Indoor Aquaponic Food Production System





Introduction: Indoor Aquaponic Food Production System

This gravity-driven, indoor aquaponic system can be built in an hour. It uses the Nitrogen Cycle to aid in maximum plant growth. This is a symbiotic relationship that benefits you in two ways-You grow edible plants & you can use edible fish, as well. Beneficial bacteria break down the ammonia & fish effluent, converting it to nitrites & nitrates that can be absorbed by the plant roots.

Step 1: Planning Your Build

Here are all of the measurements from my initial sketch/plan. This is the initial plan, but can be adjusted to

specific measurements needed. With these measurements, total cost of system is around $200-$250, using all new materials.

Step 2: Base

Start with the 2x3 ft rectangle, framing the bottom

Step 3: Bracing

Add bottom(floor) braces & front, lowest shelf brace

Step 4: Bottom Shelf

Add front shelf legs & screw shelf pieces on to them.

Step 5: Middle Shelf

Add middle shelf legs & attach shelf pieces.

Step 6: Top Shelf

Add top shelf legs

Step 7: Top Shelf

Add top shelf pieces.

Step 8:

Add braces that attach the shelf legs of different shelves together for stability.

Add inner shelf braces & shelves.

Step 9: Make It Mobile

When completed to this point, you can (optional) add casters for easier movement(if needed).

(2"-3" rubber wheels work best)

Step 10: Grow Beds & Plumbing

Add totes with holes cut(for plumbing) in the totes

& cut lids for plant baskets & PVC pipes. Aquarium caulk is used around plumbing, to seal it from leaking. Uniseals work, as well.

Step 11: Add the Tanks/Aquariums & Pumps

Add 1-2 tanks/aquariums(5 &10 gal), 1-2 small pumps(lift

must be between 3 & 4 ft. for best results), aquarium gravel & any live aquatic plants.

Step 12: Choose Your Food

Add seeds or seedlings(leafy greens work great) & fish(FYI-Japanese shubunkins are very hard to kill and produce the needed ammonia to kick of the nitrogen cycle).

Add/attach plant lights/bulbs for maximum indoor growth. Within 4-6 weeks you can be producing enough salad items to feed a family of 4. Enjoy!

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    The one problem I have with Instructables is that they seem to promote the most complex and costly way of doing things.

    I've been running an Aquaponics system in a 29 gal aquarium for over two years. I don't use the type of system shown here. I have the aquarium with some hardy fish in it. I then floated a styrofoam raft with six 3" cutouts for mech baskets. I put compressed clay hydroponic pellets in each basket surrounding a 1" cube of rock wool. I put seeds (I used either lettuce or a kale/broccoli hybrids) in the rock wool and put a strong plant light over the tank. The only mechanical assist is a hose from my air pump into a sponge filter. I have been harvesting greens for the table every 2-3 weeks for the past two years. I feed the fish and the fish feed the plants. That's it.

    7 replies

    show your system here if its better than the ones they make...share it :)

    I've done the same, just put this one on the site.

    That's because it's essentially a hobby, reverse rationalized as being useful when it isn't. The amount of food grown, is lower than the caloric expenditure to produce and digest it. In MUCH greater quantity it could be argued as a source of vitamins and minerals, but that too is limited by both small yield and limited input, particularly for the minerals.

    The cost is astronomical, for those who can garden outdoors. Using soil and compost, reusing seed from the prior year. Literally you can grow 100X as much food for a single digit dollars amount of water, if you don't also have a rain collection system.

    SO, it IS a NEAT hobby. Decorative also if you have an artistic eye while picking design and materials, but beyond the zen if having this indoors, plants and fish grow readily outside with little to any human intervention, perhaps even better without it!

    It's being used as an educational tool, thx for your input

    Lawrence, I am interested in your system and will be grateful to receive a description.

    I am definitely going to build one of these. I have most of the materials I see here but would like to see yours as well Lawrence.

    Thanks much,


    "Most complex and costly way of doing things" may be a tad hyperbolic, no? The difference between yours and theirs seems to be some 2x4s, one additional $10 pump and some miscellaneous supplies. Your design is different, not better, not worse. If I wanted to try it out, I'd definitely go with yours, but this is a well made instructable by what appears to be an elementary school science project that can be easily copied or used to inspire someone to make their own personalized variant to meet their own particular needs. Thank you for sharing your setup with the community. It's too bad you can't do what this elementary school did and make a helpful instructable.

    Holy cow you people are harsh. Austin is just sharing a setup for Aquaponics, like anything else. Im sure there are 100 other ways to accomplish the same goal. This is just his version. I think it looks pretty cool and may attempt it.

    1 reply

    Thank you, yes there are lots of ways. This was a first attempt at an elementary school, so adults, cut some slack, they're still learning.

    Thank you for taking the time to write this Instructable! While I'm sure that there are cheaper and less complex ways of creating an aquaponic system such as this, your design is aesthetically pleasing and would function very well for someone such as myself who does NOT have an outdoor space with a lot of natural sunlight. Since I need something that will be indoors, I want a system that functions well but doesn't look like a giant eyesore in my back room. Besides, if money is a factor (and I'm sure it is for some), it is quite easy to tweak your well-demonstrated design to shave a few dollars off of the cost. Thanks again!

    Great Idea! I think I'll only make 2 minor changes to mine.

    1- Making my fish tanks visible. Might as well enjoy the look of 'em.

    2- I'll do herbs. While this setup probably wouldn't provide enough of a vegetable for a family, it would make more than enough to support what they would need for herbs to flavor food.

    Kinda like a suped up AeroGarden!

    1 reply

    I kept them away from light to detour algae growth, but I love watching them too. I also made a version with tank on top, with the plant bed below. Have fun!

    This is wonderful. My wife and I have been talking about building an aquaponic setup for a while now! I see what my next project will be.. haha

    1 reply

    I've also tweaked this design, have fun & enjoy