Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

Hey everyone!  My name is Mike.. I recently found out about aquaponic gardening and became immediately intrigued.  I actually just about finished building my first DIY indoor setup over the past weekend and just need to pick up some hydroton, then I can pick up some fish and plants to get started.  

I've picked up so much useful information on this site already!  Hoping that anyone would be willing to chime in on my setup and critique it a little and give me some feedback or ideas that may help things go a little smoother based on their own past experiences or just general knowledge of aquaponics..

My setup includes a 30 gallon rubbermaid tote for my fish tank that measures 32"L x 20"W x 18"D and 2 - 10 gallon rubbermaid totes as my grow beds that measure 24"L x 16"W x 9"D, filled with hydroton and bell siphons on both beds draining back to the tank below..  

I ran 1/2" PVC from a 300 GPH adjustable pump in the 30g and feeding both beds with ball valves to control flow in multiple locations as well as a "tee" feeding back to the fish tank and a small piece of capped PVC with holes drilled to agitate the surface of the water in the fish tank constantly.  

The bell siphons are from a design I found on YouTube and so far have been able to make them work every time without hesitation even with minimal flow into the beds.

Is the size of my tank in comparison to the GBs ok?  Or should I run with less than the 30g that the tank can handle?  I just figured a little more water in the fish tank would leave no chance for tank running down and water height fluctuating so close to the bottom..

I plan on using regular goldfish in the tank but I'm unsure of what type of plants to start with other than some basil.  What else could I grow in a setup of this size?

Any advice, ideas, questions on my setup please let me know!

Nice to meet everyone, looking forward to getting my system up and running in the next couple of weeks!

Here is a picture of how things are looking so far.. Don't mind the mess, still "under construction" here  


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You might want to go with light stocking of fish - generally it is recommended that volume of filtering (gravel) be equal to volume of water in fish tank but you can compensate, in my opinion, by stocking less fish.  I know little about gardening indoors - good luck to you and I hope you enjoy it.

Hey George, thanks for the reply.  Wouldn't gardening indoors be the same as gardening outdoors with the exception of having to add proper lighting and ventilation?  As far as stocking fish, I was probably going to start with 4 or 5 small goldfish to get the system cycled, but how many should I be shooting for based on the size of my GBs once cycling is complete?  

I am not totally against moving the setup outdoors, I was just hoping to avoid bugs and critters getting into my plants and only take up a 2x3 footprint in my basement for the indoor option with minimal energy consumption (maybe 2 - 3 amps for the entire setup).  Also outdoors, what do you do when it rains, does the rain water affect your water levels and pH or anything of that sort?  Can a setup like this be used strictly in a greenhouse for outdoors?

my setup takes the same foot print but is in a portable closet. i have a 75g glass tank holding 10 gold fish and a pleco. its crowded they were used to my 125 but its getting resealed. gold fish grow fairly fast mine are around 10 inches . i have 4 in 15 gallon with some minnows and they are rapidly outgrowing the tank. 

have fun and good luck


Oh wow, I hadn't realized that goldfish will grow so quickly!  In my research I've also found that goldfish are quite "messy" fish and can easily contaminate water with excess ammonia in a fairly short time.  Maybe I will start with just 2 goldfish to get things cycling and then max out at 5 once everything is up and running?   

I hate the fact that the water level will constantly be dropping and rising on my FT.  If I were to add a second tank underneath my GBs and connect the 2, so the process would be 1- pumping from FT to GBs.  2 - Both beds draining back into (what I guess would be called) the fish-less "sump" tank?  3 - Sump tank overflows into FT.  Would a setup like this work?

I know on a CHOP system, you would normally have the sump at the lowest point pumping up to the fish tank which would overflow to the beds and drain back to the sump again, but could my idea work as a "modified" CHOP system?

Here is a little sketch with my awesome MS Paint skills!!

Let me know what you guys think..

Thanks in advance!!


they are little piggies they hate me at the moment being in a closet . 

you will loose a few at the first so start with a couple extra i try and keep something growing that i can put in . i use a flood bed or rafts but its a little different the lid has 5 hole's drilled  3/4"  in the lid the plants are hung so roots free floating. i use rafts mostly to start seeds i use blue styrofoam with holes and put the seeds in a piece of cheap scuff pad pieces i cut in little L shapes after the plant comes up i pull the seed scuff pad out of the styrofoam and pit it in the lid when the hi tide comes it hits the bottom of the scuff pad . 

its a fun hobby my friends call it mad science


Haha, I am so into this and can't wait to get things going!!  I was explaining the process to a buddy at work and showing him some pictures and videos of my setup in action, and his exact words were "it looks like some breaking bad s**t" lol... 

