Introduction: Aquaponics: the Future of Sustainable Food
This instructable will teach you how to make a self sustaining indoor aquaponics system. We created this system in a high school environmental science class for four hours a week, in the span of one month. We started this project as a way to better understand how aquaponics works, and to create a self sustaining system that we could “create a meal from”. We familiarized ourselves with how an aquaponics system works, with a small pre made home system using goldfish. We did this while we were working out the kinks in our real system. Overall, we spent roughly $600 including supplies we did not end up using in our final project. To do this project, you need a basic understanding of how aquaponics works, but you do not need advanced plumbing or building skills. This project was a great success, and if you are willing to put in the time and effort, we offer in-depth instructions on how to build your own aquaponics system in this intractable. Have fun!
Before you get started
Define aquaponics: Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture, the raising of fish, and hydroponics, the soil-less growing of plants. The combination provides a cycle where both fish and plants are grown. The fish waste becomes a food source for the growing plants due to the nitrogen cycle, and the plants act as a filter for the water that the fish live in.
Nitrogen Cycle: The nitrogen cycle occurs to keep the plants and fish alive and healthy. The fish waste within the aquaponics system creates ammonia, and the anomia eventually converts to nitrite. Nitrites then turn into nitrates that are absorbed by the plants for nutrients.
Laws and Regulations of aquaponics: Before picking and buying fish for your aquaponics system, you must research the permitting restrictions, and the species of fish you can use in your specific state. The easiest way to find this out is to call your state Fish and Wildlife service. Here is a link to a website with the numbers of every US states Fish and Wildlife service. Link- http://www.fws.gov/offices/statelinks.html
Materials: Refer to step two for the full list.
Step 1: PLAN YOUR SYSTEM
- Research to learn about aquaponics.
- Design your system (drawing out a diagram of the system with measurements is very helpful).
- Pick materials including the brand of grow media, the type of fish tank, and the type of grow bed.
Step 2: BUY YOUR MATERIALS
- Decide where you are going to buy your materials.
- Estimate the price (optional).
- Decide the quantity and size of your materials.
- Collect materials and get organized... here comes the fun part!
Step 3: BUILD YOUR GROW BED
- Build the grow bed (or multiple depending on how many you are making) with the proper measurement for your tank. We made our grow beds out of wood screwed together, and pond liner stapled to the bottom and outside.
- Make sure to cut a hole in the bottom of the grow bed for the drain(this has match the size of the outflow pipe).
-Measurements and materials for the grow bed:
2" x 12" boards
2' x 4' x 12" grow bed
Step 4: ASSEMBLE SYSTEM
- Place grow bed on a surface higher than the tank in a place with direct sunlight (or grow lamps).
Step 5: ASSEMBLE PIPES AND BELL SIPHON
- Build a bell siphon or buy one. Here is a link to an intractable on how to build a bell siphon. https://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-Bell-Sipho...
- Assemble pipes (but do not glue them yet).
- Install bell siphon and drain pipes, install pump in tank with pipe that flows into grow bed (make sure the inflow pipe and bell siphon are on opposite sides of the grow bed, and that the inflow pipe in smaller in diameter than the outflow pipe).
Step 6: ADD AND TEST WATER FLOW
- Fill tank to the capacity you will have it when you add fish, pump water into grown bed and then through bell siphon back into the tank, check for any leaks, time the flow of water if you are doing an ebb and flow system.
- If there are any leaks fix them and re-check.
- Once all of your leaks are fixed seal pipes with adhesive.
*We had a leak with the inflow pipe to the grow bed so we used plumbers tape to seal it.
Step 7: CLEAN AND INSTALL GROW MEDIA
- Before installing your grow media, clean it thoroughly.
- You can wash the grow media using buckets with drains and a hose, or you can install the grow media and run water through your system then empty water and keep doing that until the water is clean.
- Install grow media so it is 2-3 inches blow the top of the grow bed.
*We had a problem with our clay pebble grow media because the media was clogging the bell siphon. We put river rock around the media filter along with mesh and kept the media filter from floating by putting a brick on top of it. We also changed out system from an ebb and flow system to a constant flow system to keep the grow media from moving around.
Step 8: INSTALL PLANTS
- Install plants into grow media, we used plastic grow cups, and rock wool to secure the newly growing plants.
Step 9: ADD FISH AND TEST TANK
- Buy fish and add them to your tank, we use blue tilapia.
- Immediately test the water for PH, ammonia, nitrates, and nitrates and make sure those are at proper levels, you should also test dissolved oxygen levels if possible (this is important because if these are too low your fish can suffocate.
*We originally bought and added eight fish to our tank. But, as time passed the anomia level was too high and our fish were getting sick. We learned that for our tank, having three tilapia keep the anomia levels stable.