Aquaponics Fish Tank Design: How to Choose the Right One for Your Aquaponics System | Green Life Zen

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There are lots of various types of aquaponic systems-- this article covers only a few-- and the system selected will depend on your requirements along with the resources which you have available. There are lots of pre-fabricated unit available for purchase, however it is likewise possible to build your own aquaponics fish tank design based on your budget plan and practical capability.

This article will provide an indicator of the ecological and useful aspects to be taken into consideration when developing and locating an aquaponic system. Remember that almost all growers will use components from various systems in order to best suit their gardening requirement.


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A Standard Planning of Aquaponics Fish Tank Design

Before thinking about the different types of the system, it is essential to analyze the standard design of an aquaponics system. Generally speaking, the systems consist of two primary elements: a fish tank; and a grow bed for raising aquaponic plants. In this article we'll be discussing a basic plan of aquaponics fish tank design for your system.

basic aquaponics unit

Some systems are more complicated and might also include sumps, refugium or water tanks, bio-filters, sediment filters. And, obviously, there are numerous different grow bed designs available to fit different areas and plant types.

Perfect Growing Conditions to Think About

When locating a garden or aquaponics fish tank, we take the requirements and choices of our plants or animals into account. Nevertheless, with an aquaponics system, growing conditions are doubly complicated as the requirements of plants, fish, germs, and their human guardians should be considered.


The plants in an aquaponic system have the same requirements as any others-- between 2 and 6 hours of sunshine each day, depending upon the variety. Nevertheless, the fish, germs, and any exposed water in an aquaponic system need to be safeguarded from sunshine.

For that reason, while it is crucial to make sure enough light for robust plant growth, as much of the rest of the system as possible need to be shaded or covered. When it comes to positioning a system under cover or indoors, artificial lights can be used just like hydroponics. Nevertheless, similar precautions as with sunshine need to be taken to safeguard fish and germs and to prevent algae in exposed bodies of water.

Temperature level

Although ambient temperature level should also be taken into consideration, in particular with regard to optimum and minimum temperature levels, reasonably, it is water temperature level that will be of most significance in an aquaponics system.

While plants are fairly sturdy, fish and germs have quite specific temperature level requirements for maximum growth.

Some types of aquaponics fish are extremely vulnerable to temperature changes. It is for this reason that fish tanks should always be shaded and water temperature level need to be frequently observed. Furthermore, maximum and minimum temperature levels need to be considered when selecting ideal fish varieties for your system. If possible, the system needs to be located so that severe changes in temperature level are unlikely.

The productiveness of nitrifying germs is likewise impacted by temperature level. Although some processing will continue even at low temperature levels, nitrification happens most successfully between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (15-30oC) so in cool environments, systems will need protection from low temperature levels.

Obviously, since aquaponics operates on water, temperature levels below freezing will not only impact the living creatures in the system but even have the chance to damage pumps and pipelines.

Protection from the Components

Although sunshine and temperature level are the main issues to be considered when situating an aquaponic system, protection from the components should also be taken into consideration:

  • Wind can have an influence on water temperature levels and evaporation, and taller plants might also need some shelter for maximum growth.
  • Rain can change pH and nutrient levels in a system, so it is usually suggested that systems have some cover.


Aquaponic systems can be incredibly compact if required and are versatile to all sorts of areas. It is best, to begin with, a tiny system, and to give yourself space to broaden as soon as you have improved the system balance. The learning curve encountered by the starting grower can be high, which becomes costly in a huge system.


An aquaponic system is a lot more complicated than a garden, and place can be the key to simple management. In selecting a place, in addition to the previously mentioned factors to consider, you should likewise consider that:

Aquaponic systems need day-to-day observation

Select someplace hassle-free and accessible. If your system is visible from your house, so much the better. In some cases between 5 to around 10 minutes can be the distinction between a loss of all of your fish, and their survival.

Electrical power and water will be required to run the system

Ensure you have running water and electrical power present near your aquaponics growing place prior to beginning to construct your own aquaponic system. Also, save some area for the required places for additional waste and nutrient storage.

Systems needs to be protected

Systems can be a danger to little kids and animals, as there are exposed cables, pumps, and bodies of water. Furthermore, the plants and fish will need protection from predators, such as wild animals and domestic animals.

Related Post: Beginners Guide to Aquaponics: What You Need and How to Build It.


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The Best System Plans for Aquaponic Gardening

It is up to you to choose what type of aquaponic system best fits your requirements as a garden enthusiast, along with the area that you have available. All of the systems covered in this article are fairly easy to build and work well on a house scale. The various other systems have the same typical components, with various constructions or water cycles. This section considers the various systems available, including their strengths and usages, in order to really help you make the choice that is right for you.

Flood and Drain Method

Flood and Drain systems are a great starting point for the newbie and easy to handle on a home-scale. Plants are grown in a grow bed (or several) either located directly above the fish tank or linked to a drain. The grow bed is flooded with water which then drains back to the tank.

