Our Simple Home Aquaponics System

After visiting Growing Power a few times, seeing the amazing work being done at Sweet Water Organics, and seeing a small scale aquaponics demonstration at the Growing Power Urban and Small Farm Conference I have decided (with Erin's approval) to try doing some "desktop" or home aquaponics. Aquaponics is natural technique of nutrient recycling which was noticed and applied by the ancient Aztec and Egyptians. These civilizations saw the immense benefits of simultaneously cultivating plants and aquatic animals in a symbiotic environment. Aquaponics is considered by some to be better than certified organic and much more sustainable than most organic practices because:

  • no chemicals or fertilizers are used (any chemicals or fertilizers would be detrimental to aquatic animal health)
  • 1/10th the water is used
  • no weeds
  • no diseases

We are doing it "on the cheap" with our rather large fish tank. Many of the supplies being used to start the project are things that we have either recovered from dumpsters/trash or already owned except:

Here is a picture of the simple setup.

The plants are on top with the water pumped in from the tank, circulated past the roots, and back into the tank on an ebb and flow (flood and drain) cycle for 15 minutes every hour (set with a timer). Currently we have an aquatic turtle and convict cichlids in the tank providing our fertilizer. We also have basil, lettuce, and cilantro starts growing quite well in the system. (Will update on plant growth and system components periodically.)

If anyone is looking to try out a simple aquaponics setup check out an article on the Aquaponic Gardening Blog titled
"Aquaponic Gardening Rules of Thumb".

For more information check out this interesting piece was done by NBC on the Aquaponics System at Sweet Water Organics:

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Hi jrhmr,

This would certainly work with a pond! In fact that is my goal once I get a little slice of the earth. Folks have even used old swimming pools - but the trick is to strike a balance and have enough plants growing to take the nitrites, nitrates, and ammonia from the fish refuse out of the water. If the plants are unable to take in all that is produced the fish may die. We have struck a good balance with our tank ensuring that there are enough plants growing at all times - having hearty fish doesn't hurt either. :)

Would love to hear if you decide to pursue it!


Jake and Erin

Do you know if this type of growing will work with any type of plant? and can this be applied to say something like an artificial pond?