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farmerlon
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Air Pump and Stones Suggestions for Making AACT ?

I just finished reading Teaming With Microbes and I want to start making some AACT (Actively Aerated Compost Tea).
I'm a total newbie when it comes to using an aquarium air pump and diffuser stone. I know many of you already make AACT, so I was looking for some recommendations for air pumps and stones... what to look for?, what to avoid?, etc...
I plan on using a 5-gallon bucket to brew the tea.

DoubleDogFarm
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farmerlon,

Did you read the Sticky on AACT?

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=17097


Eric

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That's a 34 page monster of a thread encompassing a lot. It's the size of a small book. farmerlon has a specific question. Maybe it's best we find the answer here.

I took a quick look at the first page of that discussion and someone posted that any old aquarium air pump will do. What are your thoughts on that?
  • :arrow: Will any old pump do?

    :arrow: What should farmerlon look for in an air pump and diffuser stone?

    :arrow: What should farmerlon avoid?

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farmerlon
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DoubleDogFarm wrote:Did you read the Sticky on AACT?
Yes, I have started reading through that, thanks.
But, as "webmaster" mentioned, it's a long read with a lot of information that does not apply to my specific question.
So, if anyone wants to impart some advice here, that would be great.

If not, I will just pick up some sort of aquarium air pump at Wal-mart (etc...) and take my chances. :wink:

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Alrighty, let's review...

Good tea is like a fire (work with me here :wink: ) Like the fire it has three main needs, what firefighters learn as the fire triangle.

Fuel (food), temperature, and air are the key elements in fire building or tea brewing. The first two are easy for tea; we add our fish and kelp and such and we have fuel, and when we are making tea getting above 50 degrees is pretty much a given. So air is our key concern here.

Our air is doing two things in brewing; adding oxygen to the mix by increasing surface area, and even more importantly, circulating the brew. While the former seems ostensibly more important, the gas exchange is still primarily taking place at the surface of the brew. So moving bottom to top is our prime concern really.

Let's keep in mind that small, cheap aquarium units are for moving crystal clear water, hardly the viscosity we are attaining in our teas. I would prefer something a little hardier to keep up the flow; as biology builds in the stones the flow will be decreased enough already, so no point in skimping on the cheap stuff to get lacklustre results.


So avoid tiny little stones and cheap air pumps. I am not a fan of those blue composite stones; they break down and clog really quickly. The glass bead or ceramic types clean up better but are a bit more expensive. I think if I was building a tea brewer today I would go with the[url=https://www.thepondreport.com/disc-diffusers.shtml]new diffusers[/url]. A very fine bubble and a mass of them to keep circulation moving. While we debated bubble size in the original AACT thread, it was more about clogging a fine stone than anything and these new diffusers clean up nice. Get two or more and swich them out between batches; as Dr. Ingham always used to tell us, "Dessication is the best sterilant".

As for pumps, the gold standard is the [url=https://www.aquacave.com/s31-sweetwaterbr-regenerativebr-blower-12hp-2030.html]Sweetwater[/url]; this is what they use in the big aquariums, but it isn't out of reach (and this is the one they used in the Dirt Simple brewer that Dr. Ingham helped develop). But I think you can do cheaper and still do well. [url=https://www.aquacave.com/detail.aspx?ID=2799]This one[/url]caught my eye; moves a good deal of air and you can adjust (how cool is that?) to fit your container, your stone size, how thick the tea is, if the stone is clogging, etc. Cool. 8)

So avoid cheap, buy right and you will be happier longer and make better tea. My grandpa always said "Buy the best and you will always be happy with your purchase." I don't think you need to go that far in this case but the cheap stuff will definitely make you unhappy in the long run...

Hope that helps

HG
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farmerlon
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The Helpful Gardener wrote:...
So avoid cheap, buy right and you will be happier longer and make better tea. My grandpa always said "Buy the best and you will always be happy with your purchase." ...
HG
I agree with that sentiment.
That's why I posted the question... because, in this instance, I had no idea what might be the best for this application.

Thanks for the suggestions; that information certainly gives me a good idea of what to start looking for. :)

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The Helpful Gardener wrote: As for pumps, the gold standard is the [url=https://www.aquacave.com/s31-sweetwaterbr-regenerativebr-blower-12hp-2030.html]Sweetwater[/url]; this is what they use in the big aquariums, but it isn't out of reach (and this is the one they used in the Dirt Simple brewer that Dr. Ingham helped develop). But I think you can do cheaper and still do well. [url=https://www.aquacave.com/detail.aspx?ID=2799]This one[/url]caught my eye; moves a good deal of air and you can adjust (how cool is that?) to fit your container, your stone size, how thick the tea is, if the stone is clogging, etc. Cool. 8)

...
Sweetwater pump ... yikes !!! :shock:
Wow, for my needs (brewing up a few 5 gallon batches of compost tea), that $500.00+ device would be gross overkill. I will leave that one for the commercial compost tea vendors; or owners of shark tanks. :P :D

The other pump you suggested does look promising; I will search around to compare some products similar to that one.
thanks again

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Sweetwater pump ... yikes !!!
Wow, for my needs (brewing up a few 5 gallon batches of compost tea), that $500.00+ device would be gross overkill. I will leave that one for the commercial compost tea vendors; or owners of shark tanks.
It's five times the pump you need. Here is my brothers. It's a 25 gallon conical tank system.

[img]https://i67.photobucket.com/albums/h300/eric_wa/Greenhouse%20Photos/DSC01614.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i67.photobucket.com/albums/h300/eric_wa/Rogers%20Property/CopyofDSC01634.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i67.photobucket.com/albums/h300/eric_wa/Greenhouse%20Photos/CopyofDSC01631.jpg[/img]

Eric

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Cone bottom tank, Sweetwater blower, looks like your brother has been hanging around some Soil Food Web folks! :D

HG
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HG,

His landscape and design business is moving more and more toward edible landscaping. Vegetable gardens, orchards, native plantings and many deer fences. I just welded up some rebar gates for him this afternoon. He's also a certified permaculturist.

I hope the permaculture certification doesn't reignite the heated topic from earlier. :P

Eric

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From my seat on the ladder, some people have money to burn - needlessly!

I make a bunch of tea. Use an el-cheapo $15 air pump. I don't bother with an airstone, if I really needed something, I would use a soaker hose. Never clogs or gets old, extremely cheap. Mostly, I just stick the end of the hose into the jug of tea and let it bubble.

Mike

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[img]https://i67.photobucket.com/albums/h300/eric_wa/Greenhouse%20Photos/CopyofDSC01633.jpg[/img]

$750.00 is a double Yikes! or Ouch!!

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Ever done a bioassay on your tea WW? Peeked at it under a microscope? Quick field counts of protozoa, bacteria and fungi?

I did every day for two years and have seen the differences between cheap, pretty ok and the right stuff. You may think it extravagant but there are quantifiable differences in little tweaks here and there. You get what you pay for.

HG
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Is using, say TWO (or 3) $15 air pumps an option? Sometimes it doesn't hurt as much if you spend in smaller chunks.... Home and hobby budget for materials and supplies are less flexible compared to commercial use.

Also, I'm appreciating the "what's the optimum/best choice" recommendations, but what's the "point of uselessness" for a 5 gal bucket? i know my little 1000 or 1500 one didn't cut it but the 2000 one seemed to really move the water, at least while the 1/4in(?) soaker hose was fresh.

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Well there you go AS; you have done the homework and found out what works for you. But you spent on a couple of units that didn't work for you, and there is a cost there as well.

I have presented better units first in hopes that folks will go this route for a few reasons. First, the frugal folk are going to buy the junk anyway; it's their nature. These are the folks that drive twenty miles to save twenty cents; those of us in the garden center trades are very familiar with them.

Secondly, the reason these are more expensive is not marketing, but design. Cheap stuff is usually a one-bun knock-off of somebody elses design. Companies like Sweetwater actually have engineers on staff who make real innovations and changes that have tangible effect. This is a great segue into my third reason...

Better design and manufacture means the stuff is just better; back to Sweetwater, who figured out how to make the piston (piston rather than diaphragm, another reason I like it better) float on a bed of air, reducing friction, therefore wear, thereby making it last MUCH longer and reducing maintenance.

So this isn't just me being extravagant, believe, I ain't got the dough to be extravagant. Buying this better equipment will bring better results (and in AACT this means safer as well; anaerobia means fecal coliforms and E.coli), mean less maintenance, lead to significantly longer usage before replacement (if you are replacing three or four pumps (make it six or eight if you are doubling up) in the time the good stuff is still working, any savings are still dissappearing fast...

