How To Build An Aquaponics System: Video Tutorial

In this video we will show you the basic set-up of our aquaponics system, and introduce you to some tips to build your own.

You can visit our website at for detailed information on all the parts you will need for the build and for maintenance advice, growing tips and fish care.

Aquaponics is a system of raising fish and plants in a symbiotic cycle. Fish waste acts as a natural fertiliser, the plants absorb these nutrients, and the water remains clean for the fish. The only input in our systems are food for the fish. No watering (apart from evaporation top-up) or pesticides are required and the process is completely organic.



Improve your physique whilst generating power for our aquaponics unit! By pedalling to charge up a car battery we can run the electric pumps and lights needed for our system.

THE FITNESS UNIT: Charge out batteries for the Aquaponics Unit by pedalling!


Pedalling Side

How To Build A Simple Aquaponics System

Full Diagram

A Basic Guide To Building Your Own Aquaponics System (Click Image To Enlarge)

Aquaponics is a technique enabling the sustainable production of edible fish and plants in a re-circulating system. Fish waste acts as a natural fertiliser, the plants absorb these nutrients, and the water remains clean and stable for fish. The only input is food for the fish.

Water from the fish tank is pumped into the grow beds and solid waste is removed by the addition of filter media at the water exit points. The water then travels through the plant grow beds where plants uptake the nutrients, and the water returns, purified, to the fish tank. The grow beds become a natural biofilter for bacteria to convert fish waste into accessible nutrients for plants.

The Biological Components of Aquaponics: The Nitrification Process (See Top Diagram)

The process of nitrification prevents the water from becoming toxic with harmful forms of nitrogen (ammonia and nitrite), and allows the fish, plants, and bacteria to thrive symbiotically. In a properly balanced system, all the organisms work together to create a healthy growing environment for one another, and form this cycle:

Food is eaten by fish > Fish produce ammonia in waste > Bacteria breaks down ammonia into nitrite > Bacteria breaks down ammonia into nitrate > Nitrate is taken up by plants for growth > Water is left clean for fish

What You Need To Build Your System

Basic Structure

Tank for fish (made of strong inert plastic)
Tubs for Grow Beds (at least 25cm depth)
Modified Table / Frame to support Grow Beds
Inert growing media (we recommended expanded clay pebbles 8 – 20mm in diameter)

Plumbing Components

¾ inch PVC piping
Large PVC pipe for gravel guards (3 – 4 inch diameter)
¾ inch hosepipe
Hose cap
Tank connector
Female tap connector
¾ inch rubber O rings
¾ L bends


Submersible water pump (flow rate depends on size of your tank)
Tank heater (dependant on fish)
Air pump, air stones and air line
Grow lights (if growing without natural light)
Plugs Timers (to regulate pump and lights)


¾ inch hole saw attachment
3 – 5mm drill attachment (for water exit points in hose)

Master water test kit
Solid Waste Filter Media (this is too remove any solid fish waste so it does not clog the system)
Ammonia Source
Water de-chlorinator
Seeds (leaf salad, lettuce, spinach, pak choi, cabbage and herbs are good plants to start out with)


The Build (Click Image To Enlarge)

All aquaponic systems share several common and essential components. These include: a fish tank, a grow bed, plumbing, and electronics, all of which need to be in a structurally sound before any growing begins. There are many ways to build an aquaponic set up depending on the materials you have available. This is one suggestion and can be adapted to suit your needs. (N.B. In this set-up, the tank connector is situated directly over the fish tank, so you may not need the female connector and extra PVC pipe. Use these elements if the grow bed is much higher than the tank, or you have multiple grow beds and are using extra piping to redirect water back to the tank.)

