DIY Aquaponics – How to Build A System

DIY Aquaponics is a class of farming that builds a food production system by combining a system of raising aquatic animals like fish, crayfish, or prawn (aquaculture)  with hydroponics which is growing plants in water. The advantages of aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics creates a symbiotic relationship. The aquatic life in your system builds nutrients in the water that the plants use to thrive and keep the level of nutrients from getting so high that become toxic to the aquatic life.

Building your own DIY aquaponics system can be an easy weekend project depending on the size your want to create. There are companies out there that use old warehouses to enclose aquaponics systems but we’re not going to get into that because it certainly isn’t DIY. We are going to talk about using a fresh water system and anybody with a salt water fish tank can tell you how much more attention they take, and that’s not what we’re about here at the Black Thumb Gardener.


Where are you going to find your aquaponics system? How much food and aquatic life do you want your aquaponics system to produce? Hopefully you’ve thought a bit about what you want from  your system and where it will be located.

Here’s a simple checklist of materials to get your started:

  • Tank for aquatic life-like a fish tank up to a 55 gallon drum. Craigslist’s free section is your friend if you want to keep the cost down.
  • A water pump to move the water from the aquatic tank into the grow bed. If the grow bed will be level with the water tank you will need to pumps to pump the water each way between tanks.
  • Depending on the size pump pick up the right plumbing. Clear vinyl tubing is enough for smaller setups but if you’re in the 55 gallon drum arena you will probably want to use pvc piping which is plant and fish safe.
  • A grow bed, this can be a plastic tote from Walmart of your can build your own very easily with a bit of scrap wood.
  • Hydroponic substrate will be used by the plants to hold onto something so they don’t fall over.


With your supplies in hand now we can begin to set it all up. I suggest doing this in the place that your aquaponics system will live its life because once you build it and add water it will be difficult and risky to move. Depending on what materials you have chosen to use you need to assemble them into a structure similar to this. Don’t worry about being exact there is a lot of range for success and little worry of messing this up. Just take your time assembling your components.



What do you want to eat? Then that is exactly what you should try to grow. You may be suprised how easy it is to grow your favorite herbs. If you’re going to grow something that fruits like peppers or tomatoes you are going to make sure you have enough light, this may mean adding a grow light. I started by adding simple gold-fish and snails to the aquaculture part of my system and used duckweed and algae to build nutrients to feed the fish.

That’s it, experiment and enjoy your aquaponics system.

If you would like to get more information from an expert I suggest checking out Andrew from Easy DIY Aquaponics.

Make sure to let us know how your aquaponics system works out, and if you need any help I suggest looking at our forum!

How to Make Origami Pots in Under 5 Minutes

My wife and I have some big plans this Spring for our vegetable gardening. We are purchasing a new home though so we can plant all vegetables we might have hoped to. Instead we are starting a bunch of seedlings in pots where we currently are and will plant when we move into the new home. This need brought on this latest article about how to make origami pots for seedlings.


I made a video showing you all the steps I took to make these pots which you can watch below. I also created a .pdf diagram that you can download and use as you please, and finally I took some progress pictures so you can follow along. Let me know if you try this in the comments below

How to Make Concrete Planters

Like a lot of people I can get sucked in to Pinterest and end up killing an entire hour. I’ve gotten some good recipes on there and tried some of the crafty projects, some are great and some are complete failures. I’ve been on Pinterest for 2 or 3 years now and I’ve always seen the concrete planters floating around and I finally decided to tackle them. I’m happy to say this project came out just like I expected and was super easy.


  • 80 pound bag of Quickcrete Concrete Mix – $3.80
  • 1 Quart bucket (found in the paint isle at Home Depot) – $1.18
  • 2.5 Quart bucket (found in the paint isle at Home Depot) – $2.18
  • 6 Gallon bucket – not totally necessary but minimized the mess while making these inside – $0 I all ready had one but I think they go for a few dollars


Before I started I needed to do a little math to figure out how much concrete mix and water I would need. I found it easier to work in ounces so I converted all my measurements to them: 80 pound bag of concrete is 1280 ounces, 2.5 Quart container is 80 ounces, and my 1 quart container will be pushed down to the 26 ounce line. I subtracted my 26 ounces from the 80 ounces to figure out home much concrete I would need, 54 ounces of concrete.

