Wednesday, 02 May 2012 18:55

Peter's Handcrafted Aquaponics System

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DIY AquaponicsToday we bring you our first sustainable aquaponics setup from a fellow member. This sturdy 6-foot kit was hand constructed by Peter Bishop from Irvine, California, holding 100 gallons and featuring a bell-siphon ebb and flow system.

Peter spent his undergraduate studying Biological Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech, and did his senior design project on Aquaponics. He created this simple, sleek, and functional system, hoping to offer homeowners affordable backyard aquaponics without the eyesore of fiberglass, plastic tubs, and exposed PVC pipes.

It took Peter about 2 months to construct this prototype, constantly changing and improving upon the design. The system has been up and running for about three weeks now, sitting proudly in his California backyard. The water was cycled using a seaweed extract, the seaweed provides plant food before the nitrates begin to kick in, and is not harmful to the fish. This allowed for stocking and growing right away.

The grow medium used here was simple crushed lava rocks, the porous medium allows for good water retention, and provides large surface areas for good nitrifying bacteria to thrive, and it's much cheaper and readily available than Hydroton, a condensed clay media traditionally used in aqua and hydroponics setups. Most plants in the system now were grown from seeds, including: tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, cucumbers, and melons.


In a short three weeks, the seedlings really began to take off, top image below is an heirloom lettuce, bottom images are of flowering heirloom tomatoes.


The system features a bell-siphon, this allows water to accumulate in the grow bed up to a certain level, then the device opens and allows the water to drain. This ebb and flow system mimics naturally occuring rise and fall in water tides, and is advantageous over a continuous flow system because it allows nutrients to accumulate in the grow bed during the submerge cycle, but also provides the roots a chance to oxygenate during the drain cycle. 

Currently, there are over 500 tilapia fry and juvies in this 100 gallon system!  Most of this fish is used for an aquaponics supply business Peter runs on the side, and he plans to reduce that number down to 25-50 depending on the size of the fish upon maturity.

500+ Tilapia fry & juvies 

Peter has plans to build 2, 3, 4, and 8 foot models in addition to the featured 6 foot model. The preliminary pricing structure is as follows:

  • 2' - $395;
  • 3' - $635;
  • 4' - $995;
  • 6' - $1295;
  • 8' - $1595. 

If you're interested, you can email Peter at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information, and be sure to keep up to date with this sytem by subscribing to his photo journal here.

Interested in Aquaponics and not sure where to start? Read our Introduction to Aquaponics.  

Have a similar space you want to share with us? Start a photo journal!  Other questions, concerns? Discuss it with us here in our forums.

Read 8713 times Last modified on Tuesday, 19 June 2012 00:41
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