Skip to content


May 29, 2008

Please note that our blog has moved to our new website: This post and all subsequent comments can be viewed at:

Posted by Nigel

Here’s the reason there’s been very little recent activity on the blog – we’ve been working hard on our new side project – our Headford backyard aquaponics system ….

Put simply, aquaponics is the integration of hydroponics and aquaculture, a recirculating method of sustainable food production. The process basically entails pumping nutrient rich effluent from fish tanks which fertilizes hydroponic plant beds, and, in turn, the plants function as a biofilter, removing the ammonia, nitrates, nitrates and phosphates from the water. The cleaned water then recirculates back into the fish tanks.

An aquaponics system is made up of two basic elements – a pond/tank for your fish and water reservoir and a grow bed for the plants.

This summer we’re experimenting with a small ‘backyard’ system, comprising three ponds and three grow beds. Following the photo’s above clockwise from top-left will give an idea of the amount of work involved in just preparing this small system. In the first photo, we’ve cut the top off an IBC (an intermediate bulk carrier – a plastic industrial container) to give us our basic tank and grow bed. We’ve tried to scavenge what we can in order to minimise costs but this was our greatest expense (€200.00 for the three). The next step is insulation to cope with temperature fluctuation. The second photo shows an aborted attempt using Polyurethane foam (yes, we should have tried putting it on before filling the tank with water!), and the next shows the finished tank and grow bed. In the end we used fibre insulation wrapped in black plastic sheeting kept in place with pallet wrap. Our grow beds are gravel filled (and cleaning the gravel proved to be the most intensive element of the set-up work), with simple wavin pipe irrigation systems. Our pumps are the cheapest pond pumps we could find online – about €65 each. In total we estimate we’ve spent about €800 between everything at this stage (add water testing gear, electrical fittings and sundry bits and pieces). We also bought some goldfish to get the whole ecosystem going.

The working model is also depicted above with water flowing from the plant bed drain and the pump in the, as yet, unpopulated fish tank. As you can see we have planted a few plants in one of the grow beds (lettuce and basil) and all is well so far.

We’ll be introducing our main fish stock shortly and we’ll go into more detail over the next few months, and keep readers abreast of progress. Hopefully we’ll be reporting a thriving little facility and be eating lots of trout, perch, lettuce and basil all summer (well – we won’t have fully grown fish that soon). There’s a thriving aquaponics community worldwide and it’s a very exciting field. If nothing else it should be good, clean summer fun. Most of the information we’ve garnered is from Joel Malcolm’s excellent book and forum available at Backyard Aquaponics.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. January 9, 2009 1:38 pm

    Thanks for this post, I’ll have to keep it bookmarked so I can link it when some loony throws up on my blog.

    • January 9, 2009 10:16 pm

      Your welcome Eli – not sure what you mean though! – ‘some loony throws up’. Will the Polyurethane Foam have a function with that?

  2. Moukhtar permalink
    March 3, 2009 9:14 am

    Thanks this post is very good and instructive. I am new to the that field, and wish to know about the outcome of a single unit (one container/ and one bed) in case of tilapia or mullet farming. A second concern is where one can get the seed ?
    Thanks again.

  3. March 3, 2009 11:45 am

    Hi Moukhtar – Nigel is out on fieldwork right now but will address your query when he returns.

  4. danny permalink
    October 11, 2010 1:26 pm

    Hi your brother was kind enough to pass on your link ,i had just posted a message on the backyard aquaponice forum and he got in touch ,i recomend the forum to any body with an intrest ,,,any way how do your grow beds drain ,,,is it simply holes in the bottom ,or asyphon ?and if a syphon how did you set that up ,,i would like to set up something along the same lines at home ,well excatly the same ,,thank you rgards Dan
    ps i know it very late in the year but if i have it up and running may be i could be planting in the spring ta

  5. October 31, 2010 1:44 am

    I love the article, thanks!

    Trying to live the lifestyle of a Pescatarian, this makes eating mostly free, Yay!

  6. November 5, 2010 10:16 am

    Hi Mike – thanks for the comment – I’ve moved it to our new blog at

  7. Elsa permalink
    December 4, 2011 7:38 pm

    This is a wonderful idea, I want to get one up and running, how do I find out how many fish I need per tray or square meter? What kind of fish, I have recently moved to Italy and have no idea where to find a hatchery.

    Thanks for your blog!

  8. Nigel permalink
    December 5, 2011 1:07 pm

    Hi Elsa

    This blog is now a bit out of date as we moved everything to our company site Best place to start would be to download the IBC of Aquaponics, you will find a link here –

    Kind regards


  9. May 10, 2012 3:49 am

    Wow, great post about aquaponics! You have presented it in a detailed manner. I am also working on my aquaponics system and you have made the estimation in a detailed manner.

  10. June 7, 2013 11:33 am

    I am so interested on this method of food production and i want to learn more how deal with it. Thank you for posting this! Mind if you could answer few questions; Can you recommend high producing nitrogen fish for this method?


  1. W+S:R | An Infrastructural City
  2. Organic Fish Food For Aquaponics | Hydroponik

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: