Instructables
Picture of Barrelponics - Getting Started With Aquaponics
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Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (raising aquatic animals) and hydroponics (growing plants in water, and without soil).  It's simple enough; you feed the fish, the fish feed the plants (with their waste), and the plants clean the water.  So why would anyone want to do this in the first place?  Here are some of the benefits of aquaponics:

  1. No soil means no weeding, no soil-borne diseases, and no tilling!
  2. The fish provide free fertilizer.
  3. Plants grow as much as four times faster than those grown in soil or hydroponics systems.
  4. Water waste is minimal.
  5. Grow more with less space.
  6. No land, no problem; land isn't required.
  7. Fresh fish for the taking.
  8. Year round growing is easily implemented.
Getting started with aquaponics is fun, easy, and very educational.  In this instructable I'll show you how to build, run, and maintain your system.  This system utilizes one food grade 55 gallon barrel.  This will be divided into a 30 gallon fish tank, and a 2.76 square foot grow bed; hence it is dubbed barrelponics.
 
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Step 1: Parts And Tools

Picture of Parts And Tools
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Here is what you'll need to set up your system.

1 - 55 gallon food grade barrel (check craigslist*).
1 pump (I used a 200GPH pump I bought off of ebay).
Grow Medium (Hydroton expanded clay grow pebbles or pea gravel is preferred).
1/2" piping for pump to beds, and siphon to tank (a 10' pipe is about $2 at the hardware store).
2 - #18 o-rings
2 - #14 o-rings

Bell Siphon:
1 - 3/4" PVC pipe, 18" long.
2 - 3/4" 90° Elbow.
1 - 3/4" Male and Female threaded to slip adapter
1 - 3/4" to 1 1/2" Bell Adapter
1 - 2" PVC pipe, 8" long.
1 - 2" PVC pipe cap.
1 - 3" PVC pipe, 10" long.

Tools:
anything to cut holes in plastic/PVC (I used a Dremel).
100% silicone and caulk gun
sharpie

Other things you'll need:
Water Test Kit
empty soda bottle (for peeponics)
Seeds
Fish


*neo71665 brought up a great point in the comments feed about buying barrels on craigslist and I wanted to expound on it here because I think its worth understanding.  How do you know the barrel is indeed food grade safe?  I myself buy from a person who sells food grade, and non food grade barrels of many different sizes including IBC totes. He receives them in mass quantities, cleans them up and resells them. If you can find someone who is doing this as a side business then I think you’ll find someone with a little more integrity than someone looking to make a quick buck for his personally used goods. Regardless of this I always do a smell test. Barrels used to store chemicals are a dead giveaway when you do the smell check.  Most food grade barrels I’ve come across were used to store some kind of high fructose corn syrup and you can usually smell this if only faintly. Another dead giveaway is you may find dead bees inside the barrel, which have been attracted to the sweetness and got lost in the darkness (I see this often). Once you get your barrel home be sure to clean it out yourself just to be safe.  If you're still worried about buying used barrels there's nothing wrong with buying them new.
john.muccio14 days ago

If you're looking for clean, food grade barrels - Contact Sarasota Container Corporation, they are out of the Tampa Bay area in Sunny Florida. They sell food grade and non-food grade drums and IBC totes.

You, sir, are the reason i stopped just looking at the pretty pictures and signed up to favorite something. I will be doing this as soon as i can get all the parts.

Northnick7 months ago

Thanks for posting this. I am going to take this project on. How much media should I buy?

FishNinjaY8 months ago

nice post, with lots of details. Thanks.

amorarun10 months ago
Nice project.... Voted.
I was thinking since I don't eat fish but have an aquarium at home, can I use the water from the aquarium as a fertilizer to the plants. Any fish waste would help the plant or is it just the fish you have mentioned in the 'ible?
Spaceman Spiff (author)  amorarun10 months ago
Yes, any fish waste will work, just keep monitoring the water levels for any undesirable changes. Thanks for the vote!
jerickson1511 months ago
great project. I might try :) thankyou for sharing
Spaceman Spiff (author)  jerickson1511 months ago
Absolutely! BTW I always give patches to those who post photos of their own build. Remember to VOTE!!!
lynnfiorante11 months ago
Cool system it looks just like a giant version of the mini one I made so I know it must work good
Spaceman Spiff (author)  lynnfiorante11 months ago
Yeah it works pretty good. My next one will be even bigger. Eventually I'd like a huge greenhouse system with a swimming pool fish tank!
neo7166511 months ago
Just because a barrel was food grade if anything not food was ever stored in it that food grade rating is no good anymore. Even just storing it in a shed with the top or bungs off it if it gets fertilizer dust in it ruins the rating. Not everybody trying to make a quick $ on craigslist care they stored weed killer in it until a few months ago what happens if they want it gone.
Spaceman Spiff (author)  neo7166511 months ago
(removed by author or community request)
Spaceman Spiff (author)  Spaceman Spiff11 months ago
I wanted to expound on my original response here, but I guess I cant edit, only delete.
Spaceman Spiff (author)  neo7166511 months ago
That’s a great point, always use good judgment when buying from craigslist. I myself buy from a person who sells food grade, and non food grade barrels of many different sizes including IBC totes. He receives them in mass quantities, cleans them up and resells them. If you can find someone who is doing this as a side business then I think you’ll find someone with a little more integrity than someone looking to make a quick buck for his personally used goods. Regardless of this I always do a smell test. Barrels used to store chemicals are a dead giveaway when you do the smell check. Most food grade barrels I’ve come across were used to store some kind of high fructose corn syrup and you can usually smell this if only faintly. Another dead giveaway is you may find dead bees inside the barrel, which have been attracted to the sweetness and got lost inside (I see this often). Thanks for bringing this up.
HollyMann11 months ago
Wow this is very thorough - great instructable. I actually have most of the items needed to do this...now if I had the time and energy...thank you though for sharing so much information...this is great and wonderful instructions.
Spaceman Spiff (author)  HollyMann11 months ago
Thank you for your kind words. I wanted to make this as full and complete as possible.
oldmicah11 months ago
Thank you for taking the time to do this. It looks awesome and I have a question or two. Should there be link to the plant types in section 4? How many tilapia do you have in your barrel?
Spaceman Spiff (author)  oldmicah11 months ago
Thanks for pointing that out. I'll add a list and a link this afternoon. As for fish I have 5 tilapia in this system.