Aquaponics has been derived from the words aquaculture and hydroponics. Aquaculture is the process of raising fish and other aquatic animals, while hydroponics is growing plants in water. Aquaponics combines the two methods by feeding the aquatic animals’ discharge to the plants to grow them. Further on, the plants clean the water, which is again transferred to the aquatic animals.
This out-of-the-box food production system helps in bio-integrating water, aquatic life, bacteria, nutrient dynamics, and plants, taking lessons from nature. The waste by-product from the fish is used as a food source for bacteria, which is then transformed into a perfect fertilizer for the plants-eventually allowing the water to be returned to the fish in a clean and safe state.
In every aquatic environment, mother nature does the same thing.
If you are fond of growing fish and plants, and the concept of aquaponics has sparked your fascination, we have some good news. 19 distinct DIY aquaponics plans, all for you!
1. Urban Bathtub Aquaponics System
Built from an old bathtub, this upcycled aquaponic system combines economics and funkiness. This system, unlike most others which look bulky, will compliment your garden landscape in the most graceful manner possible.
A fishpond, a grow-bed fashioned from a bathtub, several tubes linking the two, and a tiny pump make up this aquaponics system. It is a simple flood-and-drain system, wherein water from the fish pond gently drains into the grow-bed.
The water is pulled out of the grow-bed when it is inundated with nutrient-rich pond water through a tube that generates a vacuum. Consequently, the water is transferred back into the fishpond. This entire process enables the vegetables’ roots to breathe while keeping the pond water clean.
2. Indoor Aquaponic System
This indoor DIY aquaponics system is built entirely using commonly available components from IKEA and your local hardware store. The grow-bed is made using a plastic container, supported by write baskets.
Even the water pump system of this plan is as simple as it gets. A pump attached to the corner of the fish tank takes water up to the grow-bed. Following this, the water exits from another corner of the grow-bed after flowing through it. Additionally, the bypass pipe in this system allows you to control the amount of water going into the grow-bed.
3. Tabletop DIY Aquaponics System
This budget-friendly plan will allow all passionate DIYers to make an aquaponics system without breaking their bank. Made within $50, this system is ideal for placing on smaller areas, like a table.
In this aquaponics system, the fish live in a 10-gallon aquarium, which is surrounded by a hydroponic plant bed made of a basic matching PVC pipe with end caps.
It makes a terrific first effort at aquaponics because it is so simple, cheap, and accessible.
Readers will benefit from noting that smaller tanks are prone to chemical instability, putting fish and plants at risk. Therefore, it is best to test your system before adding too many fishes as the initial lot might die because of ammonia toxicity.
4. Glass Jar Aquaponics System
Growing herbs is never a bad choice, and this tiny glass jar aquaponics system proves it.
This system functions on one small betta fish in a mason jar. It can support the growth of a simple kitchen herb like basil (check out what herbs can be grown together) and requires some basic materials like:
- Glass jar
- Net pot
- Growing medium
- Betta fish
- A plant
- Aquarium water conditioner
The only downside to this plan is the need to clean out the mason jar regularly because of algae build-up on plant roots.
5. DIY Aquaponics System From Repurposed Material
This 200 gallons aquaponics system is built using re-purposed wood, a cheap pond kit, PVC, and lava rocks. The project’s centerpiece is a set of modified wooden raised beds that have been altered, enlarged, and coated with pond liners to store water.
Since landscape timber has been used in this project, it is extra rigid and less prone to bending. There are goldfish in the 200-gallon fish tank. Water is pushed from the tank into the main plant bed (also made of wood and lined with pond liner), as well as the strawberry towers, via the all-around piping arrangement.
An important tip is to cycle the system before using it. The most common way to do it is by adding seaweed extract to build up the needed bacteria in the system.
6. Vertical Aquaponic System
This aquaponics system contains 6 square feet of growing space, 10 gallons of fish water, and a footprint of only 2 square feet. The main materials used to build this DIY aquaponics system are a 10-gallon aquarium and a utility shelf.
For people wanting something bigger, this plan is easily scalable. You can place two systems side-by-side, thus doubling up on space.
Finish up building the system by adding bubble stone, gravel, and an air pump to the aquarium. You can even add a 50W aquarium heater for your fishes to thrive.
7. Inexpensive Aquaponic System
This inexpensive DIY system only takes up a small amount of outside space. It is supported by cinder blocks and held steady by a few pieces of wood.
You can plant your herbs or leafy greens in a tray with grow media. To store the water and fish, place a stock tank under the tray. If you’re on a tight budget, this design idea is ideal for you. It allows you to have a variety of options on how to build your aquaponics system. Some concepts will work for both large and small spaces.
Furthermore, there is a wide range of options that should fit almost any budget. If you want to become more self-sufficient and grow your food, this aquaponics system could be the answer.
8. Balcony Garden Aquaponics
Unlike most DIY aquaponics, this one does not use a bell siphon. Instead, an electronic valve that allows for gravity feed pressures controls the water flow in the grow-bed.
Total control over bed water cycles can be scheduled, while also allowing for a wide range of plant material to be accommodated.
Using a valve like this offers DIYers the tool they need to create completely automated systems that aren’t achievable in other aquaponic gardens at a low price. The idea behind this system is to have a small carbon footprint that is controllable using an Arduino.
Given in three forms: basic, local, and IoT (Internet of Things), this plan can be adapted to the needs of all DIYers.
9. Gravity-Based PVC Aquaponic System
Built with a PVC and two fish tanks, this plan has a video and step-by-step tutorial. It teaches you how to make an aquaponics system for places with short summers and longer winters.
This plan has fourteen spots for plants on each system and can be set up anywhere. The PVC pipe has holes drilled in them which hold cups with the plants. Furthermore, there are holes in the cup through which the water is drained into the pipes. It is also the holes in the cups through which water flows up, providing nutrients to the plants.
This greenhouse aquaponic system (consider planting greenhouse seeds for better results) will allow you to extend your garden season while minimizing electricity usage.
10. Basic DIY Aquaponics System
This flood and drain DIY aquaponics system with a media-filled grow-bed is a straightforward and cost-effective method. Incorporated with photos, plans, and PDFs, it builds a clean system to have in a backyard or inside your house.
The grow-bed is made using a 50 gallon Rubbermaid stock tank, while a 100 gallon Rubbermaid stock tank is used for making the fish tank.
The most important step of an aquaponics system includes supplying nutrient-rich water from the fish tank to the grow-bed. This system makes use of a submersible aquarium water pump to complete that purpose.
The grow-bed is media-filled with hydroton (clay pebbles), but you can even opt for lava rocks. However, hydroton is preferred because it is lightweight and has good water retention properties.
Bonus Read: Learn more about hydroponics here.
11. Homemade Hydroponics System
This hydroponic system is built using six growing tubes of 6” PVC pipe, a stand, and trellis made of PVC, a 50-gallon nutrient tank, pump, and manifold.
The tank of this system is situated under the table of 6” PVC growing tubes while the pump sits inside the tank, pushing nutrients up the plant using a manifold of smaller PVC pipes and plastic tubes. These growing tubes have a drainpipe leading back to the tank.
Plants get their nutrients through water that is pushed through a square of PVC. Further, shot out to smaller plastic tubes running inside each larger growing tube. There are very small holes on the nutrient tube, next to where each plant is.
The nutrient is shot out of those smaller holes and sprayed onto the plants. Lastly, the jet of water even makes air bubbles allowing plants to get enough oxygen.
12. Pond Aquaponics System
Unlike other aquaponic systems which have used aquariums and fish tanks, this system is built by lining a hole with a pool liner. Some planks were placed to go across the hole, and that is where the plants were placed.
An important tip mentioned in this plan is to have a balance between the number of plants and fishes. If there are lesser plants, you could lose a fish, but if there are lesser fish your plants could start turning yellow.
While this system will produce enough plants to feed yourself and your family, they won’t be enough to sell. To grow a larger quantity, you will have to heat water over the winter to promote growth.
13. Indoor Aquaponic System
An indoor DIY aquaponics system might be difficult to find, but not impossible. You can build a creative indoor aquaponics system that will fit in as a part of your room decoration.
This is another plan made using IKEA material. The fishbed is made using a 50-liter container, while the grow-bed is a 25-liter container at the top.
As for material to hold plants in the grow-bed, you can use leca. It is a cheap material that supports the needed bacteria to break down nitrates from fish waste. Even better, this light and absorbent material can hold water without collapsing the shelf.
14. 55 Gallon Simple Aquaponics System
This 55-gallon system can have a small number of fishes and two grow beds deep enough to get a decent bacteria colony. By growing a mixture of deep root and shallow root, you can have about 30-40 plants in this system.
The best part about this system is that it has no valves or solid filters. There is just one pump listed as a part of it. Moreover, allowing constant flow, not only does it eliminates the cost of a siphon but reduces stress on your fish too.
The goal of this plan is to get a basic, fool-proof, inexpensive system that is good for beginners and requires minimal maintenance.
15. 500 Gallons DIY Aquaponics System
This system has some unique features like:
- Solar water heater
- Bypass valves
- Backpressure valve
- Sump pump on afloat
- Sump pump aerator
- Gravity-fed drain
- Backup aerator
Since this system has many unique features, it would cost around $2500. Thus it is more expensive than all plans mentioned on this page. However, it might be worth the cost for most people as it would cut down the electricity bill by $100 for each month.
All DIYers wanting to take up a challenge and willing to spend a generous amount of money should consider this plan!
16. Bamboo Aquaponics Design
Although there is no proper tutorial for this specific plan, you can take inspiration from the magnificent design. It will look good placed anywhere and barely requires any material.
This plan is similar to plan 4, and thus you can even follow instructions from there to build it for you. The basic idea behind the plan is to place the herbs in a net container over the fishbowl and filter the fishbowl water.
17. Desktop Aquaponics System
This system emulates the ebb and flow process of nature in the form of an aquaponics system. Fishes are placed in a tote below a desk, and these fishes pump up ammonia to the desktop. The desktop holds the plants and is therefore called the grow bed.
It is a good model to grow fruits and vegetables healthily for self-consumption.
18. Barrel Aquaponics System
A lot more can be done with 2 barrels, 3-4 hours, a couple of power tools, and a few fittings than you would anticipate.
The steps involve placing half of one barrel on the other and running a tube through both of them. The tube can be used to transfer water to and from the grow-bed. Wherein the grow-bed is the upper half of the barrel.
This pictorial tutorial is sure to help you complete a DIY aquaponics plan within no time.
19. Small Aquaponics System
Besides helping us build a small aquaponics system, this plan shares some valuable lessons with us like:
- It is better to have a bigger system than a small one
- A hydroponic growing medium like Hydroton will work the best
- Starting with goldfishes is a good option
This system takes $40 to build and has a total build time of one and a half hours.
Taking up a DIY aquaponics project is rewarding in terms of enhancing your DIYing skills and helping you grow healthier plants. Whether you decide to go with a smaller one with lesser investment or all in with a larger one, we have many plans for you.
Grab your tools as you get ready to build this self-sustaining project for your home.