Simple Aquaponics System Flood and Drain




The idea of growing plants without watering - fertilizing soil, instead using fish as a natural fertilizing source absolutely fascinated me.
Therefore I created my own flood and drain aquaponics version.

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Step 1: Step 1.

The central idea was to use simple materials in order to create an affordable -low-cost hydroponic system. My initial thought was this.

Having an old small (children’s furniture) table i constructed a wooden box in order to serve as the grow bed of my project. I lined it with geotextile, using spray glue a adhered it to cover all pointy edges of the metal corners.

Step 2: Step 2.

I then laid the pond liner creating an insulated container. I nailed the overlapping liner material on the outer rim of the box.

Step 3: Step 3.

At the base I made a hole with a hole saw aligned with the box underneath it. Diameter of the hole must be exactly the same as the pipe fittings diameter. After fitting the pipe in the opening apply silicone all over the connection waterproofing the connections on both sites.

Step 4: Step 4.

I fitted a larger piece of pipe to create a funnel for the siphon, which is critical for the correct function of the auto syphon. I glued three small pieces of PVC wedges on the outer walls of the pipe to provide even flow of the water inside the tubes.

Step 5: Step 5.

I then cut openings of 2cm height of the longer pipe cover to provide free circulation of water. It is important for the openings to be exactly 2 cm high in order  to sustain a water level of 2 cm at the bottom of the grow bed which is important for the health of the system.

Step 6: Step 6.

A wider diameter pipe is used to cover the syphon system, prepare the pipe by making holes all around the pipe creating a filter allowing the water to pass but blocking clay pebbles going in the syphoning system. The level of holes must reach the height of the inner syphon pipe.

Cut and feet a circular disc of scrap plastic at the base of the pipe bolt fitting it exactly leaving a sufficient border for the external filter pipe to be glued on it. Glue with PVC glue the filter pipe on the circular disc make sure you leave a sufficient border on the outer side of the pipe so clay pebbles can seat on it and keep it in place.

Step 7: Step 7.

For a water tank I used a plastic box- container (Samla ikea, the bigger the better) which I covered with multiple layers of plastic paint to prolong its life from sun polymerization.

On the table surface I made a hole aligned with the box (grow bed) above and the water tank below.

Step 8: Step 9.

Everything was placed according to plan.
First water test was made. Adjustments were made for of the syphoning system.
When everything was working properly the clay pebbles were placed.

Step 9: Step 10(optional).

I secured a nylon sheet by sewing it on a piece of wire fence creating a perimeter dome used as a greenhouse-cover for the grow bed.

Step 10:

I used a small aquarium pump to transfer water from the tank below back to the grow bed.
The water circulation must be approximately every 15 minutes, the pump should be adequate according to the litters of water your grow bed can hold.

Add fish of your choice after a month’s proper function. =)

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    24 Discussions


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Hmm all of them? :-) As a newby I would like to try the project, but I'm a bit lost. Guess I can also use google to find the answers. Thanks again for sharing!


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Yes of course ^_^

    the black threaded tube (step 3) is 1 inch,

    the white tube that connects to it (step 4) is as well 1 inch,

    the white funnel connected on the white tube increasing the size of it is 2

    the tube with the tube cup glued on it (step 5) has a diameter of 7 inches.

    and last but not list the tube used as a filter (step 5) the one with many many
    holes on it has a diameter of 9.5 inches.

    ...but for every system the tubes size may vary larger or smaller tubes will be
    needed to get the job done ^_^


    5 years ago on Introduction

    umm. I'm a lil bit asthonished about this huge project cos did you ever hear about wool cords using osmosis? It's pretty easy: you make the wool all wet, then put one end into the soil and the other one into the water of the tank. If you put sum low level in the tank (just enough to ensure the water.connection tank-wool-growpot), you can fill up the growpot with water. After sum hours the water has gone to the tank except of the amount needed to keep the soil wet. After planting the system works the other way and the water flows from the tank to the constant wet growpot and further to the plants This way the exact amount of the water processed by photosynthesis flows back from the tank. I dunno if this works with clay pebbles, but maybe give it a try).

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Unfortunately I don’t use soil the point of this project is
    to slowly flood the grow bed and then rapidly drain it so air can be sucked through
    the clay pebbles. It’s a totally different technique, but using wool cords as a
    water supplier sound very interesting ^_^


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I haven’t
    run into any problems so far.^_^

    The flood and drain cycles are stable and the auto syphon and the breaking of
    it is fairly rapid.


    5 years ago on Step 10

    Nice write-up. Do you have approximate capacity of the fish tank, and the grow beds? I'm wondering how low the water gets in the fish tank during the flood-n-drain cycle.

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    fish tank is 78x56x43 cm and has the capacity of 130 Liters.

    And the grow bed is 55/35/85 cm and has the capacity of 160 Liters.

    But if you consider the clay pebbles in the grow bed the capacity is decreased
    to around 50 liters so enough water remains in the fish tank. ^_^


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    used the Geotextile to cover - smooth out any rough and pointy edges from the screws
    and metal corners that could damage the Liner.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Great instructable. Well laid out, detailed, easy to follow. Lots of helpful photos. Nice work. I plan on utilizing many of your methods in a similar setup for a completely different purpose.

    Question though... this instructable has 10 very detailed and seemingly labor-intensive steps. How much time did this take you to assemble? I'm just wondering about how "simple" this actually is.

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for your comment I’m glad that my project was useful.

    If you have the required material it took me about 2-3 days to assembly.


    5 years ago

    A trick to use when running pvc through epdm liner is to undersize the hole in the epdm, push the pvc through. Then use a stainless steel hose clamp on the epdm that pushes to the inside of the container around the pvc. You can use a ring of epdm over the flange to cushion the force from the clamp, and make another ring to stretch over the clamp so its not easy to cut yourself on the sharp edges. Doing it this way you wont even need silicone to seal the hole. When i do need to use a sealant, i prefer Plumbers Goop. Better than silicone for a lot of things. Nice project!

    1 reply