  1. Situate the fish tank underneath the grow bed(s). The easiest way to do this is by modifying a table, constructing a frame or using breeze blocks or bricks for supports.
  2. Once you have decided where the grow beds will be in relation to the fish tank it is time to fit the plumbing. Using a ¾ inch hole saw, drill a hole in the centre of the bottom of the grow bed.
  3. Position an O Ring on either side of hole and place the tank connector through the grow bed. Adding some marine safe sealant at the join can help in achieving a watertight seal.
  4. To create the stand pipe, cut a piece of PVC pipe, so the length is 2 – 3 inches below the top of the grow bed, and drill a drainage hole near one end, making sure it is not blocked by the base of the tank connector when inserted.
  5. Screw the female connector to the thread of the tank connector underneath the grow bed and arrange pipes using relevant connectors so the water will drop directly into the fish tank. (N.B. Repeat steps 2 – 5 if using more than one grow bed.)
  6. Cut the wider PVC pipe taller than the grow bed to act as a gravel guard, and drill three rows of evenly spaced holes around the bottom of the guard to allow water but not grow media in. Place guard over stand pipe and use sealant to secure.
  7. Fit the hose to the water pump and place it in the fish tank. Cut the hose to size so it reaches the grow bed, if constructing a system with more than one grow bed, the hose must be long enough to pass through all of the beds.
  8. Before fixing the hose to the grow bed check the system for any leaks. Partially fill the bottom tank and switch the water pump on. As water fills the grow bed it should drain back into the tank through the standpipe. Once the pump is switched off, water should drain slowly away through the small drainage hole in the stand pipe. If there are leaks drain the system and seal with marine safe sealant. Allow it to dry and check the system again.
  9. Fix the hose to the grow bed by drilling another two ¾” holes in a way that allows the hose to run along one side of the grow bed just beneath the top. Drill 3 – 5 evenly spaced 3mm holes in the hose to allow the water to enter the grow bed, and secure hose in place. Fit and seal a hose cap to the open end of the hose. Check the system plumbing again.
  10. Once the mechanics are working and everything is properly sealed, thoroughly rinse your grow media to wash away any excess sediment. Fill grow beds to just underneath your hose with grow media. Put some solid waste filter media underneath the water exit holes in the hose to filter out any solid fish waste, so that it does not enter the grow bed. (This can be rinsed with water every few weeks when waste starts to build up.)
  11. Connect the air stone, air line and air pump. Drop the air stone into the tank, keeping the air pump above the water level. The air pump can be attached to the frame.
  12. Fill the tank with de-chlorinated water. It may be easier to fill the tank through the grow beds if access to the tank is awkward or limited. Switch on the air pump and heater.
  13. The system is now ready for fishless cycling and water testing.
  14. Run the water pump continuously through the cycling period, it can then be regulated using a plug timer as required depending on your plants. Having the pump on for 15 minutes every hour is usually sufficient and gives enough time for the water to drain completely from the grow bed allowing oxygen to the plants roots. When the roots develop, the stand pipe can be cut down so the bed does not flood as high.

Notes On Water

Water is the life-blood of an aquaponic system and is important to get right. It is fine to use tap water although it is treated with chlorine and chloramines among other chemicals to make it safe to drink. These chemicals are toxic to fish and the water needs to be dechlorinated either by storing the water and allowing the chlorine to evaporate naturally (24 hours) or adding a water dechlorinator (immediate).

Hope these instructions are useful! We are currently producing a quick-guide publication on Aquaponics, so any feedback is very helpful. Happy Building!

Jasmin’s Home Aquaponic System

My home aquaponic system is a very simple one! It is squeezed into the back of the kitchen right next to the back door and is made up of a surprisingly small number of things. The bottom tank for the fish is a really useful storage box and the grow bed is a shallower storage box that was already around the house. All the plumping bits and fittings were easy to find once I knew what I was looking for.

DSC_1218 (1)  DSC_1229 (1)

The basic premise for my system was to have the fish tank on the floor under a very cheap coffee table and the grow bed on top of the table directly draining into the tank from the grow bed via a pipe going straight down through a whole drilled into the table. This set up so far is running quite nicely but not without a few hiccups along the way. Like Alice, I started with a bell siphon to automatically drain the grow bed when it flooded but the siphon I had made just wasn’t reliable enough so I went for the pump on a timer method. (More on siphons, pumps, timers and standpipes on a later blog post). I had it going for 15 minutes every hour which was way too much flooding! Due to this and some over eager cats trampling my plants as well as some issues with mould I’ve had to pull out my plants and a have a bit of a rethink and a refresh. This system is so small I’m not sure I’ve got the balance quite right yet. To protect my little fishes since their grow bed filter is no longer running, I’ve got the hose pipe that initially flooded the grow bed going through a DIY sponge filter to keep the bacteria colony I worked so hard to cultivate going and converting ammonia into nitrates (more on the nitrogen cycle at a later date). So far my water levels are all stable.


I plan to start some more seedlings and when they are strong enough transplant them into the grow bed to get the system running as it should. I’m very hopeful!



Welcome to Experiments in Aquaponics

Welcome to Experiments in Aquaponics! On this blog we will be posting thoughts and ‘how-to’ instructions on our home systems, their failures and successes, and updates on the fledgling set-up of a larger system based in Kings Cross where we will be hosting public events and raising Tilapia fish along with a range of vegetables.

Image: Basic structure of a miniature home system, with bell-siphon and irrigation bar. 

Early System