The Betta Garden - 5 Gallon Aquaponics System




Introduction: The Betta Garden - 5 Gallon Aquaponics System

The Betta Garden 5 Gallon Aquaponics System
Super Clean, Crystal Clear Water!

Made for a single female or male Betta. Using the New Betta Garden Syphon you can expect:

  • 432 Flood and Drain Cycles per day!
  • No Ammonia
  • No Nitrites
  • No Nitrates
  • No Water Changes

The system takes care of itself and your Betta!

The heater & water pump are mounted outside of the fish tank and inside the lower sump tank for added safety and more swimming room. This configuration also lowers the noise level for your fish.

Just add about 1 cup of water per day depending on how thirsty the plants are!

Step 1: Parts List

Some of these parts could probably be substituted with items you already have. An air stone is optional in the sump tank to help out the front grow cup plants, but it's not really needed.

Just about any fish tank size from 1 gallon on up could work for a Betta Garden. I started out with a 1 gallon tank to see how a single Betta would like it. After about 4 months now, everything is still running great and the Betta is happy! I'm working on the 2.5 gallon tank version, then on to the 5 gallon tank. The fish tank needs to be made of plastic so a hole can be drilled on the side, about 1/2 from the top of the tank, unless you can drill through glass.

This is the best one gallon tank setup for a single fish due to its massive filtration system and by having the maximum swimming space utilized!

Main parts:

  1. 8.1 liter Sump Tank - bottom blue container (Office Depot)
  2. Black or Red Serving Tray (sitting on the sump tank) 13.5" x 2" x 19" (Target)
  3. 1 Gallon Aqua Scene fish tank (Pet Smart)
  4. Two "umbra" waste baskets from Target (the back two 2 gallon grow beds)
  5. 70-GPH fountain pump (Home Depot)
  6. 1/2" outer diameter clear tubing (a few inches long)
  7. 1/2" cpvc pipe (about 2 feet long)
  8. Several misc cpvc and pvc adapters
  9. 25 watt water heater
  10. Fluval Edge foam filter (Pet Smart)
  11. Two 2" net cups (optional additional 3" net cup)
  12. White pvc cap - 4" x 2" to raise the 1 gallon tank (Home Depot)
  13. 1/2" pvc - aprox 7" long (Fish Tank Output)
  14. 1/2" 90 degree water tight connector (Fish Tank Output)
  15. 1/2" threaded pvc coupler (Fish Tank Output)
  16. Four foliage plants & a few lucky bamboo plants (Home Depot)
  17. 15 liters hydrocorne or other clay rocks - must be rinsed completely before using!
  18. 1 bag of black river rocks from Dollar Tree SKU#:878529 or equivalent
  19. One Betta

Some of the other parts in the picture (5 front mini plants & clay rocks in the bottom tray) are optional and will be part of another instructable.

Step 2: Drill 4 Holes in the Base. Put in the Pump & Heater

NOTE: Drilling holes in this type of plastic can sometimes be a challenge. If you start out with a drill bit that's too big, the plastic will crack every time. Before using either the 2-1/8 inch or 1-1/4 inch hole bits mentioned below, gradually work your way up to the pilot hole bit size from smaller drill bits. Practice on spare plastic pieces if possible.

Drill 4 holes in the black or red tray base. Print out the "BG_Template file" on 11" x 17" paper for exact hole placement. For the three bigger holes use a 2-1/8” bit. Home Depot Model # 49-56-9626. For the smaller hole use a 1-¼” bit Model # 49-56-9613.

The two corner 2-1/8” holes are for 2” grow cups. The smaller hole is for the syphon tube. The back centered 2-1/8" hole is for the cords and pump plumbing.

Put the 70 GPH pump into the back of the sump tank. Run the power cord up and out of the back center hole of the tray. Put the heater in the sump tank and put its power cord through the same back hole.

OPTIONAL: You can also drill 3 holes for net cups if you want. Some of the following pictures have three net cup holes. This allows for an additional plant in front of the fish tank.

Step 3: Install Pump Plumbing

Watch this video for the complete pump plumbing construction steps. The cpvc faucet from Home Depot is Model # 102-223HN for $4.35, not $3.00 as mentioned in the video. The red 1/2 cpvc piece is 13.5 inches long:

The filter on the end is a Fluval Edge pre-filter sponge from Pet Smart (A1387).

