5 easy DIY aquaponics systems

The popularity of aquaponics farming and gardening is rising steadily, and now, even farmers with a small amount of space are utilizing what they have to build their own DIY aquaponics systems.

Although this may sound very complicated, it is actually quite easy to put together on your own.

There are five different styles of DIY aquaponics systems that might work for you.


PVC Aquaponics System

Aquaponics system

This is a very sophisticated DIY system that is very popular with at-home aquaponics farmers. It works well for a variety of plants and fish both.

​Materials

  • 20 feet of 4” PVC piping
    20 feet of 4” PVC piping
  • ​4” diameter elbow piece
    4” diameter elbow piece
  • ​4” diameter cap piece
    4” diameter cap piece
  • ​20 feet of aquarium tubing
    20 feet of aquarium tubing
  • ​2 aquarium water pumps
    2 aquarium water pumps
  • ​Scrap wood
    Scrap wood
  • ​2 40-gallon drums
    2 40-gallon drums
  • ​28 red plastic cups28 red plastic cups
    28 red plastic cups28 red plastic cups
  • square-o
    ​Clay pebbles
    Clay pebbles
  • Approximate Costs:
    Roughly $250-300.
  • Approximate Building Time:
    4 to 8 hours
  • Best Suited For​:
    ​Perfect for anyone with a large shed or backyard space that can be devoted to aquaponics gardening. Requires space to work with power tools.

How To Do It

​​​1

​Drill large holes at 7” apart from each other in the PVC piping. You should have 28 total holes for planting in the PVC piping.

​​​​2

​Assemble pipes so that one is raised above the other, and they are attached to each other with an elbow piece. You can use scrap wood to raise one end of your pipes.

Assemble pipes so that one is raised above the other, and they are attached to each other with an elbow piece. You can use scrap wood to raise one end of your pipes.

​3

​Cap off the higher end of the pipes and drill a hole through the cap.

​4

​Lay rocks on the bottom of the 40-gallon drums. This will be where your fish live.

​​​​5

​Drill holes into the bottom of your plastic cups for draining, then place plants into clay pebbles in each cup.

​6

​Put each cup into a hole in the PVC piping.

​​​​7

​Assemble water pump so that it moves water from the 40-gallon drums to the PVC piping, through the hole in the cap.

​​​​8

​Fill drums and add fish.


Bucket Aquaponics System

You might prefer to try this very simple 5-gallon bucket variation of aquaponics gardening. It does not produce edible fish, but it will produce delicious plants.

​Materials

  • ​5-gallon bucket
    5-gallon bucket
    20 feet of 4” PVC piping
  • ​Plastic basket
    Plastic basket
    4” diameter elbow piece
  • ​Aquarium tubing
    Aquarium tubing
    4” diameter cap piece
  • ​Self-enclosed aquarium pump
    Self-enclosed aquarium pump
    20 feet of aquarium tubing
  • ​Gravel
    Gravel
    2 aquarium water pumps
  • ​Plants and fish
    Plants and fish
    Scrap wood
  • Approximate Costs:
    ​$25 to $50, depending on size and power of aquarium pump.
  • Approximate Building Time:
    ​1-2 hours
  • Best Suited For​:
    ​Works great for people who are new to aquaponics and want a small system to practice on. Also excellent for anyone in a very small space, such as an apartment.

How To Do It

​​​1

​Drill a small hole into the bottom of the bucket for the pump’s power cord to pass through.

Drill a small hole into the bottom of the bucket for the pump’s power cord to pass through.

​​​​2

​Drill another hole in the lid of the bucket for the aquarium tubing to pass through.

Drill another hole in the lid of the bucket for the aquarium tubing to pass through.
Assemble pipes so that one is raised above the other, and they are attached to each other with an elbow piece. You can use scrap wood to raise one end of your pipes.

​3

​Attach the self-enclosed underwater aquarium pump to the bottom of the bucket.

