Build this compact, low cost aquaponic system with minimal tools and time to organically grow garden vegetables and fish in your kitchen.
This is my first instructable so feedback is appreciated.
(English is my first and only language so I can't blame typos and grammar on anything.)
Step 1: Collect Items
You will need:
~ UV pond filter with fountain
~ 30 minute cycle plug in timer
~ Sterilite stackable bin 10 gallon/lid
~ Sterilite stackable bin 27 gallon
~ 30 net pots
~ Aquarium heater (optional)
~ Thermometer (optional)
~ Rock wool 30 pcs
~ Organic garden seeds
~ Hole saw 2 1/8" (bit smaller than net pots)
~ Drill bits (small for holes)
~ Cutting tool -- to cut a hole in plastic (I used a Dremel cutting bit)
Step 2: Place Pump and Cut a Hole in 10 Gallon Bin for Fountain.
Place pump so the fountain outlet is as centered as possible (pic 1). Stack 10 gallon bin in the 27 gallon bin without the lid (pic 2). The top of the fountain will be taller than the bottom of the 10 gallon bin so don't force it down. Trace a circle the same size at the fountain outlet and cut the hole (pic 3). Replace the 10 gallon bin and make sure the fountain fits into the hole neatly (pic 4). (If your hole is jagged or misshapen, consider putting a bead of 100% silicone around the hole and let it dry before replacing the 10 gallon bin so you don't lose too much water through the hole.)
Step 3: Fill 27 Gallon Bin Half-way With Good Water (not Tap) and Add Heater/thermometer If Using.
Fill the 27 gallon bin half-way with water. (If you only have tap water, buy purified water at the supermarket.) Take the fountain nozzle off so the fountain doesn't jet or spray water everywhere. You want it to flow out, not shoot out. Plug in the pump to make sure everything is working. Unplug the pump until later. Place heater, if you choose to have one, in the bottom of the 27 gallon bin and stick on the thermometer on the opposite side the heater is on (pic 2). I am adding Tilapia (White Nile) to this system so I put a heater in. Goldfish or koi wouldn't require one, but it is a good idea to have one for temperature stability.
Step 4: Cut Holes in Lid for Net Pots, Add Pots and Then Add Rock Wool.
Using drill and hole saw attachment, cut 30 holes in the lid. 2 rows per panel. Place 30 pots in the holes (pic 1). Follow up with putting a piece of rock wool in each pot (pic 2). Carefully put lid aside. You will need it later.
Step 5: Adjusting Water Flow.
Here is the time consuming part. You need to see how fast your pump fills your 10 gallon bin (pic 1). Too fast and your system won't be very efficient. Too slow and the pump will shut off before 10 gallon bin fills and plants dry up. This is where you will make any adjustments. I drilled several small drain holes in the top 10 gallon bin so the pump filled the bin more slowly and the water rose to the bottom of the net pots before the timer shut it off. Use a timer to see how long it takes to fill the 10 gallon bin before adding drain holes (pic 2). Make sure rock wool gets saturated before moving on to next step (pic 3).
Step 6: Add Fish!!
Turn off pump. Place bag of fish in the 27 gallon bin. Let it float for 15 minutes so the temperature can adjust to the temperature of your bin water. Open the bag and carefully roll the top of the bag down, as if you were rolling a shirt sleeve up. The bag should float in the water with the top open. Now we can start to acclimate the fish to the pH of your water. Using a timer, add 1/2 cup of the bin water every 5 minutes to the open bag of fish. If it is a small bag, use a 1/4 cup. The slower, the better. Sudden differences in water quality and temperature will kill your fish. (If you ignore this information, you may have floaters.) After 60 minutes, slowly release your fish into the bin. Turn pump on. (optional: cut a hole using the 2" hole saw near the top of the 27 gallon bin, several inches above the water line for easy feeding of your fish)
Step 7: Time to Plant Seeds!
Place the prepared lid with net pots and rock wool on the 10 gallon bin and lock it into place (pic 1). Place 2-3 seeds of selected vegetable varieties into each piece of rock wool (pic 2). Within a week to 2 weeks you should have sprouts. When seedlings are about an inch high, pinch out the weaker seedlings so the strongest one will remain.
Step 8: Conclusion:
Your aquaponics unit should work seamlessly. There should be no leakage and no way for fish to jump out. If you have low lighting in your kitchen, consider adding a hanging LED grow light over the unit for optimum results. If you have lettuce-eating dogs like I do, put the unit on a heavy duty shelf up high. I am using this unit as a baby fish/seedling grow out unit.
I will add updated photos to this instructable as the fish and plants grow out.
Leave me feed back, improvements thoughts and ideas! Thanks!