How I’m using 3D software to help design my aquaponics system, Part 1

Last month, a YouTube video entitled, "Aquarium that requires NO water changes!" totally captivated me.As a child, my dad maintained a fish tank in our apartment in Lower Manhattan, which I have fond memories of, so I thought it would be good to provide that for my daughter.But Philly Aquaponics, which created the video, added an amazing benefit: no water changes! I needed to know how! The answer is aquaponics, a symbiotic system where fish and plants coexist in a mutually beneficial environment. When I explained to my daughter that we could be eating plants grown from fish poop, she was both disgusted and curiously delighted.Aquaponics-Diagram-41-649x779That video and my daughter’s reaction set off a chain of events. After more on-line research about aquaponics, I began to create a series of designs for the system. Surprisingly, my biggest issue was how to create a system that can be placed in my living room without having it clash too much with the rest of the furniture. Most systems that you find on line look like they belong in the basement, because they actually are in the basement!One reason why so many aquaponics system designs look almost “industrial” is because the plant tray needs to be suspended somehow over the fish tank. Most designs I've seen on line are made of wooden beams nailed together to ensure function over form. I need something more suitable for a living room in a busy city apartment, which houses a five year old child who I hope can also learn something about some fundamental balancing forces of nature.Lucky for me, I’m familiar with basic 3D modeling software so I can play with different design ideas, such as these.Fish Tank 1The first problem with this design though is only three sides of the plant tray will be supported because I need the space in the back for a fish tank light. The second problem is I don’t know what material would be strong enough to hold a plant tray, that might weight as much as a three year old child when filled with water, with support only on three sides. A final problem is whether or not the glass fish-tank can support all that weight. This idea looks clean, but is difficult to implement.Fish Tank 2For this second idea, I actually found a company that could custom-make this cabinet, out of wood. My daughter suggested the diamond design on the side. But the cabinet maker could not guarantee that such a cabinet can support my sizable fish tank that would weigh as much as 140 kgs (300 lbs). There were also dozens of wood finishing types available, which just made it more complicated than it needed to be. But just as important, it would be very difficult to access the fish tank every time I needed to reach into it for cleaning, etc.Fish Tank 3So, I decided to get a proper fish tank stand and searched for a solution to support the plant tray.More to come in Part 2.