Wednesday, 10 October 2012

PVC Aquaponics Shade

3 weeks ago, I started building a shade for my aquaponics system to protect the plants from strong winds and heavy rain. As I am living in a gated townhouse, I am not allowed to make modifications to my veranda and bordering walls. Therefore, the criterias for my shade design are:
  • cheap as possible
  • no drilling/nailing on existing walls and roofs
  • does not extend beyond the borders of my house
  • constructable with the power tools I have
  • able to withstand tropical winds and rain
  • leaves and water doesn't stay collected at the top
  • ease of cleaning (such as support legs that doesn't block the broom when sweeping underneath the system)
  • pleasant to look at
I came up with a few design and performed test simulations in my head to see how they will stand up against the harshest weather in my area. Finally, the candidate that scored the best is an "arch" design made from 1/2" PVC pipe. I then did a rough sketchup model of my system with a finished shade to estimate the length of PVC pipe needed.

 The contruction of the shade was done over the course of a week during my free time. I also made some changes to the initial design by adding wider PVC pipes at the base for extra strength

Phase 1: PVC Frame

All the pipes were held together using screws. Precision, precision, precision!

Phase 2: Wire Bracing

Doing this is HELL! I have to make sure all the braces are not too loose and not too tight. Too little tension and the shade will be shaky. Too much and the pipes will have an unsightly bent. I can't remember how many times I redid all these wire bracing!

Took me 3 days to get the all the wire tension right. At the end, all the hard work... is worth it!
I used strings to pull the whole frame to the right shape before adding the wire bracing.

Phase 3: Plastic Tarp

These are greenhouse clips I made from 1/2" PVC pipe
Transparent plastic tarp that I bought from ACE hardware
Oh! Just look at that smiling kangkong! I can also hear my okras cheering... "Finally!"

Here are some closer shots of different parts of the shade:

The base of the shade is screwed to the grow bed stand.
Wires are applied here to reduce shaking
Just a simple bend is enough to secure the wire to the pipe

Two Weeks Later

After two weeks, the shade survived several stormy nights with minimal damage. During strong winds, 1 or 2 badly designed clips may pop out. I had replaced them with better clips and since then, it doesn't happen anymore. The shade shakes very little during strong winds and leaves collected at the top gets washed down by the rain.

A shot of my shaded system at the backyard
Grow bed shot. That pot of pink flowers in the middle are dianthus barbatus or "Sweet William"... My name :D
Kang kong growing vigorously without being bombarded by falling fruits from above
Standing proudly are okra plants and at the right are Genovese basil seedling that I bought from Mercato supermarket at Pavilion, KL
Tilapia tank no longer littered with leaves and fruits
Rosemary, various bok choy seedlings (2 varieties here), and japanese cucumber at the back
Beautiful kang kong leaves... Pretty flowers...
Kang kong flower up close
Kang kong fruit
Cherry tomato and "white floral spires" basil seedling. At the back, under the white container, are experimental rosemary cuttings.
Seedlings of "white floral spires" basil
This new shade is a good place to hang a Petunia plant
Unfortunately, I still have problems with rain splashing on the wall. My japanese cucumber which are planted near the wall is having problems staying upright. Their leggy stems may be due to inadequate light or too much nitrate.

"Kyuri" or japanese cucumber
Aren't their leaves a little light? Iron deficiency perhaps?
I need to think of a way to block the rain splashing.

Thanks for reading!


  1. This is really nice! Well done man!

  2. Aska,
    I enjoyed reading your posting regarding the shade, it was very informative. You mentioned that you bought the plastic tarp from Ace Hardware store, can you advise me which branch? I live in Ampang and had a look at the local Ace store here. I did find some that were quite thick, ~137 cm wide and can be cut to length. They appear more suitable for use as table top. I was wondering if these were the ones you got?

    1. I bought the tarp from Sunway Pyramid's Ace Hardware.
      It was quite hidden. Somewhere at the pots and fertilizer section. They didn't display it openly.

      It comes neatly folded wrapped with plastic bag.