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!

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I'm no master gardener, but I'm always trying to learn new things. I'm always trying new gardening projects and I love to share them with our readers. I'm a landscaper designer by trade, but enjoy farmers markets and spending time with my family on the weekends.