The aquaponics field combines the science of hydroponics with that of aquaculture to create a system in which plants and fish co-exist in a symbiotic relationship. The fish rely on plants to purify the water and, at times, feed off organisms growing around the roots. Plants, on the other hand, benefit greatly from the nutritional value of the fish’s waste. There are two available options; purchase an aquaponics system or build one yourself. The former is definitely quicker but can be quite pricey. The latter takes some time but can end up being considerably cheaper than buying the kit.
This guide will take you through the option of building an aquaponics kit yourself. While different plans have varying difficulty levels, the five outlined in this guide are relatively straightforward, even for beginners. Have you been dreaming of growing plants quickly and in small spaces? Well, this guide will help you do just that.
Best DIY Aquaponics Plans
$75 DIY Aquaponics System – by Outdoor Life
- Makes use of easily-available materials
- Extremely neat due to the lack of soil or clay
- Not suitable for dark areas
- Fish tank is significantly small
This video begins with a tour across a breathtaking aquaponics farm spanning about two acres. While the DIY plan explained is certainly not this massive, the opening does help capture the viewer’s attention. After teaching the benefits of an aquaponics system, the presenter explains how one can build a small-scale aquaponics system at home.
The plan requires one to have a Styrofoam board onto which the plant holes are drilled before the board is placed in water. At the top, the Styrofoam board is placed inside a large bowl containing water. The Styrofoam floats in water, thus keeping the plant roots suspended in water. Below, the kit has a wide basin filled with water that acts as the fish tank. The presenter mentions that their choice of fish includes tilapia, catfish, and goldfish. The latter, he says, helps keep mosquitoes away.
The upper and lower basins are linked using a PVC pipe whose one end is connected to a submersible pump. This pump helps maintain the flow of water from the fish tank to the overhead tank. The reverse movement is enabled by a drainage pipe running from the plant bowl to the fish tank. Its most obvious downside is the lack of any form of artificial light, which makes the entire system only usable in places that receive direct sunlight.
DIY Aquaponics System for 10 Gallon Fish Tank – by One More Cast
- Extremely easy to design and make
- Can work in places with inadequate sunlight
- Light stand can be made with high adjustability
- Requires one to have expanded clay
- Makes extensive use of PVC pipes that may not be readily available
This plan by One More Cast is arguably one of the most comprehensive plans you will ever come across. To begin with, you will need to have a planter box that will be your grow bed. You will then need to make a stand using PVC pipes joined together using corner elbows. The stand and grow bed’s exact measurements will depend on how large you want your system to be. Once the stand is ready, feel free to paint it in your desired color.
The second step involves making a drainage system to manage this aquaponics system’s ebb and flow design. Normally, ¾-inch PVC should do the trick but feel free to use a different size if it will be better suited for your system. Install filters on the drainage system. You can use small grow pots as filters. Drill drainage holes on your grow bed and fit the drainage PVCs. Once these are ready, get some expanded clay (about 4 pounds or more depending on the size) and wash it thoroughly. Fill the grow pot with the expanded clay.
Before proceeding, you need to test the pumping system and ensure it is completely leakage-free. Once tested, place the pump tubing on top of the expanded clay. You can drill holes on this tubing to ensure even water distribution. Connect the overhead grow bed with the underneath fish tank using the pump tubing attached to the submersible pump. You will then need to make a light stand using a process similar to the one used in making the grow bed stand (height will depend on the size of your kit). Drill holes in the light stand to hold an artificial light using J-hooks. Connect an LED light that can sufficiently light the entire grow bed width, and voila, your aquaponics system is up and running!
DIY Aquaponics Systems for Beginners – by Saeid Momtahan
- System can support numerous plants due to its size
- Does not have any artificial lighting
- Technologically advanced than many other DIY plans
- Audio quality is terrible
- Computer graphics for illustration is not as good as a real-life demo
- Not very easy to construct
This plan by Saeid Momtahan is probably the most advanced DIY aquatic plan you will ever come across. Once complete, the kit has three aquaponic systems in one; a nutrient film transfer (NFT) system, a raft system, and a growing base system. It is worth noting that the video’s audio quality is terrible, but since there are subtitles, one can still follow the illustration.
To design this system, you will require an air pump and a submersible water pump. The former is meant to pump air into the raft system continuously. To start, the presenter advises building this system from its endpoint (the point where water from the plants goes back to the fish pond). To better understand this system, the submersible pump pumps water from the fish pond to a swirl filter that then feeds the NFT system. The water from this system then drains into the grow base system from where it drains through a bell siphon drainage system.
The water from the grow base then drains into the raft system and later, back into the fish tank. Keep in mind that the growing base system fills from the top and drains from the bottom while the raft system does both from the top. The three systems are linked with PVC pipes that can vary in size depending on your system’s size, while the grow system can be made using an old bathtub, concrete, or plastic. The presenter mentions that the more water you have in your system, the more stable it is in terms of pH, ammonia, and other stability determinants.
