DIY Aquaponics

A lovely new friend I met in the blog-o-sphere asked me yesterday how she could get started with Aquaponics. She cited cost as an issue that was stopping her from doing what I’ve done with my garden.  I felt like slapping my forehead.  The POINT of me sharing my garden with you was to encourage all of you to do the same thing but somehow I totally didn’t take into account that not everyone has access to the same supplies and money we do (thanks to the tax return, actually…). So I wanted to write up a post with several ideas of how to get your own garden started without putting in the same cost that you see on my blog.

This picture is from aquaponicswork.com.
This picture is from aquaponicswork.com.

To start with, lets talk fish containers.  I purchased an IBC that costs around $175, depending on the seller, condition, delivery,etc.  Other options are real fish tanks, storage totes, horse troughs (the heavy metal ones), pond liners and even a wooden frame with a heavy plastic liner inside of it.  If you manage to find one, old bath tubs would be great too!

This picture is from thesustainableleader.org.
This picture is from thesustainableleader.org.

Grow beds can be as simple as PVC pipes, storage totes, wooden box with plastic liner, or cut IBCs. You don’t even have to use rock as your grow medium.

This picture is from thesustainableleader.org.
This picture is from thesustainableleader.org.

You can get a piece of thick styrofoam, cut circles and slide baskets in to hold your plants.  This would then float on top of a water bed.  This cuts down significantly on cost as you don’t even have to worry about buying rock at all!

aquaponicshowto
This picture is from aquaponicswork.com.

The plumbing is not as negotiable, you really do need to have PVC.  But its not usually all that expensive and often times you can find it on Craigslist or friends have leftover pieces hanging around. You do not have to use Tilapia.  Pretty much any fish will work (even shrimp!).  If you are trying to go as inexpensive as possible, go to a local pond and snag a few fish to toss into your tank.  If that isn’t an option, get feeder fish from your local pet store and use them.  I’ve seen people using koi, beta, and gold fish. As for plants, you can buy seed packets and start from scratch, you can replant the ends of vegetables (celery would do this well!) and you can even get trimmings off other plants in your yard. Aquaponics can be as simple as recycling old objects to as complicated as whole warehouse systems with rotating beds and grow lights.  You can put a tiny system on your kitchen counter, a small system in an extra bedroom, a moderate system in your basement, a huge system in your back yard!  You can choose to plant a simple herb garden for fresh herbs year round or you can plant a system that will feed your entire family or you can develop a system that will produce enough to participate at a local farmer’s market. A day dream that I’ve been working on lately is a website that will teach people more about aquaponics and point people in the direction of where to go to buy all the components for a great system.  I’ll let you all know when that site launches, its actually in the works and I can announce it formally in the next few months! Keep watching for it!

Update (June 1, 2015):  My Website is up and running with several good DIY guides!  You can find my site at www.aquaponicsresource.com.  Enjoy looking around at everything I created!

6 thoughts on “DIY Aquaponics

    • I’m not 100% sure what you are asking so I’ll throw some stuff out there and you can clarify later 🙂
      The pump is going to be necessary no matter what type of system you have. You need to make sure the pump is the correct size for the amount of water you are attempting to push through your system. The pump we have right now is a 400 GPH (gallons per hour) pump that is actually slightly too small for our system. We had a pump for our old system (only one grow bed) that was slightly too powerful. The rule of thumb is to cycle the entire contents of your fish tank per hour. We have about 500-600 gallons in our tanks so we should use a 500-600 GPH pump. Small indoor systems would use a 100-150 GPH pump or smaller.
      Is this what you are asking about? Let me know if I can be of more help!

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      • We have personally used only two pumps. The first one, a Lifegard brand, I Would NOT recommend. The pump stopped working constantly and after one year it just completely died. When I started reading reviews on Amazon I saw that other people were dealing with much the same issues. The brand we have right now is a PonicsPumps pump and so far is wonderful. I bought the first one from a local Aquaponics store (I highly recommend buying local as well as having a the experienced owners helping!) but the second one I bought online at Amazon.com. You could also take a look around for pool pumps rather than pond pumps. I hear they are very efficient and will work well in aquaponic systems!

        I hope you are able to get your system up and running! Let me know if you have any other questions I can help with!

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