency be radically reduced by hose or pvc that is too small in diameter, for instance all else being equal, would you get a substantially lower turnover rate with 1.5 inch pvc lines compared to say 3 iinch pvc?

    Reply
  2. Can you share some info on sales?
    How to make an income from this life style of farming.

    Reply
    • Hey Dan, could you get a little more specific with your question?

      Reply
  3. How many gallons per hour for each gallon in the system?
    e.g. 6, 5 gallon buckets – how many gallons per hour – how strong a pump?

    Reply
    • For a small system, you need to turn over your entire system volume at least once every two hours. That tells you how large your pump is, etc.

      For a 100 gallon system, you need a pump that moves a minimum of 50 gallons per hour.

      Reply
      • You’re saying opposite things here- For pumping…Is it 2x an hour or once over 2 hours? These are very different flow rates.

        Reply
          • Okay, semantics needing some clarification— in the article it says specifically IN BOLD “at least once every two hours.” Which is it? Twice an hour is 4x that amount…..

          • Hi Bo! Great catch – I’ve changed it now to reflect the CORRECT answer: Turn your entire system volume over once every two hours.

  4. Hey Chris, great information as usual! This is the first time I think I have heard anyone say move the entire system water once every hour. That makes it easier to understand. Thank you again for more easy to follow info!

    Reply
    • You’re welcome, Steven! So glad you’re finding our blog a valuable resource.

      Reply
  5. This article is great. How did you learn all this information though? I find it hard to remember even half of what’s written here. Keep up the good work!

    Reply

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