120 Gallon DIY Aquaponics System – by Tazawa Tanks
- Fish tank is extremely easy to build
- Polythene lining is cheap and easily available
- Grow bed can be made significantly wide
- Only suitable for the outdoors or areas with sufficient lighting conditions
- Grow bed requires three different grow media
The presenter in this video describes himself as a part-time aquatic tanks technician, which probably explains his love for aquaponics. The system described in this video has a 120-gallon fish tank measuring 4-2-2 feet long, high, and wide respectively. To make the fish tank, you will require 1-inch plywood and a thick polythene sheet to create the inner waterproof lining. A wooden base supports the fish tank’s base.
Once the fish tank is complete, it’s time to create the plant grow bed. This bed will rest on a small base built atop the fish tank. The plant bed can be made from a plastic container measuring about five inches high. Once this is ready, drill a hole into the container and fit a PVC pipe to act as the drainage. Link this pipe to the submersible water pump and then place these into the fish tank. Get some lava rocks, wash them thoroughly, and pour them to form a layer at the bottom of the plant bed. Follow this up with a layer of gravel and, finally, a layer of expanded clay balls.
Once all these are in place, connect the pump pipe to a PVC with holes to distribute water across the entire grown bed. Place your fish in the tank and switch on your pump. Your aquaponics kit is ready! Goldfish are ideal for this setup since they are relatively small.
How to Build a Simple Aquaponics System – by Jason Roush
- Easy to build
- Transparent materials make it easy to observe fish and plant life
- Easy to maintain
- Not many people have bathtub drains lying around
- Requires one to buy lava rocks
- Has no artificial light
Jason Roush describes how to build this kit in a video lasting a few minutes and with similar kits clearly visible in the background. If you have an old bathtub drain lying around, you are in luck since this piece forms the system’s filtration system. You will require a large basin-like container to act as the plant growing bed. Drill a hole into this container and fit the bathtub drain to filter out large impurities. Run a clear hose pipe through the drain, one end of which will go to the submersible water pump below.
Fill the basin with thoroughly washed lava rocks to act as a partial grow medium and keep the plants upright. At this point, ensure the grow bed end of the clear hose pipe points upwards to prevent siphoning when the pump is switched off. Connect this hose to a holed PVC pipe to get the water evenly distributed on the grow bed. The fish tank is placed below the grow bed and made from a container similar to the one housing the grow bed. Once all these items are in place, your kit is ready for use.
What to Look for When Building Your Own Aquaponics System
Choosing to build an aquaponics system can save you a considerable amount of money that would otherwise have been spent in buying a kit. However, if you have done some research, you would have realized that numerous DIY videos are describing how to build an aquaponics system from scratch. These videos require different materials and levels of expertise and are all suitable for varying project scales. What do you consider before building your own system? Well, worry not; our guide has you covered.
Have you ever come across a DIY guide that required you to use tools you had never even heard of? Not very appealing, is it? When building an aquaponics system, it is good to choose a plan that fits your expertise and experience. If you are a beginner, you will be better off starting with simple systems that only require minor drilling and joinery. If you are an expert in aquaponics, and more so, hands-on projects, feel free to try your luck with the more advanced plans.
Factors such as materials required, scale, joinery techniques, and measurements determine a plan’s difficulty.
If you intend to have ten fish in your aquaponics system, you might want to ensure that your fish tank is not the size of a bucket. While this is seemingly obvious, it is quite easy to disregard how big fish will grow with time. Additionally, the system you build should also fit comfortably in your designated space without causing any inconveniences. Therefore, it is important to assess the area you want to set up the system and build one that is just marginally smaller than the space to allow easy movement once it’s in place.
The type of fish you intend to keep in your aquaponics system also dictates the kind of system you can build. For example, slow-growing fish or small species can thrive in small fish tanks for quite long. On the other hand, fast-growing or large fish will struggle in a small fish tank. If you intend to keep edible fish varieties in your aquaponic system, it is important to have a significantly large fish tank to allow growth and movement.
Indoor or Outdoor
As mentioned in the product list above, some aquaponic kits are unsuitable for the indoors. The primary determinant for this is the presence of artificial light. If you intend to have your kit indoors every time, it is important to build one with an artificial lighting system. However, if your kit is primarily for the outdoors, you might not require artificial lighting, especially if your area receives sufficient sunlight.
While DIY aquaponic kits are relatively cheaper than purchasing ready-made ones, they still require a considerable amount of money. Buying the small bits and pieces required to build a system can result in high costs by the time the kit is ready. It is therefore important to choose a plan whose material requirements are within your budget. Write down a list of the materials you require and their corresponding costs to estimate the entire project cost.
Building your own kit is definitely a fun way to get your aquaponics project started. However, it is important to consider your budget, intended location, fish type, size, and the difficulty level associated with a particular plan before embarking on it. We hope you can get your ideal DIY plan from the five amazing ones described earlier.