And no, you don't need a Sweetwater for a five gallon bucket, ever. I was throwing that out there to show how seriously the pros take the aeration leg of the triangle. I think we all should make sure we have that well covered rather than just doing the minimum to get by, which can lead to very poor result. Why do it at all if you aren't going to be sure of getting it right?

HG
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These are the folks that drive twenty miles to save twenty cents; those of us in the garden center trades are very familiar with them.
I know someone who does that! -- Goes WAY out of his way to buy gasoline for his low fuel-efficient truck of all things :lol:

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Thanks HG. :wink:

Apple,

Similar story. I have a friend that drove across town for a gallon of milk. Probably spent $2.00 in gas to save .50


Eric
Last edited by DoubleDogFarm on Sun Jan 23, 2011 2:17 am, edited 1 time in total.

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The Helpful Gardener wrote: ... And no, you don't need a Sweetwater for a five gallon bucket, ever. I was throwing that out there to show how seriously the pros take the aeration leg of the triangle. I think we all should make sure we have that well covered rather than just doing the minimum to get by, which can lead to very poor result. ...
HG
All of your points are well taken with me. :D
I have no problem with buying "the best" when that is what I need.
The system that DoubleDog's brother has (posted above) looks impressive; it's apparent that he is "in the business" of making lots of compost tea (either for himself, or as a commercial venture). For him, I assume that system is practical, and it's likely a very good investment for the return that he gets from it.
I would certainly never argue with that. :D

Though the Sweetwater pump is much larger than anything I would need at this time, it's good to know about it anyway.
The suggestions you made are appreciated by me. :)

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[url=https://www.aquaticeco.com/subcategories/1026/Sweetwater-Linear-II-Air-Pump-Outdoor-190-max-depth-13-x-9-x-8-140-running-watts]Sweetwater does make some smaller pumps[/url]...

Still expensive, but lower energy consumption and two to three times the life of a cheap pump makes it worth a look. Quieter too.

Initial outlay is a poor indicator of overall economy. Start factoring in all the details and I can make a pretty good argument for the more expensive pump being cheaper in the long run, while delivering superior performance and product. All depends in how you look at it...

Do NOT forget the check valve when using air pumps; ruining a $300 pump because of a power outage hurts a lot more than losing that K-Mart special.

HG
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Do NOT forget the check valve when using air pumps; ruining a $300 pump because of a power outage hurts a lot more than losing that K-Mart special.
If you look at our setup, no check valve is needed. The plumbing goes up over and down. If you look at the middle we have a bleeder ( throttle). The white hose is our muffler. This Spencer pump puts out more air than is needed even with a 25 gallon batch tank. Have not tested, but I'm thinking with this weep hole no siphon will ruin the pump.

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Do NOT forget the check valve when using air pumps; ruining a $300 pump because of a power outage hurts a lot more than losing that K-Mart special.
all you need to do is make sure the pump is above the water level, then gravity wont let the water ruin your pump. no matter what.

my 2 cents are that spending money on a good pump and building a good ACT brewer is far worth it in the long run. specially if you make weekly or even more batches of ACT. sure its cheaper to buy the cheap pump, but when that ACT doesn't make what a good pump will make, and when you have to start dealing with plant health/soil problems and having to spend money to fix them. youll wish you had made a good ACT brewer in the first place.
For all things come from earth, and all things end by becoming earth.

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Bingo, Soil! Spot on!

And yes the air above the water line works too...

HG
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The Helpful Gardener wrote:Bingo, Soil! Spot on!

And yes the air above the water line works too...

HG
HG,

What pump do you use?

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I have not been making tea since I was doing it commercially, but am getting the gear together for this coming year. I will be getting a Sweetwater.

HG
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The Helpful Gardener wrote:I have not been making tea since I was doing it commercially, but am getting the gear together for this coming year. I will be getting a Sweetwater.

HG
HG,

What is your thought on the Pondmaster AP-100 pump? New on e-bay for around $140.

z man

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What pump do you use?

zman
i use this pump, i can brew up to 80 gallons of tea, then if i want to i can dilute that 1:5 for a hell of a lot of tea. the company sent my package FAST 3 days i think. well worth it.

https://www.aquariumspecialty.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=6511
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