A long while back I followed a link on Reddit to this video:

The TL;DR of the video (and aquaponics in general) is this - you feed fish, fish poop in their water, plants get nutrients from the water and send it back to the fish nice and filtered. Intrigued, I started reading about other people's experiences setting up aquaponics gardens and as I read more the idea really appealed to me. It wasn't long before I began figuring out my own plans for setting up an aquaponics garden. However, with crunching at work, then changing jobs and moving I have had to delay for a while; now I am finally getting started.

When I first started planning this I was living in Oregon with lots of space and so I had been planning a nice large 200-300 gallon system. Having since moved to the Bay Area, space is at a relative premium and so my plans have had to scale back a bit. I am planning to fit my garden in to a small, roughly 3 foot by 3 foot, area in a corner area of my apartment where it will get a lot of light from some windows:

In broad terms, setting up an aquaponics system follows these steps:

  • Acquire a suitable fish tank and growbed
  • Install plumbing between fish tank and growbed
  • Fill the fish tank with water, the grow bed with grow media and cycle the system (establish suitable ph and ammonia/nitrate/nitrite levels)
  • Acquire fish
  • Grow plants / Profit

For the first step, there are plenty of suitable possibilties depending on what exactly you are hoping to do. You could go with a nice looking aquarium for an indoor showpiece. You could also get a 300 gallon IBC tote for something large and very functional. You can even go super cheap and get everything you need at Ikea. For my setup I have decided on constructing a plywood tank and grow bed, partly because I wanted to build something myself and partly because I figured I could get away with doing it cheaper than an equivalent sized glass or acrylic aquarium while still making something that looks nice.

So, first step, gotta get some plywood (well, you can see in the image above that part is already done) and make some boxes, but I'll save that for the next post.