How To Build A DIY Aquaponics System – 20 Easy DIY Aquaponics Plans

For the best and the most efficient ways to double crop output, many different methods are being invented in today’s time. Science and technology have made it easier to grow crops without the utilization of much space, time or resources. One of them is the aquaponics system, which will be talked about today. Read to know more about DIY Aquaponics!


What Is Aquaponics?

Perhaps, the simplest aquaponics definition is the combination of raising fish (aquaculture) and soil-less growing of plants (hydroponics). It means you are growing both plants and fish together in one integrated system. The fish waste provides an organic food source for the plants while the plants filter the water in return.

what is aquaponics

The third participant in this system is microbes (nitrifying bacteria), which is responsible for converting ammonia from the fish waste into nitrites and then to nitrates. Nitrates are a form of nitrogen that plants take in to grow. The solid fish waste is converted into vermicomposting, which also acts as a food source for the plants.

In combining aquaculture and hydroponic systems, aquaponics stands to capitalize on their benefits, all while eliminating the setbacks of each other.

How Does Aquaponics Work?

In aquaponics, the water is recirculated from a fish tank through a vegetable grow bed. The nutrients from the fish waste feed the plants and the plants filters the water and keep the fishes healthy. The two main components of an aquaponics system are the grow beds and the fish tank, which are connected via a small pump that moves the water between them.

The water passes through the roots of the plants before getting drained back into the fish tank. The plants then extract the water and the nutrients (fish waste) they need, thereby cleaning the water for the fish. While there are many different styles of grow bed designs, the two most common ones are the floating raft and the flood drain style.

How Does Aquaponics Work

Why Do You Need Aquaponics?

Aquaponics is a self-contained and balanced ecosystem that actually works. Unlike in hydroponics, there are no need of added chemicals because if you do, the fishes may simply die. Also, the fish waste provides these nutrients to the plants. But unlike aquaculture, there is no buildup of fish waste that causes the water to become toxic.

Garden pests are kept at a minimum by housing the entire system in a greenhouse. You can also make use of alternative but non-toxic methods. The entire system is continuous; hence, you do not need to make repeated checkups. We have discussed some major advantages of aquaponics in the next section.

Advantages of Aquaponics

Undoubtedly, there are various benefits of creating aquaponics. Some undeniable advantages of aquaponics are:

1. Bending or weeding is not required

There is no need of bending down to the ground of weeding. You will find many backyard setups that grow beds are placed at waist level to allow the water to return to the fish tank via gravity. This allows for a pleasant and easy way to harvest or inspect the plants. Also, weed does not grow in aquaponics systems. Occasionally, maintenance would be required like cleaning the fish tank and the pumps.

2. Reduced damaged from diseases and pests

Plants grown via aquaponics system tend to have lesser leaf damage than soil-based pants. While the problem of pests is not completely eliminated, they are surely less pest-related problems in an aquaponics system.

3. The whole process is entirely organic

In an aquaponics system, the fishes are fed with organic feed or food-grade plastic. Hence, an aquaponics system is very organic. Also, it has been proved that feeding fishes with inorganic food materials can be unsafe or way unhealthier than organic ones.

4. No need for an artificial filtration system

In an aquaponics system, there is no need to purchase a separate filtration system or dispose of the fish waste. In land-based systems, water needs to be replaced periodically or some filtration system is required to remove the fish waste from the water. In an aquaponics system, the plants make use of the fish waste for their growth, thereby cleaning the water by themselves.

5. The usage of water is significantly reduced

All the water is recycled through the aquaponics system and it is not necessary to throw away or change any water, in normal circumstances. Usage of water goes down by a minimum of 90% than traditional soil gardening. Approximately, only 2-3 liters of water will be needed per day, which is much less than what would be required in a soil-based garden.

6. Plants grow more faster than conventional soil method

In an aquaponic system, the roots of the plants are watered once an hour. This offers plants to have constant access to nitrates present in the water. In this system, one can provide plants with good levels of water and other required nutrients.

7. Vegetables grow healthier and better

As you may have seen various videos and pictures of aquaponics system, vegetables and fruits grown through this method look remarkably vibrant, healthy, and big as compared to the soil method.

8. No artificial fertilizer needed

For aquaponics system, you do not have to use any kind of artificial fertilizer. It is true for most of the aquaponic systems as using them may harm or even kill fishes. It makes this system quite cost-effective as one does not have to spend money on improving the soil quality.

