Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

I have been breeding aquarium fish and selling them online for the past 2 years or so and finally have some time to get some aquaponic systems going with a few tanks. I have had very small and successful systems in the past with guppies, 10-20g tanks, leafy greens, strawberries, etc. but have never had a large system. Right now i am sticking to my current fish but will most likely be dealing with talapia and a greenhouse in the future.


I am hoping to set up my betta drip system to incorporate aquaponics and could use some design help, but first you need to know what a betta drip system is. (Bettas are the small fish often seen in cups at pet stores, also called fiighting fish)


My current setup consists of 48 half gallon acrylic “betta boxes”. Water is pumped into each one from a sump and then overflows to a drain tube and back to the sump. Here are some pictures from the past few years to give you an idea of what it looks like. It is no longer in my garage and doesn’t have the gravel or two large tubs on the bottom. The picture of the filter or “sump” is from when i first got it. It now has around 2g of bio balls as well as other filtering aids. The room gets plenty of light, both natural and artificial “fish” lights"





I was originally going to add an additional 48 boxes to the system but long story short it didn’t work out. So now i have a shelving unit identical to the one that was used to make the drip system and room for it to be placed end to end perpendicularly in an “L” shape. It is ~14” wide by 34ish” long. The plan is to extend the uptake (from sump --> boxes) tubing to the second shelving unit on each level of the shelves, have it drip into a grow bed on each shelf, and return to the sump through a drain tube just like the boxes that the betta fish are in. Does any of that make sense? Is it plausible?


What i would love to know from some more experienced aquapons is weather it would be best to use a raft system, media, or some of each with a setup like this. 


Other questions that aren’t as important would include:

~any suggestions for the best plants?

 ~Will 48 2-4” fish be enough nitrates to grow a decent amount of plants? I can add water from bigger tanks into the system if need be. The fish are all fed 4-6 small pellets 1-2 times daily, currently water changes are weekly.

~What types of containers should be used for the grow beds. With the demanding size requirements i am almost thinking they will have to be built. Would wood and a liner be sufficient? If so how would you hook up a drain?

~How deep should the beds be? what would be the minimum? 

~Should i continue to use the filter?

~optimum flow rate into grow beds


Any help, links, or opinions are greatly appreciated and please let me know if you would like to help but just don’t understand what i am trying to do. Thanks!

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If you don't have much height, you could use a bus tub as a grow bed and plant lettuce in it.

If you are having to do water changes, you probably have enough nutrients to grow some plants.  If you still have to do water changes after getting some plants going, then add more plant beds.


If you do gravel beds, you might be able to get rid of your filters later but I would leave them hooked up until the gravel beds get cycled up.

biggest challenge will be making sure the plants have enough light.  Even a bright room is usually not enough to grow much in the way of veggies.
And how do you keep those drippers from clogging all the time?

The filter gets most but not all of the big stuff. But they used to clog. Now the drippers have been drilled through to allow full flow and then lead through air line to another dripper to control the flow to 1gph (i have found this works best for some reason). Whenever i change the water i turn the pump off and allow the water to drain backwards through the pump which creates a siphon and pulls water backwards through the dripper and releases any trapped stuff into a bucket. I do a water change with a separate siphon through each feeding hole and allow them to fill up with fresh water added to the sump. Any that don’t fill up get replaced (about 1 a week on average). I often check them and they are almost always working. 


Thanks for the bus tub suggestion, i have been looking for those but didn’t know what they were called. It looks like that is what i will end up using.



I only mentioned it since it looked like you had one in one of your pictures.


Mortar tubs work too but they are lighter weight and will bulge if filled with gravel and would need reinforcement.  Mortar tubs can be found at any of the big box home improvement stores over in the building supplies usually near the concrete blocks.

Thanks for the suggestions, after some googleing it looks like i will be ordering 8 7” deep bus tubs and an additional shop light to place above the rack, maybe some for the other shelves as soon as i know they will not get dripped on. How should the drain be built? Just a tube in a hole with a gravel guard around it or do they make a connector that wouldn’t risk leaking?


Your right, i did have a bus tub in one of the pictures but i have had it so long that i couldn’t remember what it was called or where to get more, thanks!.


Will 7” be enough depth for anything besides lettuce?

7" is on the shallow side but seeing as you are dealing with shelves I thought you would be limited in the height you could work with.  It will still work for growing salad and herbs and greens and things that will do well under minimal lighting like a shop light.  I wouldn't recommend trying to grow tomatoes beans and okra or anything of that sort in em.  And beware the mint or if you really like it, you might have a tub with nothing but mint.


You can look for bulkhead fittings or uniseals to plumb your bins. 

Are the shallow grow beds limiting because of the decreased bio-filtration or because of a lack of root space? Or is it a combination of both? In your opinion what is the best grow medium? Thank you so much for all your help!

It's probably a bit of both.

But in your indoor space your plant size will be limited too by space and light so you may not find the shallow beds too limiting in that respect.


As to the bio-filtration.  If you already have enough filtration for your current fish load, I don't think that will be an immediate issue and you will simply have to see if the grow beds you add allow you to keep your nutrient levels low enough to eliminate your need for water changes.  Once your grow beds mature you could probably convert some of your bio-filter space to more grow bed if you need more plant space to use up the nutrients.  I think you may find that it takes quite a lot of plants and light to use up all the excess nutrients and completely eliminate the need for water changes.


Beware, this can be addicting, your aquaponics may proceed to take over the place.

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