How To Make Your Own Aquaponics System?

Aquaponics is the process of raising fish and plants together in the same environment. The waste produced by the fish provide nutrients to plants, which remove nitrogen from the water. 

This makes aquaponics a very sustainable system because it requires little or no outside inputs. 

The only thing you need is a fish tank with an aquarium pump, some PVC pipes and tubes along with grow media like gravel or sand to hold your plants in place while they’re growing.

How to Build an Aquaponic System – Chop & Flip IBC Build
Plan your aquaponics system, taking into account the size and scope of the system, available resources, and the types of fish and plants you want to grow.
Build your aquaponics system using materials that are safe for both fish and plants.
Establish the nitrogen cycle in your system by adding fish and monitoring the water for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels.
Add plants to your system and monitor their growth and nutrient uptake.
Regularly maintain your system by testing the water chemistry, feeding the fish, and pruning the plants.

Learn More About Aquaponics

Aquaponics is a new way of growing plants using fish waste as nutrients for the plants. It’s also a very efficient system and uses 90% less water than conventional farming, meaning you can grow more plants in less space. 

If you’re interested in learning more about aquaponics and building your own system, keep on reading!

If you’re looking to create your own aquaponics system and need a step-by-step guide, check out our Aquaponics: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide for everything you need to know to get started.

Estimate How Much Space You Need

Now that you understand the basics of aquaponics, it’s time to take a step back and consider how much space you need for your system.

How much space?

If you have a limited amount of space, then your best bet is to keep things simple (and thus less expensive). If you’re interested in growing fish and plants together, but don’t have much space available, my recommendation would be to start with an indoor “aquapod” system. 

These small tanks can hold small amounts of water and they can be placed almost anywhere. 

The main disadvantage is that they don’t produce as much food as larger systems do—but that might not matter if all you’re looking for is something fun or educational at home!

Aquaponics System Space Requirements

Aquaponics System SizeSpace Requirements
Hobby Scale (50-500 gallons)50-200 sq. ft
Community Scale (500-3,000 gallons)200-500 sq. ft
Commercial Scale (3,000-20,000 gallons)500-5,000 sq. ft

Collect Your Materials

Here’s what you will need:

A water tank or barrel.

A fish tank or barrel with a lid that can be opened, and is large enough to hold your fish and plants without overwhelming them with too much extra space.

Rocks or plastic trays with holes in them for the water to go through. The rocks should be big enough not to clog up when the water flows through them, but small enough for the roots of your plants to grow around them easily (about ½ inch square). 

You can also use foam that has been cut into blocks instead of rocks if you want something sturdier that won’t break apart over time.

Plants: The most common choice is lettuce because it grows quickly so it’s easy maintenance; however alfalfa sprouts are also popular as they yield high amounts of protein per square foot planted (upwards of 50 grams/square meter!). 

Other options include basil, spinach and cilantro—but feel free to experiment yourself!

Interested in discovering which vegetables can thrive in an aquaponics system? Our guide on What Vegetables Can Be Grown in Aquaponics? covers the top vegetables and how to care for them!

Clean And Cut Your Ibc Totes

The first thing you’ll need to do is clean and cut your ibc totes. To clean them, use a utility knife to cut up the top of each tote so that it can be laid out flat on your work surface. 

Wash the totes with soap and water, rinse them with clean water and dry them with a towel.

Create The Grow Bed And Plumbing

The grow bed is where the plants will live, and it’s usually at least 1 foot deep to ensure that the roots have enough room to thrive. 

If you’re growing small plants like lettuce or broccoli, however, you can make your grow bed shallow just make sure it’s at least 3 feet wide for maximum efficiency.

Next comes the plumbing: You will need to connect both your fish tank and your pump with tubing so that they can share water. 

The tubes should be long enough so that they reach from one end of the system (the fish tank or sump) to another without any trouble; if they’re too short, you’ll have trouble maintaining circulation throughout all parts of your system when things go wrong such as clogged filters or dead pumps/fans/etcetera

1.Choose a suitable material for the grow bed, such as food-grade plastic or wood.
2.Design the plumbing system to ensure proper water flow between the grow bed and fish tank.
3.Install a bell siphon in the grow bed to allow for automatic draining and filling.
4.Add a layer of gravel to the bottom of the grow bed to act as a filter and provide support for plants.
5.Fill the grow bed with a growing medium, such as expanded clay pebbles or coconut coir.
6.Plant seeds or seedlings in the growing medium and monitor for proper growth.
7.Connect the water pump to the plumbing system and monitor for proper water flow.

Get your aquaponic garden started with our comprehensive guide on How Do I Make an Aquaponic Garden? Requirements. From choosing the right fish to selecting the right plants, we have you covered at every step!”

Pre-Cycle Your System

Before you start your aquaponics system, it’s a good idea to pre-cycle it. This process helps get the bacteria in your system going and ready for action. 

To do this, use water conditioner from a fish tank or even just add some aquarium salt as well as some kelp extract into the water.

Introduce A Fish And Test The Water Regularly

You’ve done it! You’ve built your own aquaponics system and you’re ready to put fish in it. But before you do that, there are a few things that you should check first.

First, test the water using an ammonia test kit. This will tell you if there is any ammonia in the water (usually from dead fish). If there is, then no more fish can be added until it has been removed by adding more bacteria or plants.

Next, use a nitrate test kit to determine if there is enough organic matter in the system for plants to grow well without having excess nutrients like nitrogen (NO3-). 