Attach the self-enclosed underwater aquarium pump to the bottom of the bucket.

​4

​Attach the tubing so that it comes from the pump and up through the hole in the lid to spray water onto the gravel.

Attach the tubing so that it comes from the pump and up through the hole in the lid to spray water onto the gravel.

​​​​5

​Attach the plastic basket to the lid of the bucket so that it hangs down into the bucket.

Attach the plastic basket to the lid of the bucket so that it hangs down into the bucket.

​6

​ Fill basket with gravel and place plant into the gravel to grow.

 Fill basket with gravel and place plant into the gravel to grow.

​​​​7

​Fill bucket with water and fish.

Fill bucket with water and fish.

Indoor Aqualibrium Growing System

You may need something even smaller for your at-home aquaponics system. The Aqualibrium system is a great choice if you’re looking for something very small.

​Materials

  • ​Two clear plastic 3 or 5 gallon aquariums
    Two clear plastic 3 or 5 gallon aquariums
    20 feet of 4” PVC piping
  • ​Electrical tape
    Electrical tape
    4” diameter elbow piece
  • ​Small aquarium pump
    Small aquarium pump
    4” diameter cap piece
  • ​Aquarium tubing
    Aquarium tubing
    20 feet of aquarium tubing
  • ​Clay pebbles
    Clay pebbles
    2 aquarium water pumps
  • Approximate Costs:
    ​$15-25, depending on size of aquariums.
  • Approximate Building Time:
    4 to 8 hours
  • Best Suited For​:
    ​​Ideal for anyone looking to grow smaller plants like herbs and raise small fish rather than edibles. Works great indoors for those who have no outdoor space.

How To Do It

​​​1

​Stack two clear plastic aquariums together; attach with electrical tape.

 Stack two clear plastic aquariums together; attach with electrical tape.

​​​​2

​Install aquarium pump into the bottom plastic aquarium.

Install aquarium pump into the bottom plastic aquarium.

Assemble pipes so that one is raised above the other, and they are attached to each other with an elbow piece. You can use scrap wood to raise one end of your pipes.

​3

​Attach tubing to pump and run it to the top plastic aquarium.

Attach tubing to pump and run it to the top plastic aquarium.

​4

​Fill top with clay pebbles and herbs; fill bottom with water and fish.

Fill top with clay pebbles and herbs; fill bottom with water and fish.

Vertical Shelfponics Growing System

This is a simple but very efficient system that will allow you to grow plenty of plants and potentially raise larger fish, too.

​Materials

  • ​4-shelf plastic bookshelf
    4-shelf plastic bookshelf
    20 feet of 4” PVC piping
  • ​Aquarium tubing
    Aquarium tubing
    4” diameter elbow piece
  • ​3 t-shaped connectors for tubing
    3 t-shaped connectors for tubing
    4” diameter cap piece
  • ​Aquarium filter
    Aquarium filter
    20 feet of aquarium tubing
  • ​Aquarium pump
    Aquarium pump
    2 aquarium water pumps
  • square-o
    ​10-gallon fish tank
    10-gallon fish tank
  • square-o
    ​Fish tank gravel
    Fish tank gravel
  • square-o
    ​Clay pebbles
    Clay pebbles
  • Approximate Costs:
    ​​$80-100 depending on cost of shelving unit.
  • Approximate Building Time:
    3 to 4 hours.
  • Best Suited For​:
    ​Works well for anyone with enough room for a small shelving unit. Great for those who garden in a shed or greenhouse.

How To Do It

​​​1

​Drill a small hole into the bottom of the bucket for the pump’s power cord to pass through.

Drill a small hole into the bottom of the bucket for the pump’s power cord to pass through.

​​​​2

​Drill another hole in the lid of the bucket for the aquarium tubing to pass through.

Drill another hole in the lid of the bucket for the aquarium tubing to pass through.
Assemble pipes so that one is raised above the other, and they are attached to each other with an elbow piece. You can use scrap wood to raise one end of your pipes.

