Comprehensive Guide On How To Build An Aquaponics System

Remember one of those things you learned in school and wondered how you will ever apply it in real life? If you were attentive in biology classes then the term aquaponics is not new to you. With advancement in technology, people are now in a position to practically apply what was learned as part of theory back in school. Before we can even discuss how to build an aquaponics system, it is crucial to first understand what is meant by the term aquaponics system

What is an aquaponics system?

The term aquaponics is a combination of two factors aquaculture and hydroponics. From basic biology, the aquatic refers to animals living in water while on the other hand the term hydroponic refers to plants in water. Aquaponics can be defined as a symbiotic relationship between plants and fish in water.

How does aquaponics system work?

A symbiotic relationship is whether both parties need each other equally for survival. In this case, when fish feed they excrete ammonia as a by-product. Ammonia is highly soluble in water and if it accumulated in water it will build to toxic levels that are both harmful to the fish and plants in the water. To ensure prevent such toxicity we have nitrifying bacteria which thrive well in gravel and pebbled clay. The bacterial helps convert the ammonia into nitrite then nitrate. Plants need nitrate to make food; the nitrate is then absorbed by the plants and used to make protein in a process called nitrification.

The fish need the plants and the plants need the fish it is a win-win either way and that’s how the aquaponics system works. I understand it is complicated understanding the fine details of this but as long as you know the basics you are good to go.

Why you should learn how to build an aquaponics system?

One would wonder, why should I go about the whole hustle of making such a process whereas I can buy one that is complete? The truth is, there more advantages accrued to building the system yourself compared to buying it ready made. Come to think of it, holding everything constant, would you like to build your own house or buy one that has already been built?


I doubt if there is anyone out there who wouldn’t pounce on a chance to save a few dollars. Pre-made aquaponics systems are very expensive. They are extremely expensive, by building your own you can end saving up to 70% of the money you would have parted with. This is such a great deal especially if you are doing it as a business of which chances are very high you are.


There is no strict format or standard of how an aquaponics system should look like. As long as you understand the basics on how the system works you can customize to fit the given space or the species you are raring. A pre-made aquaponics system is rigid and delicate and it is for this reason that it is highly advised that build your own after all, the materials are readily available.


If you build something yourself is there need for an instruction menu? You are aware of every material used and how the whole thing functions. With such knowledge, it is even easier to maintain the system. Can you say the same thing if you bought the system already made?

Factors to consider when making an aquaponics system

If you want to succeed in everything you do, always have a plan. When it comes to building an aquaponics system as part of the plan there are a few factors that you should consider and they are:


Where you want to base your aquaponics system is a factor you should consider before you can start building the system. Do you intend to have it stationed indoors or outdoors? Indoor aquaponics systems are built differently from those on the open. If it’s done indoors you have to install grow lights which are not all that necessary in the system is in the open.

Still, on location, we have countries that snow over winter, what would happen to your outdoor aquaponics system? Do you have enough room to shift it indoors or will you have to wait until the next season?


Space is yet another key factor that you should never overlook when learning how to build an aquaponics system. As mentioned earlier, one of the main reason why building your own system is highly recommended is so that you can customize it to fit the available space. Where space is an issue you obviously have to settle for a relatively smaller system but where there is more than enough space you are free to build a big system; that is as long as you can manage it.

Plant and fish species

Different fish species thrive in different conditions. Build your system to best suit the plant and fish species you wish to rare. If you are not sure on the conditional requirements always consult. It would be sad news having built an amazing aquaponics system only to wake up one morning and find that all the fish are dead.

Guide on how to build an aquaponics system

Guide on how to build an aquaponics system

Let’s start off by reviewing the basic requirements when building such a system

Fish tank

You can never build an aquaponics system without a fish tank. The most recommended fish tank is the traditional glass tank. It is expensive but comes with added advantages such as you can clearly monitor the progress of the fish and grass is non-corrosive. However, you can still use a stock tank or large barrel. The ideal recommended size is 3-20 gallons depending on the space you have and how deep your pockets are.

Flood table

The flood table should proportionally relate to the fish tank. This is the designated area where you shall be growing your plants. Ideally, leguminous plants that use nitrate to make proteins, the bigger the flood space the more space you will have to grow your plants.


The fish tank and the flood table are set such that one of them is above the other. Irrespective of the order you will need something to support the two. Ideally, this can be concrete or just anything that can hold the two in the position given the arrangement format an individual chooses.

Water pump

You will need water pumps for this to work out. For efficiency, it is recommended that you only use the best water pump brand. That would be a reliable brand that will be durable. Magnetic water pump are considered the best since even at fault they will never leak oil to your fish tank.

Grow bed

Fish are very sensitive to PH. In an aquaponics system, the grow bed is what dictates the PH levels. An ideal grows bed should have gravel and clay pallets with a neutral PH. Always ensure that you test the PH levels. A slip will have the whole system collapse that is after the fish die. As part of the grow bed, some fish feed on algae, you can maximize its growth by adding fluorescent grow lights at the base.

Air pump

Fish need oxygen and in this case especially if your aquaponics system is located indoors you have to pump oxygen in the fish tank. And, to do so, you are going to need an air pump. Given the dozens of air pump brands out there, the least you can do is choose the best for your aquaponics system.

Plumbing system

Everything has to be connected and this is made possible by a decent plumbing system. Don’t worry; the plumbing is so basic such that you don’t even need prior experience in the field.

Other optional requirements

Aqua heater

Some fish thrive well in warm water; this can only be achieved through heating the water using an aqua heater. For cold water fish, this isn’t necessary hence labeled as optional.

Grow lights

Seems like grow lights are not only for indoor gardening, an aquaponics system stationed indoors also needs some grow lights.


Once the system is built there is little maintenance. The most crucial thing that you need to do is always ensure that you feed the fish. Experts recommend small feed several times a day. You are also required to refill the tanks once every 3 or 4 days. Last but not least: once every month you should siphon 1/3 of the water in the fish tank and refill it with fresh water.


It is my hope that you found this post on how to build an aquaponics system useful. If you were not sure on whether you should purchase a pre-made model or make one yourself, I stick to my original advice, build your own. Please take a few seconds of your time and kindly share this post with a friend or two informing them on the same.

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