Homepage » Forums » Urban and Suburban Permaculture » A simple indoor $150 Aquaponics setup

This topic contains 2 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  lizkim50 4 years, 3 months ago.

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    Hello everyone! I want to share my aquaponics setup as an example of something simple to make and start enjoying homegrown food year round.

    It is made out of two large plastic bins with a bit of simple plumbing and a water pump. On my setup I am using a grow light because it is in the basement. I’m sure it will work fine in a sunny window. I have a really low powered light at it still works. I have grown tomatoes, celery, broccoli, lettuce, and a large number of ornamental plants.

    I use a bell siphon system. The rock is there because the bell housing leans to the side and it works much better when it is even around the sides. The growing media is a mix of vermiculite and perlite. I would recommend a large, firmer media for this setup. There have been a number small issues with it not draining properly due to the material compacting or roots creating a barrier. My drain setup is more complex than most. All you really need is the 90 degree bend at the bottom of the drop. The extra parts on the end I have found to help start and stop the siphon. For plants that don’t like that much water you can use a planter and they will wick up water. Having the drain in the center means that if there is a failure the water will empty into the lower bin which should be larger. Mine leaked for a long time and I never had to worry about it because is just dripped to the water below.

    I am using goldfish because they don’t require heat and they are very easy to care for. They also produce a lot a waste. The water pump I used was bought off the shelf at the local hardware store for $50. I chose one that had an external filter in a cylindrical shape. It’s easy to remove and clean and won’t be too hard to find something to replace it once it deteriorates. In one of the pictures I moved the water line because the siphon wasn’t starting. The water level around the bell housing has to rise fast enough to overwhelm the drain and create an air lock. Otherwise it will stay full draining just as fast as it is filling rather than flushing out. If there is a loss of power the system still works by lifting the water by hand. Water is only added to replace what evaporates.

    In the future I plan to look into my options for edible fish. I’m also trying to learn about making sure I have enough nutrients in my system. Still trying to figure out why some things have done well and others not. As far as taste goes I don’t think there is any difference at all in the flavor. The texture of tomatoes was not as firm, I’m guessing since they weren’t blown around in the wind. Same goes for the lettuce. It’s always soft and tender. And I should know. I’ve been a chef for 16 years and still work part time at the restaurant to whom I sell most of my produce.

    I’m no carpenter or plumber but was able to put this together in an afternoon. Most of the parts can be from recycled material and everything is commonly available for sale. The only “work” involved was drilling a hole for the drain and nailing together a stand. The plumbing just slides together, no glue needed. I hope I’ve inspired you to make your own setup. Some people think you may need to do this or that to be considered permaculture. But it is simply a state of mind. It is a way of observing the world and asking how can I mimic nature in a way that benefits both me and the natural environment.



    Thank you for taking the time to share this information with everyone!



    Your aquaponic unit is beautiful. We have two of them here. We have a CHOP2 system with tilapia and another unit that is ebb and flow with rainbow trout. Please keep in mind all material you use should be food safe. You do not want plastic leaching into your system. Food safety is pretty important. I’m not sure where you live but most states are very restrictive on what type of fish you can buy live. We in California cannot raise blue tilapia so we settled for silver. We raised catfish and now we are raising trout. Goldfish are great!! They are prolific poopers!! I’ve raised over 91 varieties of edible vegetables in our units. We have rotated our crop at least five times in the last year in our units. We currently have watercress, kale, red chard, rainbow chard, onions, radishes, spinach, four varieties of lettuce, basil, cilantro, parsley, green onions, sweet peas, Malabar spinach, bok choy, cucumbers, beans, tomatos. We’ve tried everything. My partner gets angry because I’ll throw seeds into the media bed and forget. A few days later it looks all green and he asks what it is and I say “I can’t remember.” I’m sure we’ll figure it out. LOL. It’s edible so I don’t care. Our CHOP2 system is in a greenhouse so we are able to grow 365 days of the year and out of season plants like strawberries year round. I will say, however, we have made many many mistakes or learning curves. I found them all to be fascinating. We are now reaching a level of our nitrates being too high. So we now feed our fish every three days. I’m now using water out of the tanks to use as fertilizer for our soil plants (I raise vegetables in soil too brought back by my chickens and hard waste from our swirl tank). We use a filter in our system with two sump tanks. The filter is cleaned approximately once a month. It provides the best fertilizer for our other plants. Our system is now two years old and it seems it keeps getting better. I also noticed our larger tank is easier to control. The PH doesn’t seem to sway and the nitrate level is much more steady. The lettuces are looking like something out of prehistoric times. They are really tasty. We have a salad on the side for dinner every night now. Now only if I could raise wheat to make my own flour. Maybe even coffee to roast myself and make a good cup of java!!!

    You will be super successful and if you have not already, you will fall in love with your unit. you are improving your soil and the earth!! HOOORAY FOR YOU!!!!! Much positive energy to you!!!!

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