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Indoor Mini Aquaponics System (IKEA-hack)

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UPDATED:  We have recently updated this guide to make it more efficient and safer to use.  Please see the instructions here:
http://www.japan-aquaponics.com/micro-aquaponics-plans.html

Aquaponics is becoming more and more popular and many people want to build their own system. Aquaponics integrates fish, plants and microbes into a sustainable and ecologically balanced food production system.

This project from Japan Aquaponics will show you how to build your very own system using commonly available components from IKEA and your local hardware store. Anyone can set up their own system in an afternoon and start experiencing the pleasure of building their own little ecosystem!



 
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Step 1: Setting the frame up

The main frame that we are going to use will be the Antonius frame combined with one or two wire baskets and two of the plastic containers.  We will use the 50l container for the fish tank at the bottom, and the 25l container for the growbed at the top.  Simply put the Antonius unit together as per the IKEA instructions.

We use the wire basket as support for the 25l plastic container for the growbed.  This is not strictly necessary for the 50l plastic container fish tank at the bottom if you just put the container on the floor.  You may want to trim the plastic lip on the top container to ensure a better fit, and we also cut the handles off the ends of the container - but again, it is not strictly necessary.  To cut the plastic we just used a small saw, but you can also use some standard wire pliers.
dminimalist21 days ago

This is definitelly the best beginner setup I have seen on the whole internet. Started building my versio of it.

Aquaponics Guru (author)  dminimalist10 days ago

That is very kind of you to say so! We spent a long time trying to find something that anybody could build almost anywhere in the world.... and IKEA-hacking seems to be ideal for such a purpose! If you look at the Japan Aquaponics website you can see that we also built a few systems using PAX wardrobes as the basis... worked like a charm and looked really great!

cglaw20137 months ago
super
Aquaponics Guru (author)  cglaw201310 days ago

Thanks!

KevinOKane7 months ago
By implementing such a simple plumbing technique, this siphon can actually help the aquaphonics system to be more efficient, which in turn enables the growth of healthier plants for better harvesting. Sometimes, the expensive tools and mechanism do not necessarily mean the best. Other times, a simple and cheap technique can produce similar results, if not better.
skilber11 months ago
Do you have an idea as to what kind of vegetables (or fruits) might be suitable for this particular system?
Aquaponics Guru (author)  skilber11 months ago
For these small systems there are not huge amounts of nutrients available and so we would recommend baby leaf lettuce, basil, smaller houseplants (like Lucky Bamboo or a small fern for example) - things like this.

In Japan, herbs are really expensive and so I know that many people grow basil in theirs as it is far too expensive in the shops, and they get better quality from their little systems!
mrsayao1 year ago
I just finished my setup! You can find my pictures on twitter @leesayao. I'm wondering how long your drain/fill cycle is with your mini setup. How much water should be in the system? I bought a pump that I think is too strong for this small setup, as my drain/fill is about 20s/3min20sec, even with the by pass it fills quickly. Also, I found out the hard way that you need an air stone for the fish, I thought the recirculated water via supply line bypass would be sufficient...poor fish! My containers are 57L (14 gal) and 27L (7 gal). Thanks for the great guide! My family and I love to sit and watch this thing work automatically!
Aquaponics Guru (author)  mrsayao1 year ago
Hi there,

Your system is looking great... a very nice, tidy set up! With regards to drain and fill times... what you have now is not a problem, but if you can slow it down a little more tha might be better - aim to be closer to 8-10 mins for the fill and the drain is just whatever it takes. You will need to balance the siphon when you slow the water flow into the growbed.

Aeration should be enough from the splashing of the water into the tank, unless the temperature of the water is quite high? Check that there isn't another issue as we only ever use additional aeration in the summer. Additional aeration is never a bad thing though and costs next to nothing in terms of electricity so no reason not to add it!

Watching these things in action is very peaceful... I love listening to the siphons going on and off!
Thanks! When I adjust the ball valve bypass lower (1/2"), the siphon doesn't start since the fill is just a trickle. The pump is on minimum, maybe I can make it flow more. I have a 1" to 3/4" reducer, should I change the standpipe piping?
Aquaponics Guru (author)  mrsayao1 year ago
Can I recommend taking a look at our Bell Siphon guide as this has a section for when problems arise... adding a 90 degree elbow to the bottom of the outflow might be all you need to do.... but take a look and see if it helps.

If not... don't worry too much as a quick rate is not going to be much of a problem to be honest. But try and slow it down just a little if you can.

http://www.japan-aquaponics.com/bell-siphon-guide.html
altainta1 year ago
Updates please....
Aquaponics Guru (author)  altainta1 year ago
What are you looking for specifically?
How is the system doing.
Are the fish alive and healthy ?
Are the Plants growing well ?
Which fish is in the system now ?
Which plants are you growing now ?
Any problem you faced with the system or any disadvantage of the system ?
Like this i am looking for update on the status on how the system is doing....
Also i want to ask can i use Affnan's Simphon for this setup ?
I am truly interested in doing this !
Aquaponics Guru (author)  altainta1 year ago
No worries,

So, the system has been running for nearly 2 years now with no problems. The fish (goldfish) are growing (we took a couple out as they got bigger - just so that they were not crowded) and the plants are happy. We use our system mainly for some small houseplants (ferns and lucky bamboo) and some herbs (basil and chives) and all are well.

