How To Build A Simple Aquaponics System

Updated: Oct 30, 2020

Have you ever wanted to get started with aquaponics but maybe you thought it looked a little difficult? Well I hope this post can convince you otherwise. Here is how to build a simple aquaponics system using an IBC.

Much Easier Than I Thought

I had been planning on building one for a couple years but just kept putting it off. I think the reason I did that was because I thought it was going to be harder than it was to build, it was surprisingly easy. The only part that I think may be a little intimidating is the bell siphon so for my first build I just purchased one already made.

Less Expensive Than I Thought

The total cost of putting this system together was just over $200 and it could have been cheaper had I went with a smaller pump, made my bell siphon from scratch and bought the lava rocks in bulk. Not crazy expensive for the amount of food that can be produced with a system like this.

Materials I Used

Food Grade 275 gallon IBC for the tank – $35

Tetra Pond 425 GPH Fountain Pump – $40

1/2″ Water Hose that attaches to the pump – $6

12 Bags of Red Lava Rock – 1.0 Cu. Ft. – $76

12″ Bell Siphon Kit For IBC Growbed  from Smoky Mountain Aquaponics  – $45 with shipping cost (I could have saved money here by building my own bell siphon but wanted to same time and work good for first build)

I started with a food grade 275 gallon IBC

I then measured down 14 inches from the top of the cage, marked and cut both the cage and the tank. I used bolt cutters to cut the cage and a circular saw to cut the plastic tank.

This is how the tanks stack, making a holding tank for the water and fish on the bottom and a grow bed on the top.

I then decided I wanted to wrap the aquaponics system with wood that I repurposed from pallets. This serves a few functions; First it looks much better than a plastic tank sitting in your yard, This also helps to reduce algae build up in the tank because it reduces the amount of sunlight exposure, it also helps to regulate water temperatures because it blocks some sunlight.

You can see from this picture that I cut off the pieces of cage that were sticking up and made a 2×4 frame around the top of the top frame giving me something to secure the other wood to and square off the top of the grow bed.

You can see how the system is coming together from this picture. I put 3 2×4’s across the the top to sit the grow bed on which gave it some stability and raised it up a little allowing me more access to the fish tank below. I also set the grow bed as far back as I could also allowing some front access to the tank below.

This was a good time to install the Bell Siphon Kit I purchased from Smokey Mountain Aquaponics.

I drilled a 1 1/4 inch hole to install the bulkhead with the standing drain pipe. You just push the threaded pipe through the hole, install an o-ring from underneath then screw on the the threaded pipe from underneath.

You can then just slide the “Bell” over the the standing pipe.

You then just slide the guard over the Bell Siphon to keep rocks from being up against it.

I finished adding the pallet wood, added 12 bags of lava rock making it about 10″ deep, put in the pump attaching the water line and running it up to the grow bed. I then filled it with water and a few cheap goldfish and a couple algae covered stones from my backyard pond to start cycling the system. I then added a few plants and there it is, a running aquaponics system!

I am really starting to see the advantages to these systems more than ever before.

No Weeding!

No Watering!

Faster Growing

Great For Propagation Of Cuttings

Fish to clean and put in the freezer at the end of the growing season.

I can see aquaponics being a huge part of my homestead in the years ahead, possibly replacing many of my raised beds. I have a lot to learn and I’m sure many trials lie ahead for me but for now it has me seeing only possibilities.

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