Learning how to build an aquaponics system at home is not just a fun DIY project, but it’s one of the most beneficial and unique styles of growing.
You’ll combine aquaculture, the practice of raising fish for eventual consumption, with hydroponics, the practice of growing vegetables and other plants without soil.
Aquaponics is one of the most productive forms of agriculture in the world, it is an entirely self-sufficient system that acts like its own miniature ecosystem. It’s incredibly efficient and surprisingly easy to start, too.
If you’re feeling inspired and want to give it a try, this guide will tell you everything you need to know when it comes to learning who to build an aquaponics system at home.
What Is An Aquaponics System?
Aquaponics is a hybrid of aquaculture and hydroponics: raising fish and growing plants in the same soilless set-up.
Aquaponics has become increasingly popular in urban areas particularly, where it’s challenging to grow in a traditional garden.
An aquaponics setup solves the major challenge of raising fish - all the ammonia they produce. Added to this waste is nitrifying bacteria which can convert excess ammonia to usable nitrates for your plants.
To put this into simple terms, an aquaponics system uses the fish feces to fertilize your plants.
This is not just beneficial for your plants, but the fish themselves too. The excess ammonia can be harmful to them, which would otherwise require you to regularly clean the fish tank.
These are an efficient way to regulate nitrogen, balance pH, and fertilize your plants all at once.
Why Would You Want To Build An Aquaponics System?
Why would you want to dedicate the time to building and maintaining an aquaponics system?
It’s suitable for anybody, regardless of skill level or environment. It’s environmentally-friendly and allows you to multitask by producing two kinds of food at once.
And, the system is efficient, requiring virtually no work on your end aside from monitoring growth and fixing any issues that pop up.
Benefits Of Building Your Own Aquaponics System From Home
One of the biggest benefits of an aquaponics set-up is anyone can do it. You don’t need a ton of experience, money, or space.
You can install a home aquarium aquaponics system in any apartment, regardless of the size - and you can adjust the size of your aquaponics system to suit any amount of space you have available.
There is virtually zero waste and since the system is soil-free, it doesn’t deplete soil nutrients over time. Plus, you’ll save water since it’s recycled between your plants and fish.
Once you get your system established, aquaponics is mostly self-sustaining, too, requiring very little work on your part.
While it’s true that aquaponics systems can be expensive, we are going to teach you how to build an aquaponics system cheap - and all from the comfort of your own home.
What Can You Grow In An Aquaponics System?
Before you learn how to build an aquaponics system, you are likely wondering, is aquaponics easy?
It can be - with the proper knowledge. It’s also a great way to make the most of the limited space you have available.
This is because you can grow several types of crops in an aquaponics system. An aquaponics system will produce two types of “crops” for you to harvest - fish and plants.
Choosing Which Fish To Raise In Your Aquaponics System
The most common type of fish that people raise in an aquaponics system is tilapia, since they're well-adapted to an aquaponic environment.
Since they are tropical fish, though, you will need to keep the water between 70 and 90 degrees. This will require you to use a water chiller or a water heater - depending on which direction you need to move the temperature!
You can also raise catfish or yellow perch, both of which are a bit better for colder waters. To decide what kind of fish to raise, consider the layout of your aquaponics system, the water temperature, where you live, and what kind of plans you want to grow.
Besides catfish, perch, and tilapia, other common aquaponics fish include barramundi, angelfish, and koi (though some of these aren’t edible fish and are used primarily for their waste).
Choosing Which Plants To Grow In An Aquaponics System
As for the plants, you’ll find that some plants are easier to grow in this kind of system than others. Leafy greens are some of the easiest crops to grow - think kale, lettuce, basil, spinach, dill, and arugula.
These all respond well to the high levels of nitrogen that can be found in fish water and are easy to grow without having to add additional supplements.
You can also grow fruiting plants like strawberries, tomatoes, raspberries, zucchini, or cucumbers, but you may need to add supplemental nutrients.
How To Build An Aquaponics System Cheap (Step By Step)
Although every aquaponics system will be a bit different, there are a few key components that you will need to include no matter what.
You can always add on and customize your system as needed or depending on your unique goals and circumstances.
What Is Needed To Make A DIY Aquaponics System At Home?
To start, you will need a tank or reservoir. Many people use an aquarium for this, as it is an efficient way to reuse your old tank.
On average, you can support a pound of fish per gallon of water. If you don’t already have an aquarium, you can definitely just use a reservoir.
Start small so you don’t risk overdoing it. You will also need a flood table. This is where your plants will actually reside, and it’s called a “flood table” because you’ll periodically fill the tray with nutrients/water.
Since the main purpose of aquaponics is to use the plants to filter out waste products, you will need a water pump to help circulate water between your plants and fish and to make your self-sustaining system more effective.
You’ll also need hydroponic tubing to send the nutrients/moisture from your reservoir up into the grow tray.
The pump should gather the water that trickles down from the grow beds and return it to the fish tank/reservoir.
Don’t forget the air pump and air stone. These will provide oxygen to your fish and your plants, which is really important.
Actually Growing In An Aquaponics System
Most aquaponics systems will be indoors. You usually cannot grow with aquaponics outdoors, because you need electricity. It’s possible to grow in a greenhouse, but you’ll likely be better off growing indoors.
This means you’ll need a grow light or two, unless you are growing plants that don’t need much light, and you place your system by a window.
More often than not, though, grow lights are another necessity for growing in an aquaponics system.
Start Your Seeds And Add Fingerling Fish To The Reservoir
Once your seedlings have taken root and are large enough to transplant, you should find that the fish are producing enough waste to support them from a nutritional standpoint.
You will need to run the aerator 24/7 to provide oxygen to the fish and your plants. But you can keep the pump on a timer so that it runs for several short periods of time each day.
You need to run it frequently to keep the water clean for the fish but not so often that your plants are constantly flooded. This can lead to issues with root rot, or worse.
Otherwise, maintaining your aquaponics system really just comes down to feeding the fish and then harvesting your crops.
Feed the fish three times per day but only as much as they can eat in about 20 minutes. If you aren’t home to feed at these regular intervals, you can purchase an automatic feeder which will make your life a lot easier.
Final Thoughts On How to Build An Aquaponics System At Home
Aquaponics is a symbiotic growing technique that can be used just about anywhere.
It doesn’t matter how much space you have or how much you want to produce - this method of raising fish and plants is a good way to make the most of what you have available.
Now that you know how to build an aquaponics system cheap, it’s just a matter of deciding how big of a setup you want, and grabbing your supplies.
Eco-friendly, zero-waste, and highly efficient? You’ll be hooked on this grow method in no time.
Pick up all the equipment and components you need by shopping Hydrobuilder’s large inventory of indoor growing and garden supplies. Your plants will be growing swimmingly in no time!