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 gr…

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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