I like the idea about the seed starting but I'm not completely sold on the whole floating raft thing.. I'm assuming you need some sort of filter to rid the solids?  I kind of like the idea of the grow media being used as my filter.. Sorry if I am misunderstanding you on the whole "floating raft" concept, but I am assuming that it is essentially like a recirculating DWC system where water levels in the GB and FT would stay constant with water circulating and draining back to the FT?  Do you need to provide aeration to the GBs with pumps and air stones when you use a setup with floating rafts?

Sorry bout all the questions, trying to soak up all the knowledge I can!! 

Hi Mike, you may want to Google CHIFT PIST aquaponics systems as the pump in the FT present several inconvenients: Chop the solids then more difficult to remove, disturb and may swallow the small fishes if not taken care of and there is a risk to dry out the FT if there is not a safety device.

Ah, understood. Makes sense.. So what about if I just flip the pump into the sump and pump into both beds and tee off from the sump into the FT as well, having an equalizer still between the sump and FT so water is constantly circulating through. Would it matter which side the bed drains would go into?

I've googled CHIFT PIST but there are so many designs and opinions that it's just leaving me more confused than when I started. I feel a bit more comfortable dealing directly with some first hand experiences long as people are willing to share.

Also I come into the issue that my FT is unable to be raised higher than, to allow overflow to my GBs. With space given, the tank/sump needs to be on bottom. If this does not work as I'm imagining, I would most likely just stick with the basic flood and drain setup with siphons the way I have it now. Might help others who came across this in the future as well.

Thanks Philippe!

Ok, try that: You pump from the sump up to the GBs, you syphon down into the FT, arrange some splashes for aeration, then the delicate part...get your overflow from the very bottom of the tank. See the post by  Jim Fisk on how to do that in that discussion:

I wouldn't attach, in your case, some air stones as they will put the water in convection and prevent the SLO to suck the solids.

almost there: Your solids shall end up in the sump so the pump to the GBs must not be in the very bottom or the solids will get in flour form and spoil the system on the long run. You will have to remove the solids from the bottom with a small pump and discard the water. Some people are from different advise, make your choice.

Keep in mind that your setup will have to perform 5 tasks: Remove fine and coarse solids, provide bio filtration, aeration and degasification (the later with a nice splash from the GBs into the FT.)

Philippe, thank you again!   I made another sketch showing the way you had explained but I had 1 more question on the setup.  What size would I have to make the "equalizer" or overflow from the tank to the sump.  I am worried that if both beds happen to drain into the tank at the same time that the overflow will not be able to keep up with the rate of water that it needs to transfer back to the sump unless the sizing of the pipe is adequate..  My bell siphons are both 1" and reduce to 3/4", should I be using much larger conduit for the drain to the sump from the FT, like 1-1/2" - 2" to be certain that there will be no possibility of the tank overflowing?  

As far as solids getting pumped out, could I add a swirl filter or something of the sort to remove solids after being pumped out of the ST?

Glad to be of some help. Your questions first. you are right about the "equalizer".  Gravity pipes must be much larger than pressure ones. I think 2" would be on the safe side as it is equivalent to 4 1" pipes.

As for the solids they wont justify a swirl but a mesh in a basket or an old sock shall recollect all of them.

The problem in your case is that they will be mashed by the pump, which is most frustrating and would justify one of those superb drum filters, precisely fed by pump. (sarcastic laughing, mine are fed by air lifts and the poops get there in perfect condition). That's the prime interest of gravity fed GBs from the FT.

Your pump in the sump should be as high as possible without pumping air, you may use the float switch as a safety.

The amount of water in a gravel GB is around 40% of the volume. But your siphons must get the right level to fire.

Finally your splash setup shows creativity but you are pumping dirty water from the sump. Just simply put your drilled pipe after the Siphon, be generous for the diameter as well.

i dont use any filtration at the moment but with only 75 to 125 gallons i just change 10-20% as needed  normally only 2 times a month using a vacuum to collect as many solids as possible the pump does tend to grind everything up. 

i am planning on making some changes soon that will include some filtration. 

with the suspended plant the roots go dry almost . not like a normal raft that is consistently in water and to start i use a float raft on the main tank so its consistently in the water i only have a tank and grow bed but the roots stay beautiful because they get a little dry cycle  the pump only runs 10-20 minutes every hour it fills from the bottom until it hits an over flow and when off drains all but 1/4". i know it sounds off the wall but i have had super results with this micro setup for almost 2 years super cheap i think i have around 200$ invested

thanks every one for the great info

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