If not then add some more leaf litter or worm castings.. Finally use pH paper and measure the pH of your water; if it’s too high then add some vinegar until it stabilizes at 6-7 on our scale!

Choose The Plants You Want In Your Garden

Once you have your fish tank, the next step is to choose which plants you want in your aquaponics system. 

This can be tricky because different plants perform better depending on their location and environment, so it’s important to determine what conditions will be like before choosing what type of plant to grow.

The best way to figure out which plants will work best with your system is by asking yourself some questions:

  • What types of food do I like?
  • What kind of soil do I have access to?
  • How much sunlight does my garden get per day?

Are you budgeting for an aquaponics system but unsure about the cost? Our guide on How Much Does an Aquaponics System Cost? Explained provides a detailed breakdown of the expenses you can expect.

Introduce The Plants To Your System

The next step is to introduce the plants to your system. Plant the seeds or seedlings into pots filled with soil that is rich in nutrients, like compost or vermiculite. 

If you’re planting seeds, make sure there are enough of them so that when they germinate, you have a good amount of plants growing in each pot.

Keep the water clean and oxygenated by using an air pump to circulate it through a filter system and into and out of a tank made from fish tanks or PVC pipes (see above). 

You can also add nutrients if necessary; these will encourage healthy growth in both the plants and fish.

Maintain Your System Regularly

It’s important to keep your system clean and in good working order. You’ll want to make sure that the water is flowing correctly, that the plants are healthy and thriving, that the fish are healthy and growing well, there is no algae growing in your system, and that all of your measurements (pH levels) are correct.

You should also check on your system regularly ideally at least once a week. This will ensure everything is running smoothly so you don’t miss any issues until they’re too big to fix!

Check water quality, including pH, ammonia, and nitrite levelsWeekly
Replace 10% of the system water to replenish nutrientsMonthly
Inspect fish for signs of illness or diseaseMonthly
Clean out the fish tank and remove any debrisMonthly
Inspect the grow bed and plumbing system for blockagesMonthly
Prune plants as necessary to remove dead or damaged leavesBi-weekly
Check and adjust water pump and air stone as neededBi-weekly
Monitor temperature and lighting conditionsDaily

Harvest Your Food

Now that you have your system running, it’s time to harvest and eat! The first thing you should do is start harvesting greens like lettuces, radishes and cilantro every day. These items can be eaten raw or cooked for salads or other dishes.

Lettuce is a great vegetable for beginners because it’s easy to grow in large amounts. You can store lettuce in the refrigerator for up to one week without a problem because of its low moisture content (about 90 percent). 

If you’re planning on storing lettuce longer than one week, you need to remove the roots from each head before putting them into the fridge this will keep them fresher longer since they need less oxygen exposure than their leafy counterparts

Curious about the inner workings of an aquaponics system? Check out our guide on What is an Aquaponics System? How Do They Work? to learn about the symbiotic relationship between plants and fish, and how it can be utilized for a sustainable garden


The next time you’re feeling like the world has gone crazy and there’s nothing you can do about it, remember that with a little ingenuity and some recycled materials, you can make your very own aquaponics system. 

You don’t need to look any further than your local hardware store or garden supply store for everything you need. 

You might even find yourself becoming more self-sufficient over time as these systems are much easier to maintain than traditional gardens!

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources related to aquaponics and backyard gardening:

Aquaponics: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide: A comprehensive guide to designing, building, and maintaining an aquaponics system.

How Much Does an Aquaponics System Cost? Explained: An article that breaks down the costs associated with building and maintaining an aquaponics system.

What Vegetables Can Be Grown in Aquaponics?: A list of vegetables that thrive in aquaponic systems and tips for maximizing yield.

How Do You Use Aquaponics at Home? Find Out!: A beginner’s guide to using aquaponics for backyard gardening.

How Do You Grow Vegetables in Aquaponics?: A detailed guide to growing vegetables in an aquaponics system, including plant selection and maintenance tips.

How to Grow with Aquaponics in 5 Simple Steps: A beginner’s guide to aquaponics that explains the basic principles of the system and provides step-by-step instructions for getting started.

Aquaponic Plans: A collection of DIY aquaponic system plans and tutorials, including a variety of different designs and sizes.


What is aquaponics?

Aquaponics is a type of farming that combines aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponics (soilless plant cultivation) in a symbiotic system. The waste products produced by fish are used to fertilize plants, while the plants filter and clean the water for the fish.

What are the benefits of aquaponics?

Aquaponics is a sustainable and efficient method of growing plants and raising fish. It uses less water and fertilizer than traditional farming methods and produces both protein and vegetables in the same system. Additionally, it can be done on a small scale in a backyard or indoor setting.

What types of fish can be used in an aquaponics system?

Some of the most commonly used fish in aquaponics systems include tilapia, catfish, trout, and koi. The type of fish used will depend on factors such as the size of the system and the climate in which it is located.

What types of plants can be grown in an aquaponics system?

Many types of vegetables and herbs can be grown in an aquaponics system, including lettuce, kale, tomatoes, and basil. The types of plants that are best suited to a particular system will depend on factors such as the size of the system, the type of fish being raised, and the climate in which the system is located.

How much does it cost to build an aquaponics system?

The cost of building an aquaponics system can vary widely depending on the size and complexity of the system, as well as the materials used. A small, DIY system can be built for a few hundred dollars, while larger, commercial systems can cost thousands of dollars to set up. Ongoing maintenance costs should also be taken into account.