DIY Aquaponics: Basic System Design 101

Are you ready to start raising fish and veggies together, but stuck on the design stage? This vlog post is for you! Here are the most basic system components of a DIY Aquaponics garden:

1) Fish tank and grow beds

Herein lies the beauty of aquaponics. The main two parts of the system — the fish tanks and grow beds — can be made of essentially ANYTHING that holds water and is food safe.

aquaponics swiss chard

We bought a 35 gallon preformed pond liner from the local hardware store and found some unused gutters along the roadside awaiting the dump truck. Get creative and use what’s locally available to you!

2) Position grow beds over fish pond

You can follow our zigzag A-frame design, or a different one you find online, or get inspired and create a new design of your own! Just make sure the plants are above the water so you can take advantage of gravity…

3) Pump water up from fish to plants

We use a mid-size aquarium pump and 1/2” vinyl tubing and 1/2” connectors. You can use any type of water pump and tubing. But try to use the smallest pump possible to do the job to minimize power usage. When it comes to tubing, bigger is probably better to prevent clogging which I do encounter being an outside system and all…

4) Pump oxygen into the water

Constantly pump oxygen into the system with an air pump. We use this two-prong relatively quiet air pump and air stone cylinders.

As I have noted elsewhere, the function of #2 and #3 (moving air and water thru the system) can be done more efficiently and effectively using a single air pump and one-way valve creating an “air lift” pump. I’m building an airlift pump soon, so stay tuned by subscribing (top right corner)!

5) Plug in and power up

Here you can use solar or connect to the grid. Our system runs us a grand total of about $5 per month in electricity from Hawaiian Electric Co.

If your system is outdoors, consider making an easy DIY waterproof electrical box like I did to house everything — surge protector, outlet timer, and your air pump.

6) Plant seeds & add fish 

Plant seeds for low-nutrient needed plants first like basil, lettuce, swiss chard, right away. Then gradually plant more seeds overtime. Add one or two fish after 24 hours of fully cycling, then add more after another week if those are still living! =)

7) Supplements

As you know, fish make most of the nutrients plants will need. To jumpstart and super-charge the system’s natural cycling process, add Maxicrop plus Iron, Kelp liquid plant food, and boiled eggshells (for calcium). And make sure to feed your fish organic food ~ or else risk adding GMOs and herbicides to your precious system!

Happy disruptive farming! 

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