As you may have seen from other recent blog postings, I’ve recently been checking out  I happened to check their blog a couple weeks ago when they had a brief posting about aquaponics. Aquaponics refers to the growing of plants in water (hydroponics), together with fish (aquaculture) in a closed system, where the fishes’ waste feeds the plants, which in turn clean the water for the fish.  It struck me as a pretty nifty idea, not to mention a fun project and practical justification for having a fish tank and fountain (both of which I like).

So I began shopping around for kits and such, but eventually realized that it shouldn’t be too difficult just to make my own.  After reading up quite a bit, I finally came up with a design idea, bought the parts, and in a week’s time went from buying the first parts to adding the fish and plants.  The system has been running for a few days now and both plants and fish look healthy, so no disasters yet.  Time will tell if this turns out to be a productive herb garden (moreso than my traditional attempt which was rather unimpressive).

Pictures and video below.  Enjoy!

Cutting the drain hole.  My initial idea was just to stick this fitting through the hole and seal with silicone.  The silicone didn’t adhere to the container at all, so I wound up having to take a different approach.

Water supply distributor.  Wound up drilling more holes than this so the pump wouldn’t have to work as hard.  Intent is to evenly distribute a somewhat slow stream of water along the entire end of the grow bed.

Here’s the first pass at the entire system.  Both containers were from The Container Store and cost about $12 each.  I would have preferred a true fish tank for the bottom, but I couldn’t find any low enough to fit in my shelving unit.  If this turns out to be successful, I may one day scale up, but for now this should do.  The pump is a 175 GPH Sun Terra fountain I had bought previously for a fountain idea I had, which I ended up not keeping.  You can also see here the blue air pump and air stone.

The PVC piping is 1/2″ which fit perfectly over the pump’s output.

Here’s the system with the Hydroten added.  Hydroten is a pH-neutral grow medium specifically sold for hydroponics.  I got a large back for a reasonable price at Texas Hydroponics here in Austin.  The employees were very helpful, and judging from the marijuana t-shirt one of them was wearing, I have a guess as to why.  Hey, more power to ‘em… I’m all for legalizing the stuff (this documentary gives some good arguments why).

Water output from a filtration chamber I added later.  When I first added water to the Hydroten, I quickly realized that the stuff is extremely dusty initially.  I ended up having to rinse it with 50+ gallons of water, and it still was a bit murky.  I modified the drain to dump into a cheap trash can which then drains into the fish tank.  The trash can gives the dirt particles a chance to settle down to the bottom instead of going straight into the fish tank, and I can add filtration media into the tank if necessary (for now I have a piece of foam in there).

Added some pebbles for the fish.  Also glued the PVC joints after they started leaking slowly.

And here’s the entire system!

Video walk-through:

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