To calculate how much water I would need to mix the concrete I looked at the directions on the bag which call for 3/4 Quart of water to an 80 pound bag of concrete. I did this a little backwards but I divided the 54 ounces that I needed to make my concrete planter by the 1280 ounces in the concrete bag to get the percentage of the concrete bag I would be using. The result was 4%, so I figured out the 4 percent of 3/4 Quarts of water which came to 3.84 ounces and I rounded up to 4 ounces.


  1. I started by filling my blue 80 ounce bucket with the concrete mix. I used my 1 Quart bucket to fill up the bucket. Loading it twice with 24 ounces of concrete and then a load of 6 ounces.
  2. With my bucket filled with concrete I created a little depression in the center and added my 4 ounces of water and began to mix the concrete with my hand. If you try this yourself remember to make sure and get all the concrete mix at the bottom turned up and wet down. I ended up adding another 6 ounces of water to create a more water downed slurry. The added water made it easier to mix the concrete. Be careful when adding water though, adding to much can keep your concrete from drying out (I ran in to this problem on the third one I tried).
  3. After the all the cement was mixed thoroughly I took my 1 Quart bucket and began twisting it into the concrete. I shimmied it down far enough that it aligned with the 26 ounce mark.
  4. To help my concrete container set up I turned my oven on its lowest setting, which was 170 degrees and set the concrete container inside the oven for 4-5 hours. When the concrete was dry enough it just has a little shine to the top lip.
  5. Once the concrete container was dried I pulled it from the oven and let the plastic cool down just enough so I could handle it easily. Working the container out of the buckets is easier to do with the plastic still fairly warm. I twisted the interior 1 Quart bucket out first and then flipped the concrete and 80 ounce bucket upside down. With a bathroom towel underneath it I began tapping on the bucket until the concrete container popped out.

That’s really all there is to create your own concrete containers. Now I only spent 7 dollars on this but if I were to use the entire concrete bag for planters I would get 23 concrete containers. That’s a total of 23 cents per concrete container, pretty cost-effective and way more fun then buying them from a garden store.

I’m going to be working on an article about all the possibilities to style and stain these concrete pots so check back later!

How to Choose a Grow Tent Package

Grow tent packages are suitable for those who do not want the fuzz of buying each and every kit necessary to run a grow tent gardening. If you are reading this post then it is most likely that your either an intermediate or advanced grower. In either case the below ideas will guide you in purchasing the best type of grow tent package.


A grow tent package come from 2×4 till 10×20. The size is completely dependent on three main factors:

  • amount of space you can allocate for grow tent
  • the budget you have for purchasing the package. You must be aware that larger grow tents packages cost more.
  • and the type of plant you are growing. If you are growing a weed kind of plant then you need an average size grow tent. However, if you are planning to grow sapling of hundreds in numbers then you do need a large grow tent package.


I know there is ton of grow tent quality. Most of them are sourced from China. They may come cheap but not necessarily of high quality.

If you ask my recommendation I will undoubtedly reply Gorilla grow tents. They are simply the best grow tents available in the market. Of course, they are not cheap but the expensiveness of the grow tent ensures that the tent stays rigid and does not drop on your plants ruining your whole project.

Anyways you are free to choose any type of grow tent. just ensure it is of high quality.


Let me guide you a little over here.

If you are growing a plant which requires heat or warm temperatures then you need to opt for HPS grow lights. They are meant for plants living in tropical conditions.

However, if you are growing plants that d o not require much heat then LED is perfect.

The situation above can defer if you are living in tropical conditions already. In this case you can buy the LED grow lights. Moreover, the LED lights are cheaper on the bills.

That’s it. The above things are all that you need.


You can buy grow tent packages from any reputed seller. Search online and you will find tons of them. However, it is hard to find reviews on them. But we did come over a site which has reviewed 20 grow tent packages. This site  is run by a hobbyist gardener called Sam Wilson. It seems that Sam has taken a great interest in Grow tents and hence his entire site is dedicate to on it. You will find tons of information on which plants grows best in a grow tent, which is the best grow tent packages, what nutrients to use, the growing medium etc.

