DIY & Projects, Journey

Build Your Aquaponic System and Enjoy Your Own Food

It doesn’t matter on which scale, an Aquaponic system  is a great way to  learn how to grow fish and plants at the same time, harvest your own organic food, and build a green oasis of your own.

Living in China and finding food free of pesticides and tons of industrial fertilizer can be really challenging. The first year in China I bought my veggies manly from the local market because they were cheap and I wanted to support local farmers. But soon I figured out there are many food scandals in China and nobody is really controlling the quality of what is sold especially on the markets. I was always surprised how the veggies can be so cheap and at the same time most of them seemed to be oversized and just looked to perfect. So I started to do some research and decided very quickly to grow part of my food by myself. Although it is not enough to live entirely of it I am very happy that I started this project as I learn a lot every day.

Building an aquaponic system is not too difficult and once it is running it requires not too much maintenance, is a perfect way to grow your own vegetables even if you have only limited space, and be sure about what ends up on your plate.
After I have done a lot of research on the internet I was ready to built the system but faced the problem of the language barrier as my Chinese skills are very basic. I took a lot of pictures and made drawings so I was able to show the different shops what I was looking for. I had to go nearly to a dozen shops to get all materials because the hardware stores in China have a very limited product range.

I didn’t make a proper drawing but more a sketch before I started because it was the easiest way to build the system from the lowest to the highest point and go with the flow. My design is inspired by this video but I modified it a bit and add a bio swirl filter as I believe it is necessary.
The system is build with a 400 liter tank on top of it is the bioswirl filter. The outlet is connected to the upper PVC pipe and then to the two lower pipes. Between each pipe is a valve to control the waterflow and the last pipe ends on the grow bed which is connected again to the fish tank and regulates the water level with a bell syphon. Once I had all the materials in place it took me around two weeks to build it but would have been possible to finish it within a few days if I would have had holidays.


I decided to go for 30 Tilapia fingerlings as they are very resilient and fit to the tropical climate in the south of China. In addition I put a air pump, a digital PH meter and a digital thermometer to check some basic parameters. The grow medium for the entire system are clay pebbles as they have a large surface area and offer enough space for the growth of bacteria colonies. I had to buy three different pumps starting from 4200 l/h and went down to 1200 l/h as the first to pumps were too strong and the cycling time much too short.
After a few adjustments of the bellsysphon and many adjustement to the PVC pipes the system is running now very smooth and I was able to harvest already a few veggies.

Stay tuned and subscribe for more infos on the aquaponic system, how it works and how to improve it. Feel free to leave a comment if you have questions, advises or want to tell us your experience with your system.
Happy gardening and keep in mind to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow

Difficulties to make a decision which system ? Read our short article about NFC vs grow bed
Interested ? check out this awesome Aquaponic guide with many pictures and very detailed information about the different systems