How To Build Your DIY Basic Aquaponic System

Everyday people are enjoying eating their own tilapia, and growing fresh garden vegetables using their own home-made aquaponics system.  They build their set-ups in their basement, indoors in a garage or shed, and big ones in their backyard.  Here are aquaponic Youtube videos from two of my favorite fish garden builders.


Indoor Aquaponics System For Beginners


In this video, Larry shares his tips for building an aquaponics system on a small scale.  This is perfect for beginners and suburban gardeners.  He starts by answering a reader’s question on his preferred filtering media in his beds.  You’ll see that the grow media is in plastic tubs on tables, and represents a very basic do-it-yourself indoor system.  The 30 gallon aquarium tank has a Tetra pump suspended about halfway down.


You might be surprised that he’s got ordinary goldfish swimming around.  Make sure you notice the algae-eater.  That little fish keeps the tank clean and eats the green slime that builds up on the walls.  You can find both species at any pet store.  His third variety is small catfish that act as scavengers eating waste and organic matter.


Larry has gravel beds in his plastic trays, and his garden set-up is perfect for growing spearmint, parsley, Swiss chard, oregano, Thai basil, sage, arugula, chives, greens, watercress,  and lettuce.  He has G5 fluorescent grow lights, operating at only 6500K temperatures because the greens don’t need the energy to flower, just to produce food.  For intense power to produce flowering plants you’ll need to mix up your bulb selection to include 3000k.  The beds have shattered shale and lava rock at the bottom, and 500 red wiggler composting worms per container.


The indoor set-up is perfect for seed starting, especially if you live in a 4 season climate or a northern zone.  Larry has seed trays going under his lights getting ready to move them to his big outdoor aquaponic towers in a couple of weeks.  A tip for seed starting:  the seedling can not be transplanted until the first set of real leaves are growing.  Do not be fooled by the baby leaves that emerge from the seed pod on germination.


Larry candidly shows you the potassium deficiency in his parsley.  It’s fascinating to see how he used organic over the counter vitamins to nutrient the grow bed.  He didn’t dump chemicals into his system, and he challenged the old wisdom of using inorganic sulphates.


The whole aquaponic set-up takes less than 20 square feet, 30 gallons of water, pvc piping with a couple of valves and less than $10 a month in electricity.  The temperature of the water stays around 72 degrees, and is a fantastic Do-It-Yourself system.  It’s a perfect aquaponics for beginners system that requires a little ambition.  Kudos to Larry!


Aquaponics Systems – Easy Backyard Design


This video has a gorgeous outdoor build.  It’s a CHOP, a Constant Height One Pump arrangement.   The level of the water in the aquarium tank stays steady while the water flows through an overflow in the grow beds.  It then drains to a sump tank and the pump does its job.  The water level in the sump tank changes while the main tank stays constant.


aquaponic tank with fish

Aquaponic Tank with Fish

He has more than 500 litres of large grade gravel in his beds.  Notice the gauge size of his PVX piping.  Build to handle a lot of water!    I like his radial flow filter, I haven’t seen that kind before with the shroud.  Might be a DIY project.


The nutrients from the tank flows to the sump, from the sump into the grow beds.  The bacteria in the gravel convert the ammonia in the water to nitrites, and then to nitrates.  The plants consume the nitrates, cleaning the water.  Feed the fish, add some sunlight, reap the rewards of fish and garden plants.  Aerating the water benefits the fish and the harvest.


It’s pleasing to see cinder blocks, 2×4 planking, and plumbing PVC pipes.  He built the entire system at home using online instructions and basic cheap materials in 6 weeks.    I’m curious if he used municipal water that had been treated, or rain water.


It’s no Nelson and Pade commercial system, but if you’re handy, and can follow simple instructions, why not enjoy fish feasts and great garden vegetables?


How To Learn More About Aquaponics: