Building my 1st Aquaponics System : Conceptualizing Design and Choosing Materials

Building my 1st Aquaponics System : Conceptualizing Design and Choosing Materials

Usually I write whole articles and finish them! but this post might well be a work in motion more or less on the lines of a working notebook as I am very excited my new house is almost completed I find myself thinking over an over about the aquaponics I am to build in the 1/2 acre back yard. So lets begin with what I have so far in conceptualizing the design.

I’ve never done an aquaponics system before but I have taken many courses at U-tube University which qualifies me as below a rank amateur and willing to try anything.

I think I want this to be modular!  Meaning a Whole Complete System of a good size tank and grow bed  that Works! and that I can replicate 5 or 6 times to max out my potential of my lot and all systems must be seperate from each other. So with that in mind i think I will start out with a 300 gal Rubbermaid on a corner of the 10′ x 60′ covered cement slab so each complete system can be layed out horizontically placed side by side with only the tanks sitting on the slab!

As we feel more confident we will add more complete systems  layed next to each other in rows.

A covered slab on the left running verticle away from the house in an east/west and holding the fish tanks while horizonzally south/north stretch the grow beds into the yard.  At the far end of the grow beds to the rightside northfacing  i want to have an overflow system the dumps overflowing water into the Bannana trees. While a normal return will end back to a sump tank.

Our Rain in HPP keaau Hawaii is like 200 to sometimes 300 inches but seems like everyday even this moment the rain is coming down pretty hard! In fact we ourselves live solely on the rainwater catchment here of 10,000 gallons and it still spills over every nite on top of what we use! So this i hope will allow a gravity feed system and keep the fish tanks very clean but not sure if the plants can get enough nutrients if the spill over is too great  so this is all new to me and will certainly be an interesting experiment it may just mean not all the catchment spill over should be applied?  and gravity downhill system .. maybe the pumps might have to work little less. I’m not sure yet.

What does all this rain water here mean! I know the return from the beds wont be as neccessary to the fish but I do know the plant certainly will need nutrients and not want too much plain rain water. ?! just have to wait an see figure it all out in the wash.

The Fish tanks should spill over to the clarifying tank and good bacteria should be grown in. From the clarifying tank from the tops should spill over to the grow beds.

The Fish tank should gravity into the clarifier. clarifier gravity in the beds.

Beds two types floating raft and water that always circulates and the cynder bed with a bell tower to fill and completely drain.  Both should return to the sump tank with overflow to the bannanas.

Sump tank has a pump to pump up to the fish tank and completing the path.

The clarifier tank bottom and the fish tank bottom should be valved to clean out to dump to the left rear where running the length of the slab from behind will be the duckweed beds ready to be fed!

The grow beds will empty into the sump tank and both have a spill over to the bananas.

Pump cycle timing?!

Is the pump  turned on based on I guess if the catchment overflow isn’t feeding the fish tanks reducing the need to turn on the pumps because fresh water is already entering the fish tank from big water tank.  Or  on the whole should be also cycled more frequently maybe the pumps will be on alot more than I thought because the need to cycle and not always the big tank is over flowing..

Ah yes I can see this cycling will be interesting to get right.

Materials chosen so far:  Tank 300 gal rubbermaids. Cheap easy no construction and easy to move.

The Pump: EcoPlus Eco 264 Submersible Pump 290GPH (18/Cs) $23.95

This submersible water pump is great for everything from fountains to hydroponic systems. Powerful oil free high magnetic rotor. Ceramic shaft and bearing insures reliability. Trouble free one moving part. Strainer protects impeller from damage.

  • 28 watts.
  • Max height is 6.5 feet.
  • 290 GPH.
  • Comes with 69 inch 120 volt cord.
  • Inlet is .75″ NPT and outlet is .75″ NPT.
  • Included fittings: .75″ Barbed x .75″ Threaded, two-.5″ Barbed x .75″ Threaded and Nozzle x 3.4″ Threaded.
  • One year manufacturer warranty.

Build my own wood raised beds with 45mil liners.

Ok bye for now!

Hi I am back! today is 2/23/13  and…

I found the perfect example of a build using the 300gal rubbermaid and he built his own tables given me an idea of what size tables and just how well it has done for him. He is using a media filled beds that have a bell tower to fill and then completely drain back to the tank with this system the only thing I would do a little different is to add a catch pail underneath to catch any debris I’ve seen these systems online and the Fish tank acts as a sump tank and they collect all the media junk so I want to build it with just a catch waste pail that spills the water and filters the big stuff out of the fish tank.


Ok this example if from

Much appreciated repost and here is his build!

Once the tank arrived, it was time to get started on all the other components.

First to build is the two tray stands and the trays. I won’t bore you with all the little details,  but if you are building a system and have specific questions, I would be glad to answer them. But for the purpose of this blog, I will try to keep it vague.

For the tray, I used 2x4s for the main frame. First, we are going to build a 4×8 frame to match a sheet of plywood (you will have to cut pieces to get a true 4×8 frame). Use 3″ screws to secure the frame together.

Once the outer frame is assembled, add support beams every two feet or so. Now that the frame is done, we are going to add 4x4s for the legs. Cut the 4x4s to the desired length. For mine, it was 37″ which brought it above the fish tank. Screw the legs in from the sides to secure them in place. Since I am building a setup that is gonig to use two 4×8 trays, I made two of these stands.

Now for the trays. I decided to build my own trays rather than pay retail for the hydro trays (craiglists ads never responded). We are going to build the tray sides first. We are using 2x8s for the sides. We are going to build the oustide frame which is pretty much the same as the stands, minus the support beams and the legs. Once assembled, we are adding a 1/2″ plywood bottom. Screw the plywood to the frame every foot or so. Place the trays on top of the tray stands in your desired location.

So, know that the trays stands and trays are complete, it is time to start the next step, water proofing and adding the bell siphon (it drains the tray).

To water proof our 4×8 trays that we built, we are going to line them with a pond liner. Before we add the liner, we are going to drill out a hole to install the bell siphon, (what is a bell siphon and how do you make one? Google it or go to you tube and pick one that is best for your system). Now that the hole is drilled and the bell siphon has been built, we are going to lay the pond liner into the tray and make a small hole in the liner to install the siphon. We installed the bell siphon and now a quick water tight test, making sure that the gaskets are sealed. Check, done, no leaking, happy…

It’s time to start adding the hydroton (growing media). (Warning: I underestimated the cost of the hydrotron. This actually has been the most expensive single item that I have purchased so far. I bought (13) 50 liter bags and still need about 3 or 4 more to complete the project.) Now we are going to add the hydroton to the trays. Rinse the hydroton and start filling up the trays. After the trays are filled, do a test flood and drain to make sure your bell siphon is working and the system is operational. With a little luck, everything is working good so far.

It has been a long 2 weekends, and now time for me to relax and enjoy the evening with the fams.

CHEERS WELL DONE now see his results!

Stocking the fish:

As of now, we are just gathering the equipment to get it started. We are starting with a 300 gallon stock tank as the Tilapia tank. We will be starting with 100 Tilapia fingerlings. This will allow us a 1 Tilapia to 3 gallons of water ratio. This should let us expand to 150 Tilapia and still have a good ratio of 1 Tilapia to 2 gallons of water if desired.

To appropriately feed the veggies and filter the fish waste, we are starting with two 4X8 hydroponics ebb and flow trays. For the growing media, we will probably be going with hydrotron. For the lighting, we will be using fluorescent T5 highbays, either in a 4 or 6 lamp version. I will keep a bill of materials along with prices and sources for others who may be interested in building a aquaponics system.

Cool huh!

Ieven like how he explains his system and what Aquaponics is!

exerpt from Organic Aquaponics Grower in Southern California.


The basics… We will start with the fish. Pick a fish that is suitable for your local climate. If you are in a warm climate, consider tilapia… in a cool climate, maybe trout, but pay attention to the growth of both. If you want fish to eat, tilapia can be edible in as little as a year, trout… well, we would need to do some research on that one since I am doing tilapia, but they will take longer to harvest…

The fish create ammonia that needs to be treated. In aquaponics, you pump the fish water up to grow beds that contain a naturally occurring bacteria. The bacteria converts the ammonia to nitrite and nitrates, which fertilize and feed the plants. The grow beds get filled, and once full, they drain back into the fish tank. During this process, the ammonia is removed from the water, the nitrite and nitrates are absorbed by the plants and the return water is filtered and cleaned to provide the fish with fresh water.

So now the magic… the fish feed your fruits, vegetables and herbs. The fruits, vegetables and herbs feed you. With your left overs and waste of your harvest, you feed the compost in a bin. Within that bin, utilizing black fly larvae, you feed your compost bucket and create a enriched compost that can be used on your soil garden. During the composting process, black fly larvae are harvested, collected and frozen. These larvae are fed to the fish! This creates a complete life cycle. You feed the fish, the fish feed the plants, the fish and plants feed you, you compost your leftovers, and your compost creates fish food! Add a rain catching system and a small solar system and become a self sufficient and water efficient gardener! Aquaponic systems consume 80% less water than traditional gardening methods.

Good stuff!  Thats all he writes but look at the greens he produced!!



What more can be said for today! that’s my system and I want about 5 or 6 of them on the 1/2 acre in back the spill over into the fruit tree orchard!!







2 thoughts on “Building my 1st Aquaponics System : Conceptualizing Design and Choosing Materials

  1. Pingback: Building my 1st Aquaponics System : Conceptualizing Design and … | Aquaponics Tips

    • Thanks for lifting my post and best wishes on the aquaponics site
      I will add your RSS feed to my front page to read your articles because if your
      going to use my posts at least I know you have extraordinary good taste.
      Jon from keaau Hi.

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