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Small Scale Aquaponics – Growing Greens With a Fish Tank

by Tiffany in Gardening

Small Scale Aquaponics Growing Greens With a Fish Tank

One of the biggest hopes you can have as a mom and an environmentalist is that your kids will want to take up your causes as they grow and mature. I could not be prouder of my oldest child (nearly 14) as he grows into a stellar young man. He is kind, empathetic, smart, a great cook and fisherman, and very much interested in sustainability and homesteading practices. He helps me in the garden and listens relentlessly to my babbling about political issues, food integrity, and saving the planet.

In an attempt to be more sustainable himself and grow greens for his three reptiles he decided he wanted to have a small scale aquaponics system in his bedroom. Actually he said something about a 50 gallon drum but I had to nix that idea and instead talked him into using his existing fish tank. He has a lovely 30 gallon tank and quite a few fish, all of which he purchased second hand on Craigslist by himself, using money he earned helping someone with a roofing project. With a bit of guidance from his Dad (who told him what he needed) he managed to rig together this pretty awesome little system. He spent about $40 for the materials. I love how easy this system is to put together. So many people have fish tanks in their home. It would be super easy for them to start using the nutrient rich tank water to grow greens, herbs, and other food items in their home. Plus when you clean the tank you can use that water in your outdoor garden. We do! Here is the fish tank:

fish tank

You can see the aquaponics grow bed in the upper right hand corner of the photo. He took a small plastic storage container (which we already had) and he cut holes in the lid so that he could fit it with eight small baskets or hydrofarm net cups commonly used for hydroponics. In the baskets you find hydroton expanded clay pellets… no dirt or soil in sight. The baskets hang down inside the storage tub and the bottoms dip into the water which is continuously filled using a small aquaponics circulation pump inside the fish tank. The water is pumped up into the aquaponics grow bed, it is filtered for debris, and then once is reaches a certain height it overflows back into the fish tank via a plastic tube (got it from Menards).

aquaponics system 003

And of course he added a grow light over the top of the grow bed to help the seedlings grow. And boy do they grow! A seed wrapped in a tiny bit of cotton ball will sprout and shoot up in a day or two, much faster than the those same seeds grown in soil outside. It is amazing. I can’t wait to post pictures of his mature greens and lettuce.

Small Scale Aquaponics fish tank

  • Chrysa Duran

    This is so cool. I don’t know much about aquaponics, but would live to try growing them!

  • SwaRai

    Oh wow, that is pretty neat! If I had a tank, I would try it.

  • Wow, that is so cool! I love that he was willing to take this project on himself too.

  • that is an awesome project! Now, if we can just get a full scale system going for our nation’s food supply!

  • Emily

    Wow this is really cool. I hadn’t heard of aquaponics before, I love how it doesn’t take up much space.

  • Tammi Roy

    What?! I’ve never even seen this before, so cool! Kids could do this themselves too, what a great idea!

  • sarah

    Are the fish droppings the manure/nutrients?

    • Yep, fish waste and decaying fish food particles…

  • Sarah Auzina

    This is fabulous! I love that he did it himself, earning the money and buying the fish and building and everything! And feeding his reptiles with the crops? Precious! Guessing a bearded dragon or two by the need for greens? :) I’m a gecko keeper myself.

    • Thanks! Yes, he has two beardies and a Russian tortoise. :)

      • Sarah Auzina

        That’s terrific! I’d love a Russian tortoise. Someday! :)