When setting up your aquaponics system, one of the most important decisions you will make is what type of pipe to use. There are many types of pipe available, but PVC is a popular choice because it is affordable and easy to work with. In this article, we will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of using PVC in aquaponics systems. We will also answer the question; is it safe to use PVC pipes in aquaponics?
The PVC Pipes in Aquaponics
The PVC pipe in aquaponics systems is a type of piping made from polyvinyl chloride. PVC or polyvinyl chloride is a chlorinated hydrocarbon polymer. It is a versatile material that can be used for various applications, including plumbing, piping, and drainage.
PVC pipes are available in different sizes and lengths, making them suitable for use in both small and large aquaponics systems. PVC pipes are also easy to cut and connect, making them ideal for do-it-yourselves who want to build their own aquaponics system.
What are The Types of PVC?
To identify whether PVC you want to use for your aquaponics system is food-safe, it is essential to know the different types of PVC and the materials it is made of.
The plain PVC is in two forms;
- Unplasticized polymer (uPVC): The unplasticized polymer is a tough and durable pvc pipe.
- Flexible plastic: This is a softer and flexible PVC pipe that is less durable than the unplasticized polymer.
The CPVC is a chlorinates PVC type that has some unique properties. It contains a higher concentration of chlorine. CPVC includes a high glass transition temperature, a high heat distortion temperature, and chemical inertness. This type of PVC is often used for mechanical, dielectric, and smoke-related purposes.
The PVC-M is a very tough PVC.
The PVC-O is the most robust PVC and is often used where strength is needed.
PVC pipes are available in various colors, but the most common color used in aquaponics is white. White PVC pipe is used because it is less likely to cause algae growth than other colors of PVC pipe.
Is PVC Food Safe?
The right type of PVC (uPVC) is perfectly safe to use in aquaponics and gardening. However, it is essential to avoid over-gluing when connecting your PVC pipes. Applying incorrectly or using too much glue may cause the glue to slip through the pipes and enter your water. The PVC glue is not food safe and is toxic, so ensure that when using PVC glue, it will not come in contact with your skin and can’t be inhaled.
When using PVC, it is important to consider if it is safe to use with food products. One way to make sure it is safe is to make sure it has an NSF-51 rating. NSF-51 rating means the plastic is safe and meets the standard for “Plastic Material Components used in Food Equipment.”
What is the Difference Between Regular PVC and Food-Safe PVC?
The regular PVC is more flexible and softer because it was added to plasticizers. PVC that doesn’t have plasticizers is called Rigid PVC or uPVC. The uPVC is Food safe PVC and does not have any BPA (bisphenol) or phthalates, making it safe for aquaponics and other gardening methods.
What are The advantages of Using PVC in Aquaponics?
There are many advantages to using PVC in aquaponics systems. These are:
- Very affordable: PVC pipes are one of the most inexpensive materials to use for aquaponics systems.
- Easy to work with: PVC pipes are easy to cut and connect, making them ideal for building your own aquaponics system.
- Versatile: PVC pipes can be used for a variety of uses, including piping, drainage, and plumbing.
- Available in various sizes and lengths: PVC pipes are available in different sizes, lengths, and colors, making them suitable for large and small aquaponics systems. The most common color used in aquaponics is white because it helps prevent algae growth more than other colors of PVC.
- Durable: PVC pipes are made to withstand pressures and high temperatures. The PVC pipes will also not rust, corrode or degrade over time, which means you can use them for a long time.
The Disadvantages of Using PVC in Aquaponics?
Although there are many advantages to using PVC in aquaponics systems, there are also some disadvantages that you need to consider. These are:
- Using PVC pipes can leach chemicals into the water. This is especially true if the PVC pipe is exposed to sunlight or if it comes into contact with acidic water. If you are concerned about chemicals leaching from your PVC pipe, we recommend using schedule 80 PVC, which is thicker and more durable than schedule 40 PVC.
- PVC pipes are not biodegradable. This means that if you decide to remove your aquaponics system, the PVC pipe will need to be disposed of properly.
- Some people believe that PVC gives off harmful fumes when it is heated. If you are concerned about this, we recommend using other materials, such as stainless steel or copper, for the piping in your aquaponics system.
How to Glue PVC Pipes in Aquaponics Systems
PVC pipes are joined together using PVC cement. PVC cement is a type of glue specifically designed for use with PVC pipes. It forms a strong bond between the two pieces of pipe and prevents leaks.
When gluing PVC pipes, it is essential to ensure that the surfaces are clean and free of any debris. Otherwise, the bond will not be as strong. We recommend using a brush to clean the inside and outside of the pipe before applying the cement.
Once the surfaces are clean, apply a generous amount of cement to both surfaces and press the two pieces of pipe together. Hold them in place for a few minutes until the bond sets. Then, allow the cement to cure for 24 hours before using your aquaponics system.
PVC cement is available at most hardware stores. Make sure to get the correct type of cement for the PVC pipe. Regular household glue will not work with the PVC pipe and can damage the pipe.
What are The Other Types of Food Grade Plastics?
Food grade plastic is any plastic considered safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to come into contact with anything to do with food or beverages. Here is some food-grade plastic you can use for your aquaponics system.
- PET or PETE - Polyethylene terephthalate is a solid and transparent plastic used for packaging juice, bottled water, soft drinks, salad dressings, pickles, and other food.
- HDPE - High-density polyethylene is commonly used for milk, juice bottles, and laundry products. This plastic may be transparent or colored and ideal for packaging products with a short shelf life like milk.
- LDPE - Low-density polyethylene plastic is typically used in bags for frozen foods and bread and squeezable bottles.
- PP - Polypropylene is a tough plastic often used in margarine, yogurt, and medicine containers.
- PS - It is foam but still a hard plastic. PS plastic is often used in plastic plates, cups, cutlery, meat trays, and egg cartons.
Conclusion: Is PVC Safe for Aquaponics?
This article aims to answer one of the most important questions in aquaponics: Is PVC safe for aquaponics? Well, the answer is YES! PVC pipes are an essential material for aquaponics systems. They are easy to work with and can be bought at any hardware store. It’s no wonder why it is a popular piping choice for many aquaponics growers. However, to ensure that you are using the right and safe PVC pipe, choose one that comes with an NSF-51 rating, keep it out of the sun, and do not over glue it, and your system will be well. You can grow your organic vegetables with no worry.