Aquaponic Gardening

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We need some thoughts about our current situation. We started with 200 fry in June 2010. Since we had a late start and was not able to finish out our growing season with the fish, we made the decision in Oct to heat a room in our shop, and moved them inside. Well after two months of utility bills, we are making some different choices again. We are planning on harvesting out all of the largest fish, and take the loss of not getting the full growth from them. The smaller Tilapia and the few that have bred which are obviously very small will be moving into our heated ping pong room inside the house. Now this is where we need some thoughts from some of you that are far ahead of us. We need to make a decision about making a homemade biofilter for a 600 gallon tank, and a biofilter for a 50 gallon aquarium so we can put some breeders in it to try to get some fry for next growing season. The store bought filters for the aquarium are just too expensive. Hopefully, our fry will be well on their way next year to continue the outdoor aquaponics system that we had last year. Thanks for any help that you can give. K. Hall

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A couple of these will work.

Canister filter


Or if you insist on DIY

Skippy Filter

I've known of people with ornamental ponds that made bio filters out of a bin filled with scrubbies.  Something like that or bird netting or anything will provide some filtration for you.

Here's another DIY filter....

For the 50 gal, a simple sponge filter would work fine.....and they don't cost too much :-)

How many total punds of fish? All biofilter sizing is based off of the fish weight...

For the 50 gal. aquarium 5-10.

For the 600 gal. tank, maybe 200-250#. Thanks

If you can't afford to buy a biofilter, you could make it out of a trash can. Put a large airstone in the bottom and try to get the media to tumble slowly. More contact, better filtration.

Easy rule of thumb- 5.4ft^2 of media surface area per pound of fish(with no additional biofiltration)

For 10# fish, you want at least
54ft^2 of media

For 6003's fish, you want at least 3'240 ft^2 of media surface area.

Surface area for..
1" bioball- 160ft^2 per cubic foot of media
1 1/2" bioball- 98ft^2 per cubic foot of media
Kaldness media- 259ft^2 per cubic foot of media
Pvc ribbon- 250ft^2 per cubic foot of media

Find the media you want to use, locate the filtration capacity(Usually listed in square feet of filtration obtained per cubic foot of media)and multiply it out. If you are using pvc ribbon for media,
10# fish = 10 x 5.4=54ft^2. 54/250=0.22 cubic feet of media
600# fish = 600 x 5.4=3240ft^2. 3240/250=12.96 cubic feet of media

Hope this helps and good luck!

I agree with David Hart, get a decent air pump and several sponge filters, especially if you will have a fry only tank. check out this link: for the sponge filters

and see if you can find a high volume diaphragm air pump from a hydroponics supply:


Linear piston air pumps air better, but much more expensive.  Also a bunch of airstones is never a bad idea.

Ron Thompson told me about hypnotic hydroponics. They have great prices on diaphram air pumps....

They do have 3 sizes.

I bought 2 of them, and they came pretty quick.

I use home made biofilters for my tanks, working my way up to growing veggies.  Basically, I use large glass vases from goodwill (cheap) filled with lava rocks and houseplants at the top.  The pump for the tank pumps water through a hose that goes to the bottom of the vase.  I also have a an air pump hooked up to an airstone at the bottom of the vase to help the roots get extra O2 since its not a flood and drain far I have great results.  Crystal clear water, healthy fish, no maintance needed on filters (running for three months now) and good water parameters.  These filters have been amazingly efficient for me.  Check out all the post called "aquaponics updates" on my blog to see pics and videos. I use glass vases because I like it pretty, but you can use any container.  The purpose of the plants is to absorb nitrates as the end product of the nitrogen cycle.  So far ficus, pothos, philodenron, and spider plants work the best.  If you decide to go with this and have any questions on build, just let me know. Good luck!

here is a link to a  DIY swirl filter

good luck I warned you its addictive

Hi  Karen,

Just on the first part of your post.

we made the decision in Oct to heat a room in our shop, and moved them inside. Well after two months of utility bills, we are making some different choices again

Have you ever consider using a compost heater?  I’m about to build on this Saturday.   Not as fancy as the one in the link but a basic drum and hose in the same fashion to heat the tank in winter...



Compost can provide some useful heat but you need a huge amount of it to really be effective.

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