How to Grow A Vegetable Garden

Starting a vegetable garden is a great way spend some time out doors and save money on your shopping bills. With the right planning your vegetable garden doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Vegetable gardening is wonderful because a couple of dollars of tomato seeds can produce dozens of pounds of tomatoes. There’s not to many things I’d rather do on a warm summer morning than go out and pick a warm piece of fresh produce.


Sense you are starting your first vegetable garden, starting small is probably the best idea. Take the first growing season with your vegetable garden as a learning experience. The tendency for a gardeners first garden is to start to large, but they end up having too much produce if everything goes well or getting overwhelmed and not returning to their garden the following year.

Try and figure out how much the people in your home will eat. Keep in mind that not everything you grow will need to be totally consumed every time you harvest it. Tomatoes, peppers, and squash for example will continually provide crops to harvest throughout the season, while carrots, radishes, and corn will only be harvested once during the season.


With a list of the vegetables you want to plant in your garden you can begin to calculate how much space you are going to need. There are several different options when you are choosing a garden space to raise your vegetables in, the deciding factor is just how much space you need. Growing vegetables in container gardens offers gardeners the ability to only use the exact amount of space you need. If you only want to try to tackle carrots or tomatoes, just having two big container gardens is easier than gardening in the yard. Container gardens offer a great way for gardeners in apartments to grow their own vegetables as well.

If you’re aiming higher with your vegetable garden goals then you’ll probably be moving out into your yard. A garden in your yard is very versatile but making improvements and keeping weeds out can grow into a large time suck.

Raised bed container gardens offer the same versatility as a traditional vegetable garden but cut out lots of the headaches. There is obviously some added cost and time needed to start a raised bed vegetable garden but the time and money it saves you in the long run make them a favorite of many gardeners. I know when I started my first vegetable garden I choose to go with a raised bed because of the terrible soils I was working with. When I built the raised bed vegetable garden I was able to bring in good top soil and mix it in with a mushroom compost that was very rich in nutrients. Because I lined my beds with a weed blocker before I added in the soil I was able to keep my weeds to a bare minimum. I’m also a big fan of raised bed vegetable gardens because of the ergonomics of working in them. There’s only so many hours I can spend on my hands and knees or sitting on one hip with my legs kicked out. A raised garden allows me to bring in a stool and sit much more comfortably or even sit on the lip of the garden.

If you want to check out a good supplier take a look at


It doesn’t matter what style of garden you choose for your vegetable garden there are some basic keys to success to follow:

  1. Sun – In general vegetables are going to need 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. If your vegetable garden can’t supply enough sunlight than your veggies won’t fruit as much and will be more open to disease and insects. If finding enough sunlight is proving to be an issue than container gardening is a good route to go since you can build your garden on a patio or deck if that’s where you need to go for sunlight. (Note: make sure to check the seed packets before buying because some vegetables will prefer part sun.)
  2. Water – Make sure that your garden is with reach of a water supply unless you want to haul watering cans out by hand. The majority of vegetables aren’t drought tolerant and will have dire results if they become water deprived. If it’s possible try to place your garden within hose distance.
  3. Soil – All vegetable gardening results depend on good soil. For optimal performance from your vegetable garden you will want moist, well-drained soil with a rich content of organic matter like peat-moss or compost.

If it’s possible many gardeners will choose to place their vegetable gardens close to their homes. Keeping your garden near by allows you to collect your fresh produce when your going to cook. Many cooks will even keep some container vegetable gardens near the kitchen filled with herbs for cooking.


If you’ve chosen to go down the road of traditional vegetable gardens in your yard or even raised bed vegetable gardens you will need to make a choice between how you want to layout of the spacing for your vegetables.


This is the traditional style that most people think of when they think about vegetable garden layouts. Plants are planted in single rows with enough space for the gardener to walk in between and tend the plants. Row cropping is ideal when you are working with a larger gardens beyond wider than 5 or 6 feet. Row cropping in your vegetable garden will allow you to use tillers to fight against the onslaught of weeds. The flip-side of row cropping is that you have wasted space, the amount of crops you will harvest per square foot is lower with row cropping. As far as visual aesthetics go row cropping is very boring and doesn’t really add to the overall look of your gardens.