Flood and Drain systems need minimum pumping power and the growing media included in the beds makes the use of a sump or biofilter, and the associated extra pumps, unnecessary in most home applications.

On the other hand, these systems are larger than other choices, as they need horizontal area for the grow beds. Furthermore, if the drain cycle is reliant on a bell-siphon, as is most common, there can be the risk of malfunction, resulting in the emptying of the fish tank unless an emergency shut-off valve is set up.

flood and drain unit

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) is among the most typical growing techniques utilized in conjunction with aquaponics. Plants are grown in tubes through which low-volume water is passed. Round tubes are typically utilized, however square-bottomed tubes are best for bigger plants like tomatoes and cucumbers.

This technique is reputable and, due to the low water volumes, tracking and trouble-shooting tend to be much easier than with systems that use large volumes of water. NFT grow beds are light and well-suited to vertical plans, making them ideal for tiny areas.

NFT systems are much better suited to smaller sized plants and those which quickly grow water roots, such as lettuces and herbs. Some bigger plants like tomatoes can be effectively grown with a support structure, however those requiring a bigger, more supportive root-base will not be suitable for NFT. Furthermore, as NFT has little or no growing media, it needs the addition of a biofilter and a particle filter.

NFT Unit

Media Bed Method

Media Bed Method is similar to NFT in that water is flushed through or past plants using gravity, nevertheless, instead of growing tubes, plants are cultivated in grow beds including growing media.

Just like NFT, the low volume of water utilized in Media Beds is an advantage for tracking and troubleshooting. Furthermore, Media Beds are appropriate to a larger variety of plants than NFT, since the growing media offers much better root support. Growing media with a good surface area can negate the requirement for a biofilter in smaller sized systems.

Like Flood and Drain systems, Media Beds need strong frames and horizontal arrangement, making them less space-saving than some other systems.

Media Bed System Unit


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Parts and Materials of the System

System parts that prevail to almost all aquaponic systems include the following components.

Growing Trays

Your growing tray is where the plants grow, so the size selected will depend on how much you want to grow and the type of system you are utilizing. Base the size and the depth of the tray on plant-growth forecasts and suggested pot depths. Trays need to be no less than 3 inches deep (15cm). For bigger fruiting plants such as peppers and tomatoes, trays need to be at least 6 inches deep (30cm).

Plastic or metal are the longest-lasting products for growing trays, although Styrofoam is often utilized. In almost all systems, trays need to be durable as they might hold large amounts of water and heavy growing media. They should constantly nontransparent.

Growing Media Types

Soil is not utilized in aquaponic systems since it is not sterile, compacts in contact with water, and tends to block filters and pumps.

In an NFT system, plants are grown straight in water. In almost all other aquaponic setups, a soil-less media is utilized. This growing medium, or substrate, is any material in which plant roots grow. There are lots of ideal growing media for use in aquaponics, however the primary factors to consider are a media that does not deteriorate and pollute the water, adversely impacting fish health and one that has lots of surface area in order to promote the growth of nitrifying germs.

Remember that all growing media need to be well-washed before use to get rid of dirt and particles. If in doubt about media quality, cycle water through the media and test for pH and solidity.

Stone Wool

Known as mineral wool, stone wool is a felt-like product made from molten rock. In its raw type, stone wool has an extremely high pH however treated varieties developed for hydroponics (e.g. Rockwool) appropriate for aquaponic systems. Stone wool is utilized in NFT systems to offer extra root support for bigger plants such as tomatoes and cucumbers.

Gravel and Limestone

Gravel and limestone are a few of the more affordable growing media and offer provides with excellent root support. Some rocks tend to leach minerals, so testing needs to be performed before use.

The drawback of these growing media is that they do not retain water effectively, are remarkably heavy and are abrasive to manage. They are not as conducive to the growth of germs as other alternatives, due to a low surface area to volume ratio, making a biofilter essential.

Pumice and Volcanic Gravel

These volcanic minerals are light and offer great root support. They are filled with holes and air-passages, like a sponge, so have a much better surface area to volume ratio than real rock, making them more conducive to bacterial growth.

Broadened Clay Beads

Broadened clay beads are a man-made equivalent to pumice and volcanic gravel. They are light, inert and retain water effectively. They likewise have a great surface area to volume ratio, encouraging advantageous germs. On the downside, clay beads are extremely pricey compared to other media and can be somewhat vulnerable.

Cups and Nets

The growing tubes utilized in NFT systems are frequently fitted with cups or nets. Plastic cups and nets are tiny plant holders that look a little like a small pot with an extra-wide lip. Homemade cups can be made from Styrofoam, plastic or mesh, as long as there are lots of holes huge enough to enable root growth however not so huge that growing media will escape into the nutrient solution.

Pumps and Fittings

One or numerous pumps might be required to cycle water in an aquaponic system. Almost all system designs use a pump for watering grow beds and gravity feeds for drainage. There is no "right" system design. It all depends on your requirements.