The reason I put a cpvc coupler near the end is to help keep the filter on. It makes the end part thicker in the middle.

Use the small adapter that comes with the pump, look at the pump instructions and set it to full speed.

Step 4: Drill Three 7/8 Inch Holes in the Grow Beds, Attach More Plumbing

Note: To get the exact hole size needed and without damaging the grow beds, use Home Depot Model # DSB1011 or equivalent drill bit. After the initial tip of the bit has entered the grow bed, take over and twist the drill bit by hand slowly until the hole is complete.

Drill two holes into the first "umbra wast basket" grow bed. These will be 7/8" holes. The first hole is 6" up from the bottom of the grow bed. This hole is for the water output tube (as seen in the pictures) or the optional Syphon. The second hole is 1" up from the bottom of the grow bed.

The ANGLE of the two 7/8" holes just drilled in the first grow bed are about 120 degrees apart if you look at it from the top view. See the "Exact Angle" picture.

The third 7/8" hole will be drilled in grow bed #2 an inch up from the bottom.

The Betta Garden can run with or without the unique syphon.

NON-SYPHON Configuration:

Just look at the pictures and attach the cpvc parts for the non-syphon configuration. Here are more details with Home Depot model numbers:

  • This part goes on the inside of the buckets top hole: 1/2 in. CPVC CTS Slip x FPT Female Adapter Model # C4703
  • This part goes on the outside of the buckets top hole: 1/2 in. CPVC CTS Slip x MPT Male Adapter Model # C4704
  • This part connects the bucket together with the 6.5" cpvc tube running into the sump tank: 1/2 in. CPVC 90 Degree S x SPG Elbow Model # 52905
  • Sump tank cpvc piece: 6.5 in. of the 1/2 in. x 10 ft. CPVC SDR11 Flowguard Gold Pipe Model # CTS 12005 0600
  • Put 1 of these each side of every hole in the bucket: #15 O-Rings (10-Pack) Model # 780005

The two bottom holes connect the two grow beds together so the water level remains the same in both grow beds.

Parts needed to connect the two grow beds:

  1. Two x 1/2" pvc end caps with lots of 1/8" holes drilled into them
  2. Two x 1/2" pvc tubes (about 2 inchs long)
  3. Two x 1/2" water tight connectors, Home Depot Model # 27621
  4. Two x 1/2" cpvc adapters Model # C4703
  5. One x 45 degree cpvc coupler Model # C4706
  6. Two x 1" cpvc straight pipe pieces
  7. Four x #15 O-Rings (10-Pack) Model # 780005 [a washer on each side of each grow bed hole]

Step 5: Optional Syphon Configuration

Syphon Configuration

The unique Betta Garden Syphon consists of 20 parts and various size air tubes inside those parts, plus has enough steps & information for a completely separate instructable. You can get a Syphon kit here or use the non-syphon method.

NOTE: Without a syphon the water is continuously being rotated throughout the system as illustrated in the picture [Green Arrows = Clean Water / Brown Arrows = Dirty Water]. There are no flood and drain cycles and there will be "dead spots" in the grow beds causing nitrate levels to rise.

Water changes will be needed without the syphon and frequent water tests should be done.

How the system cleans the water:

Fish tank waste containing Ammonia flows into Grow Bed 1 as the first bio-filtration stage. Water from Grow Bed 1 flows into Grow Bed 2 as the second bio-filtration stage. Bacteria in the Grow Beds convert the fish waste to nitrates which are used as plant fertilizer. The plants consume the nitrates and return clean water back to the sump tank. Grow Cups 1 & 2 have plants consuming any nitrates directly from the sump tank. The sump tank is pumping super clean water into the fish tank 24/7.