If you choose to grow your vegetable garden in a raised bed than this is the style of planting you are likely going to use. With intensive cropping you bunch your plants together at the recommended spacing for each individual plant leaving not extra space to work between. Generally gardens are 1 to 4 feet wide but can vary greatly in length. By minimizing the space between plants your create less space for weeds to take hold. Depending on how comfortable you will be reaching into your garden this will decide on how wide you want to make your garden. As a 6 foot tall man I like to build raised bed gardens that are 4 to 5 feet apart. Make sure not to use all of your gardening space immediately so you have space to grow a second crop later in the season.

Intensive cropping is also a great way to go if you can’t dedicate a whole vegetable garden but want to grow your own crops. If you all ready have landscaped beds in front of your home you can section out small parts of it to grow vegetables right in the midst of your flowering plants.

There’s a niche of intensive cropping called “Square-Foot Gardening.”  This style of gardening uses smaller beds to grow vegetables, generally these are four-foot by four-foot. Within the 16 square foot gardens are subdivisions on 1 square foot that are individually planted with different vegetables


Your soil is a huge part of the success you are capable of achieving and if there is problem you need to address them. Before you even begin planting your vegetable garden you should have all ready started by testing your soil. The first test to conduct is to decide how well or poorly your soil will drain water. You can check the drainage by soaking the soil and waiting til the following day to dig up a handful of soil. Take a lump of soil in your hand and squeeze it, if water oozes out than your soil is holding water to long and you will need to add more organic material like compost or peat-moss. Open your hand with the soil inside and look at it. If the soil is in the same shape it was when you squeezed it, or if it falls apart when you give it a slight tap, your soil has too much sand content. The answer again to this problem is adding more organic material. If you tapped the soil and it stayed together then the clay content is to high and once again turn to organic material to fix the soil. If your lucky enough that poking the soil results in it breaking in to several smaller pieces than you have good soil.

In the case that you have soil that doesn’t drain well and you don’t have the means or desire to amend the soil I suggest growing your vegetables in raised gardens or container gardens so you can bring in a better type of soil.


If your going to use a raised bed garden or a container garden to grow your vegetables than this isn’t applicable to you as your soil will be loose from installing it, but int the following years you may need to follow the following instructions.

You need to loosen the soil, a hoe or potato rake can be used if your going to do it by hand but tillers are a great alternative if you can get your hands on one. When you have all of your soil broken up you will need to mix in any amendments that you need to make (this is when you add your compost or peat-moss). Make sure to work the amendments in thoroughly into the soil to spread the nutrients evenly. After you finish digging your garden soil up you will want to smooth it out with a rake and then water the soil thoroughly letting it sit for a few days before you begin planting.


Once you’ve started to looking into the vegetables you want to grow you will begin to notice that there are tons of varieties of any given vegetable. Personally I love this part of planning my vegetable garden, there are some really funky varieties out there and they spice up your dinner table when you eat them. Make sure not to get to caught up in the fun of picking the varieties an forget to check the specifics of the their growing requirements. Every variety of vegetable can differ in slight ways from the others. Some varieties may produce smaller plants which may be ideal if you limited on space like a container vegetable garden, or they may handle higher heat conditions, or have lower water requirements.

I love looking through seed catalogs in the spring, they are some of the best resources for vegetables. As soon as you can narrow down your selections of vegetables, 2 or 3 of them to grow. Lets say we’re talking about peas, if you grow 3 varieties of peas if one or even two doesn’t perform well you will still have peas to harvest. The following year you can keep they peas that worked and experiment with new varieties of peas as well.

Early spring gardening starts long before the weather warms enough for certain types of vegetables. With the assistance of some light bulbs you can start vegetables early and have crops ready to harvest a couple of weeks earlier in the season. Starting seeds indoor isn’t really that hard, but it does take some attention or time.Check out these indoor grow kits if you are interested in starting seeds indoors.


Until your plants are ready to harvest there will be some upkeep that will be needed throughout the growing process. You will need to keep the soil watered occasionally but you never want to water so much that there is standing water. The standard I go by is an inch of water every week. Whether that inch of water comes from the sky or from your hose, it’s all the same to your vegetables. You can easily check if the soil in your vegetable gardens is enough by inspecting the top inch of soil to see if it is dry and brittle or is moist. Vegetable gardens in the ground will probably need water once a week but raised bed gardens and container gardens drain faster and the soil heats up so will need watering more often.I may be one of only a few people who enjoy weeding, but I always find it to be nice time for relaxing. Weeding is something you will have to do, it’s unavoidable but hopefully you’ve chosen a vegetable garden style that goes along the level of weeding your willing to put up with. If you let weeds establish in your garden they will fight with your vegetables for nutrients and water resulting in smaller crops to harvest. Using a hoe or weeding tool to help turn over (cultivate) the top or your soil consistently to discourage weeds setting in. Adding mulch, straw, or compost on top of your soil can help keep weeds out of your garden around larger vegetable plants.

