Introduction: Easy and Cheap DIY Aquaponics!

About: Im a Middle School/High school student who enjoys scripting and making things to help other people.

Aquaponics is a system used in gardening to provide a mini natural eco system for your plants and fish. The way aquaponics work is pretty interesting. Basically aquaponics is an inter connected water system that allows fish to provide nutrients to plants and vice versa. The process starts in the fish tank were the fish provide different nutrients and toxic chemicals into their water (In ways we don't need to go into). Next that water is pumped into a gravel bed with plants. This part of the process is a triple combo were the plants absorb nutrients and toxic chemicals that the fish produce, while the gravel filters out toxic minerals and waste that come from the fish. This helps the fish by filtering their water chemically and physically (say goodbye to disposable filter cartridges). Next the water falls from the gravel bed back into the tank which provides air into the water for the fish to breathe. In the end this process is a cool way to grow your plants and if you have herbivore fish you can create a never ending eco system by feeding them the plants you grow.

So In simpler form:

1: fish provide waste

2. plants eat waste and absorb chemicals
Gravel filters bigger waste

3: water falls back into tank providing air to fish

4: harvest your crops and enjoy! Or feed them to your fish and create never ending ecosystem!


Wood board: to sit over top of tank

Fish tank: 5 gallon and 10 gallon work well

Fish: Preferably Tilapia or another herbivore

Old Fish Filter


Seedling Plants: Lettuce and Spinach work best

Pie Tin or Plastic Container: For gravel bed

Something to attach filter to: such as a board as I used

Duct Tape

Step 1: Cut Your Board

Cut your board so it will look like this when you put it on top of your tank.

It needs to be able to lay on top of your tank with about 1/2" of overhang on each side.

It is just going to hold the gravel bed in place

Step 2: Fill Your Tank With Gravel

Fill your tank up with gravel so the bottom is completely covered. Use normal fish tank gravel for this step.

Add decorations if you want (highly recommended)

Step 3: Attach Filter to Something for Support

I used Duct Tape to tape filter to board, but you can use anything just make sure the filter is in right position. You simply just want your filter to be able to stay suspended above your tank with its tube sticking into the tank so it can pump water.

Make sure you don't have a filter cartridge in your filter, because the sole purpose of the filter in this project is to pump water to the gravel bed.

Step 4: Poke a Hole in the Bottom of Your Pie Tin

Poke a big hole on one end of your tin, then put two smaller holes on other end to help with drainage.

This will allow water to flow out of bed and back into the tank while providing air to the fish tank water as it does so.

Step 5: Fill Tin Up With Gravel

Fill your tin up with some gravel. You might want to put mesh over your big hole so gravel doesn't fall out.

Use any kind of gravel, but non-colored gravel works best.

The gravel will provide a place to plant your plants as well as filter larger waste from the fish.

Step 6: Fill Your Tank Up With Water and Place Board on Top.

Arrange filter like in first picture, then fill tank up with water. Next put your board on top like so.

The board will hold gravel bed.

Step 7: Add Your Fish

Add your fish like you would to any other tank (make sure to acclimate them). Again tilapia are best because you can feed them the plants you grow.

The fish provide nutrients to the plants.

Step 8: Plant Your Seedlings

Make sure you plants don't have dirt on their roots. Simply burry their roots in the gravel.

Use lettuce if possible, but spinach works as well.

The plants filter chemical waste from the fish.

Step 9: Put Your Gravel Bed in Place

Place pie tin under the lip of the filter. Make sure the big hole is not on the same end as the filter and also make sure the board doesn't block any of the holes.

Step 10: Start It Up!

Plug it in and watch it run!

Step 11: You're Done!

You have successfully created a mini eco system in your backyard!

One you have a little practice with this one you can start making a better design for your aquaponics!

Gardening Challenge

Participated in the
Gardening Challenge