DIY Aquaponics System | What Is Aquaponics

What is aquaponics?

According to Wikipedia, aquaponics (or aquaponics as it is called in Swedish) “a sustainable system of aquaculture that combines the traditional aquaculture (breeding of aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crabs and shrimp in tanks) with hydroponics (growing plants in water) in a symbiotic environment “.

The article described the scale of the DIY aquaponics system, then the outdoor cultivation of plants and aquatic animals, with the ultimate goal to be able to start a business selling both farmed fish and cultivated plants and vegetables. This appealed to me, but since I have neither garden nor any larger room that is unoccupied, this was rather remote for ourselves. After further research online, I received, however, the knowledge that you can keep on with aquaponics even small scale for personal use, indoors.

In the simplest form of indoor aquaponics  starts from a container of aquatic animals, usually fish. This container is a circulation pump, which pumps water from the fish container to another container used as the cultivation bed. The water in the cultivation bed is drained back to the fish tank at intervals of about 15 minutes, and the cycle begins. The plants can grow plants thus not in soil but directly in the water in the cultivation bed or sometimes in major media such as hydro granules or coarse gravel that water can flow freely from.

What for me makes aquaponics so interesting is that the fish and plants live in symbiosis with each other. The fish are fed just as in a normal aquarium and their excrement ends up as usual in the water. The neat thing of it all is that in the cultivation bed with time arises flora bacteria capable of breaking down toxic in the fish feces and convert it into nutrients for the plants. And the cycle begins again.

Why spend money on aquaponics?

I have become so interested in the subject that I decided to build my own aquaponics system. And for my part I will do this almost exclusively because of interest. I love both plants and fish, and has a constant need to learn new things. I also like to build and create with their hands. And even though it cost a lot to acquire all the elements needed for a working system, so you can take comfort in that you can grow a lot of edible plants in their growing box, and it is only space that limits the amount that can be grown . I will cultivate vegetables that I use in cooking such as chilli, tomato, basil and various salads. Of course it is just as easy to grow flowers in aquaponics, but it does so to speak, no value for money, more than the cosmetics! Make it a little more large-scale system, you can also cultivate edible fish. This is of course not an option for me right now, but one day …

Building an indoor aquaponics system

Since I live in a small home, I will build a small system to learn how everything is connected and working. Aquaponics is a science and there are tons of books and guides written on the subject, but in short you need the following things to get started:

  • 1 container for fish (eg an aquarium)
  • 1 container for plants
  • 1 “sump” may be needed, depending on the type of system to build
  • 1 the circulation pump
  • 1 Water thermometer
  • a pipe system for the transport of water and draining the water in the cultivation box. Emptying is done with a so-called “bell siphon” (there are alternative solutions, but most people seem to use the bell siphon)
  • Lighting for plants
  • A package for water testing
  • Fish
  • Plants
  • Various chemicals for adjusting the water values

I have not had anymore in my own building than to decide on the design of the system, and placed orders online materials I need. In the next part of the series, I will show the progress of the construction and ultimately the fate of the plants and the fish of the completed stage.

As for the design of the system, so I chose the most popular variants:

System 1. Growbed top, bottom fishing

System 2. Fish top, growbed + sump (known as CHOP system constant height one pump)

System 1 is clearly the easiest to build, so in the beginning leaned it for me to build such a system. Wikihow has a good aquaponics DIY guide that shows how, with the help of cheap stuff from IKEA can build a small aquaponicssystem home. But after careful consideration of the advantages and disadvantages, I have chosen to build a CHOP systems, ie systems 2nd

The reason I choose to build the system 2 is first and foremost that the water in the fish tank always maintains a constant level, reducing fishermen’s stress levels. In system 1, the water level of the fish rise and fall when the cultivation bed emptied / filled water. Another advantage of the system 2 is that it allows more than one culture bed system is therefore to expand if the need arises. You also avoid the two systems that have pump in the same container as the fish, allowing for easier cleaning without therefore having to disturb the fish.

The disadvantage of the system 2 is of course that means higher costs when they need more material and also an additional containers, so-called sump. It becomes a bit more bulky with 2 systems in comparison to systems first


Believe me, it takes a long time to find exactly what parts are needed and how to design their system. There are a variety of solutions, from simple to complicated. I still do not know if my building and its operation will have a happy ending, but I would like to report what I bought so others can get tips on, for example retailers, especially for piping.

The broader questions I had regarding the material was how to build the transportation of water, and the types of containers, I would use as a culture box, coffee grounds and fish living. A rule of thumb in the construction of simple aquaponics is that the ratio of water between fish and plant containers should be about 1: 1. A recommended height of the cultivation box should be about 12 inches, about 30 centimeters. You obviously want to have as much cultivable area is possible, as long as the 1: 1 ratio is kept. Fish container can thus be designed anyway, as long as it holds about as much volume as the cultivation bed.

I will use my garden pods available in 45-, 65- and 90-liter versions with a height of 30 cm. A 90-gallon rectangular basin will act cultivation bed, a round 90-liter gets fish tank and a rectangular 45-liter will be the sump.

The tubes I used in the construction are made of PVC and they were ordered from Biotedmarin .

Are you interested in building progresses, you should keep an eye on the blog, Part 2 of the series coming soon! Until then, you can be inspired by Aquaponicsgardening on youtube and read guides on Japan Aquaponics .

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