Adding fertilizers to your vegetable crops will help you grow bigger crops to harvest. If you’re trying to stay organic than adding in fresh compost from your compost bin will provide plenty of nutrients for your vegetables. If for some reason you don’t have a compost bin setup and don’t mind adding in store-bought fertilizers than you definitely do so. You can even buy fertilizer from Amazon that are totally organic. Being careful to not over fertilize your vegetables is important as well as you can burn them out.


Here it is the pay off for all the planning and building and weeding so make sure to savor this moment! Depending on what you’ve chosen to grow you may be able to harvest it in stages. For instance you can cut off lettuce and let the roots continue to grow to be harvested later. Cucumbers and Summer Squash can be harvester as soon as they grow to a few inches long, or you can wait till it gets larger sizes. If you’re in doubt about picking some of your vegetables your generally safe from just a visual inspection and picking your vegetables can produce more vegetables.
Burgess Seed & Plant Co. has all the seeds, bulbs, perennials and ornamentals to make your yard and garden more beautiful.

I’m going to be creating a video diary as I start a raised vegetable garden so come back and check for updates!

How to Grow Spirulina

Spirulina is a super food that anyone who knows the true value of organic food should eat. It is the best source of plant protein as it contains all the amino acids needed by the body. It is a complete protein and has many benefits to offer to the body when taken even in small amounts. A little spirulina a day will leave you fiddle fit. How can you benefit from this crop? You can buy but to reap even more benefits the best option is to grow your own spirulina at home. Wondering how to grow spirulina? We explain to you how you can go about it.


There are some basic equipment that anyone looking to grow spirulina needs to have. The first is the tank or basin whose size will depend on the amount of spirulina you wish to grow. Generally, you can grow a family of four in an average fish tank. The harvest is usually 10-12 g dry spirulina per square meter.

The culture medium on which the spirulina will grow is also needed. This is the water and food that the spirulina will feed off. You can buy the food premixed or mix sodium bicarbonate, ammonium phosphate, potassium nitrate and sea salt. The prior is the better option though. You will also need spirulina seeds to get started. You will also need ph strips to monitor the ph of the water from time to time, an air line or bubble wand for aeration and a heater and thermometer for the temperatures. For harvesting you will need a food grade harvesting tube and a harvesting cloth.


Spirulina undergoes photosynthesis and will therefore require light. So, place the tank in a place that has adequate lighting. This could be near a window inside the house or anywhere outdoors. Place the bubble wand along the wall of the tank and place the suction cup (part of the harvesting tube) to the tank’s wall. Mix 2.5 gallons of non-chlorinated water with one cup of the food’ mixture. Set the heater to 90 degrees F which is the optimal temperature for growth of spirulina. To make the water alkaline, add 16grams of sodium carbonate per liter. You can now add the spirulina and watch it grow. Mark the initial water level and keep adding water to replace what evaporates so the level is maintained. Be sure to cover the tank with a plastic or glass cover to reduce evaporation, contamination and preserve heat. To avoid iron deficiency issues, add chelated iron. The spirulina is now ready to grow. Leave it and it will begin populating within no time.

Within a month, you will see an increase in the spirulina population. You can now add more spirulina and water into the tank. Remember to keep adding the nutrients often.


You know it is time to harvest spirulina when there is a lot of it and the pH is 10 or above. This way you can be sure that what you get is safe for consumption with no contamination.

To harvest, open the valve leading to the harvesting tube and connect a harvesting cloth to the end of the tube. This cloth will catch the spirulina while the clear medium flows back to the tank. Only harvest a third of the spirulina so you can leave the rest populating fast. This way you will be able to harvest often.

If you are looking to buy Spirulina purchase in bulk from Spirulina exporters in India. This spirulina exporters sell spirulina in powder, tablet and capsule form. Choose any form of your liking and place a bulk order to get at an affordable cost.