​3

​Attach the self-enclosed underwater aquarium pump to the bottom of the bucket.

Attach the self-enclosed underwater aquarium pump to the bottom of the bucket.

​4

​Attach the tubing so that it comes from the pump and up through the hole in the lid to spray water onto the gravel.

Attach the tubing so that it comes from the pump and up through the hole in the lid to spray water onto the gravel.

​​​​5

​Attach the plastic basket to the lid of the bucket so that it hangs down into the bucket.

Attach the plastic basket to the lid of the bucket so that it hangs down into the bucket.

​6

​ Fill basket with gravel and place plant into the gravel to grow.

 Fill basket with gravel and place plant into the gravel to grow.

​​​​7

​Fill bucket with water and fish.

Fill bucket with water and fish.

The Traditional Backyard Aquaponics System

​If you want a full-size aquaponics system in your backyard, and you plan to raise edible fish, this is the best option for you.

​Materials

  • ​400-gallon water pump
    400-gallon water pump
    20 feet of 4” PVC piping
  • ​¾” tubing
    ¾” tubing
    4” diameter elbow piece
  • ​¾” PVC piping
    ¾” PVC piping
    4” diameter cap piece
  • ​¾” t-connector for PVC piping
    ¾” t-connector for PVC piping
    20 feet of aquarium tubing
  • ​2 flow-adjusting valves
    2 flow-adjusting valves
    2 aquarium water pumps
  • square-o
    ​2 (2-inch diameter) pieces of piping for siph
    2 (2-inch diameter) pieces of piping for siph
  • square-o
    ​100-gallon plastic bin
    100-gallon plastic bin
  • square-o
    ​2 (20-gallon) plastic tubs
    2 (20-gallon) plastic tubs
  • Approximate Costs:
    ​$150 to $200.
  • Approximate Building Time:
    ​1 to 2 days.
  • Best Suited For​:
    ​​Ideal for a backyard farmer looking for the full aquaponics experience. Requires plenty of room, such as a large backyard.

How To Do It

​​​1

​Place pump into bin and attach tubing.

Place pump into bin and attach tubing.
Drill a small hole into the bottom of the bucket for the pump’s power cord to pass through.

​​​​2

​Run tubing to PVC piping.

Run tubing to PVC piping.
Drill another hole in the lid of the bucket for the aquarium tubing to pass through.
Assemble pipes so that one is raised above the other, and they are attached to each other with an elbow piece. You can use scrap wood to raise one end of your pipes.

​3

​Split piping with T-connector and attach 2 more pieces of piping; attach valves to these two pieces.

Split piping with T-connector and attach 2 more pieces of piping; attach valves to these two pieces.
Attach the self-enclosed underwater aquarium pump to the bottom of the bucket.

​4

​Drill holes into each of the pans and run piping up into the pans so that it drains into the bin below.

Drill holes into each of the pans and run piping up into the pans so that it drains into the bin below.
Attach the tubing so that it comes from the pump and up through the hole in the lid to spray water onto the gravel.

​​​​5

​Cover with 2-inch diameter piping to create siphon.

Cover with 2-inch diameter piping to create siphon.
Attach the plastic basket to the lid of the bucket so that it hangs down into the bucket.

​6

​Plant pans with plants of your choice, and fill bin with water and fish.

Plant pans with plants of your choice, and fill bin with water and fish.
 Fill basket with gravel and place plant into the gravel to grow.

No matter what you’re looking for in an aquaponics system, there is sure to be an option that is right for you.

All you have to do is take a look at the amount of space you have and the budget you want to stay within, then gather your supplies and get started on your fun and useful DIY project!

If your interested in aquaponics, you may also be interested in hydroponics! But which one is better? Find out the difference, right here!

Visit our aquaponics section for more tips and advice or go to Ecopeanut homepage for other means of sustainable living.

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