Every 6 months or so we check over the lava rocks and sometimes will have to give the rocks a little bit of a rinse. The fish waste can build up and so we need to clear it out sometimes so that it doesn't become anaerobic. We have also added a small mesh bag to the inflow pipe to catch the biggest parts of the fish waste.

We can also easily add small filters to this system if there is too much solid waste - a simple sponge, aquarium filters, a mesh bag, even a sock! Just something to catch most of the solid waste before it goes into the growbed. All not strictly necessary, but nice to play around with and experiment!

You can certainly add an Affnan siphon to the system - although we have not found it necessary to do so - the bell siphon has always worked very easily for this small system just with a straight piece of pipe.

Hope this helps.
1)Do u have a water testing kit ?
2) if not do you feel to have one?
3) How long does it took for the system to mature ?
4) Did you still kept it indoor ?
5) Are they in direct sunlight ? or Mirrored Window Sunglight? or no sunlight ?
6) How to you keep the temperature in the desirable range?
7) Did you ever got any bug / pest for fish / plant ?
8) Do you think this system (aquaponics) is good or Deep water culture or Hydroponics or NFT is good for indoor?
9)Do you think this system is good for expansion ?
10)Do you think a BIO Filter is needed (home made with sea shells) in your system to manage toxic / fish wates ?

Sorry to ask so many question but i am really curious
Aquaponics Guru (author)  altainta1 year ago
Hi there,

We do indeed have a water testing kit to test pH and ammonia / nitrates. This system is really only a little system for indoors - just to get people started in aquaponics. If you want to experiment more then I would make a larger system.

May I direct you to our website as this will give you many of the answers to your questions... the Information Section and the DIY Section would be the best places to start: (don't worry... all in English)

www.japan-aquaponics.com

Aragon
I was wondering if you are supposed to have the water run through the growing bed 24/7 or if you just have it run through periodically
Aquaponics Guru (author)  farmer mike1 year ago
You can actually choose whichever you prefer. If you leave the water running 24/7 then that is no problem. If you want to turn it off at night though for example, then that is also ok - but I would make sure that there is an airstone in the fish tank so that the fish have lots of oxygen. If you do want to turn it off regularly - then don't use so many fish - just 2 or 3 would be better at 1.5" - 2.5" fish size.

The decision to turn the water off should go hand-in-hand with thinking about oxygen in the water for the fish.

Hope this helps.
Thank you. One more thing: Can you verify if the containers are constituted from a food grade plastic? Are they made of HDPE, PP, LDPE, or PETE for instance?
Another very good question. The bins are noted as being PP which is commonly used for many things, but used in medical devices and food containers as well. Whilst these particular containers are obviously not certified as food-safe (as this was not their intended purpose) it will be up to you to make that judgement call - but given that this type of plastic is commonly used in food containers, I was personally happy that they were ok to use for this purpose.
cotdagoo1 year ago
Appreciate the quick & easy info as I'm just getting my feet wet (ba-dump-dump-CHING!) with aquaponics. Have you had any issues with algae by allowing so much light into the fish container through the top and sides? I showed a friend this, and he suggested I use black containers for my build rather than white as it'll help with algae, as well as keep the roots in the dark while growing in the medium too. cheers!
Aquaponics Guru (author)  cotdagoo1 year ago
Good question! Honestly, we did not have much of a problem, but we we did add the PVC decal to the outside of the fish tank to help block out the sun. The growbed doesn't need anything as we have never had an issue with algae there. A black tank has just one small drawback in that it will heat up the water pretty quickly - in a small fish tank that could mean pretty hot water! So be a little careful about using black. If you are still worried about it, then maybe just hang a small piece of reflective material off the frame to cover the fish tank. Hope this helps!
Ahh, some good points there :)

Glad to know algae isn't much of an issue in the growbed, as it'll get the most direct light with my indoor setup. I'll be starting in a basement during the winter months so hopefully heat wont be an issues with the bins I found on sale today.

cheers!
Do you get the 50 and 25L containers from IKEA as well, or do they come from the hardware store?
Hi there,

You will be pleased to know that these containers can be bought as part of the Antonius unit - this helps to make sure that everything fits together beautifully!
rbeforee1 year ago
How cool. I already have most of the ikea Antonius rack; I just need the plastic trays. Then I'll be off to the hardware store for the plumbing supplies and eventually the fishies and plants. Now I'm off to read more on your site. Thanks bunches!!!
Aquaponics Guru (author)  rbeforee1 year ago
That is great news... please do send us a photo when you have completed the system and we will put it up on our site... fantastic to see people trying out aquaponics!
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