Step 6: Adding the Fish Tank, Plants and Water

In order to use the 1 Gallon Aqua Scene fish tank we need to drill two holes and add the water outlet tube using these parts:

  • 1/2" pvc - apron 4.5" long
  • 1/2" 90 degree water tight connector
  • 1/2" threaded pvc coupler

Finish putting it together:

  • Set the fish tank on the 4" x 2" pvc cap. The water output tube should now be over the right grow bed.
  • Insert two 10" or bigger foliage plants (after rinsing off all the soil) and a few Lucky Bamboo plants in the back two grow beds (roots starting 2" down from the tops of grow beds) and fill the grow beds to about 1" from the top with COMPLETELY RINSED clay pebbles.
  • Place a layer of black river rocks from Dollar Tree SKU#:878529 on top of the clay pebbles. This is needed at first due to some of the clay pebbles wanting to float. After time you can remove the black rocks, but they look pretty good and you can leave them in place.
  • Insert two foliage plants into two grow cups, add rinsed clay rocks and place them in the front 2-1/8" holes.

Now place rocks or marbles or whatever you like in the bottom of the tank and start filling everything up with water!

Fill the sump tank with 2 gallons of water. Fill the fish tank with one gallon of water. Fill each grow bed with about a gallon of water. Plug in the pump!

I suggest using Bottled Spring water for more healthier fish.

Why Bottled Spring Water?

Dissolved copper, lead, iron or zinc may be present in your tap water and can be deadly to fish. Dissolved metals are caused by the inside of pipelines leaching into the water over time. Chlorine and fluoride are also in tap water and bad for fish. Letting regular tap water sit out for 24 hours will remove chlorine, however most water supply companies nationwide are switching to chloramine instead of chlorine. Letting tap water sit out won't help remove chloramine, fluoride or the unwanted metals. There are available products that will remove dissolved metals but they are chemicals too, and could possibly be harmful to your fish. Some products have a chemical that will burn or irritate the fish to help their "slime coat" form. Bettas are tough fish and can handle tap water, but that doesn't mean they feel good about it!

For large aquariums due to the cost, you don't have a choice but to use tap water and some type of water conditioner with expensive water filters.

With The Betta Garden, it's only $5 to get the whole system going with Bottled Spring Water!

It's also recommended to add National Geographic Water Maintenance Tablets occasionally.

Step 7: Water Level & Quick Clean Water Test

Keep checking the roots on those front two plants. If they are white like in the picture, the water is clean and healthy for your Betta!

The picture also shows the sump tank at Half Full. The Minimum Water Level is when the water starts to drop below the top of the pump. The Maximum level is when the water hits the upper line on the sump tank.

  • Plants are installed before the Betta is added.
  • There's never a period in the system without grown plants.
  • If you started with seeds, nitrogen levels would constantly change making water testing constant.

With the Betta Garden, the number one priority is your pet Bettas health and easy maintenance for you.

Zero nitrates 100% of the time is the goal.

Step 8: Add Your New Betta

After the system has been running for a day or two with just plants, go get your fish!

Keep the fish in its tiny little store container at first. Put the whole container into the Betta Garden Tank and let it float for about 25 minutes to let the water temperature equal out. During this time keep taking out a little bit of water from the store container through that top hole and put Betta Garden's water back in the store container. A turkey baster is helpful for doing this.

After 25 minutes slowly tip the cup and let the fish easily slide into its new home!

Here are the first few months of a new Betta Garden Betta:

Notice how little water current there is while having the system's flood and drain cycle happen 432 times a day!

Side note: If you choose a female Betta and she is like the one in the video, she will have eggs about every 3-4 weeks. My Betta seems to have an egg feast and later regrets eating so much. If you notice your fish eating eggs, do not feed her for a day. If you are feeding your Betta pellets she or he should only have about 6-10 pellets a day split into two feedings (depending on fish size). I recommend Hikari Betta Bio-Gold pellets. There should never be any leftover fish food after feeding time (pellets/flakes/blood worms, etc). Use a small syringe like the Briggs 650-4004-0121 Bulb Syringe (2 Ounce size) to clean up any left over food that's floating. This syringe is also good to suck up any oil on top of the water that is caused by fish food. Use the turkey baster to pick up the food that sinks!

Step 9: The End

Thanks for checking out The Betta Garden!

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    6 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Mini Aquaponics!! I love it and Im building one.. I'll vote for you!


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Great, thanks for the vote!! I would like to see it when your done!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    This looks like a great system. Very nicely done!