Selecting a Pump

There are lots of pumps available that are suitable for a backyard aquaponics system. For a fairly small system, a water function (water fountain) pump or pond pump is typically the most cost-effective option and will operate on mains power. Your pump should be submersible and should have an in-built filter.

The size of the pump you select will depend on how far you need water to travel, and how much water you want to pump per hour. More powerful pumps are more pricey however can be utilized to run more than one system if you have some plumbing knowledge.

Pumps will list a pumping height and an optimum circulation per hour. You need to try to select a pump that has a pumping height of at least a foot (30cm) higher than your system requirements in order to make sure a great circulation of water. Regrettably, despite the stats given, optimum circulation is not accomplished at optimum pumping height, so allow for this in your calculations.

You also need to think about the amount of water you want to pump per hour. Almost all systems need only low water volumes; as even small pumps have adjustable capabilities of at least 30 gallons (100L), optimum capacity is not typically of issue except in huge systems.

Fittings and Setup

Depending on the design of your system, you might need T-joins or drip watering fittings such as taps, perforated hose, micro-bubblers or end-plugs in order to make sure the even circulation of water in your growing tray. Keep in mind that water will not dispense evenly from more than one outlet unless the hose connecting the outlets is completely level, so care should be taken in construction.

Keep in mind that pumps will burn-out if left to run dry. Inspect systems regularly and make sure that the pump NEVER has less than 4 inches (10cm) of head space (water above it).


Depending on the size of your system, you will likewise need a number of air-pumps. These generally take the form of some type of fish tank pump, and the more contemporary air-stones are especially effective. Setting up two pumps in your fish tank and another in your biofilter is normally good practice.

Related Post: Home Aquaponics for a Better Future.

Factors to Consider in System Design

Although the various aquaponics system designs have shared components, such as grow beds, fish tanks, and pumps, there are likewise different features which can be fitted to systems as required. Some crucial elements that might be included in the design of an aquaponic system are:

Sediment Filters

Solid fish waste and leftover food, along with plant matter, will pollute the water in an aquaponic system. For that reason, sediment filters, which eliminate solid waste, are an essential part of most aquaponic systems.

In Media Beds and Flood and Drain systems, growing media will function as a sediment filter, eliminating and storing any solid waste that goes through. Nevertheless, utilizing this technique of sediment filtering alone can trigger disease and cause anaerobic conditions, preventing advantageous germs. At the very least, screens should also be utilized.

The easiest technique of sediment filtering is fitting pipelines, especially those leaving fish tanks and grow beds, with a filter such as a mesh screen or sieve. Sediment will end up being caught in the filter due to the pressure of passing water. This technique needs the routine cleaning of the filter and is most ideal for tiny, lightly-stocked systems.

On a bigger scale, water leaving the fish tank can be run through a particle filter made from a container filled with growing media or stone, and perhaps some mesh screens or filter wool. These filters need less regular cleaning than a screen or sieve and do a more extensive task. Furthermore, when the container is cleaned and flushed, the waste makes an outstanding fertilizer for soil-grown plants.

On a larger scale, a mechanical filter might be required, for instance, a swirl filter or a drip filter. These elements are widely available and are included with lots of pre-fabricated aquaponic systems. There are likewise various plans available for DIY alternatives.


A biofilter is a tank meant to house the germs colonies that transform fish waste to nitrates. They are essential for most of the bigger aquaponic systems and are a requirement of NFT systems in particular, as the absence of growing media means there are few other areas for germs to colonize. Tiny systems with a low equipping density and grow beds utilizing clay beads or volcanic stone might not need a biofilter.



A sump basically is a lower tank area that will gather the undesirable liquids from the aquaponic system. Although aquaponic systems are not dependent on a sump or water tank, a sump might replace a biofilter, depending on the system. Generally, among the two is utilized, or none at all. Similar to all containers of water, sumps need to be nontransparent and covered. A sump is a beneficial part of an aquaponic system for a number of reasons:

  • It increases the overall volume of the system, offering more advantageous germs. This likewise enables a greater time-lag between mechanical concerns and the system running dry, therefore safeguarding it.
  • It offers greater freedom when setting up to grow beds, as water can be directed to the sump along with the fish tank.
  • It enables enhanced sediment filtering.


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Aquaponics is an alternative-growing technique that integrates components of tank farming as well as hydroponic farming in one incorporated environment. The name is a mix of both of those, with the aqua from hydroponic farming, which is the rearing of aquatic fish in storage tanks, being changed by dirt to give the plants with what they need to grow.

The process resembles conventional farming except that aquaponics does not need the use of pesticides, herbicides, or various other chemicals. Aquaponics additionally does not make use of dirt to supply the nutrients to the plants. This is different from conventional farming because it uses the dirt in order to supply the nutrients to the plants.

There are a number of various methods you can deal with aquaponics. One method is to utilize organic growing methods in aquaponics. The benefits and drawbacks of using this alternative are quite obvious and need to be discussed in detail. If you are just starting out with this sort of gardening, I would recommend looking into beginners guide to aquaponics online first to get a better idea of what all of the fuss is all about.