Budget Prep: DIY Aquaponics System


Are you inspired by other expert preppers that use a quaponics ecosystem to feed their family, but lack the outdoor space for such a large set up or you are scared about the costs ? We’re bringing you budget versions of the preps inspired by expert preppers.

What is Aquaponics?

Explaining aquaponics is a lot like trying to explain a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The jelly and peanut butter can both stand alone on bread but when you put the two together, you have the best of both worlds.

The same principle holds true with aquaponics, which is the combination of aquaculture; the raising small aquatic life in water tanks, and hydroponics; the growing of plants in water. In aquaponics, the water from aquatic animals (fish, etc.) is used to feed the plant roots. Then the plant water (cleaned up by the plants) is given back to the fish.

Aquaponics systems can be as big and elaborate or a small and compact as you wish to make.

Our focus for showing you how to create your own aquaponics system will be in a doomsday scenario where space, time, and food could all be scarce. We will show you how you can have freshwater fish, snails, crayfish, prawns, tilapia, perch, catfish, cod, and a vast array of your choice of garden veggies like lettuce, basil, tomatoes, okra, bell peppers, beans, peas, radishes, strawberries, onions, parsnips and herbs, to eat from a small amount of space with little to no energy exerted to maintain. And this type of system can fit into practically any living situation whether a high-rise apartment, a house in the suburbs or a rural farm.

The concept of the aquaponic system is pretty simple. You have two containers: one for fish on the bottom (acquaculture) and one for plants that sits above the fish container (hydroponics). A small aquatic pump is placed in the bottom container, which pushes up the fish effluent (the fish poop water and ammonia) into the plant container, where the ammonia (the toxic part for the fish) is broken down by nitrogen-fixing bacteria (what is known as biofilm), and turned into nitrates and nitrites, which are nutrients that are absorbed through the plant roots submerged in the water. Then the water goes back down into the fish container through a spout and the cycle begins again.

Things to Consider:

Depending on the fish you raise, you may or may not have to maintain a certain water temperature. Tilapia, for example, are a tropical fish, and need more warmth. On the other hand, catfish are not as susceptible to temperature.

Each gallon of water can support between one half to one pound of fish stock depending on how grandiose a system you make. And each gallon of fish water, can support 1 square foot of plants life. Another consideration is lighting. If your system does not have natural sunlight, you will need some sort of artificial lighting.

Get Building:

Begin by procuring two containers. We chose the typical storage container you see pick up in any big box store. You will need one container for the aquaculture (fish) portion and one for the hydroponic (plant) portion.

You will also need a foot or so of PVC pipe that is 1 ½ inches in diameter, as well as a 1 ½ inch locknut fitting, a 1 ½” male adapter and a 1 ½ inch elbow.

You need to begin by determining where the containers are going to be placed and how much distance there will be from the plant container to the fish container. (The plant overflow tube will need to be able to reach back into the fish container.) Once this is determined, you can start your build.


Parts and materials.

The Steps:

1Trace around the threads of the locknut fitting (take the washers and the nut off first).





1Cut a hole with the 2-hole saw.





1Place the paper flange and rubber washer on the locknut fitting and push fitting through the hole.





1Place the other rubber washer on the backside of the hole over the locknut fitting and then screw down the fitting with the nut provided. Tighten the nut with a pipe wrench.




1Screw the threaded male adapter into the front of the finished locknut fitting.





1Mark the pipe so that the elbow will protrude enough so that the water will drain from the plant tank into the fish tank.




1Cut the pipe.





1Insert pipe into the male adapter. (There is no need to glue these pipes and fittings at this time).





1Press the elbow on the pipe end and face the elbow down. Then place another small piece of pipe on the down facing end of the elbow (facing into what will be the fish tank).




1Level the space that the tanks will be resting on. (Make sure it is level in all directions.)





1Place the tanks in their respective positions (fish tank on bottom, plant tank above).





1Prepare your submersible pump by connecting fittings and a tube to push water from the fish tank into the plant tank.




1You can get specific fish tank plastic tubing or you can use an old laundry hose, by cutting off one of the ends.





1Push the fitting on to the hose.





1Connect the hose and fitting to the pump.





1Fill the bottom and top tanks with a few inches of water to start with. (Do not run the submersible pump unless it is under water.)




1Place the submersible pump in the bottom tank of water so that it completely submerged.





1Test the pump by plugging it in to see if your pipe and pump work to push the water into the top tank.





1Get a piece of Styrofoam and measure the inside of the top tank. Draw a line so that you can cut off excess Styrofoam so that the piece will float inside the tank.




1Cut the Styrofoam with sharp scissors.





1Make small holes in the Styrofoam to hold the stems of your plants.





1You can transplant existing plants and push the roots through the Styrofoam, or you can grow your plants from seed and seedlings as discussed in the article.




1Fill the top tank to the bottom of the outlet (locknut fitting) and place your plants and Styrofoam raft into the top tank.




1You can plant multiple different types of plants into each Styrofoam raft.





1Fill your bottom tank to an adequate level and turn on the pump. (You can adjust the flow of the pump using the switch on the side of the pump- so you can speed up the water circulation, or slow it down.)




1Now you are ready to insert the fish. (Make sure that the fish and the water in the tanks are at about the same temperature before placing the fish into the water. You can shock them with a big temperature change.)



1You now have an aquaponics system.






Check out the other aquaponic related articles before you start. Also, for a much better explained tutorial, I recommand watching this video

Most importantly if this is getting a little confusing for you don’t worry about it, it can be difficult to conceptualize exactly how these things work, if you follow through our simple building and installation steps you’ll be able to build yourself an organic aquaponic system in no time.


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