9. Significant Land Reduction 

In aquaponics, there is significant land reduction as compared to the conventional soil method to grow crops. Here, basic requirements like nutrients and water are provided constantly to all plants together. Along with that, light reaches to all due to well-managed space.

10. Grow crops for all round the year

With aquaponics, one can grow crops all year round effortlessly due to raised grow beds. It proves to be effective during winters when ground freezes.

11. Eat fishes every dinner

It is the first thing that comes to mind when someone heard about aquaponics. If you build a large DIY aquaponics system, you can enjoy a fish for dinner every night.

12. Use it as a tourist attraction

In rural settings, people use aquaponics systems as commercial setups to attract lots of tourists. This helps them to boost commercial incomes. However, you can show your aquaponics system to your friends and family members.

Disadvantages of Aquaponics

Along with lots of advantages, there are some disadvantages associated with aquaponics. Some of these disappointing cons of an aquaponics system are as follows:

1. Failure in any component can cause loss of plants or fish

You will need to make use of reliable technology and backing systems to make sure that the fish and plants, which depend on each other, remain healthy and alive. While the plants are likely to be unaffected in the short term, fishes can suffer and die if there is not enough oxygen.

2. Requires electrical energy to work

An aquaponics system makes use of electricity to maintain the water and recycle it periodically. Electricity is needed to run the water pumps (or the aeration pumps, if present) as well. Also, there will be an increase in electricity usage with every grow bed that you add.

3. Water needs to be monitored constantly

In an aquaponics system, the water needs to be watched very carefully and constantly. You need to be sure that the water quality is good enough for the fish. But this is a problem you need to face for the first few months. After the water testing system has matured, it becomes a once-in-a-week affair.

4. Aquaponics system is an expensive affair

A proper aquaponics system requires beds/tanks, tubing, and pumps. A small backyard system can cost anywhere between $2,000 and $4,000. Larger systems can cost between $7,000 and $10,000. But, this might not necessarily be a disadvantage if you make use of any of the below DIY aquaponics system and not lazy to do it.

What Can You Grow with Aquaponics?

If you are thinking of building an aquaponics system, have a short glance at what kind of fishes you can use and what all plants you can grow with the help of this system. Before opting for a specific DIY aquaponics system, you need to take this decision.

Some aquaponics fishes that can be raised in an aquaponics system are:

  • Ornamental fishes like mollies, swordfish, tetras, guppies, and angelfish
  • Pacu
  • Fancy goldfish
  • Koi
  • Crappie
  • Sunfish
  • Blue brim/gill
  • Tilapia
  • Large mouth bass
  • Catfish
  • Yellow perch
  • Golden perch/silver perch
  • Barramundi
  • Carp

Aquaponics plants that will do well in an aquaponics system are:

Materials Required to Create a Simple Aquaponics System 

For a simple aquaponics system, you will need the following items:

  • Plants and fish
  • A tank for the fish, size depending on your choice
  • pH test kit
  • A growing medium like gravel, peat moss, mud to fill the grow bed
  • Grow bed that will sit on top of the fish tank
  • At least three feet of tubing materials
  • Aquarium pump, size depending on the number of gallons the fish tank can hold
  • Water pump
  • Gravel; 2.5lbs for every five gallons of water
  • Electrical tape
  • Scissors
  • Drill with ½”, 3/16” and ¼” bit.

How To Build A DIY Aquaponics System? 

diy aquaponics

It is not really difficult to build an aquaponics system yourself. You can perform this task using some simple steps. In order to create a DIY aquaponics system, make use of the following instructions as listed below.

Step 1:

Wash the gravel and place in the bottom of the fish tank. Then drill 3/16th” holes in the bottom of the grow bed at every two square inches so that the water can drain into the tank. Drill a ½” hole for the tubing from the water pump.

Step 2:

Set the grow bed after you place the water pump in the fish tank. Pass the tubing through the ½” hole. Leave enough of the tubing to extend 3/4th the height of the grow bed and cut off the excess.

Step 3:

Fill the grow bed with the growing medium under the top of the tube. Punch small holes at every two inches in the tubing in the grow bed. Cover the tubing’s loop with the growing medium.

Step 4:

Fill the fish tank with water and plug the pump to make sure that the water is pumped into the grow bed, drips down through the growing medium and gets back into the tank. Adjust the flow according to the size of your grow bed and tank.

Step 5:

Connect the air pump to the air stone via the air tubing. Plug in the air pump. You should see a steady stream of bubbles; this means that fresh air is being provided.

Step 6:

Lastly, make sure to check the pH of the water with the litmus paper. It should be 7.0. If it is higher or lower than 7.2 and 6.8 respectively, make use of a pH up/down product that you can buy at any hardware store. Add the fishes one after the other, not at the same time.

One can add plants to the system after four weeks. In case, you do not want to wait that long, add a few of seeds or plants and increase the density once the system get well-established.

  • You can watch the video below to learn how to build a diy aquaponics system:

Best Aquaponic Systems For Sale

If you are looking to buy the best aquaponic system, below is the comparison table of top 3 aquaponic systems for sale which will help you quickly make the best choice.

20 Easy DIY Aquaponics Plans You Can Build

Here, look for some of the best aquaponics systems that you can create yourself. Let us move to our list of 20 DIY aquaponics without further delay.

1. Multiple Beds Aquaponics

Difficulty Score: Intermediate (2.5/5)

- Most Popular Design

This aquaponics system is also known by names as “Ebb and Flow” or “Flood and Drain”. It is a very well-known aquaponics system as compared to other aquaponics. It is best for beginners who are looking for a simple aquaponic system as it is really easy to implement. On the other hand, this aquaponics system shows great results. You can build this multi-bed aquaponic system using barrels. Here, all the plant beds drain with the help of one bell siphon. Using this method, you can grow hydroponic ginger really well.

2. Easiest Aquaponics System

Difficulty Score: Beginner (1/5)

Perhaps, the easiest aquaponics system would be the one that takes the least amount of time to build. Made by MADE Growing Systems, this aquaponics system is the easiest to construct from scratch and is perfect for small spaces. Have a look at the video above.

3. Simple Aquaponics System

Difficulty Score: Beginner (1.5/5)

Not all aquaponics systems need to be made from scratch. Some people make use of a fish tank and upgrade them into an aquaponics system. This aquaponics system features four goldfish. The pump is located in the corner and brings water to the plant bed. The grow bed input pipe is snuggled completely into a standard aquarium filter floss.

This aquaponics fish tank diy system is ideal for spaces with no natural or low light such as garage. So, this system is also great for beginners.

4. Tabletop Aquaponics

Tabletop Aquaponics

Difficulty Score: Beginner (1.5/5)

This is a tank upgrade system. This aquarium holds about 10 gallons of water and has a simple PVC pipe with ends can that is being used as a hydroponic plant bed. Because this aquaponics fish tank diy system is affordable, cheap and simple, beginners can try building this model first and learn about the natural nutrient cycle.

5. Filter Aquaponics System

Difficulty Score: Beginner (1.5/5)

Clear PVC water dispensers have two levels, which makes it a great component for a small aquaponics system. Originally developed by George Chaw, the project consisted of an old dispenser. He rebuilt it and now grows four herbs on it and has one male betta fish in it. Take a look at the video for a better idea.

6. Cheap $99 Beginner Setup

Difficulty Score: Beginner (1.5/5)

If you want to save some money, you can easily build a cheap aquaponics system with ease. All you need to do is understand the functioning of a simple aquaponics system. You will be able to replicate the same but on a smaller scale. On the other hand, you can use a plastic garbage bin as a fish tank to cut down the cost dramatically. In that case, you do not have to invest on an aquarium or IBC tote. Take a look at this video above.

7. Indoor IKEA-hack Aquaponics System

Difficulty Score: Beginner (2/5)

This is an indoor aquaponics system that is based on the wire baskets of the IKEA style. Its compact style for small spaces like apartment rooms, etc. The upper basket is small and used for housing plants while the lower deeper basket is used to breed fish. Both are connected via a water pump in the fish tank and a siphon that leads to the plant bed.

8. No Power Aquaponics System

Difficulty Score: Beginner (2/5)

Most people do not want to make an aquaponics system because of the amount of electric power that is required to run the motor and the pipe. As a solution, JT Bear has come up with an aquaponics system that is powered by a manual system. All you need to do is fill the plant-holding bin with water from the tank with your hand. Once done, the water is released slowly via a small hole.

9. Desktop DIY Aquaponics

Difficulty Score: Beginner (2/5)

This home aquaponics system is ideal for people who have limited space or no backyard. In this video, Robert will take you through the methods he used to make the most efficient DIY aquaponics system with old household things like an old desk, etc.

10. Two Barrel Aquaponic

Two Barrel Aquaponic

Difficulty Score: Beginner (2/5)

As the name suggests, it is a two-barrel aquaponics system. Two barrels are used – one as the fish tank and the other for placing the plants. Both the barrels are connected via a pipe. Once you find a place for the motor, this aquaponics system is ready to go!

11. Goldfish Pond Aquaponics

Difficulty Score: Intermediate (2.5/5)

This is a small-scale project that you can use if you have a balcony or a small garden. This system will make use of a 125-gallon wooden crate (DIY) and equipped with a plastic pond liner. This project is very environmental-friendly and makes use of the minimum amount of plastic. It also has a nice and natural look.

12. Intermediate Bulk Container Aquaponics

Difficulty Score: Intermediate (3/5)

A choice of many aquaponics system makers, the intermediate bulk container system is one of the cheapest vessels that will be able to hold a large amount of water, thanks to its robust metal frame. In the video above, you will see how a two-part aquaponics system is made by cutting the containers into half.

13. Raised Beds Aquaponics DIY

Raised Beds Aquaponics DIY

Difficulty Score: Intermediate (3/5)

The story behind this system is that the inventor was prompted to get into aquaponics because he was very irritated by the fire ants that were destroying his crops. The tank is capable of holding 200 gallons of water and features goldfish. But the main beauty of this setup is the adapted wooden raised beds.

14. Pond-Bathtub Aquaponics System

Pond-Bathtub Aquaponics System

Difficulty Score: Intermediate (3.5/5)

Kirsten and Charles from Ecolicious created a real pond for their aquaculture, connected it to a pant bed and created a natural aquaponics system. The plant bed is made out of an old bathtub. It makes use of a plastic pond liner and some tubes. It is one of the most environmentally-friendly projects in the list.

15. Wall Garden Aquaponics

Wall Garden Aquaponics

Difficulty Score: Intermediate (3.5/5)

Charlie from Ecolicious came up with this idea of a wall garden aquaponics system. He makes use of a solar-powered pump to grow edible herbs and vegetables. All the nutrients from the fish go directly to the plants above. With a wall garden aquaponics system, you will be able to save a lot of space and capture sunlight in the most effective manner.

16. Solar Tower Aquaponics System

Difficulty Score: Advanced (4/5)

Tower systems look very futuristic and save up a lot of space. This particular system takes a step forward and makes use of solar power to run the aquaponics system. Two solar panels are used and the grow towers are settled within a greenhouse shelter. Water from a 100-gallon plastic tank pumps the water through designated ditches.

17. Gravity-Based PVC Aquaponic 

Difficulty Score: Advanced (4/5)

This type of aquaponics system is a very efficient one and makes the production of your plants much easier. It grows vertically and you can produce more crops as a result. Take a look at the video above and create your own futuristic gravity-based PVC aquaponics system.

18. DIY Aquaponics System

Difficulty Score: Advanced (4.5/5)

For families, this is one of the best systems that can be used for aquaponics. This is a yard set up by Shawn Paul. IBC tanks are cut into half and can house six grow beds, two large fish tanks, and a big biofilter. The piping system is quite elaborate and runs beneath the tanks, which are supported by concrete bricks.

19. Aquaponics Garden

Difficulty Score: Advanced (4.5/5)

The video went viral when it came out many years ago among aquaponics enthusiast and gardeners; it currently has more than a million views. RikKretzinger offered a small glimpse of his fully automated aquaponics garden that looks lush and controlled by Arduino. This is not a tutorial video and you can try your hand at this after watching the entire thing; everything is explained in details.

20. Balcony Garden Aquaponics

Balcony Garden Aquaponics

Difficulty Score: Advanced (4.5/5)

Inspired by so many views on his original video, RikKretzinger decided to create an aquaponics project on a smaller scale. The tank can hold 27 gallons of water and is one of the most advanced small-scale projects in this list. The system is equipped with a bioreactor and works on the principles of IoT (Internet of Things).

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A DIY Aquaponics system is one of the most effective ways to increase the output of your plants and harvest fishes as well. We have seen that it does not require a scientific mind to make one. So, go ahead and build yourself a system and show off to your friends! For any questions, make sure you let us know in the comment section.

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