Build an Easy Aquaponics Grow System & Winter Over Pond Plants


Introduction: Build an Easy Aquaponics Grow System & Winter Over Pond Plants

About: Hello. I am the host of the pod cast, The Pond Plant Girl I am here, because I have tons of ideas about how to better grow your garden with simple inexpensive tools, such as my latest - a 5 x 10 ...

What is a Garden Light Box?

A water garden light box is a cost effective and attractive way to keep your tropicals healthy throughout the winter months. And, It's a fun project your friends and family will certainly enjoy!

In the cold seasons of the year, tropical plants especially need extra care. Some pond plants (such as frogbit) will grow just fine with a regular florescent light and others will survive outdoors even in freezing temperatures. Other more tropical plants need a little extra help with lighting, heat, and humidity. Water hyacinth is one such plant.

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Step 1: Start With a 10 Gallon Aquarium

A garden light box can be as large or small as you desire!
A basic light box is made with a rectangular 10 gallon aquarium. These can be purchased used for a few bucks or new from the store for $10 - $12 dollars. I had an old cracked aquarium, so my cost was $0. You can easily find a 10 gallon aquarium at a thrift store or yard sale. is also a great place to find free project materials.

Step 2: Cut and Insert Mirrors

This is where I really lucked out.
I initially purchased 6 - 12x12 mirror tiles for $12 at Lowes, but they were the wrong size and needed to be cut. Then I made friends with a man who owns his own glass business in town. And, he said that he would be glad to cut scrap glass for the garden light box! My cost was $0 dollars for this.

There should be...
One mirror for the bottom

One for the backside

One for each end

And if you do not have a lid, clear glass for the top

Measure the inside of the aquarium for mirror size and allow for a slight shorter measurement (about 1/16 inch) allowing the glass to fit in the aquarium. A tight fit is not necessary.

Step 3: Select Lighting

If you aquarium already has a dome light that's great!
If not, then a regular fluorescent kitchen cupboard florescent light will also work. The long fluorescent bulbs are great, because you can install red or blue grow bulbs. A 100 watt daylight bulb can be purchased at Lowes. Any higher wattage (such as a 400 or 1,000 watt flood light bulb) needs a special fixture for fire safety reasons.

I already had an old aquarium dome lamp, so my cost was zero. However, lighting might not be necessary if your light box is placed in a window facing the sunlight where the sun's rays can reflect the mirrors. I enjoyed the look of my light box so much, that I turned toward my living area.

Step 4: Choose Your Plants and Install!

The last thing to do is find a place for aquarium, fill it with water, fish, and plants, and that's it! If you do not have any water garden plants, they can be found for free at The Aquatic Plant Exchange for the cost of postage. Remember, even though you might have fish in the aquarium, you will still need to use fertilizer (such as pond tabs or Osmocote brand fertilizer).

Fish are cheap and easy to find. Every county has some kind of mosquito abatement program, so you can even fill your tank with free minnows! I placed 4 baby goldfish from my pond in the tank, and with the mirrors, it looks as if I have 8 or more fish!

Step 5: Everyone Loves It!

These pics certainly do not do this project justice! Seeing how a pond looks from under the water with the feathery roots and how the goldfish live is actually pretty fascinating. This was a fun and easy pond project and I look forward to seeing yours too!

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    what is this 'mosquito abatement program' of which you speak?
    I live in the UK so maybe it doesnt apply to me, but free minows sounds good.
    Nice tutorial I may try again with water hyacinth, as my previous attempts have always yellowed and died but I think it may be the snails that start that process - time to try again.

    1 reply

    The most common fish used in the western US to eat mosquito larvae is gambusia, a guppy like minnow. They are illegal in my county because there are some native endangered minnows that do the same job, and the gambusia breed like guppies and crowd out the native fish. A few feeder goldfish would work fine.

    Hi. Did anyone find out what the 'mosquito abatement program'  was?

    I think it looks great!  I'd imagine the fish would spawn like crazy in there when they mature.

    Hi, I keep goldfish myself, and the first year I put in $50 of water hyacinth, and they all died off. The second year I only purchased $20. And they died off as well. But halfway through I found the problem, the fish were eating the roots Now I just use the nitrogen laden water from the pond to water my house plants. Even though I live in a basement with nothing but artificial light, the plants grow well.

    I don't really do...doesn't look like a pond or stream...Where is the gravel? and the floating plants are too looks like a pond should be...but it is not...

    In re: Water Hyacinth-I realise this thread hasn't been going on for long, but I must add this about these beautiful, yet as aforesaid, fast growers- They are clogging waterways nationwide in warmer climates-most likely escapees (tossed out, most likely) so please-if you "weed" don't put them in a nearby lake, pond, stream! I agree-the way they grow and as fast as they grow-if edible, they would be a great way to deal with some food shortages-in an ideal world-I don't recommend eating them!

    U STILL HAVE TO HAVE A FILTER 10years fish and turtle keeping expierie

    Those are water hyacinth. Beautiful very easy to grow and DEADLY! We had a dog that like to play in the pond I built. I didn't see the point in stopping her. She was happy. Well she played with the plants like they were toys, ripping them, tossing them. Slowly she became sluggish. I took her to the vet and we determined the hyacinth was the culprit. It contains crystals that cause severe and irreversible dehydration as they crystalize in the bowels and intestines. I did lose some puppies to this. (Same time) Now she has her own pond. I'm not saying don't plant, just be aware. Especially aquatics.

    3 replies
    My dog must have an iron stomach, then! But then... I often find pieces of toy plastic in her poopies out in the yard. I grow the hyacinth in the front yard now, because I do not want her to destroy my pond. I'm wondering... are you speaking of the rooted hyacinth or the floating plant? Mine are floaters and are supposed to be healthy for both human and animal consumption.

    Great Question!


    I'm refering to the floating. Having read your note I immediately started looking online for the "edible" aspect of hyacinth. I found it as cattle fodder in Australia. I found nothing on human consumption. The way this stuff grows could nearly end poverty. So how do you prepare it? Beyond that, look up the plant on the noxious plant list and what/how it affects. I'll try to post a link. Theres another supermarket edible, (I think rhubarb?), that has poisonous tops so I'm not tossing what you say out the window.

    With rhubarb, the leaves are poisonous, but the stalks are edible. We make rhubarb pie here in the US out of the stalks. And I think you must use the red part of the stalk, no other part.

    This is a great idea. Will have to consider it for next year. This last summer, I found those same plants by accident, put them in the outside pond, and ended up having to severely weed them by midsummer - they get HUGE and even start trying to escape the pond!!! Nearly choked my fish out. They are gorgeous when blooming!

    1 reply
    Yes! They ARE beautiful when blooming. Last summer I sprayed for white flies, and my hyacinth flowers turned out pure white! It was shocking. When your plants get to be too much to handle, just throw them under a fruit tree or in your veggie garden. Water Hyacinth makes the best mulch!



    Why do you need the mirrors? Just to get more light out of the light that you are using?

    1 reply

    The mirrors attract more light and heat, and works really well! I would only suggest it in the wintertime, tho, because if used in the summer the plants would fry! I am growing water lotus from seed now, and the mirrors are really helping to give a jump-start to the process. Happy Ponding!!!