How to Build an Indoor Aquaponic System

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An aquaponic system is a farming technique that takes advantage of the relationship between fish and plants. Fish produce bi-nutrients through their waste that plants require and in return, the plants clean the water. Indoor aquaponics help gardeners grow healthier plants at a faster rate than plants produced in soil. Aquaponic systems also remove the threat of soil-borne contaminates because plants develop in water. These eco-friendly sustainable systems have a costly startup price, but they have low maintenance requirements.

Things You'll Need

  • Shelving unit
  • Fish tank
  • Pea gravel
  • Undergravel filter with submersible powerhead
  • Heater with thermometer (usually comes with the fish tank kit)
  • Suction cups
  • Tank decorations
  • Vinyl irrigation tubing
  • Quick connect push connector
  • Dechlorinator
  • Water pH test
  • Phosphoric acid
  • Potassium hydroxide
  • 12-inch deep growing tray
  • Drill
  • Perlite
  • Plant seedlings or seeds (basil, cilantro and parsley)
  • Fish (goldfish, tilapia or yellow pirch)
  • Set up the indoor aquaponic system on a shelving unit, and you need to have adequate lighting. tank. Put the undergravel filter plate into the tank. Wash the pea gravel before putting it in the tank to avoid cloudy water. Spread the pea gravel in even layers 2 to 3 inches deep along the surface of the filter plate.

  • Fill the tank up with water. Pour water into the reservoir of the filter. Attach the uplift tube into the submerged powerhead or water pump. Use a quick-connect push connector to add extra vinyl tubing to the uplift tube so that it reaches into the growing tray. Lay the extra vinyl tubing aside with the end pointing into the fish tank. Plug in the water pump. Ensure the water starts circulating in the uplift tube.

  • Install the heater to the side of the tank with suction cups, and then plug it in. Place the thermometer on the side of the tank with suction cups. Wash tank decorations and put them into the fish tank. Check the tank after two hours to ensure everything is working.

  • After reading the instructions on the bottle, add dechlorinator to the water. Test the pH level of the water. Read the results and make changes if needed; phosphoric acid lowers the pH level, and potassium hydroxide make in rise. Keep the pH level within a proper range for ideal growing conditions -- between six and eight. Allow the fish tank to sit for three weeks to build up natural bacteria before adding fish.

  • Set up the growing tray. Drill small holes into the bottom of the growing tray; this allows the water to drain back into the fish tank. Push the vinyl tubing from the fish tank into the growing tray through one of the bottom holes and pull until enough is hanging over the side of the growing tray.

  • Take the growing tray and fill it 2 inches deep with pea gravel then add the growing medium perlite. Insert the seedlings or seeds into pen-sized holes in growing medium and cover the holes. Place the vinyl tubing over the middle of the growing tray. Put the growing tray above the fish tank on the shelving unit. Add fish only two to three at a time in a two-week period.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the plants require a higher amount of light, consider buying a fluorescent light to hang near the aquaponic system.
  • Do not use any copper parts for the aquaponic system, copper is toxic to fish.

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