This is a small aquaponics system i built so i could experiment with the concept. If it works out well for me I'd love to build a large version of this system but before I do want some working knowledge of how it works and any problems i might encounter before I invest a lot of time, effort, and most importantly $$$ into it. This way was a cheap and easy way to gain that knowledge as well as a fun little project. I also want to see what will grow well in the grow bed.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

First things first! Tools and materials.

1. Drill
2. 3/16", 1/2", 7/8" Drill Bits
3. Hacksaw
4. Pipe Cutter
5. Razor Blade
6. Cutters
7. Thread Seal Tape

1. 15 Gallon Plastic Bin (Grow Bed)
2. 1/2" Irrigation Tubing
3. 2 1/2" Ball Valves
4. 3 1/2" Barb Adapter
5. 1/2" Flex Pipe Tee Insert
6. 1/2" MNPT X Barb 90 Elbow
7. 2 #14 O-Rings
8. 2" PVC Pipe 8 3/4" long piece
9. 2" PVC Cap
10. 1 1/4" PVC Pipe 6 5/8" long piece
11. 1 1/4" PVC Cap
12. 1/2" PVC Pipe 5 5/8" long piece
13. 1/2" Male Adapter
14. 1/2" Female Adapter (Electrical Conduit)
15. 2 1/2" PVC Pipe 3" long piece
16. 2 1/2' 90 Degree Elbows
17. Growing Medium (I used a combo of hydroponic rocks and pea gravel)
18. 30 Gallon Plastic Tote (Fish Tank)
19. Black Plastic Sheeting
20. Plastic Storage Shelves
21. 100 - 130 GPH Submersible Pump

Some of the lengths here are approximate because you have to cut to fit and fine tune the system by taking a little off here and there. Also I had to use an electrical conduit fitting because normal pipe threads are tapered and you can't screw them down all the way. I needed a tight fit to prevent leaks from the grow bed.
Just a quick update. The ammonia levels in my tank spiked yesterday to around 4 ppm so i changed out about half my water for fresh. Unfortunately I had 2 fish floating this morning. These were the 2 smallest so hopefully there will be no more.
<p>Nice article. However if you are looking to build an Organic; Aquaponic or Hydroponic vegetable garden. You will need to use &quot;Food Safe Plastic&quot;! </p><h3>Food Grade Plastic</h3><p>5-gallon &lsquo;food grade&rsquo; buckets or container are made of #2 HDPE, and are opaque or mostly opaque which minimizes the amount of light penetration. If the bucket is considered &lsquo;food grade&rsquo; it is typically marketed as such and / or labeled &ldquo;Food Grade&rdquo;, &ldquo;Food Safe&rdquo;, etc. Some food grade buckets or containers will include a cup-and-fork symbol as an indicator. A food-grade bucket or container might also be specifically marked as USDA approved (or FDA or NSF approved).</p><p>The typical &lsquo;blue&rsquo; water storage containers or water barrels are also made of high density polyethylene (#2 HDPE) and are marketed as food safe.</p><p>If you will be storing food directly in a plastic bucket or container, or if you will be using the container for drinking water, you might verify the material is food-safe before you purchase.</p>Risky Plastics Not Safe for Food and Drink<p>These may leach or have hazardous ingredients.</p><ul><br><li>#3 PVC (polyvinyl chloride) carcinogens during manufacture and incineration<li>#6 PS (polystyrene) possible carcinogen<li>#7 other (usually polycarbonate, sometimes labeled PC) may leach BPA (Bisphenol-A)</ul><p>Be sure to rinse any new plastics first to remove any mold releasing agents. </p><p>For tubing, use food grade or &quot;PETE 1&quot; tubing</p>
thanks for sharing this. how long did you let your system cycle before you added fish?
<p>Total system cost: $40 plus $25 for two bouquets of flowers. :-)</p>
<p>what kind of plastic bin did you use?</p>
<p>Add more plants to your system. Plants eat Nitrates(such as ammonia) Try adding more plants to counter the spikes. Aquaponics should be self-sustaining.</p>
thanks for sharing! have you thought about adding a swirl filter? It surprised me that your small system is capable of keeping 20 fish alive without a filter.
I really appreciate your instructional post on DIY aquaponics. This is something that a lot of people are looking for these days. It may not be easy but it is all worth the effort when you have fresh fish and vegetable on the table.
I also live near Tampa, Fl where did you get your grow bed from?
So Jeffrey, anything new to report? The fish getting bigger? The plants getting bigger? Just curious because I'm about to set up one similar to yours for my wife's college course. <br>Hope it is still going well and you haven't had to spend too much in the way of flowers and such.
updates please
Hey I'm a woman and I'm looking into setting up a small aquaponic system... Heck, my mom is deathly afraid of snakes but I don't mind them at all, as long as they don't bite me. Some woman like fish + reptiles, some don't. <br> <br>I am thinking of setting up an aquaponic system and keeping river/pond minnows as bait fish for catching bigger fish. You can have success with dead minnows, fish pieces and cooked shrimp as bait apparently. Heck, I remember keeping small fish and cutting them up as bait with my dad when I was a kid. <br> <br>Hope your system works out :) I'm in an apartment too or I would love to try to raise tilapia.. they are soooo good!!
Interesting article, but quite honestly, i can't follow it. You seem to have a ton of tubes and valbves and what not, but in the end I only see one tube sticking out of the gravel bed. I think a drawing of what tube goes into what other tube and where a ball valve or ring or tubing attaches too would do wonders for the 'abstract vison impaired'
part of your problem with the ph may be the goldfish. They spew tons tons of ammonia waste, they are a VERY dirty fish. I hate to say it but you may want to consider buying a aquarium charcoal filter and running that sometimes.
One trick I learnt if not using Hydroton and the water becomes acidic, is to crush egg shells and bury them in the grow medium. The Calcium Carbonate will neutralize the acidic water. <br> <br>I have a system close to your size, I struggled to produce good lettuce but was able to get Pak Choi, peppers, tomato with a few Tilapia. I am re-designing my own to include a Sump and actually reduce the flood time to around every hour or so. I found the 15 min flood was actually damaging the roots. <br>
ive been building and using different aquaponics units for about 3 years now and yours looks like it will work really well, depending on what your growing the gravel bed is the best setup in my opinion, i was getting 2 crops of romaine lettuce in the gravel to every 1 in the dirt.. good luck and happy fishing, ps if your close to the kootenays i might be able to help you out in getting tilapia.
Thanks. I'm actually in Tampa, FL so no joy o the fish. I hope to build a much larger system in the 300 gallon range when I get some more space and I've learned all I can from this smaller setup.
nice.. i definitively want to incorporate fishes in my next hydroponic set up.. check out my hydroponic set up for a cheap way to get lots of plants growing<br>
That's a nice setup. Ive never tried hydroponics. This evolved from container gardening but I have a very chaotic schedule so they'd dry out. I'll have to try out hydroponics when I get a chance.

About This Instructable




Bio: I enjoy being creative. A drafter in my day job I'm a tinkerer by nature always wanting to know why and how things work ... More »
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